By Rod Stafford Hagwood
It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. Your age doesn’t matter. Even if you don’t know a thing about the game; it doesn’t matter. You can play beach rugby.
People are showing up at just-for-fun matches every Thursday night on the sands behind the Plunge Beach Hotel in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. The friendlies are held by the Fort Lauderdale Knights Rugby Club during their summertime off-season.
“They’ve been doing this since the club was founded, since the ’70s,” explains Vincent Booth, who joined the club in 2006 and is now the vice president.
“It’s an annual tradition. Everyone can come. We usually get people through social media or word of mouth usually, actually a lot of word of mouth. People tell their co-workers about it, like ‘Hey you can get some exercise, get a beach run in and it’s fun.’ My wife comes. We get families, even 5 and 6 year olds running around. It’s not tackle. It’s touch rugby — until you get to the waterline where you can be tackled, but 90% of it is touch.”
The matches go on until nightfall and then everyone usually heads to a nearby restaurant/bar, Booth says.
“The camaraderie of the people in general, it’s very welcoming, very open. It’s addicting. When it gets dark out, everyone goes out into the water, we go to a bar and talk. We even have guys come down from Miami and Boca. They come down a play and then they transition back to their Boca side.”
Booth says the après-game socializing is part of the tradition as well, stretching back to when the Plunge Hotel was a Howard Johnson’s and there was a Holiday Inn on the southern end of El Mar Drive, the street that borders the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea with the popular Anglin’s Square forming a midpoint.
END OF SUMMER BARBECUE
And there’s another social component, what they call the Buffalo Beach, a sort of casual mini-tournament that’s also a bit of a bring-a-dish beach barbecue dinner. “Our way of officially ending the beach season,” Booth adds. The Buffalo Beach takes place by the volleyball nets that are behind the B Ocean Resort at 1140 Seabreeze Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale.
The touch rugby games are on the beach behind the Plunge Hotel usually go on until mid to late September, when the rugby tournament season starts.