Is beach volleyball the same as regular volleyball? Beach volleyball rules explained for beginners

No, beach volleyball has different rules than regular volleyball. It is played with fewer players, and another ball and has also another court size. Indoor volleyball is often played in a sports arena on a wooden surface. Beach volleyball is played on a beach and in the sand. This surface has an impact on what defensive moves are possible. In beach volleyball, you can really dive to get the ball.

In indoor volleyball, you can do this as well but you have to be slightly more careful as the floor is harder to land on. There is often less strategy involved in beach volleyball as you are not able to pass to as many players as you can in indoor volleyball. This makes beach volleyball more dynamic because the ball goes faster back and forth between the two teams. 

There is also some overlap between the two as the goal is the same. You have to drop the ball over the net and in the court of the other team. You are also not allowed to hold the ball in your hands and need to pass it to other players. The same basic skills are used: spiking (attacking by pushing the ball over the net), serving (restarting the game behind your court), setting (giving an assist), blocking (stop the attack of the other team at the net), and digging (keeping the ball in the air after an attack of the other team). This means that players that are used to indoor volleyball often are able to play beach volleyball without too many issues. 

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Is beach volleyball different from indoor volleyball? Beach vs indoor volleyball rules

Yes, beach volleyball is different from indoor volleyball. Let’s make an overview on what aspects each of them is different.

-Number of players

Indoor volleyball is played with six players on each team. So a total of twelve players are playing at the same time. Each team has six players on the bench so it is possible to substitute the players. In beach volleyball, only two players of each team are on the court at the same time. This means that these players have to be very active as they are involved in almost every attack and defense. There are also no substitutions allowed. 

-Size of the ball

The ball that is used for beach volleyball is slightly bigger and water-resistant. This makes it easier to catch it and you can add more force to it. Since the ball is not that much bigger it doesn’t affect the outcome that much. Players might have to adjust their serve but other than that the ball is quite similar to in indoor volleyball

-Surface that is played on

Indoor volleyball is often played on wood or rubber. Beach volleyball is played on sand. Landing on sand is a lot softer so players really jump to get a ball in beach volleyball. This is why beach volleyball players often don’t wear knee pads while indoor players do so.  It is less convenient to run fast on sand so this slows down players. Each surface, therefore, has its unique capabilities that affect how players perform during the game.

-Interferences: sun and wind

Indoor you also don’t have to deal with the wind or sun that can change the direction of the ball or block the vision of the players. This is why beach volleyball players often wear sunglasses. To make sure that each team has to deal with the same interferences, they switch courtside every seven points. This is not done as often in indoor volleyball as there are fewer interferences, therefore making it fair to everyone even if you stay on the same side of the court. 

-Court size

A beach volleyball court measures 26.2 ft × 52.5 ft. This is slightly smaller than the 29.5 ft × 59.1 ft of an indoor court. Keep in mind that you have fewer players on a beach volleyball court so these players have to cover a much larger area when they defend. This can make it challenging to keep the ball in the air. 

 -Coaching during the match

In indoor volleyball, you have time outs and coaches can give instructions during the game. This is not allowed in beach volleyball. There are fewer players on the court anyway so there are fewer strategic decisions that need to be made. Players have to decide for themselves what they will do. 

-Number of points

Beach volleyball matches are best of 3 sets and are only played up to 21 points. Sets in indoor volleyball are generally played until 25 points. This makes the games slightly longer.  Beach volleyball players have fewer players on the court, the scoring system compensates for this to make sure that the players don’t get too tired. 


There are also a number of other rules. For example, in beach volleyball, you are allowed to go under the net. It is best to check these with the organizers before the tournament starts as these depend on each tournament. The general rules are quite similar between indoor and beach volleyball and there are only a small number of nuances that are different.  

Is beach volleyball the same as outdoor volleyball?

Beach volleyball is a type of outdoor volleyball. Volleyball can be played on several outdoor surfaces. From grass to concrete (this is not recommended as you can’t perform all the moves as the surface is hard), sand, snow and mud. Outdoor volleyball is often played with the same rules as indoor volleyball as this accommodates more players. Some people prefer to use the beach volleyball rules when they play outdoors on grass, concrete, or mud as they have fewer players. 

What is unique about beach volleyball versus other types of outdoor volleyball is that you don’t wear shoes or knee pads. Given that the sand is quite soft, you can just land quite soft on it and don’t need additional protection. This makes it a lot of fun to play as you can make spectacular dives, as can be seen in the video below.

In both beach volleyball and outdoor volleyball, you have to deal with a lot of things that can affect the match. For example, the wind can change the direction of the ball. You also have to deal with the sun. There can also be some dirt or other objects on the field. All of these make outdoor volleyball often more chaotic and difficult than indoor volleyball. 

It can be quite hard to train for outdoor volleyball as you need decent weather to be able to do so. A lot of players have to travel abroad if they want to be able to practice this sport for a whole year. This can explain why Brazilian players are doing so well as they have more time to practice outdoors. Some players have to train indoors but the situation is not the same and it makes it hard to perfect the nuances that are required to win a beach volleyball match. 

Can volleyball be played on sand? Sand vs beach volleyball

Yes, volleyball can be played on sand. Beach volleyball is a variation of the standard volleyball that is only played with two players per team. It is however also possible to play volleyball on sand using the standard indoor rules. This means that you play with six players per team. On a lot of beaches, you will find people that are playing a casual match of volleyball using the standard indoor volleyball rules. The main difference is the outfit that people wear. In sand, you don’t need knee pads as the underground is quite soft. You have to deal with the elements (sun and wind) when you are playing on the sand as this is mainly done outside. The sand can be quite hot or cold and you might have to look into wearing socks. At first, it can be quite annoying as the sand gets everywhere but after a while, you get used to this.

Some cities are importing sand so that they can build volleyball courts. This is often done for a tournament or a limited period of time but it can be a great way to get started with volleyball. Even if your landing technique is not that great, you can learn how to dive properly so that you can keep the ball in the air without landing hard. Especially newer players find this a challenge as some of them even wear arm pads to reduce the impact of the landing.

Beach volleyball lines

Beach volleyball courts have lines as well. They have the same function as lines on an indoor volleyball court and indicate where the court ends. Beach volleyball courts are smaller. There are also fewer lines than on an indoor volleyball court as only the outside of the court is highlighted. These lines are made in cord or fabric material instead of printed on the court. It is essential that this material can withstand the sun as it might become quite hard to see after a while as sand is starting to cover it. Court lines that are made out of cord are not ideal as they can make players trip over it and the material can be quite abrasive. Fabric lines are softer and can stretch when people trip over them. These are slightly more expensive than cords but are of better quality and should be used when you set up a court.

Beach volleyball lines are often very bright (red, black, or yellow) so that it is clear where they end. In indoor volleyball, there is often a referee that pays attention to the lines. This is not always the case for beach volleyball, making it essential that they are clearly visible.

To conclude, we can say that beach volleyball has different rules than indoor volleyball. There is a lot of overlap between the two in terms of the goal of the game (dropping the ball in the court of the other team). A lot of things are also different. For example, the ball that is being played with is slightly bigger in beach volleyball, the court is smaller and fewer players are on the field. Furthermore, beach volleyball is played on sand whereas indoor volleyball is mainly played on wood. All of these differences can make it exciting to switch between indoor and beach volleyball. It can be a challenge to learn the new rules and adjust to a different environment.