All kinds of beach sports are popular in Los Angeles, where a lively surf scene shares space with volleyballers, boogie boarders and skim boarders.
The rising popularity of pro beach volleyball in recent years has come pretty directly from the momentum gained by the Olympic TV coverage and the sports’ indomitable female duo, Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. At least, that’s the most recent spike in popularity. In truth, beach volleyball has been on a steady rise since its invention in the 1920’s on the beaches of Santa Monica. There was a pro tour by the 1940’s and now the most prestigious and competitive volleyball event in the world is held on Manhattan Beach each summer.
Rare is it that the average amateur player like you and me can compete on the same court as the professionals at the pinnacle of their career. They don’t let most folks onto the court at Wimbledon to hit back and forth to each other, nor can you or I stroll onto Lambeau field to throw a football back and forth. Manhattan Beach, however, is open to everyone and everyone comes and plays.
Finding a game at Manhattan Beach is never difficult. Even on weekdays there will be three or four games going on near the pier. During weekends, league play and tournaments can fill up courts and nets, but as the afternoon wears on and the competition is pared down, spots to bump back and forth to your friends open up quickly. Almost every popular beach in Los Angeles has volleyball courts available to the public, just don’t get so wrapped up in your game that you forget to pay for parking.
Surfers have been the face of beach sports, as well as the beach culture and lifestyle since “Gidget” hit the screen and the board riders throughout Malibu, Los Angeles, and Orange County flocked to the waves in greater numbers than ever before. Surfing became a way of life and the beach was where you lived.
Today, surfing has permeated the rest of the culture, to the point that the corporate CEO is just as likely to be found in the break before work as is the beach bum living out of his Volkswagon van.
Surfing is popular, but that doesn’t mean that a traveler or newcomer to the sport can’t get out in the waves, paddle around and try to catch and stand up on waves. Los Angeles is a great place to learn the basics of surfing, both because of the warm water and because of the easy to catch waves at out of the way surf spots.
Manhattan Beach, besides being a marquee beach volleyball destination, is a good place to learn how to stand up on the board while it’s rushing down the face of a wave because of the relatively few surfers it sees. You’re unlikely to have to compete in crowds at Manhattan and you won’t be spurned because of your inexperience or lack of skill.
If the waves aren’t breaking right and you’ve forgotten your volleyball, skim boarding has been steadily growing in popularity over the last few decades as board technology improves and imaginative boarders think up new things you can do on a sheen of 5 mm thick water. The idea behind skim boarding is that you hydroplane on a thin board with beveled edges and glide across the surface of the water. Using incoming waves as ramps, riders perform tricks and aerial maneuvers like flips and spins. It’s quick-hit surfing, with less padding if you fall.