April 19, 2024

Rules of the Court & Sand: Beach Volleyball Vs Indoor Volleyball

Volleyball is set to see a spike in popularity thanks to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. To get a head start on understanding this exciting, fast-paced sport, we've broken down the differences between the two versions of the game that we're going to be seeing over the summer.

While both of these variations are technically the same sport, there are a whole host of differences between them that need to be understood to properly appreciate this high-energy sport in all its glory.

Game AspectBeach VolleyballIndoor Volleyball
Court Size 8m x 16m 9m x 18m
Playing Surface Sand PVC or Vulcanised Rubber
The Ball Small, light, water-resistant Larger & heavier
Team Size 2 players per side 6 active players + 6 subs
Scoring Structure
  • Best of 3 structure
  • 1st two sets played to 21 points
  • Minimum 2-point lead
  • 3rd set played to 15 points
  • 4 sets per match
  • 1st to 25 points wins set
  • minimum 2-point lead
  • tie-breaking 5th set

The Main Differences Between Beach & Indoor Volleyball

Despite being the same sport (technically), there are some major differences in how these two popular versions of volleyball are played.

We've broken the games down into the main differences between these variations. Keep reading to find out about the differences in the rules, regs, and scoring.

Court Size Differences

volley ball court

One of the main differences between beach and indoor volleyball is the size of the courts.

A beach volleyball court measures 8m x 16m, which is significantly smaller than an indoor court. This means players have less ground to cover during a beach game, which can result in quicker and more dynamic rallies.

An indoor volleyball court measures 9m x 18m, making it more than double the size of a beach court. This allows for longer rallies and more strategic plays.

If you're interested in playing either version of volleyball, it's important to consider the style of play required for each surface. Ultimately, beach volleyball is more intense than volleyball that's played on an indoor court.

Playing Surface Differences

beach volleyball court

Another visible difference between the two versions of volleyball is the playing surface. Beach volleyball is notably played on sand, while indoor volleyball is played on a PVC or vulcanised rubber surface.

The sand provides an extra challenge for beach players as it requires them to constantly adjust their movements and footing. This adds an extra element of strategy and skillto the game.

The Volleyball

Even the volleyball itself is different with these two versions of the sport.

The ball in indoor volleyball is slightly larger and heavier, making it move faster and harder to match the style of play.

The ball used in beach volleyball is lighter, smaller, and often less inflated, so it floats through the air. This allows the smaller number of players to close distances on the court and make the impressive diving plays that beach volleyball is known for.

The Team Size

In beach volleyball, teams consist of only 2 players. This is generally because of the smaller amount of space available on the court. It also makes it a much easier sport to play as a casual pastime with friends.

However, beach volleyball can be a more physically demanding version of the sport, as each player has to cover a larger area of the court and perform multiple roles. Also, there aren't any subs in beach volleyball.

Indoor volleyball teams have 12 players, although not all 12 are on the court at the same time, some are substitutes. Teams have 6 players on the court during a game and can make up to 6 substitutions per set.

Having more players (and physical markings on the floor) allows indoor volleyball players to play in certain positions, such as setters, spikers, and blockers, making it a more strategic version of the game.

Beach Volleyball Rules & Scoring Structure

beach volleyball

The rules and scoring structure of women’s beach volleyball matches are as follows.

Each match consists of 2 players per side, and the game is played to the best of 3 sets. The first two sets are played up to 21 points with a minimum lead of 2 points. If the match goes into a third set, it is played to only 15 points.

Teams switch sides every seven points in each set to account for any potential weather or wind advantages. A player must serve the ball underhand over the net and within the court boundaries.

Players are allowed a maximum of three touches per side before the ball must be hit over the net. Unlike indoor volleyball, there are no specific positions in beach volleyball, and both players can move freely around the court.

The team that wins a rally will score a point. Points can be scored by either team, regardless of which team served the ball. A point can also be won if the other team commits a fault or violation.

Some common violations in beach volleyball include:

  • Stepping on or crossing over the centre line
  • Touching the net while playing the ball
  • Making contact with the ball more than three times before it is hit over the net.

Indoor Volleyball Rules & Scoring System

The rules and scoring structure of indoor volleyball are as follows.

The game is played with six players on each side, with three players in the front row and three in the back row.

Each team has three attempts to hit the ball over the net and into the opponent's court. If they are successful, they will earn a point. The first team to reach 25 points wins the set but must also have a minimum two-point lead. If there is a tie at 24 points, play will continue until one team gains a two-point lead.

A match consists of four sets unless it is tied at 2-2. In this case, a tie-breaking fifth set will be played to determine the winner.

Other important rules in indoor volleyball include:

  • Not touching the net during gameplay
  • Not stepping on the centre line
  • Not crossing the boundary lines while playing
  • Not holding or catching the ball (it must be hit with an open hand)
  • Players must also rotate positions clockwise after each point is scored

What Do You Need to Play Volleyball?

volleyball set

To play both beach and indoor volleyball, you'll need certain pieces of equipment.

First, you need somewhere to play. For beach volleyball some beaches have volleyball courts already set up; if not, you can erect a volleyball net on any beach and mark out a court by drawing lines in the sand or using Beach Volleyball Boundary Marking Webbing.

Outdoor volleyball nets should be made from UV-resistant polyethylene netting, like our Beach Volleyball Training Net. If you want a quick set-up on the beach, our Beach Volleyball Set for Leisure has everything you need for a quick match.

Indoor volleyball nets don't have to withstand the harsh conditions of an outdoor court. Our 'Exclusive' Volleyball Training Net is ideal for indoor practice. Made from knotless high-tenacity polypropylene netting, it can withstand hard hits throughout your training session.

You'll also need the right type of ball for the type of volleyball you're playing.

Huck Nets' Guide to Regulation Volleyball Net Height

Summary: The Differences Between Beach Volleyball & Indoor Volleyball

Now that you're familiar with the distinctions between these two forms of volleyball, you're well-prepared to sit back, relax, and immerse yourself in the thrilling high-stakes matches set to unfold throughout the summer.

Whether it's the fast-paced action of beach volleyball or the strategic depth of indoor volleyball, there's plenty to get excited about.

Keep an eye on our socials for up-to-date information about volleyball and other sports during the 2024 Olympics.



Can I Use Indoor Volleyball for the Beach?

It's not recommended. Indoor volleyball balls are heavier and less resistant to sand, making them less suitable for beach play. They also absorb moisture, which affects the game's speed and feel. Using a beach volleyball will enhance your experience and performance on the sandy courts.

Is Indoor Volleyball or Beach Volleyball Harder?

Beach volleyball and indoor volleyball each present unique challenges, making it difficult to definitively say which is harder. Beach volleyball calls for exceptional stamina, agility, and precise ball control due to the sand's resistance. Indoor volleyball demands quick reflexes, teamwork, and strategic play within a confined space.

Is it Harder to Jump in Beach Volleyball?

Jumping in beach volleyball can be more challenging due to the softer surface of the sand, which requires stronger leg muscles to push off from compared to the hard court in indoor volleyball. Players need to exert more effort to achieve the same height and power in their jumps.

Why Do Beach Volleyball Nets Need to be UV-stabilised?

Beach volleyball nets need to be UV-stabilised to withstand prolonged exposure to sunlight. UV stabilization prevents the net from deteriorating due to UV radiation, extending its lifespan and ensuring durability in outdoor settings.