THE NORTH POLE — Thanksgiving is, sadly, over. I’m fat and sleepy; you’re also probably fat and sleepy, and our credit cards are about to be alive and a-swipin’, because it’s officially Christmas season, which means it’s not only Mariah Carey’s time to shine, it’s time to get the gifts your beach volleyball playing — or watching — significant other or friend something awesome under the tree this year.
Below, we have the ultimate Beach Volleyball Gift Guide, breaking down everything from the best sunglasses to the best beach volleyballs, radios, water bottles, warm up bands, recovery tools, board shorts, sand socks, and everything else you might need (pumps? Oh, yeah, we got those, too). If we missed a category for which you’d like our recommendation, please let us know in the comments, or just message me on Instagram (@trammew), and I’ll jump right on it.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, had the best food, spent some quality time with family, and are enjoying the downtime before Olympic qualifying begins and all hell breaks loose, in the best of ways, in the beach volleyball world.
Without further adieu, enjoy our Ultimate Beach Volleyball Gift Guide.
Best Sunglasses for beach volleyball
I, like most everyone else, was an Oakley loyalist when I began playing beach volleyball. They’re the brand name in sunglasses, and they make an excellent product. But when Roka sponsored a p1440 event in San Jose, and I got hooked up with a pair of Rokas, I never went back. They’re the lightest shades on the market, and, I think, have the best lenses. Oakleys are a bit heavier, with firmer frames, so when you get hit in the face — a serious consideration for players competing at the AVP and Volleyball World levels — it leaves a very literal mark. Roka’s lighter, more flexible — but grippy — sunglasses provide the best defense for your eyes, both for the sun and the ball. I’ve been all aboard the Roka train for four years, and I’m not looking back.
BONUS: Roka also makes prescription sunglasses. Lee Feinswog, the editor of this magazine, called me one day to ask if there were any companies who make prescription sunglasses for sports. I immediately sent him to Roka, and now we have another Roka loyalist in Mrs. Brenda Feinswog.
To be clear, my love for Roka does not stem from a distaste for Oakley. I just think Roka makes an excellent product — but so does Oakley. They’re the first name anyone thinks of when it comes to sunglasses in sports for a reason: They’re phenomenal. I wore Oakley Prizms for years, and I absolutely loved them. The Prizm is a close second to Roka’s APEX, but you might like the Prizm better — they’re a little sleeker, and the nose guard holds them to your face really well.
Any swimmers in the house? You’ll be familiar with the TYR name: They hold a virtual monopoly on the goggles game. They’ve recently begun branching out into sunglasses, and they actually make a solid product. I’ve sampled a few different pairs, rocking the Vatchers during AVP Huntington Beach, and I loved them. They’re more similar to Oakley than Roka, in that the frames are a bit sturdier, but they have a sweet little vent at the top so the glasses don’t fog at all, even for compulsive sweaters like me. When it comes to glasses fogging, I actually think TYR makes the best product: I haven’t had to wipe them a single time in two tournaments of play. Worth noting for sure.
Best radio for the beach
You can’t — simply can’t — go through a two-hour practice, or just a fun day playing with friends and family, without music. It’s not allowed. And if that’s what you’ve been doing this whole time, those days stop this Christmas, when you buy yourself, or your significant other, a Beats Pill. They get great sound, are durable as hell, have an excellent battery life, and connect to your phone via Bluetooth so easy a Travis can do it. I’d put another option if there was a better one, but there isn’t.
Grab a Pill, put on the vibes, and have a great day at the beach.
Best workout and warmup bands for beach volleyball players
You know when you’re watching literally every single beach volleyball player warm up, and they’re all doing some Jane Fonda-style leg movements with little bands attached to their ankles or knees? There’s a reason literally every single beach volleyball player uses them: They’re the best warm-up and activator of muscles both large and small. I’d highly, highly, highly recommend you grab a set, both for warm-ups and for working out on the road (they’re excellent for hotel workouts, or when you’re on a trip and the gym access is limited, or the gym just isn’t very good). Perform Better is the only brand I buy. I’ve accidentally bought Fit Simplify before, which is also a common brand, but they’re just not as good: The resistance isn’t much, even for the strongest bands, and they’re too wide to provide resistance in certain positions. Fit Simplify is good enough if you didn’t know any better, but because of this Ultimate Beach Volleyball Gift Guide, you do know better! And Perform Better is the only way to go.
