On Tuesday, September 22, Stafford Slick was walking down Hermosa Strand. He saw the sponsor tents, the chairs. He saw the sound setup for an emcee, the seven other beach volleyball players layering on temporary tattoos. He saw both McKibbin brothers, scrambling around with half a dozen different cameras.
“This,” he said, “feels like beach volleyball.”
Not much this year has felt like beach volleyball. Even when the AVP put on its Champions Cup series earlier in the year, there was a drastically different feel: COVID testing, masks, no fans, a limited field, venue in a parking lot, a five-month season boiled down to three weeks.
Little has happened Stateside since. But ideas were churning. Several players had kicked around the idea of putting on a King of the Beach-style event, pitting eight of the best players on the AVP Tour with and against one another. Sponsors were contacted. Prize money was collected. A field was made.
And an event, in a year mostly bereft of them, was put on.
While Trevor Crabb, Tri Bourne, and Maddison and Riley McKibbin were the main architects behind the KOB, which has gained a six-figure following since the McKibbins began airing the first few videos of pool play and the semifinals, it is the McKibbins who deserve the lion’s share of the credit.
It’s the McKibbins who deployed six cameras — a record-high for the two viral video-producing brothers, who will soon be appearing on the CBS network TV show The Amazing Race — and churned out six videos since. It’s the McKibbins who, while they opted out of playing in the event, put in far more work than any of the eight players in the field, choosing instead to give the beach volleyball community what it’s needed most: Something to watch.
“We wanted to shoot the event the way that we like viewing the game and test out a few experimental angles and vantage points to five the viewer a different experience,” Riley said.
They did just that, buzzing around two drones above the players to get a bird’s eye view of the action. Riley, the elder of the two brothers, trolled around with a camera while chatting with the players, interviewing throughout, capturing rare footage of thoughts and trash talk from the competitors as the matches were played. Maddison managed the mess of other equipment.
“We almost have more drones and cameras than players,” he said.
It worked, as the two delivered a viewing experience to the fans, via their YouTube channel, that has garnered more than 100,000 views and counting. it’s easy to see why, of course. The talent collected — Taylor Crabb, Trevor Crabb, Tri Bourne, Chaim Schalk, Stafford Slick, Casey Patterson, Avery Drost, Travis Mewhirter — was enough to draw at least a decent viewership. But the format added another level of intrigue, as fans were treated to old partnerships — Taylor and Trevor Crabb, Slick and Patterson — potential new partnerships that have already been hyped — Tri Bourne and Taylor Crabb — and partnerships that will never be seen again — Taylor Crabb and Chaim Schalk.
“That’s what makes it fun,” Taylor said.
Also making it fun is winning, of which Taylor did plenty. After slipping through pool play due, in part, to an injury from Schalk, Taylor swept the semifinals, which included Trevor, Drost, and Mewhirter.
Sweeping the semifinals gave him his choice of partner from the entire field for the finals. He chose Bourne, forming the team that many expect to be a potential partnership for the 2024 Olympic race to Paris. Trevor selected Slick.
“I think these are the best possible matchups we could have hoped for,” said Rich Lambourne, who currently coaches Taylor and Jake Gibb and was in attendance for the event. “We have what many people consider a potential partnership going forward on one side with Taylor and Tri, and then you have the social media enemies turned co-competitors in Trevor and Stafford.”
It would be the potential new partnership, Taylor and Bourne, who won, with Bourne acing the final two points of the event to win.
It was different. It was new.
It was something that looked a little bit like beach volleyball. For more, see Ed Chan’s photo gallery here.
Skjodt, Benesh, Beranek sweep Grass Nationals — While 16th street in Hermosa Beach looked a great deal like beach volleyball, Greenville, South Carolina, did not.
On an enormous stretch of land that houses two football fields, four softball fields, and a baseball diamond, AVP America set up dozens upon dozens of nets for Grass Nationals, complete with $15,000 in prize money.
Doubles were played on Friday and Saturday, with triples being played in a one-day event on Sunday.
In three days, neither Carly Skjodt, Andy Benesh, nor Eric Beranek took a loss.
For Skjodt, this isn’t anything new on the grass. She swept her way to a Waupaca crown earlier this year, alongside Delaney Mewhirter and Katie Spieler. In Greenville, the current Pepperdine Wave teamed up with former UCLA Bruin Zana Muno to win, beating Mewhirter and Spieler in the finals.
The next day, she joined forces with the very two players she beat — and with whom she was staying in an AirBNB — to go undefeated again, as Skjodt, Spieler and Mewhirter defended their Waupaca title with a victory in Greenville.
Beranek and Benesh, too, finished the weekend without a loss, winning doubles on Saturday with a victory over Nate Miller and Ian Capp, then doing the same on Sunday. It didn’t hurt that they added Taylor Crabb to their triples roster, as they swept through the field, beating Miller, Capp, and Matthew Elias in the finals.
“You think the grass is your ally,” Benesh joked on Instagram, referencing the Batman villain, Bain. “But you merely adopted the grass. I was born in it, molded by it.”
Winning on it.
Hyden to host $10,000 AVP Next — As the country begins re-opening at varying paces, tournaments of smaller stature are beginning to form a semblance of a beach volleyball schedule. This weekend, John Hyden is holding a $10,000 AVP Next at his new facility in Nashville, Tennessee.
He’s attracted a strong field that includes, among others: Hyden and Bill Kolinske, JD Hamilton and Travis Mewhirter, Logan Webber and Caleb Kwekel, Max Martin and Evan Cory, Lila Tucker and Brian Miller, Andrew Dentler and Chris Vaughan, Ian Bicko and Joe Osmani, Jon Ferrari and Bryce Mayer.
The women’s field is highlighted by: Annika Rowland and Teegan Van Gunst, Katie Hogan and Sarah Harper, Delaney Mewhirter and Katie Spieler, Kelley Kolinske and Emily Stockman, LSU’s Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss, Iya Lindahl and Kim Hildreth, Jo Kremer and Victoria Dennis, Heather Friesen and Brittany Tiegs.
Myrtle Beach event — Adam Roberts is also hosting an event in Myrtle Beach this weekend that has drawn some of the game’s biggest names. Phil Dalhausser is competing with John Sutton; Trevor Crabb with Adam Roberts; Taylor Crabb with Nick Lucena; Matt Heath with Piotr Marciniak.
For the women, notable names include Sarah Schermerhorn, Hailey Harward and Julia Scoles, and Kaya Marciniak.