1. Louisiana made me who I am.
The question, “Where are you from?” is always a difficult one to answer because it’s hard for me to define it perfectly. If it’s where I grew up – the answer would be San Clemente, CA. But if it’s the place that made me the person I am today – the answer would be Lafayette, Louisiana. When I was a sophomore in high school, my mom and I moved to Louisiana; it was a complete culture shock from the sunny beaches of SoCal. Shortly after moving there, I emancipated myself from my mom (long story). After I was granted emancipation, the family that took me in taught me so many life lessons in a very short period of time. I am the man I am today because of The Pellerins. I wouldn’t be here without them. So when someone asks me, “Where are you from?” I feel like I need to say the South. Even though I lived in SoCal longer, I grew up there and learned all the lessons that taught me about life and who I am.
2. I almost went pro in paintball.
When I was younger, my brother and Dad picked up a hobby that I thought was rather strange – paintball. It began at Camp Pendleton, one of the largest US Marine Bases in the country. I was just a child, so young that we had to fib on my waiver just so I could play. I was the youngest one out on the fields up against active Marines. I was TERRIFIED. But as we went to play more often, I grew less fearful. Eventually, I became obsessed with paintball. What started as a hobby slowly turned into a potential future sport for my brother and me. As we got more experienced, we started to realize that we were pretty good at this. Other people realized, too. We were getting offers to play in speedball tournaments from people who wanted to take paintball to the next level. We even had a small hope of that turning paintball into a professional career. I have no doubt that if we’d have kept at it, we would have made it big. However, paintball is a very expensive sport when played at a high level. We straight up couldn’t afford it anymore. But I’ll never forget those years – every weekend going to play, almost every week watching the pros play on TV, rewatching paintball DVDs. It was an obsession and still one of my favorite memories of my Dad and brother.
3. Coffee is life.
I am in love with coffee! No seriously, my love for coffee is so much more than just drinking it often. My coffee set up resembles a chemistry lab; that’s how serious I am about it. My appreciation starts with the beans being roasted to the actual experience as a “barista.” I grew up in the Christian church; somehow you always find yourself at coffee shops either reading or meeting with people before and after church. So much so that my church actually built its own coffee shop to create a safer environment for younger kids so they didn’t have to walk from the local coffee shop to the church at night. I was one of the people that helped serve in that area, so I learned how to make all the different types of drinks. That is where my fascination started. I grew interested in all the different flavors and espresso drinks you can make. I started going to higher quality coffee shops and spending hours trying new drinks. From tasting the coffee to learning how to make it, I have become a total coffee snob. When visiting a new city, my first question is always: “Where can I get a good cup of coffee?” Upon entering each new shop, I scrutinize what equipment the baristas are using and how they’re making my coffee. My dream is to one day have my own La Morzocco espresso machine. Maybe after I win my first AVP tournament.
4. I didn’t start playing volleyball until after high school.
I was born to be an athlete. My dad put a football in my hands the first day I could walk; he’d run routes with me on Sundays, him on the couch and me running all through the house. My Mom is from Denmark, so it almost felt like I had to play their most popular sport: soccer. Though they were both supportive of whatever I wanted to play, Dad definitely pushed me towards football and Mom towards soccer. So I decided to not choose and play all the sports (including paintball). Volleyball never occurred to me until after I graduated high school. One of my friends had a real AVP Wilson ball and we spent that whole summer messing around on the beach. Soon, my competitive nature took over. When I start to learn something, I hate being bad at it. I had to find a way to get better at beach. A friend from my church, Micah Guy, took me down to Doheny State Beach and showed me the beach volleyball ropes. I got connected with the locals and spent every single day playing and trying to get better. I was also inspired by the 2012 Olympics; that’s when I really got serious about the game. At times, I wish I played volleyball growing up; there are certain aspects of the indoor game that I feel would help my game. However, a common thing that happens with players who play their whole life is that they get burnt out. You never have to worry about that with me. I am just as addicted to the sport as when I first started.
