After my workshop in Houston ended last Thursday, I had a half day to kill before my flight home. Being a child of the ocean, I was going to check out the waterfront – and that meant a run down to Galveston.
I love history, and Galveston is dripping in it. The island city is probably best known as the victim of the 1900 hurricane which killed 8,000 of Galveston’s residents, still the worst natural disaster in American history. You can’t travel around the city without seeing signs of the storm, from the monuments along Broadway to the stone mansions that survived the storm, to the impressive 10-mile-long seawall that was built after the storm and allowed the height of the land behind it to be raised by over 10 feet.
Pink granite groins - imagine how many countertops that could have made!
Speaking of impressive, you should see the local choice for break wall materials. Like many beach cities, Galveston has a series of groins – short perpendicular break walls that extend from the beach and slow the lateral movement of sand. We have similar structures in Redondo, and use local materials to create them. For us, that means modest granite blown out of the quarry on Catalina Island. Here in Galveston, the material is also granite – but it’s pink, and looks to be high quality. Can’t help but think the stuff would look a lot nicer in some high end home somewhere.
The architecture of the homes here belies the biggest threat from a hurricane – storm surge. In 1900, the surge was several feet higher than the highest point in the island and basically swamped it; as a result, most of the deaths came from drowning. Even with the additional height of the seawall, the island is dangerously low – Hurricane Ike in 2008 managed to overtop the wall. Builders accept this a certainty, and take it into consideration when they design their homes. Most houses – and many businesses – have a sacrificial lower floor, consisting of little more than an enclosed staircase and a carport. All of the living spaces are on the second or third floor, presumably above any potential flooding.
Driving in this morning, and as I explore the island, it’s clear that the damage from Ike was significant. Nearly half of the waterfront homes show some level of damage or repair, and construction activity is evident everywhere. There are several piers on the south side of the island, and you can see that several are missing the final segments, presumably due to storm damage. On the bright side, one pier destroyed in 1961 and bashed again by Ike is about to debut as a tourist attraction on a par with our own Santa Monica Pier.
The wind is actually blowing pretty good here in Galveston today, and I suspect there are at least Small Craft Advisories in place. As you can see from the video I shot down at the seawall a little while ago, it’s no day to be on the water:
And this was only three out of five on the warning flag scale they use along the beach. Good thing it was low tide, or it would be slapping the seawall.
I actually started this MB entry while sitting in a restaurant on 61st street in Galveston, waiting to enjoy a different kind of cultural experience – a Waffle House breakfast. As a Cali guy, there are certain experiences that aren’t available to me, so I feel obligated to seek them out when possible. Last night, a bacon-and-cheese Whataburger; this morning a Waffle House All Star breakfast. Quite the cultural enrichment …
When the AVP collapsed the week before the iconic Manhattan Beach Open, the California Beach Volleyball Association stepped in, allowing the event to proceed – albeit in a much smaller version. That was a one-time deal, however, and the rest of the season was cancelled. That left the tour players – among them, the defending Olympic Men’s and Women’s champions – with no domestic options to ply their craft or hone their skills. Worse, the only Olympic-qualifing events would now be overseas as part of the FIVB tour, meaning the best American players would play in Europe, and the rest would be unemployed. By the time a new domestic tour could be organized and financed, the current generation of players would be long retired – and no one would be there to replace them.
I’m happy to report that the Doomsday scenario described above might just be avoided. USA Volleyball, the governing body for the sport in America, has partnered with event management giant IMG to form a new professional beach volleyball tour – and it starts next year!
The Beach Championship Series will consist of four to six events and include tournaments in Hermosa Beach, Huntington Beach, Chicago and Belmar, NJ. In addition, the USAV will operate the Olympic trials for the first time since 1996.
“This represents USA Volleyball’s continuing commitment to and investment in beach volleyball,” said USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal in a statement released Monday. “This partnership will allow us to promote the beach game while giving U.S. beach volleyball teams the opportunity to compete at a high level as we move toward London in 2012.”
There’s more good news associated with the announcement. Dave Williams, formerly the VP of Operations for the AVP and they guy who produced over 150 of their tournaments, has been hired as the Managing Director for the new USA Beach Volleyball, meaning there’ll be an experienced hand at the controls.
Personally, I think this is great news. It’s nice to see USAV working on the beach side of things for a change, and bringing the right people into the mix to insure success. It’ll be interesting to see if they integrate Manhattan Beach into their series – key to long term success – but this is a big step in the right direction for fans of the sport.
Ah, Labor Day – that big end-of-the-summer holiday weekend. One last shot to fire up the barbecue, pound down a beer and run on the beach. I can’t speak to your individual food or drink intake this weekend, but I’m confident you can’t touch Christian Burke when it comes to the beach running thing.
Burke, an ultramarathon athlete from Hermosa Beach, decided to run between the Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach piers on Sunday – a challenging run in the deep beach sand for the best of us. But where we might have stopped after one transit to rest and recuperate, Burke kept going … and going … and going … for a full 24 hours!
Burke’s daughter attends Hermosa Beach schools which, like most public school systems, face a budgetary crisis these days. Burke decided to take his love of his daughter and his skills as an athlete and combine the two to raise money for the school system by trying to break the Guinness World Record for distance running in soft sand during a twenty-four hour period.
It wasn’t just sand Burke was running in. He was running in abrasive Southern California sand along the Strand wall. Burke ran in that area to raise awareness among the onlookers from Fiesta Hermosa and hopefully raise more money.
It might have worked. Gary, homeless in Hermosa, dropped his last dollar in the big donations jar after witnessing Burke struggle back and forth.
After Burke finished his 24th and final lap just before noon Monday, about 24 hours after he started, TV camera crews, friends, supporters and even Mayor Michael DiVirgilio were on hand to greet and congratulate him.
Burke invited all to attend a celebratory after-party at the Union Cattle Co. But before he headed off to shower, he collapsed in a camping chair under his tent and reflected on his accomplishment.
“The hardest part was the last two laps,” Burke said. “As soon as I started thinking about the end that’s when it began to get a bit dramatic and my brain began to shut off.
“I didn’t know what it would be like to run that distance in sand. Nobody knew, right? Well, it was as unforgiving as I expected it to be. But you know, coming out here and doing it and seeing for myself, it was a handful. It was tough.”
Starting at noon Sunday, Burke completed 24 laps between the piers, covering 83.04 miles; the old record of 62.28 miles was shattered around 3AM. Money was raised both by donations from visitors to the nearby Fiesta Hermosa and from those who paid for the privilige of joining Burke on one of his laps. As for Burke himself, his feet are sore and blistered, but he still mustered enough strength to attend the after-event party.
If you’d like to donate to Christian Burke’s Hermosa24 effort, you can do so at hermosa24.com.
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.”
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