If you’re a girl (or dated or were related to one) in the early 2000s, I bet you’ve seen How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. It’s a classic rom-com complete with Matthew McConaughey in his prime, a bet that goes awry, and an iconic low-back yellow satin dress. And it has an incredible Kiss Cam scene at a New York Knicks game. #swoon
That’s why my adolescent self was thrilled to hear of an AVP story with similar vibes. And the grapevine of me hearing it is pretty cinematic, too. AVP Owner Stephanie Sun heard it from her dentist, who heard it from their patient, Cara. Steph then told my editor Laura Day who then told me, and then I heard the whole thing from Mike. It’s like a Valentine’s-edition of the telephone game.
Mike and Cara were no more than acquaintances until the day they kissed in front of thousands of beach volleyball fans. Mike grew up in Huntington and played beach volleyball at the Huntington Pier his whole life. He then went to college at Utah Valley, which is right next door to BYU. He lived in a big off-campus apartment with a hodgepodge of volley guys (including the legendary USA Libero and AVP Coach Rich Lambourne). “It was fun – half my roommates were my teammates and then a bunch of players from BYU. The volleyball community is pretty small over there, but it’s really tight.”
Cara played indoor growing up and still loves playing beach now. Volleyball has always been a part of their lives, and it’s no surprise it brought them together. “It’s just in the blood; you know how it is.”
So it’s 2013, and the AVP is back on the beach. One of the last stops of the year was Huntington, and a group of Cara and Mike’s mutual friends decided to attend. As I said, they’d never met. They mainly knew of each other through one of their friends Erik, who divided his time visiting California crashing on each of their couches. “He split his time between me and this ‘random’ friend who lived in Newport,” Mike says. “I always heard about this girl, but for years I never met her.” Such a cliche rom-com element; I love it.
In 2013, this former teammate and Mike were planning on attending the AVP together. Mike’s friend brought a girl. And then another friend was from out of town, and he brought a girl. And then, of course, Cara came. Mike, Cara, plus two couples, all having a good time at a beach volleyball tournament. Ahhh, those were the days.
Mike and Cara spent the day getting to know each other. This “random girl” who always compromised half of Mike’s friends’ LA time turned out to be pretty cool. “Everybody’s paired off except me and her,” Mike says. “And so we’re sitting at the Women’s Final. And it was cool that year – you could sit right on the sand behind the ball barrier. So we were like right in the corner by the players.
“So they take a timeout. And everyone around us is chatting. Cara’s right next to me, but she was talking to one of the other girls. So I was just kinda doing my own thing, but still with the group. So right in the corner is the camera guy. And he’s on a knee. And all of a sudden, he turns to me and says, ‘Kiss Cam in two seconds – Go!’ And he just sticks the camera right in my face.
“I’m totally taken back by this. And so I turn to the right, and Cara’s right there. And I go, ‘Hey,” and I kinda nudge her in the arm. And I put my finger up to the camera guy to wait a second, and I look to Cara and say, ‘Hey! Kiss Cam! Let’s go!’
“Her reaction was classic. I think she was trying to be cordial to me because we’d just barely met, trying to let me down easy. So she goes, ‘Yeahhhhhh, ummmm… no.’ Just like that.
“And so now I’m hearing laughter in the crowd who’s watching the jumbotron, And I’m thinking, Oh no. I’m not going out like that. So I turn to her and go, ‘No? There’s no ‘No’ to the Kiss Cam! You can’t say no to the Kiss Cam.’ And she was laughing, and everyone was laughing. And I was like, ‘Come on, get over here!’ And so she turned and went in for it.
“Everyone started cheering because they saw her deny me and then change her mind. They saw the no, and then they saw the yes. It was pretty funny.'”
The rest is history. That day sparked something for Mike and Cara. They started dating shortly after and got serious months later. Almost eight years later, Mike and Cara are still happily in love and firmly cemented in the beach volleyball world. They play tournaments here and there, and always make sure to watch Mike’s buddies Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb at the Huntington Open.
“AVP – whenever it’s in Huntington, we’re there.”