Ten years ago the first Beach Polo tournament in the world took place in Dubai. Back then Sam Katiela together some of his friends came up with the idea to play polo on sand. Today Beach Polo is played all over the world – and on April 11th and 12th it returns to Dubai. POLO+10 has met the founder of Beach Polo and host of the Julius Bär Beach Polo Cup Dubai.

POLO+10: How did you get in touch with polo?
Sam Katiela: I have always been around polo, many of my friends play. But it wasn’t until I first arrived at Dubai that I started to get a proper taste for the sport as a lot of my friends here play.

POLO+10: How did you come up with this Beach Polo idea?
Sam Katiela: Well it started as a joke! Over a cigar me and some friends were discussing how polo is played across the world, sometimes on grass and sometimes on snow. So why not do it here in Dubai on the sand and stunning Dubai beach! And we did! It is now ten years ago since we hosted our first event, it’s hard to believe so much time has passed and how much the sport has grown.

POLO+10: About the event coming back to Dubai, which was the main goal behind this, and which are your expectations?
Sam Katiela: Dubai is where it all was created and it will always be our home, so it deserved to come back.

Last year the event was very successful and our set up was the biggest Beach Polo arena in the world. As traditional polo is very hard to view and understand for a non polo-interested spectator, we wanted to create a unique version that offers an inspiring experience for all guests, no matter if you are a corporate hospitality guest, media or public visitor. We make sure to bring the action close up, to feel the polo and almost smell the horses, similar to the gladiators back in the days. We also wanted to use this platform to promote polo and inspire more people to try it.

As the creators of Beach Polo we have high expectations as it is now being played in over 30 cities across the world. Beach Polo is not easy to organize, it takes incredible sponsors and event partners but together we created a fantastic concept that we work hard to upgrade every year. We want to be the world’s best Beach Polo event inspiring others and at the same time promote Dubai, UAE as an incredible sport and lifestyle destination.

POLO+10: You have partnered with the Dubai Sports Council for this edition, we wish to know more about their patronage, how are they contributing to make the event happen?
Sam Katiela: Dubai Sports Council (DSC) under the chairmanship of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, has been a tremendous support and is a very important part of our success story. Being under their umbrella is a great honour for us and has opened a lot of doors. His Highness Sheikh Hamdan is also a big fan and active participant of both extreme and equestrian sport and as Dubai reflects the spirit of such extravagant sporting events, Beach Polo goes hand in hand with all of this.

POLO+10: Are you planning to include new features complementing the high quality polo?
Sam Katiela: Every year we aim to do something bigger and better. This year our venue is the biggest ever to date and for the first time we will be playing polo under floodlights, the first ever beach polo by night!

We have also aimed to create a different experience with our venue now being located at Skydive Dubai in Dubai Marina with a view of the new Dubai Skyline and yacht club, and on the other side with views of another Dubai iconic landmark, the Palm Island. So this will be a spectacular for the polo entertainment along with a few surprises lined up.

POLO+10: Finally, what, do you think, differentiates Beach Polo Cup Dubai from other Beach Polo events?
Sam Katiela: We are not better than any other Beach Polo events, just different. We are very proud and happy to see how Beach Polo has expanded across the world, promoting the sport in many new destinations. The vision we had when creating the sport of Beach Polo was provide a unique world-class polo experience, accessible for all.

We also feel very lucky to have a visionary leadership and government here in the Dubai and the UAE that always strives for the best, so this is also what inspires us. We look forward to this 10th anniversary, and as the founders of the sport we feel responsible to reflect this vision.

Dear Sam Katiela, thank you very much for the conversation and good luck with the Julius Bär Beach Polo Cup Dubai 2014!