5. I’m a gamer.
My whole life I have always played videos games. It was something I was always embarrassed about because I thought people would call me a “nerd” or make fun of me. I never thought I’d one day be able to turn my video game prowess into a side hustle and community builder. During quarantine, I started live-streaming on the platform Twitch. I thought it would be a good thing to connect with my beach volleyball community and play with fans. On Twitch, I’ve transitioned to reviewing volleyball film in addition to playing; I’ve really built a global beach volleyball community for myself. I made a goal in November to start trying to grow my Twitch account, so I started to post clips from the stream on TikTok. I never expected people to be so supportive; I’m slowly growing my Twitch community to be both people who are passionate about volleyball and gaming.
6. Another passion of mine is photography.
While living in Louisiana, my friend’s dad Chris Brouillette asked me to tag along and help photograph a Jeremy Camp concert. I was more of an assistant because I had no idea what I was doing… yet. Chris let me take his camera around and take a few photos; immediately I was hooked. He even bought me my first photography book. I’m so thankful for him. Shortly after, I moved back to California but I kept up my passion for photography. I had a few friends from church who were also into photography and videography, so I was surrounded by people to learn from. They brought me on a couple of shoots, and I got better with a camera. I eventually was filming and shooting weddings and commercial events. What I love so much about photography is that it is always changing and challenging. You’re there to capture a moment. Ten different photographers could take a photo of the same subject, and they could all be different but still beautiful.
7. I’m Danish and almost represented Denmark on the FIVB World Tour.
My mom was born and raised in Denmark; she lived in the US when I was a kid, but moved back to Denmark with my younger sister when I was a junior in high school. When I started playing volleyball at a high level, I thought about what every athlete thinks about: the Olympics. I knew I wanted to make the Olympics, but the competition in the US is so tough. To boost my chances, I thought of representing Denmark internationally. It wouldn’t be difficult to get citizenship because my mom lived there and my brother recently had gotten his Danish citizenship. I got connected with a former Danish player to see how I could tryout. I decided to fly over and spend a couple of weeks training with some current Danish players. It went great, and the coaches were willing to work with me to try to make it happen. However, there was something holding me back. Something about growing up in the US and hearing our National Anthem made me want to postpone my final decision about representing Denmark. I figured I would wait a little longer and try to qualify for the AVP before I made the decision to represent a different country. Well, as fate would have it, later that year I qualified for the AVP. I then played in New Zealand with Ian Satterfield representing the US and a few weeks later Reid Priddy and I qualified for three Norcecas. It was in Varadero, Cuba that we stood on the podium and heard the National Anthem being played that I knew I made the right decision to represent the Red, White, and Blue.
8. I have Ty Tramblie and John Mayer to thank for catapulting my beach volleyball career.
Two huge opportunities impacted my career. The first came in 2017. I was just leaving my house in Southern Orange County to practice with Ty Tramblie when he texted to say that he got injured and couldn’t practice. I didn’t want to miss out, so I asked if I could still do the practice with John Hyden and Ryan Doherty by myself. I drove all the way up to Playa Del Ray, a 70-mile commute, just to do drills and be a dummy for these two AVP stars I’d watched on TV. Another time, Ben Vaught – one of the guys who was a part of my first training group in Huntington Beach – couldn’t make his practice with John Mayer. He asked if I could fill in for him. During that practice, I told John that if he ever needed a guy I would be there, no matter how last minute it was. Well, John took me up on that; he kept inviting me to more practices because his partner Jeremy Casebeer was in Brazil training. Practicing with John is one of the most memorable periods of my career. I use his teaching and advice to this day. I’ll always remember how nervous I was to practice with him the first time. John was more influential on my game than he probably knows. It was practicing with these top players that I was able to get some more recognition and street credit to find a partner to eventually qualify for the AVP.