Pack away the sprigged boots; beach football is coming back to Wellington and with it, barefoot kicking.
Now into its fourth year, the annual Oriental Bay beach football competition returns tomorrow and, with the maximum number of teams reached last year, the sport appears here to stay.
Organiser Damien Hochberg said the five-a-side ''very fast-paced'' sport was a little different from its grass-based parent.
''It's social and competitive at the same time,'' he said, adding it was open to any grade or age, although there is a vague rule that contestants should be over 18.
Played with a special lighter ball, tricks were easier, plus ''it's not sore to kick with bare feet''.
Overseas, the sport was big enough to have become a Fifa-sanctioned sport.
''Currently it's fairly low-key in New Zealand,'' Mr Hochberg said.
The Oriental Bay tournament and one in Auckland were the only two beach football tournaments in New Zealand, he said. For the past two years the Zico team have won the tournament.
Team member Jimmy Haidakis said the tournament was largely about fun. ''If the weather turns out good, it's just a good day with the boys.''
And assuming the weather turned out fine, it was also a good day for the growing number of spectators who turned out, he said.
But he did point out the harsh sand of Oriental Bay could be hard on the feet, and last year he cheated a little by wearing beach shoes. ''We call it kitty litter.''
It costs teams $200 to sign up at beachfootballnz.co.nz, but contestants are in the running for more than $3000 in prizes.
Mr Hochberg recommended teams of eight because, although only five players can be on the field at a time, the intense physical nature meant rest was often needed.
Kick-off on Saturday is at 10am; the tournament ends at 4.30pm.
- The Dominion Post