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beach volleyball history california hawaii
Beach Volleyball History

Originally designed to give bored surfers something to do when the surf was down, the game quickly developed in Southern California and Hawaii

Beach volleyball now receives worldwide popularity, even in countries without traditional beaches, like Switzerland. Though popularized in Southern California, the first recorded beach volleyball games took place at the Outrigger Canoe Club at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.

The most famous early player was legendary waterman, Duke Kahanamoku.

In 1920, new jetties in Santa Monica, California created a large sandy area for public enjoyment, planting the seed for beach volleyball development in that region. The first permanent nets began to appear, and recreational games were soon being played on public parts of the beach, as well as in private beach clubs. 11 such beach clubs appeared in the Santa Monica area, beginning in late 1922. The first inter-club competitions were staged in 1924, marking the first beach volleyball tournaments to be played in California.

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By the 1940s, doubles tournaments were being played on the beaches of Santa Monica for trophies.

In the 1960s, an attempt to start a professional volleyball league was made in Santa Monica. It failed, but a professional tournament was held in France for 30,000 Frenchfrancs. The first Manhattan Beach Open was held in 1960. The tournament is now considered the "Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball".

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In future years the tour expanded nationally and was renamed the Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. It consisted of five events in California and tournaments in Florida, Colorado and Chicago. Top players included Karch Kiraly, Singin Smith, Andy Fishburn and Steve Obradovich. At the professional level, the sport remained fairly obscure until the 1980s when beach volleyball experienced a surge in popularity. 

By 1984 the Pro Beach consisted of 16 events around the country and had a total prize purse of $300,000. At the end of the year, however, Event Concepts was forced out of the sport by a players' strike at the World Championship and the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) was founded.

Players like Karch Kiraly and Sinjin Smith became household names. In 1987, the FIVB created the first World Beach Volleyball Championships, played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

history women beach volleyball

Most of these early beach volleyball matches were played with teams of at least six players per side, much like indoor volleyball. The concept of the modern two-man beach volleyball game, however, is credited to Paul "Pablo" Johnson, an indoor player. In the summer of 1930, while waiting for players to show up for a six-man game, Johnson decided to try playing with only the four people present. The game was forever changed. Beach volleyball began to appear in Europe in the 1930s. 

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In the 1970s, a few professional tournaments in Santa Monica were sponsored by beer and cigarette companies.[citation needed] The first professional beach volleyball tournament was the Olympia World Championship of Beach Volleyball, staged on Labor Day weekend, 1976, at Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica, CA. The event was organized by David Wilk of Volleyball Magazine, based in Santa Barbara. The winners, first "world champions," were Greg Lee and Jim Menges. They split $2,500 out of a total prize purse of $5,000.

Volleyball Magazine staged the event the next year at the same location, this time sponsored by Schlitz Light Beer. In 1978 Wilk formed a sports promotion company named Event Concepts with Craig Masuoka and moved the World Championship of Beach Volleyball to Redondo Beach. Jose Cuervo Tequila was signed on as sponsor and the prize purse increased to $10,000. The event was successful and Cuervo funded an expansion the next year to three events. The California Pro Beach Tour debuted with events in Laguna Beach, Santa Barbara and the World Championship in Redondo.

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The FIVB began organizing worldwide professional tournaments, and laid the groundwork for the sport's Olympic debut in 1996.

Despite its increased popularity in the 80's and 90's, American beach volleyball suffered setbacks. In early 1998, the American women's professional tour - the WPVA - closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy. Later that same year, the American professional men's tour - the AVP - also filed for bankruptcy, plagued by problems as a player-run organization.

In 2001, the AVP reemerged as a for-profit, publicly-traded company that combined the men's and women's professional tours, with equal prize money for both sexes.

Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor, who won two consecutive gold medals in 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics, were named "the greatest beach volleyball team of all time". Among female beach volleyball players, May-Treanor has the record of most tournaments won with 106 career wins.

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