For the past 30 years I’ve been playing volleyball on some of the best and worst beaches on the planet. What makes a great beach volleyball experience? First and foremost, great people – folks who you want to share a beer with after you win or lose and who you stay in touch with. Second, a beautiful location, something you’ll remember your entire life. Third, the sand (the deeper, the better), standards (straight), and net (taut). Here’s a list of my top 10 beach volleyball experiences:
- Carmel Beach – Like playing in heaven: magically soft, clean, white sand on a knoll overlooking Carmel Bay and Point Lobos. Great games almost every Satuday and Sunday throughout the year, with morning burritos and margaritas on “Palapa Days” during the summer. If there was a way to restrict David Crabbe’s access, it would, indeed, be heaven.
- Los Frailes, Baja – It’s a BYOC (bring your own court) beach. And when you play, it’s only you and the sea turtles. But access is near impossible unless you know Bruce, so don’t even think about trying to play there
- East Beach, Santa Barbara – Tough to beat on a spring night when the wind dies down and the sun is setting. Always easy to find good, strong players, John Katnic notwithstanding. Best to avoid any foursome with Steve Lough as he’ll shoot you insane.
- Seaside, Oregon – Fine, hard-packed sand make this beach a jumper’s paradise. The annual Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament, one of the largest on the planet (thanks to Steve Hinton and Joe Hart’s foresight), is a mind-blowing experience.
- Capitola/Santa Cruz, California – Two beaches, really, but close enough that I’ll group them. Great people, fun tournaments all summer.
- Chania, Crete – I celebrated my 50th planning with some of my closest volleyball friends on these semi-private courts. High exotic factor. Nice bar with energizing music right next door.
- Barcelona, Spain – Sebastian and I held court there during the summer of 2010. Great fun playing against local Spaniards.
- Impanena, Brazil – I played there many years ago and enjoyed some really fun games with the locals.
- Estero Beach, Baja – Former location of one of the other largest beach volleyball tournaments on the planet. I’d rate it higher except that I tore my foot open on a piece of glass.
- Kanaha Park Beach, Maui – Great location, great people, great late afternoon games, but be careful! Poor, shallow sand with lots of annoying burrs.
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