If you’re a newcomer to Croatia’s beaches, you might have observed something intriguing: clusters of people leaping, diving, and keeping a small ball afloat in the shallow water.
What you’ve just witnessed is the traditional Croatian beach game known as Picigin, which this weekend celebrates 100 years of the game.
Picigin was conceived by a group of Croatian students who encountered difficulties playing water polo in the shallow waters of Bačvice beach in Split.
In this game, participants strive to prevent a small ball from touching the water, using only the palm of their hand. It has subsequently gained popularity not only in Split but also in other parts of the Croatian coastline.
This game lacks official winners or losers and is typically seen as an opportunity for individuals to have fun and showcase their skills, often incorporating acrobatic dives to keep the ball airborne. The Picigin World Championship, held annually at Bačvice beach in Split, is judged based on flair and acrobatics.
This game can be played by two or more players, with the aim of keeping the small ball, often a peeled tennis ball, from touching the water for as long as possible.
In recognition of its cultural significance, the Croatian Ministry of Culture included Picigin on the list of Croatia’s intangible cultural heritage more than a decade ago. The spiritual home of this game is still considered to be Bačvice beach in Split, where players often don tight speedos.
This weekend marks the celebration of 100 years of the game of Picigin at Bačvice beach.
At a press conference at the “Park” hotel, they announced a two-day program called “100 Years of Picigin.” The program will commence on Friday, September 15th, at the “Marko Marulić” City Library, where, among other things, a music video for the song “Picigin” by the group “Rebatajica” and a promotional film “Split: City of Sports” will be presented, along with HRT’s documentary film “Picigin at Bačvice” by Tonko Jović, Slobodna Dalmacija reported.
On Saturday, the program is expected to continue with an underwater beach cleaning event at Bačvice beach at nine o’clock, followed by a game of Picigin at ten o’clock, a “small branke” match at twelve o’clock, and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque in honor of the 100th anniversary on the façade of what was once a bathing facility and is now a hospitality establishment at Bačvice at 1 PM, accompanied by musical performances.
Picigin has been played in Split since 1923 and derives from the word “pizzicato,” which literally means plucking a string with a finger, while in a metaphorical sense, it translates to playful, free-spirited, and rule-free, just like Picigin in its early days, Stipišić explained.