Beach volleyball on the AVP Tour has come a long way since its start in the 1980s. Back then, it was little more than a battle for bragging rights among friends and maybe a 12-pack of your favorite beer. As the 2019 season starts warming up, we’re taking a little time to look back at how it all started.
From the beginning…
In 1985, anyone could just plop down a beach chair on the sand and you were treated to some amazing men volleyball matches down in Huntington Beach or Manhattan Beach.
Before the stadium era (and even during those early stadium days, later on – we’ll get to that in a second) it was up to the fans to provide their entertainment in a social setting. What started out as friends and professional ballers getting together on the sand until the sunset, then extended to a bigger circle of fans over time after hearing the buzz around the level of play of these men and the social setting it created. Cookouts with pals turned into food carts and crowds, but everyone was there for the same reason: Celebrating competitive beach volleyball. Yes, women had an interest in the sport but the early AVP days were left for the strong men, made up of even stronger personalities. Organically, an interest was formed and the average spectator turned into a die-hard follower, naturally earning the attention of national brands and sponsors who wanted to be associated with this beach lifestyle.
Looking back, this was a man’s game at the time with incredible bounces, high-flying swings, and aggressive straight-down blocks. There are the Hall-Of-Famers, the legends who came to play for the love of the sport before anything else: Karch Kiraly, Sinjin Smith, Randy Stoklos (pictured below), Tim Hovland, Mike Dodd, Steve Obradovich, Gary Hooper, Dane Selznick, Andy Fishburn, Jim Menges, Matt Gage — to name a few.
You had cutthroat rivalries almost out of West Side Story – and we’re not just talking about the players. These fans were boldly standing behind their guys as passions and emotions flared. Santa Monica/Pacific Palisades vs. the South Bay region of Southern California was one of the most historic rivalries, both on the court and in the beach chairs. There were some heated contests, no doubt.
The AVP today…
As the sport – and the AVP – has grown, so have the crowds that attend, the event that occurs, and the athletes that compete. Where it was once a haven for the hardcore that traveled to Huntington Beach, there’s now a welcoming experience that hangs out on the sand for beach locals and new fans alike. While the competition always stays the most important feat, the social setting is now one of a beach volleyball sports village, encouraging fans of all ages to join in the fun – whether you’re hanging with the pros between sets or you want to rock climb or zipline over the event. While there is no shortage of fun to be had, there is also some very serious competition that has actually stepped up in recent years.
These days, women have entered the scene … it’s no longer a boys-only club. And, the popularity of female beach stars speaks for itself. While the men execute draw-dropping plays regularly, the women have captivated fans worldwide with their unique finesse, strategic execution, and some absolute powerhouse moves on the sand. Unlike other professional sports in 2019, the men and women have equal media coverage and compete for the same prize purse each AVP event because regardless of gender, the competition is fierce, the talent is high, and the fans are there to see both men AND women.
Along with men and women competing, there’s a big, custom stadium looming over the side courts at AVP events. Instead of battling for bottles, it’s a series of high-stakes title bouts, bringing together the best players on the U.S. volleyball circuit, regardless of gender. Olympic vets, young hopefuls, and fans are all there to see the top teams clash on the sand. Spectators have their favorites, sure, but all respect those who step on the court.
Of course, as time goes on, new legends have emerged to write their names in the record books: Phil Dalhausser, the retired Todd Rogers, Jake Gibb, Sean Rosenthal, Casey Jennings, Casey Patterson, Nick Lucena, April Ross, Lauren Fendrick, Brooke Sweat, Emily Day (pictured above). That’s not even going into the latest crop of talent hitting the court for the 2019 AVP season!
You no longer need to vacation in California at just the right time to see the AVP action unfold. The AVP has selected major markets all across the US where you can see the best of the best playing on your home turf. With every stop on the tour, locals are encouraged to create their own awesome, inclusive atmosphere during a weekend of top-notch volleyball.
While there are clear distinctions between what the AVP was when it was formed in the 80’s and what it is today, it still celebrates the same sport with a passion few understand until they step on the sand with us for an event. If you haven’t been able to make it down to see a live match before, come on down during the 2019 season to see what you’ve been missing.