The Hermosa Beach Open will return this weekend as organizers hope that the beach volleyball hotbed combined with a record number of participants will continue the tournament’s successful run in its third straight year in the city.
There will be 108 men’s teams and 82 women’s teams taking part in the qualification rounds on Thursday, the most ever at Hermosa Beach. The tournament runs through Sunday and is part of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, the longest running professional beach volleyball tour in the world.
“Judging from last few years, every year it gets bigger,” said Donald Sun, owner of the AVP. “Given the longstanding AVP event that comes to Hermosa every year, given the fact that it’s the perfect time of season in the year and the fact that Hermosa just loves their professional beach volleyball, we’re expecting huge crowds.”
Eight qualifier teams will advance to be a part of Friday’s main draw of 24 teams, with 13 auto entries and three wild cards. There is a $200,000 cash prize at stake.
A majority of the participants will come from the Southern California area, though some of the world’s top beach volleyball players such as April Ross and Alix Klineman will not take part due to a conflict with an FIVB event in Tokyo.
That won’t affect the tournament at Hermosa Beach, according to Sun.
“It doesn’t dilute,” Sun said. “If there’s going to be any conflict with an international qualifier, Hermosa is the perfect one.”
It is perfect, Sun said, because of the local draws. The fans are knowledgeable and excited to see players who they know. One pair to watch on the men’s side is Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger. Patterson, from Newbury Park, is a 14-time AVP winner while Encintinas’ Budinger is a former NBA player who has transitioned to volleyball.
“All the players are well known by the public,” Patterson said. “There’s a local vibe feel, the culture of the city of Hermosa and random people coming to hang out. You get the ultimate trifecta.”
On the women’s side, the tournament will be a hometown showcase for Emily Day, who came up just short of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Day, who is from Torrance and played collegiately at Loyola Marymount, grew up going to the Hermosa Beach tournament and will have family and friends in attendance this weekend. They’ll be noticed for sure, calling themselves “The Entourage” and wearing the same-colored teal shirt.
“Everybody who comes down and watches knows the game, knows the players,” Day said. “The average fan has a great background of the sport. They appreciate the sport and they’re very loyal.”
The tournament is expected to attract casual fans, too. With the courts on The Strand that runs along the beach, visitors stopping by the beach end up watching the tournament, which is free to the public.
Day said the key to winning at Hermosa Beach is recovery, with a big draw and daily matches. The sand at Hermosa is deep, according to Day.
Organizers hope the event spotlights the growth of beach volleyball, which has undergone a youth movement in recent years. Sun has done work to promote the game with the AVP, which was struggling financially when he purchased it in 2012. According to athletes, the prize money, fanbase and sponsors have all increased. The tournament will be streamed live on Amazon Prime Video, allowing it to have a global reach.
“Ever since Donald took over, [the AVP] has continually gotten better,” Patterson said. “Players can make a living off it rather than just a part-time gig. You have to ability to make volleyball your job.”