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7 unconventional sports and activities to try in the UAE

You may not have considered some of the lesser-known sports in the UAE – because you weren’t aware they existed here. But, if you’re weary of your usual exercise routine, why not sample a few of the more unusual, left-of-field sports and activities to test your mettle and spark your enthusiasm?

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Lacrosse

This fast-paced, exhilarating sport was played by the indigenous people of North America as a way of developing strength and resolving conflict, and it combines elements of basketball, football and hockey. Players use a stick (called a crosse) to throw, catch and scoop a rubber ball as they charge up and down a pitch to score goals in the net of their opponent. It’s a contact sport that requires coordination, agility, speed and, at times, a steady nerve. Emirates Lacrosse League trains every Saturday evening at Dubai Rugby Park, close to Arabian Ranches.

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Platform diving

If you’re looking to try a sport that combines grace, strength and flexibility, platform or springboard diving could well be your launch pad to aerial nirvana. With its acrobatic focus, this pursuit is sure to bring out your inner gymnast or dancer – though you’ll need a head for heights and a degree of athleticism to get started. A coach will teach you the basics, getting you accustomed with “tuck” dives, entry skills and strength training before you advance to slightly more ambitious versions. DuDive is the only springboard and highboard diving club in the UAE, and it promises to have you diving in no time, with holiday camps, private lessons and drop in pay-and-play classes every Thursday afternoon at its Hamdan Sports Complex facility in Dubai.

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Aussie rules football

As its name suggests, Aussie rules football originates from the land Down Under, and it’s often described as a mix of rugby and Gaelic football. Essentially, two opposing teams attempt to kick goals, scored when the football is aimed through a set of posts. The action continues through four quarters, for close to two hours, and the game itself involves two teams of 22 players. Aussie rules is a contact sport, so you’ll need to be relatively fit and robust to take part. The UAE has a few clubs, including the Dubai Dingoes and the Abu Dhabi Falcons, who train at 7pm on Sundays at Zayed Sports City, and invite players of all levels to join in.

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Roller derby

If you’re interested in a bit of rough and tumble, roller derby is a full-contact women’s sport played on quad roller skates by teams of skaters on an oval track. Each team does their best to stop the opposition from passing them, while assisting their own scoring player (or jammer) to score by passing an opposition player. It’s a game that’s fast, furious and full of adrenaline, so being tough and athletic helps – but while it looks dangerous, safety equipment such as elbow and knee pads, wrist braces, helmets and mouthguards all do their bit to keep you safe during play. New recruits can join Abu Dhabi Roller Derby at Zayed Sports City on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, while the Dubai Roller Derby league invites anyone over 21 to try out the sport in Al Wasl, usually on the second Monday of each month.

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Dodgeball

Inspiring the Ben Stiller movie of the same name, dodgeball involves two teams of six to 10 players competing to hit an opposing player with a ball (thrown below the shoulders) while also catching a ball thrown by an opponent before it touches the ground. If you get hit, you’re out, and the last one standing wins. It’s a great way to blow off some steam, and anybody can play, from children and teenagers to adults. Bounce Inc invites players to take part in regular dodgeball games at its Dubai (Al Quoz), Abu Dhabi (Marina Mall) and Al Ain (Remal Mall) locations.

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Ultimate frisbee

This exciting non-contact sport blends the best bits of football, basketball, American football and netball – and the only things you’ll need to take part are a few friends, a frisbee and a pair of opposable thumbs. The rules are simple: get your frisbee down the field to the end zone via your team of seven players, before your opposing team. This increasingly popular recreational sport is fun, exciting and competitive, and essentially you just need good throwing, catching and teamwork skills to take part. Club options include the Abu Dhabi Ultimate Association, Dubai Duplays at the Emirates International School and Dubai Ultimate Players Association.

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Dragon boating

If you’re reasonably fit, a team player and enjoy being out on the water, dragon-boat racing is a fun, dynamic sport to try your hand (and arms) at. Paddle out with your team in a 12-metre fibreglass boat and race your opponents. Traditionally, a drummer sits at the bow and you paddle in time to the drumbeat – but in practice, the timing of the boat is normally set by the front two paddlers. It makes for a colourful and exciting race, full of spectacle and pageantry. Join one of the teams at Dubai Dragon Boat and take part in festivals and events at Dubai Marina and Abu Dhabi’s Eastern Mangroves and Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri.

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