You’d never know it to look at me, but I am a child of the beach. I live a mile and a half from the Hermosa Beach Pier, and, save my college years in Riverside, this is the furthest I’ve lived from the ocean in my life. It’s a culture I embrace, and a livestyle I enjoy, even if I do it mostly from the sidelines.
Living at the beach, it’s impossible to miss one of the most prominent sports played there – beach volleyball. Whether an after-work jungle ball matchup or a serious weekend tourney, volleyball nets dot the sand and are in use more often than not. For those who play at an elite level, there are even professional beach volleyball tours where the best players can earn a living playing the game they love.
The game comes in many forms, depending on how many people you have on a team, but the most exciting – and telegenic – version is 2-man (or woman). With only two people to cover all that sand, it leads to exciting digs and dives and spikes. The professional 2-Man tour has been around for decades, and for the last 23 years has been organized by the AVP – the Association of Volleyball Professionals – which brought order to the chaotic beach tour, bringing both genders into the same events, developing sponsors, arranging television coverage, and introducing flocks of landlocked new fans to the sport through a national tour that criss-crossed the country year-round.
Twice a year, the AVP Tour would visit the South Bay beaches – home turf for the majority of the players. Everyone wanted to win Hermosa, because it was their hometown event, and Manhattan, because it was the Wimbledon of their sport. Hermosa Beach is in the books, but the Manhattan Beach Open will take on an entirely new look this weekend, because the AVP has folded its tent and cancelled the remainder of the season.
“On behalf of AVP staff we want to express our sincere gratitude to fans, players, partners and sponsors,” said Jason Hodell, AVP CEO. “Words cannot express our profound disappointment.”
“Through the course of this investor search we have encountered individuals and groups with intelligence, common sense and a passion for the game of beach volleyball,” said Mike Dodd, AVP commissioner. “Unfortunately, the time constraints were such that pulling the trigger on the amount of money necessary to salvage this season were too great. Ironically this sad news comes as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Manhattan Open, our sport’s crown jewel and the one event that showed us all we could dream big. The Open has seen its ups and downs over the years and always persevered. I’m sure our sport will do the same.”
I guess this shows what happens to what is essentially a fringe sport in difficult economic times. Beach volleyball rode the wave created by Olympic success – and little swimsuits – as far as they could, but in the end the wave broke on a rocky shore. The game will go on, of course – this weekend’s iconic Manhattan Beach Open is being run as an “old-school” tournament by the city (a decision that is not without it’s own controversy) – and the Americans will once again compete for gold in two years at London. But they’re going to have to go abroad to earn their spot on the Olympic team, and to earn a living, and that’s a sad statement for all of us who love the sport.
They say there are no bad days at the beach, but there are sad days, and this is definitely one of them. There’s a lot I’m gonna miss about the AVP … Geeter doing the worm … Kerri dominating the net … Rachel’s butt …
As Chris Marlowe always used to say to end the AVP telecasts, “The beach … is closed.”