RISE: Tampa Bay Beach Bums

Tampa Bay Beach Bums: Bringing Minnesota Nice to Florida Sunshine


Dominic Nelson is, as he likes to say, just trying to create an environment where “Minnesota nice meets Florida sunshine.”  

He’s a native if Walker, Minnesota, and he is a walking, talking, living stereotype of Minnesotan kindness. When he spoke of Beach Bums, a beach volleyball community he founded in Tampa Bay that puts on tournaments throughout the year with hundreds of teams of varying levels, he mentioned how bummed he was that he was moving out of the four-bedroom house he lived in when he founded the organization. That was a crash house for beach volleyball players who were flying in to play in his tournaments. So grateful was he that they were coming all that way that he wanted nothing more than to put them up in his own home.

“If anybody’s coming from anywhere, we got you,” he said. “I’m always so humbled by people traveling from California to Florida to play some of our beach tournaments. It’s incredible.”

It’s not only Californians making the trek to Tampa, either. It’s Canadians. It’s Minnesotans. It’s 17 states and four countries, as it was for a single tournament last year, the annual Beach Bums Bowl, held at Treasure Island on New Year’s weekend.

“We should get double that this year,” he said.

They’ll get double that because it’s more than a tournament series he’s built. He’s not just out there to put on tournaments. He’s out there to build a beach volleyball community. He’s out there to support every tournament series not only in Florida, but around the country. Which is why he puts on p1440 events and AVP America events and fours events and just for fun drinking events.

He’s out there for the sport of beach volleyball.

“We’re the community,” he said. “We’re not the tournament series. We want the tournament series to be successful. We want to work with people. I want everybody to be able to play volleyball in Tampa or wherever. It seems like there’s a home for everybody now.”

Nelson is doing his part to make that happen. When players have a suggestion for how to improve his tournaments, he actually listens and, if the idea is practical – many, as all tournament directors know, are not – he implements them. Such as when Kim Hildreth, who recently enjoyed a career year on the AVP Tour and made the Austin finals, suggested that he throw in an extra hundred bucks to the third place teams. Even if they didn’t make the finals, they’d at least get their money back.

And that’s exactly what he did, even if, in the early days, he didn’t have the entry fees to cover the costs of the extra prize money.

“For some of our earlier tournaments, we didn’t even cover that cost,” he said. “But we wanted to make sure that people who chose to make the decision to come, the tournament was going to happen. There were times when we only had eight teams signed up for the tournament but we still made that happen.”

Whatever your volleyball level is, whatever your intensity is, Nelson is going to make it happen. Fours? He has it. Bar crawls? Yep. Open-level tournaments with fields featuring Olympians and $5,000 purses? Absolutely.

Beyond supporting simply the player, he’s supporting their brand, their ability to market themselves. He bought a production truck, which he’ll use to stream tournaments that aren’t even his. He’ll support local athletes like Hildreth, Sarah Schermerhorn, Pri Lima.

“Anybody doing cool stuff in volleyball,” he said, “I want to help them out.”

Maybe he had it wrong. He’s not just bringing the Minnesota nice to Florida.

He’s bringing it to the entire beach.