Surf’s Up: Former USA Volleyball player, coach, CEO Beal now chair of USA Surfing board

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Doug Beal surfing 5/12/2020-John Speraw-USA surfing
USA Volleyball men's coach John Speraw, left, enjoys a post-victory moment with Doug Beal during the 2016 Rio Olympics/FIVB photo

Surfin’ U.S.A.?

No, that was a Beach Boys song. We’re talking about USA Surfing.

And USA Surfing’s new chairman of the board of directors is Doug Beal, a volleyball guy who, well, is not exactly a surfer.

It puts a whole different spin on Surf’s Up.

“It’s likely to be a very popular, visible sport on the Olympic calendar in Tokyo,” Beal said.

He may live in Colorado Springs, kind of far from the ocean, but that’s not the point. Beal, the former USA great volleyball player, 1984 Olympic gold-medal coach and longtime USA Volleyball CEO knows how to Get Around the international sports waters.

So when USA Surfing needed someone to guide its Surfin’ Safari, Beal was the guy.

Beal said last fall he got a call from a USA Olympic and Paralympic Committee consultant on behalf of USA Surfing and asked if he would help out.

“I said sure, and they happen to be located in San Clemente, which is where most of my wife’s family is,” Beal said. “So under normal conditions we go out there half a dozen times a year to visit her mom, sisters, and cousins.”

What’s more, the International Surfing Association (with a slogan of “A Better World Through Surfing”) is headquartered in La Jolla. Talk about Catch a Wave … 

The now 2021 Games will be the first Olympics with surfing. USA Surfing lists on its website its staff as CEO Greg Cruse, a former surfer, and COO Andrea Swayne, who has been involved the sport for a while, first as a surfing mom.

“I tried to help them because I’m just passionate about the Olympic movement, the NGB (national governing body) world, and it’s something I’ve been involved with for something like 55 or 60 years,” said Beal, who, by the way, turned 73 in March.

Which led to him being on the USA Surfing board.

“There are lots of smaller NGBs that struggle for any number of reasons,” Beal said. “Actually they’re all struggling right now because of the coronavirus issue, but in the best of times eight to 10 of the 47 NGBs are in some state of problematic organization, either financial or governance-wise or structurally.”

More consulting and more phone calls with the board made Beal realize USA Surfing needed more outside voices.

“So I got voted to be on the board and got elected to be the chair,” Beal said with a laugh. “And there you go.”

Which begged the question of the man who grew up in Ohio but lived in San Diego with the USA men’s national team: Did you ever surf?

He laughed.

“Maybe back in the day in California a couple of times. I went out maybe once in Hawai’i fooling around while on vacation. They know I’m not a surfer. I don’t know that world very much. 

“But I know governance, I think, and I know the NGB world, I know the relationships the NGBs ought to have with the Paralympic committee. I’m fairly pleased with how volleyball went during the years I was CEO. I have a unique background in the Olympic world in that I played, I coached and I administrated. And there aren’t that many people who have done that.”

As he gets farther into it and meets the boys and Surfer Girl(s) (sorry, just had to) Beal will have an eye on the Olympics. 

“I very much love the passion of the people involved, I’ve engaged with every member of the board individually, and we’ve since hired two more staff people.”

Beal is still heavily involved with the International Volleyball Hall of Fame and is on three USA Volleyball committees.  

“My plate is getting a little bit more full than I was anticipating a year ago.”

He said USA Surfing has plenty of room to grow and has an eye on youth participation, and membership and coaching programs 

“My role,” Beal said, “is simply to try to get the organization to the point where it’s a successfully functioning national governing body in the broad scheme of those organizations within the USOPC and they don’t have to be concerned about it and they can move on to try to grow the sport, increase revenue and be competitively successful.”

After all, as the Beach Boys also sang, Surfers Rule. In the Olympics, each country gets two men and two women competitors. 

“The U.S. participants are among the best in the world and there are some optimistic expectations that they will be in the hunt for medals,” Beal said.

“I think NBC and the TV audience will love the sport. It’s visually, I think, very compelling, and it meets a lot of the new vision of the IOC and the direction they’re going to try to attract younger audiences and lifestyle sports.”

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