Beach volleyball gave Kerri Walsh Jennings a dream life. So her latest venture is about paying it forward.
Her office has a salty smell. You can hear the sound of waves crashing in the distance. The floor is made up of sand and the dress code is often a bikini – maybe a long-sleeve sweater on those unusually chilly Southern California days.
The Manhattan Beach volleyball player talked about her next chapter: creating a new volleyball and fitness circuit called "p1440" that she and husband Casey Jennings hope will not just give more opportunities to fellow athletes, but also inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle.
“It will be a culmination of so much blood, sweat, tears, and enthusiasm, and a love for our the sport,” she said of the third and final event of the year scheduled for Huntington State Beach Nov. 30 through Dec. 2.
“I think growth is huge in life, and this next chapter is hugely important."
A sandy start
Walsh Jennings thinks back to her introduction to beach volleyball, a momentous occasion that would change the course of her life.
She was studying at Stanford and drove down to Huntington Beach for a trial run with Misty May-Treanor in 2001, with “anxiety attacks the whole way.”
“I remember driving and being so excited and nervous, I literally was having heart palpation,” said Walsh Jennings, 22 at the time. “Misty was my Michael Jordan growing up. There was a lot of emotions going on.”
A game was set up on the sand to see how the pair meshed.
“We had a natural synergy,” she recalled.
The duo would become unstoppable on the courts, together winning Olympic gold medals in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
That first day didn’t just pave the path for her long and successful career, but it was also was the day she met her husband, also a competitive volleyball player.
“He almost took off my face by hitting a ball straight down. It was the first connection we had. He tried to kill me,” she said with a chuckle.
Beyond the courts
For nearly two decades, Walsh Jennings has traveled from her home in the South Bay to compete around the world. When at home, she can be found practicing on the sand in Hermosa Beach and near her home in Manhattan Beach.
“Literally, my office is the beach,” said Walsh Jennings, now 40.
She thinks of why people love to watch players perform on the courts.
“I think people love the sport so much because it’s sexy, relate-able, fast and powerful and dynamic,” she said. “The athletes have so much passion and fun and it’s really infectious… not a lot of sports have what beach volleyball has.”
But there’s one problem with the sport – it’s hard to make a living.
“We need to make a sustainable business model. The athletes are celebrated every four years (at the Olympics), and they are broke every other year,” Walsh Jennings said.
Top-level athletes take home an estimated $36,000 a year – pennies compared to other competitive sports like basketball, baseball or football.
So she wanted to create a platform to help the top athletes be seen throughout the year, as well as a way for up-and-coming athletes to showcase their skills.
“We want to celebrate the lifestyle of these top performers, and bring new eyeballs to the sport,” she said.
But her vision goes beyond the courts.
Every minute counts
The title of the venture, p1440, was inspired by the 1440 minutes that make up a full day – and the message at the three-day festival is to live every minute of the day with purpose.
The first event earlier this year was held in San Jose, Walsh Jennings’ hometown. The second was in Las Vegas, where her husband grew up. The upcoming event, and last of the year, will be held at Huntington State Beach near Brookhurst St. and Pacific Coast Highway.
There will be two beach volleyball tournaments: the Top Guns Invitational, with a 16-person draw, and the Young Guns Invitational, with 24-team draw.
There’s plenty for the kids, with family-friendly activities including balloon and caricature artists, inflatable slides and a kid’s volleyball court.
The health and wellness village will have high-intensity interval training workouts, breathing workshops, yoga, meditation sessions and healthy cooking demos, as well as adult and junior volleyball clinics, music and food on site.
“Maybe (attendees) don’t care about volleyball, but they like the technology, or want to learn from the art of breathing clinic,” she said. “We want to be like Netflix, with something for everyone.”
There will be live podcasts with Impact Theory, including interviews with Hurley founder Bob Hurley on Friday, Nov. 30 at 3 p.m., and a podcast interview by Women of Impact with WWE Champion Eve Torres Gracie, at 2 p.m. the same day. A meet-and-greet with UFC’s Michelle Waterson is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Dec. 2, and she will lead a cardio kickboxing class.
“All of our experts are contributing because they believe in us and they believe the world needs what we are giving,” Walsh Jennings said. “In a perfect world, we become the place where experts can share the good word, and they help us bring legitimacy to what we are doing.”
General admission is free, and VIP ticket are available for purchase for $100 for single day, or $200 for all three days.
All volleyball matches will be streamed live online, she said.
“We’re showing every court, so the athletes who are not always seen will be more visible. Our sport has so many characters and humans, but no one knows about them. We want to tell the why and how of every athlete.”
For more information or to watch the event online, go to p1440.com.