Best board shorts for beach volleyball players
Chris Reames has created something of a retro board short empire with Slunks. What began with a few Laguna-based beach volleyball players — namely Chase Frishman — has since become vogue on the AVP Tour. Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena rocked Slunks in the Olympics, the Slunks women won six-man, Troy Field has been defying gravity in them for years, and I’d estimate around 30 percent of the fans at California events are wearing Slunks. They’re fun, comfortable, and stretchy, and when you wear them, you just start feeling a little Slunky (that’s a good thing).
I’m torn between my love of Chris Reames and Slunks, and also the undeniable performance-wear of Legends, which sponsors Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb. I think Legends makes the most comfortable shorts for playing — they’re light, stretchy, and shorter in length, which I like. Not as fun in design as Slunks, and not the same conversation piece, but when it comes to diving and moving and putting yourself in uncomfortable positions, Legends makes it the easiest.
The only other short I’ll wear if it’s not Slunks or Legends is a Hurley Phantom. They’re comfortable, light, and have the four-way stretch that is absolutely mandatory for beach volleyball players.
Best sand socks for beach volleyball players
Don’t be fooled by the fact that TuffSox only has 79 reviews on Amazon, and it’s only a four-star rating: These are the best sand socks on the market, and it’s not even close. They don’t slip, as many of the alternatives do, and they have individual slots for your toes! That doesn’t sound like a game changer, but it is. You feel infinitely more comfortable, as if you’re not wearing funky-looking socks on the beach at all. Their durability is also second to none. I’ve burned through a number of sand socks, or just pushed through the toes on many. Not with TuffSox. They’re the best on the market. But, if you’re looking for second best…
These are by far the most common socks you’ll see on the beach. They’re easy to slip on, as opposed to TuffSox, which, admittedly, can be a bit of a hassle. They work well enough, and they’re about five bucks cheaper than TuffSox. If you need a sock that will do the job, but not much more, this is the one. It’s not the most comfortable option out there, but you won’t burn your feet, which is the most important aspect of wearing sand socks in the first place.
Best recovery tools for beach volleyball players
You can’t go wrong with either of the options above when it comes to compression massagers. Normatec is the biggest name in the game, but I have a pair of Kigassenzio’s that do the exact same thing, so it’s your choice, really. These are absolutely amazing. Just put them on while watching TV, or reading or working from home and bam: You’re recovering! It’s like getting paid to read and watch TV and work from home.
You cannot — and I mean cannot — be a beach volleyball player and be without a Hypervolt. It’s a sin against the sport itself. It’s by far the best recovery tool out there: extremely effective at loosening up your muscles before play, helping them cool down afterwards, and breaking them up when you’re tight and sore. I’ll go through an entire battery charge’s worth of Hypervolt watching football on Sundays.
Note: If you’re taking this on the road with you — which is easy and I do for every trip — be aware that TSA will flag you almost every time. Budget an extra few minutes when flying.
Like the compression pants, both of the above “recovery ball” options are very similar. I don’t actually own either, but I’ve used both, and people swear by the Peanut, which is excellent for rolling out your feet, hands, forearms, and psoas. Tim Ferriss swears by the Rubz Ball, which is good for your feet and forearms as well, and if he swears by it, it’s gotta be good for something. I only have a good ole fashioned lacrosse ball, so I’ll be looking to upgrade my recovery ball game, and if I’m being transparent, I’m likely going with the Rubz. Happy recovering!
Best books on beach volleyball
I’d describe all of these books, but they all have descriptions of their own on Amazon, which I’ve linked to for each. Obviously, I’d love it if you bought any of my three on this list — or all of them! — but I’ve also vetted every book below, and can vouch for their quality.
If you’re looking for a fun read, any of my three, and Ryan Doherty’s, will do.
If you want your kid to have a fun read, Volleyball for Milkshakes is an easy one (also a fun one for adults; it made Kent Steffes cry!).
For coaching, training, and mindset advice, Billy Allen and John Mayer’s Coach Your Brains Out and Aaron Wexler’s Inspired Athlete are the way to go.
For a fun history on Misty May, as well as some fine writing — she paired with a former Sports Illustrated writer when Sports Illustrated was still king — Misty’s book will do the trick.
I cheated a bit with If Gold is our Destiny, since that’s not beach, but you’ll notice a bunch of beach names in there, and the 1984 Olympics were actually a seminal moment in the history of beach volleyball, which you’ll note if you pair that book with Kings of Summer.
