By Kerstie Allen
Last year, the 10th Miami Beach Polo World Cup was played just an hour down the turnpike from Wellington, Florida. With Miami being one of my favorite destinations, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play in the sand for my very first time. Although I had originally planned to head West to Texas and California for the upcoming season, I decided to stay and play beach polo. I asked around and was fortunate enough to find two other players who wanted to form a team.
Beach polo is a combination of grass and arena polo. It’s played on beaches all over the world from Spain to Australia to England and Dubai.
After rolling out a flat area of the local beach, tents and seating were set up around the field. The arena had side boundaries so spectators could get an up-close and personal feel of the action, but had open ends and goal posts like a grass field. The area we played in was smaller than a regular polo arena with much more difficult terrain. It was literally a sand pit.
We used brightly colored Pro Chukker arena balls to help with visibility for both the players and spectators. Also, like arena polo, we only played with three players, unlike the four-man teams that play on the grass fields. All of the other tack and equipment were the same. The aim of the game: shoot a goal. Highest score wins.
We had the good fortune to be sponsored by a fantastic company, Fontainebleau Aviation. After a few meetings, the Fontainebleau Aviation Polo Team was born. We even got to do a photo shoot at their hangar in front of a Gulfstream IV jet with our horses! Going into the tournament, we were the underdog, as neither me nor my two teammates had never played beach polo before, so we weren’t sure exactly what to expect. Miami’s skyline on one side and the crisp white sand, stunning crystal-blue ocean dotted with multi-million-dollar yachts on the other made for a spectacular backdrop.
It was a large event with hundreds of people buzzing around the beach and arena walls while they played the American national anthem, all of them just as anxious as myself to see what was about to unfold. I knew the crowd wanted a show, and being the only professional on our team, it was going to be up to me to figure the game out quickly.
The sand was deep as the umpire threw in the ball to start the game. My days of scooping the ball up with my polocrosse racket came into play as I proceeded to scoop and hit the ball toward the goal. It was a little slower paced than I had been playing but my technique paid off and after winning all our games we went on to the finals.
Somehow, between the endless battle of sun, wind, sand and some furious competition, I scored seven goals and we won the World Cup Finals 7–1. I won MVP and my beloved pony Kiwi won Best Playing Pony for her efforts. The crowd was chanting in awe at the conclusion of the event, especially the adult section. I think it was due in part to the endless supply of free alcohol samples from the several liquor companies that were sponsoring the event. For me, this was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As the sun went down, we headed to our after-party, held on a lavish $20 million yacht brought to the event by the Cambridge Yacht Group. I’d noticed the yacht when we first arrived at the event, as it was anchored about 100 yards out from the coastline. As we all sat on the yacht, I looked back at the magnificent setting and couldn’t believe the journey of this weekend’s event.
“Sometimes on the way to your dream, you get lost and find another dream.” Keep Riding …