Rio de Janeiro, 1946: A dark handsome man strides past the iconic Copacabana Palace hotel down onto the beach wearing a short pair of tailored swim shorts and carrying a set of wooden beach bats. “Bom dia Lian!” shouts his friend. Jogging over to greet his playing partner, Lian takes in a deep breath of sea air and feels the warm white sand beneath his feet.
The energy and passion of Rio’s beaches surrounded by deep blue waters, intense cityscape and the lush Mata Altântica forest inspired Lian Pontes to create a game that beats to the Rio drum. Crafting his original beach bat from driftwood and playing with a rubber ball created by removing the felt from a tennis ball, his game brought a distinct sound to the Copacabana, a rhythmic “knock-knock” which is now heard across the beaches of the world. As the morning sun touched the beach between the Copacabana Palace hotel and Rua Duvivier, his fellow players would gather for an early game at the spot known as Posto 2.5 before a refreshing agua de coco and talk of the day ahead in the Cidade Maravilhosa.
Frescobol, a word now as synonymous to the Carioca as the idolised futebol, was originally played in the frescor do final de tarde – in the freshness of the end of the afternoon – and together with the original rubber bola, the term frescobol was born.
With Rio’s mountains and shoreline as a backdrop, two players form a partnership and work as one, hitting the ball between them with increasing speed creating a dynamic rally. As the bond and game intensify, the roles of attack and defence pass between the two and a spectacle of both skill and showmanship ensues.
Although best enjoyed as the sun sets over the Morro Dois Irmãos, frescobol is now practiced on beaches all over the world as the infectious Carioca beach lifestyle spreads outside of Rio. The sight of partners working together to create this spectacle often draws eager crowds in awe of these players who dive across the sand to recover a shot and maintain the rally.
In the middle of the 1900s, Rio de Janeiro was still living in the light of its the Golden Age, also known as the Tropical Belle Époque. The city’s urban landscape had recently undergone a profound transformation at the beginning of the century, which had given it a characteristically modern and cosmopolitan look. Several of the main streets had been widened and a number of tram lines had been installed, allowing for a dynamic city life, and creating a brand-new city elite through the mixing of different social classes.
Rio de Janeiro was still glorious and new, joie de vivre exuded not only from the Cariocas themselves, but from the bustling city’s very own heart. Strings of colourful Beetles could be seen lined up along the sidewalk of the Copacabana beach, where all kinds of people would spend their days light-heartedly splashing around in the water and playing beach sports. Tanned cariocas would be enjoying cheeky cervezas in their sungas and flirting with groups of beautiful girls, with the Morro Dois Irmãos as a natural backdrop. Children would be playing in the sand and eating biscoito globo purchased from beach vendors, while their fashionable mothers caught up on the latest gossip while keeping an eye on them from underneath their glamorous hats.
Just across the street, movie stars would be lounging by the pool and sipping on cocktails at the luxurious Copacabana Palace, while artists would entertain guests in their private villas in Ipanema, to the soft notes of Tom Jobim’s bossa nova.
The sun setting behind Christ the Redeemer would draw the whole city’s gaze with its magnificence and incredible golden colours.
When one thinks of Rio, both then and now, the city exudes an inimitable charm that comes from the combination of inborn sexiness and a happy and positive take on life. Rio’s fun, cheeky, and easy-going lifestyle is what keeps inspiring us, and draws us to Cidade Maravilhosa again and again, like a magnet.
Frescobol perfectly embodies Rio’s way of life: cool, active and friendly. The players work together to keep the ball in the air, the game is never a competition! They get their heart rates up and enjoy the adrenaline rush, kicking up the sand as they go flying after the ball. Frescobol Carioca was born with the aim of spreading this rich and contagiously happy Rio culture to the rest of the world.