Maybe you have been wanting to learn since you saw Phil Dalhauser or Kerry Walsh in the Olympics or you are simply thinking of fun ways to get in shape, here is our guide to the ins and outs of learning how to play beach volleyball here in Southern California.
Your first question might be, are there any prerequisites to getting into beach volleyball? There really aren't but those who already know a different ball sport like tennis or handball seem to have an easier time, and, as with most sports, being athletic in general helps. And being tall seems to help too! But don't be discouraged if the above don't apply to you! The most important attribute is being interested and investing time to learn, so as long as you got those covered, you are good to go!
FINDING A BEACH VOLLEYBALL CLASS, TRAINER OR COACH
There are tons of high level volleyball players turned coaches that are available for private lessons or small group classes (less than 6 people). Whether you have never touched a volleyball in your life or have only played indoor, lessons and classes are a great way to learn the sand game and meet other people at your skill level. KCB Volleyball has classes and small group training sessions in Manhattan Beach and Playa del Rey, California that are fun and affordable for beginner and intermediate level beach volleyball players. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text Cindy at 310-906-6781.
Eventually you will want to set up (competitive social) games and in order to do that you need to meet people. If you don’t know anyone, classes are a great way to start. If you don’t like the idea of a class or know a few other interested people who are at similar skill level, you can get together 2 to 6 other people for a small group training session once or twice per week. Also, the coaches often know other people who may be interested in joining your group (or are looking for new people to join their group) so don’t hesitate to talk to them about that.
Remember, it may seem giant at first but the SoCal beach volleyball community is actually relatively small. When you are playing or training don't be a Focker, be cool, positive, encouraging and reasonably humble and people will want to play with you. Also, be responsive to anyone who asks you to play games (hmm, manners people) and show up ON TIME to games! (Or you may end up the subject of one of Stacy funny ass music videos ) And when you play with new people that you like always get their number (duh! but people often forget) so you can continue to develop your beach volleyball player Rolodex!
Do I need my own beach volleyball?
If you are a total newbie and just taking a class then no, the coaches will supply the balls. Once you start meeting people and setting up your own social volleyball games then yes you will need at least one ball. Most people play with the yellow and white Wilson AVP Official Game Ball. Costco is a great place to find inexpensive authentic leather volleyballs. (Do not buy any volleyball that is less than $28 because it is a fake and will kill your arms!)
And contrary to what many tourists seem to think, all of the beach volleyballs that you see around the courts when people are playing social games belong to those players. Do not just walk up and grab a ball! You can ask to borrow one but don’t be shocked to receive a no, and if you get a yes, be sure to return the ball when you are finished and thank the players/owners.
WHAT TO WEAR?
Clothing/Swimwear: For your first beach volleyball class or practice, guys will typically wear comfortable stretch board shorts. Ladies typically wear shorts with a tank top or t-shirt or a bikini. Note to avoid anything too baggy as it will interfere with your playing and avoid shorts with large pockets – they will fill up with sand and you can get your thumbs stuck in them (no joke). Ladies, if you are going with a bikini be sure to wear one that does not tie over your neck and is snug enough to stay in place and keep your lady bits covered. As much as the dudes may love it, you don't want a nip slip or to be distracted by your outfit when you are trying to learn a sport!
Hat or Visor: Save yourself a major pain in the ass and learn to play from the day one wearing a hat or visor. It will save your skin, act as a sweat band and will help keep your temperature down when it’s blazing hot out there. (And down the road, when you are in the finals of a tournament, you can get crazy and take it off and feel like you just gave yourself a secret competitive edge!)
Sunglasses: Polarized glasses are a must. They don’t need to be fancy or expensive, just wear something that stays on and is comfortable. Don’t underestimate the amount of sun that is reflecting up off the sand and eyes get sunburned too.
Sunscreen: Good sunscreen is a MUST! If you become addicted to the sport (like we have) you will need to make a full body sunscreen application a part of your regular pre-game routine. Don’t worry, you will still end up with that sun kissed glow, but hopefully just skip the skin cancer and leather face part. Also be sure to reapply at least every two hours – so that means bring it with you to the beach! There are tons of sunscreen brands out there but considering that you will be using it so often, it would be smart to not use a toxic one. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens for to check out your sunscreen rating or find a new one. Lately we’ve been using a sunscreen for surfers called Headhunters that we love. We were introduced to their SPF 45 Sunscreen Face Stick at a surf camp for kids and it was literally the only thing that could keep the little groms from getting fried after 6 hours in the ocean.
If you end up getting super into beach volleyball, here are a few things you may need down the road:
Sand Socks, Court Boundary Lines, Volleyball Net Antennas, Hydro Flask Water Bottle, Portable Music Player, Sand Anchor Umbrella
Tournaments: Once you have been playing for a while and are now showing some skill you might be asked if you want to play in a tournament. The most common tournaments to play in here are the California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) tournaments. There are tournaments for male and female players of all ages and levels from unrated (lowest) to AAA (highest). They are usually one day events taking place at beaches in the Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz areas. Sometimes there is some prize swag for winners but for the most part you are competing to earn a rating (a type of ranking) which is typically given to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams.
One of the great things about beach volleyball is that it is generally easy on the purse! The investment for equipment is minimal and classes and even private and semi-private training/coaching sessions are fairly inexpensive. Plus in So Cal court and net usage is free - lucky us! - we are well aware that this is not the case in much of the rest of the U.S. and around the world!
Beach volleyball is a super fun way to get out and get some exercise, enjoy the ridiculous year-round weather here in Southern California and of course make friends. Volleyball will end up connecting you to people in ways you would never expect and we can’t recommend the sport enough. Hope this inspires you to get out there and try it and don’t be intimidated, you’ll pick it up faster than you can imagine. See you on the beach!
-Bridget & Sibylle