- We Were Kings, by Travis Mewhirter
- Volleyball for Milkshakes, by Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter
- Kings of Summer: The Rise of Beach Volleyball, by Kent Steffes and Travis Mewhirter
- Coach Your Brains Out, by Billy Allen and John Mayer
- Misty: My Journey Through Volleyball and Life
- The Mindful Athlete, by Aaron Wexler
- Avatar’s Guide to Beach Volleyball, by Ryan Doherty
- If Gold is Our Destiny, by Sean P. Murray
Best Volleyball for Beach Volleyball
You know the answer: Wilson Volleyball. It’s the one used by the AVP, the NCAA, CBVA, AVPAmerica, and whatever other random tours there are in the United States. Wilson has even begun infiltrating a number of foreign domestic tours, such as Germany’s, because it’s the best ball on the market. I’d get into the spin technology and whatever other marketing, ahem, spin, they like to advertise, but frankly, it’s just the best ball, and that’s all you need to know.
Transparency note: I’m sponsored by Wilson, so I have a stake in the game here. But my thoughts above are genuine, and if you want an extra bonus, you can use our discount code, Sandcast-20, to get 20 percent off.
If you’re going to play internationally, you’re going to need a Mikasa. What a polarizing ball this is. Break one of these out on the beach and you’ll get a mix of groans — from those who don’t pass float serves well — and cheers — from those who have nasty floats. Personally, I’ve come to love the Mikasa. It rewards players with better touch, makes you pay attention to float serves, and you can hit it so much harder than a Wilson. And the upside is that practicing with the Mikasa makes you so much better with a Wilson, because it simply requires you to be a better beach volleyball player.
Best Water Bottles for Beach Volleyball
Get your plastic shaker bottle garbage out of here and get yourself a Hydroflask. There’s a reason Hydroflask has 24,513 reviews — and counting — on Amazon, with a PERFECT FIVE STAR RATING: It’s the best in the market, period. There’s no second place winner here. It’s Hydroflask or nothing.
Want your water or drink cold? Hydroflask keeps it cold. Want it warm? It’ll stay warm. Want those ice cubes to stay ice cubes? They’ll stay frozen. Plus, I’m not sure you could break this thing if you tried, so if you’re like me, and you drop your water bottles, if you leave them on the roof of your car, if you drop dumbbells and weights on them, this will hold up to all of your clumsiness and forgetfulness and just have a few dents for character.
There is no other option for a water bottle. Get a Hydroflask. Make it custom, or not. But you have to get one.
Best Beach Chair
When off-season kinda, sorta arrived, and Delaney and I were training less, competing less, and at home more, we were in search of quality beach chairs to do some sunset reading. These King Camps are awesome. They’re comfy, easily packed into bags, small enough to put in your bag on a plane, and sit low to the sand so you can basically use it as a love seat on the beach. We’ve used them every weekend since we bought them, and my parents loved them when they visited for AVP Huntington Beach.
Best Ball Pump for Beach Volleyball
Watching players physically pump up their volleyballs — Wilson, please — is akin to watching someone physically roll down a window: You just shouldn’t see it all that often anymore. For one, the pumps where you physically pump break all the time. I don’t know how, but they just do. Second, everyone pumps it to their own personal preference — some come in squishy, some come in pingy, rarely do they get pumped just right. You can solve all of those problems with the Morpilot Electric Pump — the Mercedes of ball pumps, as Cody Caldwell dubbed it on our trip to Cape Town this past November.
Other trinkets, gifts, and stocking stuffers you should keep in mind:
Tired of your husband dragging sand onto your tile floors and never sweeping? (Delaney knows nothing of this…) Save yourself some trouble and get a sand brush, keep it by your front door, and voila, no more — or at least less — sand in the house.
Some beaches and facilities already have lines and anchors in, some don’t. Get yourself some AVP regulation lines, with four solid anchors, so you’ll never be without lines again.
I’ve never had my own set of antennas, but these, I think, are the best you can find online.
If you want to watch international beach volleyball, you have to subscribe to Volleyball TV. I’m biased, because I commentate for Volleyball TV, but it’s an excellent product, with a quality stream, coverage of both indoor and beach, and guess what? EVERY COURT IS STREAMED, unlike the AVP. It’s worth every penny.
If you listen to enough SANDCAST, you’ll know that Tri Bourne and I are Athletic Greens junkies. I’ve probably taken Athletic Greens every day for, I don’t know, the last two years in a row? Yes, we’re sponsored by Athletic Greens, but I was drinking this stuff daily well before they paid us to tell people we drink it daily. It’s the best supplement out there, good for travel, and keeps you so healthy. Plus, if you use that link above, you get a free year’s supply of Vitamin D!
I don’t take electrolytes, but I’m told LMNT and Liquid IV are some of the best hydrating electrolyte mixes out there. So take that social proofing as all the evidence you’ll need!
These come highly recommended by readers and listeners of SANDCAST. I pretty much only use whatever towels the AVP gives us at events, but evidently the Sand Cloud Towels are awesome.