This year's AVP Nivea Tour Huntington Beach Open kicks off Friday, and since there's no better way to start the summer than enjoying the sun and sand of Surf City while watching mostly 6-foot-tall women slam leather-bound balls at each other at high velocities, the $20 cover charge is well worth the price.
But if intense competition between some of the world's best athletes doesn't get you going, there will be plenty of booze and food vendors surrounding the main arena to keep even the saltiest of beach bums happy. While you have to have a ticket to watch the matches (details below), none are required at the booths. Just walk up and start partying with the thousands of other volleyball hangers-on.
Orange County is a powerhouse for beach volleyball, and many of the greatest in the game hail from either la naranja itself or the surrounding area. Almost 30 OC, Long Beach and LA natives compete in this year's Open.
One of those greats is Misty May-Treanor, an LA native who starred in strong volleyball programs at both Newport Harbor High School and Long Beach State.
May-Treanor and teammate Kerri Walsh won gold in Sydney in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, the first pair to ever win back-to-back medals in the sport. Their 112-match win streak between 2007 and 2008 was nothing to sniff at either.
While Walsh hasn't competed on the Tour this year because she just gave birth to her second son, Sundace Thomas, last month, May-Treanor has been tearing it up with new teammate Nicole Branagh, winning the first Tour event of the season at Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Expect the pair to dominate this event.
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The two-pieces might be distracting, but don't forget about the men's side. 2008 Olympic gold medal champions Todd Rogers (dubbed "The Professor" for his cerebral approach to the game) and Phil "Beijing Beast" Dalhausser (the nickname should be obvious, he's 6'9'' if that helps) are the favorites and probably won't disappoint. The pair won in Santa Barbara in May and tied for second in Fort Lauderdale.
The main draw competition starts at 8 a.m. Friday and continues through Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. The final is on Sunday, with the women's final slated for 11 a.m. and the men's at 1 p.m.
The event shouldn't be hard to find, just look for the huge cluster of tents on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier. Tickets start at $20, but are just 15 bucks online. Parking might be sketchy. It's Huntington Beach, after all.
Check out www.avp.com for more information and updates of the event.