The leading beach volleyball podcast, featuring the biggest and best names in volleyball
I can see the play unfold as if it were yesterday: Tri Bourne jump-serving John Mayer down the line, Mayer passing it, Ryan Doherty putting up a bump-set that was pushed a tad outside, Bourne making him pay for it.
Bourne left just enough line available for Mayer to bite, and then he sealed that line with one of his massive hands that do not befit a man of 6-foot-5.
That block put the finishing touches on the 2015 AVP Huntington Beach Open — Bourne and John Hyden’s second straight win – and with it the professional beach volleyball season in the United States.
At the time, I was just nine days into my ongoing California adventure, having made the 35-hour trek from Navarre, Florida to Newport Beach, and I was still in awe that I could watch professional beach volleyball players right there in my new backyard.
I remember wanting to get Bourne’s autograph that afternoon, though I didn’t wait, for I figured he would certainly be mobbed by fans and media and would rather celebrate than sign something for a 25-year-old sort of grown up.
A little more than two years has passed since I sat in the stands and watched Bourne clamp Mayer’s swing, and I have been fortunate enough to stumble into something far more than one autograph.
Bourne and I launched a podcast – The Sandcast: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.
You can credit him for the idea, and the editors at VolleyballMag for the name. I’m just along for the ride.
If you’re reading this column, then you’re surely aware that Bourne took over the commentary of the AVP’s livestream this season. He did a decidedly excellent job, especially when considering that he had exactly zero training prior to taking over, and there are few things more difficult than talking by yourself for a dozen hours.
I joined him once, on Saturday morning of the Manhattan Beach Open. My good friends Branden Clemens and Ben Vaught were playing Bourne’s childhood buds and fellow Hawaiians Riley and Maddison McKibbin. Bourne knew everything about the McKibbins. I knew as much as there was to know about Vaught and Clemens. It made for immediate chemistry, Bourne deferring to me when it came to details on Vaught and Clemens and vice versa when it came to the McKibbins.
I think that, above all, speaks to what each of us brings to this podcast. Bourne brings with him massive clout. He’s one of the best blockers not just in the United States, but the world. He has an intimate knowledge of the game not just from the perspective of an elite player, but as someone who knows all of the top players exceptionally well. I bring with me some media experience and a not-so-deep knowledge of the game – but I know an almost uncomfortable amount of information about virtually every player within the top 100, having written on almost all of them at some point or other.
Tri probably described it best, at breakfast at the Oceanside Diner, one morning: “You’re a rookie in beach volleyball but your career is in media. I’m a rookie in the media but my career is in beach volleyball.”
It’s going to be fun.
Each week, Bourne and I interview at least one influencer in the world of beach volleyball. This could be a player, team, coach, representative from the AVP – anybody in the game that our listeners might find interesting.
Already, we've had some of the greats, bringing in silver medalist April Ross and gold medalist Phil Dalhausser, Canadian Olympian Chaim Schalk and the Most Interesting Man in Beach Volleyball, Ryan Doherty.
And we're only growing.
With your help, SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter can help up-and-coming players break through the ranks.
The idea began, fittingly enough, sometime around Christmas, the giving season. The podcast that Tri Bourne and I host, SANDCAST, was doing well in its first month, far better than we expected it to be doing at the time.
Before we had even hit our tenth episode, we had featured the two best players in the world in their respective genders in April Ross and Phil Dalhausser, as well as the best player from his native country in Chaim Schalk. The feedback we received was great.
We wondered if we could do more.
I forget what podcast I listened to on Christmas morning – I, alongside my dog, am an early riser, so I had about three hours to kill before anybody else was up – but I do remember the premise: that the best thing a human being can do is give to another without expecting anything in return.
On SANDCAST, we had a platform, though in its nascent stages, we lacked in the funding to give athletes anything more than a microphone in which to talk and the freedom to discuss whatever they wanted. But still, over the month of January, we discussed starting a SANDCAST Scholarship for college players, and the ideas were well and good, and all of us – Tri, VolleyballMag editor Lee Feinswog, and I – agreed that we wanted to do something along those lines.
We just needed to figure out a way to do it.
Last Sunday, I went to church with a group of volleyball players. Maybe we prayed super hard that night. I don’t know.
But when I got home I had an email waiting for me from – honoring the wish of anonymity – let’s say the Beach Volleyball Community.
They loved the podcast, it read. How could they help it grow? Any projects need funding?
Well, now that you mention it…we did have this scholarship idea awhile back…and we haven’t done much with it since…but we’d like to figure out a way to make this thing happen.
With a few tweaks.
The Beach Volleyball Community wanted to help the pro game grow, to help the young and up-and-coming players break through the ranks.
Alright. Up-and-coming professionals –we’re not messing with NCAA eligibility, so we have decided we will not sponsor college teams – it is.
So here’s how the SANDCAST Wildcard is going to work.
SANDCAST is going to sponsor two teams per tournament – one male, one female – covering entry fee and travel cost – planes, trains, automobiles, hotels – and hook them up with three pieces of SANDCAST apparel each.
How do we pick the teams?
They earn it.
The male and female team that made it out of the qualifier and had the highest finish in the main draw will be funded for their next professional event, which could be an AVP, FIVB, NORCECA, p1440 – whatever. Which means that in selecting the teams who will be sponsored for Huntington Beach on May 2-6, we had to take it back to Chicago, where Katie Spieler and Karissa Cook took a ninth out of the qualifier, and Jeff Samuels and Raffe Paulis claimed 13th.
Spieler and Cook actually tied for ninth with another qualifying team, Aurora Davis and Bree Scarbrough, so we developed a tiebreak system – first going to sets played, then to point differential – which gave the edge to Spieler and Cook.
(Listen, it’s not a perfect system, we know. But it’s what we got for now).
Paulis and Samuels were the outright winners for the men.
This is the beauty of the Beach Volleyball Community. Players do not do this for the money. It would take no small amount of willful ignorance to do so.
They play because they love the game.
Sometimes that love causes players to go broke.
This is the Beach Volleyball Community doing its part to ease the immense financial burden volleyball players take on, which can be the difference between an up-and-comer realizing their potential and quitting before they even get close.
In exchange for the travel funding, players will be providing little snapshots of their lives behind the scenes, as well as their preparation for the tournament, which we will compile into a video series for each tournament. That’s the idea, at least, and ideas are always privy to change, especially the new, untested ones.