Seaside Beach Volleyball

Seaside Beach Volleyball: ‘The Best Tournament in The United States And Possibly The World’

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Put aside, if for just a moment, the nostalgia of the Manhattan Beach Open. Forget the massive checks that go to the winners. Ignore the tradition of the victors getting their names engraved on the Manhattan Beach Pier. Think only of the beach volleyball being played.

Adam Roberts has played thousands of beach volleyball tournaments in his life. He’s played 16 Manhattan Beach Opens. When removing the nostalgia, the tradition, the prize money?

Seaside might be a better tournament.

“Of course the nostalgia of the Manhattan Beach Open is as good as it gets,” said Roberts, who has won two Seasides and played in three other finals. “It’s the biggest tournament in the world, it’s our Wimbledon. The money you can’t beat, but if you took out all the money, and you took out all the prestige, and you just went on straight, raw experience, I think [Seaside] is for sure the best tournament in the United States and possibly the world.”

Now, before any of the older generation of beach fans and players begin losing their minds over a statement many may view as grossly hyperbolic, Roberts understands that much of the beauty of the Manhattan Beach Open is the tradition, the nostalgia, the pier. He’s looking at it from a volleyball perspective only. And, from a volleyball perspective, it’s kind of hard to argue that he’s wrong.

This year, Seaside, which begins on Friday and will conclude on Sunday evening, will be played by nearly 2,000 athletes across 185 courts. There are divisions “of every possible iteration,” said Josh Tag, who has played five Seasides thus far, a weekend that is always among his favorites of the year.

He knows the tricks of the trade by now. He’s in men’s A, so he will not be playing in the open finals on Saturday evening, but he will have a primetime seat on stadium court, though “stadium court” is a bit of a misnomer. Stadium court suggests bleachers, chairs, something formal.

Not Seaside.

It’s dug out, with sand dunes providing a natural amphitheater for fans to put down couches, chairs, tents, even kegs. Bit of a throwback feel to it.

“I remember the first year I played, I arrived Friday morning, and there were already 3,000 chairs set up,” Roberts said. “I said ‘Oh, did the city come in and put up these chairs?’ And they said ‘No, no, no we start this on Monday, and everybody knows about it, so people come in early and they claim their stake.’ They actually start setting up on Monday to get their own seat for the finals. There’s couches, and tents, and it’s just crazy.”

Everything about the tournament suggests a high-level, AVP-style tournament. The field is replete with main draw athletes, to the point that Tag refreshes the registration list constantly in the lead-up to see the potential matchups the Pacific Northwest wouldn’t otherwise host in August. But there are eight AVPs every year now.

There’s only one Seaside.  

“Tournaments like Seaside are really intense,” said Katie Spieler, who won in 2018 with Karissa Cook and is playing with Delaney Knudsen this year. “There are really good players, but there’s also a fun aspect where everyone’s happy to be there and playing, so it creates this chiller vibe where people want to spend time together, hang out and cherish the moment rather than solely focusing on volleyball and being super intense.”

So bring your couches. Bring your chairs. Bring your kegs.

“It’s the world’s largest cocktail party,” Tag said. And maybe, if Roberts has his way, the world’s best beach volleyball tournament.

“There’s just something special about it,” Roberts said. “Phil Dalhausser’s not here, you’re not getting gold medals. You’re not getting your name on the pier. The checks aren’t as big as the AVP. But if you took all that away, I haven’t seen an event that can really capture what this one does.

“It’s a reason that we should all play beach volleyball. You can see it and you can feel it when it comes down to a tournament like this.”

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