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Thousands throng to ‘world’s largest’ amateur beach volleyball tournament

By Gary Henley

The Daily Astorian

Thousands gather for volleyball on the beach

You can never say Seaside isn’t a “happenin’ place” the second weekend of August.

The south coast of Clatsop County is overrun with beach volleyball players and the thousands of onlookers who show up for the annual Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament, which occurred Aug. 8 through 10 on the sands of Seaside.

Every year around this time, about a half-mile of Oregon’s 363-mile coastline is reserved for the annual Seaside tournament, which brings in beach volleyball players and fans from around the state, up and down the West Coast, Canada and across the U.S.

And it’s amazing how many players, spectators and courts you can pack into a half-mile of beach.

The “world’s largest amateur beach volleyball tournament” has a solid lead on whatever the second-largest tournament is, and tournament directors say the growth of the Seaside tournament will continue, as long as there’s players to play and no shortage of volleyball nets.

But while there’s still plenty of sand and beach to the north and south of the turnaround, trying to squeeze over 140 courts into a manageable area is becoming quite a task.

After all, you can’t move the Seaside Promenade, and the ocean isn’t going anywhere.

Hosting the “world’s largest” amateur beach volleyball tournament is no small task for the seventh-largest city on the Oregon Coast.

“We’re already running into problems,” said Doug Barker, who helps the Seaside Chamber of Commerce with the organization of the beach tournament. He also is a volunteer firefighter.

“We’re exceeding the carrying capacity of the beach, particularly the ramp area. It’s a real bottleneck. It’s the only emergency access to the beach, and with the number of people who keep crowding it, we’re going to have to have meetings to try and alleviate some of it.

“We can go farther up the beach,” he said, “but we only have so many (hotel) rooms, and the streets are jammed and you can’t make them wider. And you still have to have some beach left over for everybody else. We’re up against the ceiling here.”

But, don’t worry, Seaside beach volleyball players and fans. The tournament is still the world’s largest, and organizers – one way or another – will find space for the numbers of players, teams, fans and courts to keep it that way.

“It’s been a great partnership, working with the Seaside Chamber of Commerce,” said Brian Chapman, tournament co-director along with brother Tom Chapman, of the North Pacific Beach Volleyball Association. “(The Seaside chamber) has been a huge part of the growth, and we’re excited to continue to build this tournament.

“We’re looking for a nice, controlled 5- to10-percent growth every year, so it can stay manageable.”

Early on the first day of the tournament, Chapman said, “They’re still working on final numbers, but it looks like we’re up around 900 doubles teams, and just over 1,400 total teams – which would be a new record for the tournament. We have 143 courts, also up from last year and another record for courts. For as many teams that are here, this is running incredibly smooth.”

For comparison, the 2012 tournament had 1,269 teams, with 112 courts; and the final count in 2013 was 1,363 teams and 120-plus courts.

The total number of teams includes doubles Friday and Saturday, and the four’s and six’s on Sunday – pushing the number of players to somewhere around 3,000.

The Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament is in its 33rd year, and with 51 different divisions, the tournament encompasses several different types of volleyball.

There is the milder, more laid-back form of beach volleyball (“bump, set, tap”), played by those who take part in one or two beach tournaments a year.

Then there is the faster, more intense “dig, set, smash!” volleyball, played by people who run marathons in their spare time, and sign up for beach tournaments every chance they get.

Most of the volleyball, however, is somewhere in between – competitive, fun, good volleyball played by athletic types of all kinds, shapes and sizes.

And the tournament still brings ’em in, by the thousands – an estimated 10,000 spectators last year.

“This is the most people I’ve seen on the beach,” Barker said. “All the players, and they’ve brought friends and family, and just the number of spectators. The spaces in between the courts are full of more people than usual.”

The tournament continues to draw a large contingent from Canada, so much so that the tournament flies a Canadian flag, and plays the Canadian national anthem on the first day.

Also present are current and retired Association of Volleyball Professionals players from California, with this year’s list including the doubles team of Paul Araiza and Alejandro Parra of San Diego, Calif.

And as always, there’s a large percentage of local players, from high-schoolers looking to get a jump (literally) on the fall sports season, to co-ed and senior division teams.

In particular, “the Juniors Division has been something that I’ve been very proud of, because I’ve been focusing on it for six years now,” Chapman said. “When we took over running the tournament (10 years ago), the Juniors Division was at 40 teams, and now we’re over 400.

“It has a lot of high school kids, and it’s something I’ve been pushing in the Portland area for about six years. We’re kind of breaking through the barriers with all the indoor coaches, and we’re finally starting to show them the light – that beach volleyball helps a player’s indoor game tremendously.”

One doubles pair this year included a Seaside High School team that featured a football-volleyball combo.

“I come down here to play around, but this is my first year in the tournament,” said Kevin LaCoste, Seaside quarterback and part-time beach volleyball player.

LaCoste teamed up with Seaside’s talented full-time volleyballer Haylee Dundas.

“I played Juniors last year, and I did a tournament a couple weekends ago,” said Dundas, a senior this fall.

Dundas had several teammates in this year’s tournament, while LaCoste said, “I haven’t seen any other football players yet – they’re probably down here, but not playing volleyball. Just goofing around.”

He added, “My sisters both played volleyball, so I’ve been around it, and it’s a fun thing to do.”

























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