SANDCAST: “What if we give beach a try?” pays off for McKibbins

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Maddison McKibbin-Riley McKibbin-SANDCAST-Travis MEwhirter-Tri Bourne
Riley and Madison McKibbin celebrate earning their entry to the main draw of the AVP Seattle Open.

Maddison McKibbin was finished.

Finished with volleyball. Finished with being overseas. Finished with not being paid. Finished with the shady ownership of international volleyball teams. Finished with it all, he said Monday night on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. 

He had played the game long enough, beginning at Hawaii’s famed Outrigger Canoe Club then onto Punahou School, where he became a three-time state champ, which preceded four years at USC, where he made a pair of Final Four appearances.

And now there he was, in Greece, looking at his bed, where a random Brazilian man was laying, fast asleep.

Evidently, the owner of McKibbin’s team had signed a new outside hitter. He didn’t tell McKibbin, though apparently he did give the new Brazilian outside the keys to the apartment.

That was it. McKibbin was out. He was going home. Was going to finish his master’s degree. Was getting out of volleyball.

Time for something else.

Riley McKibbin, Maddison’s older brother of two years, had other plans. He was going to play in Italy. Would Maddison want to come, just to kick it for three months, drink some wine and hang out in Italy?

For that, sure, he could delay grad school for a few months to hang in Italy. So long as he wasn’t playing volleyball, he was in. And then Riley had another idea.

“What if we give beach a try?”

They had the talent. There was no questioning that. They had been raised in uber-competitive Hawaii, alongside Taylor and Trevor Crabb, Spencer McLaughlin, Brad Lawson, Tri Bourne, competing occasionally against AVP legends Stein Metzger and Kevin Wong and Mike Lambert. Both of the McKibbins had played in FIVB Youth tournaments, and they proved they were good enough indoors to compete and make a living at a professional level.

The transition from indoor to beach sounds simple enough. It’s a similar game with similar skillsets, where the underlying principle is the same: pass, set, hit. It, of course, was not. They weren’t entirely sure what the state of their beach skills was, so they bought a handful of AVP volleyballs from Costco and exiled themselves to a court in Venice Beach, a few zip codes away from any serious players. And so there it was that you could find two professional volleyball players, practicing in Venice Beach, legitimately mortified that someone might see them dusting off the rust of a game they hadn’t played for the better part of a decade.

“We couldn’t even hit it over the net,” Riley said in an earlier interview. “The transition from indoor to the beach is so hard. We’re both indoor players, and making that switch is a lot harder than people think.”

Unless, of course, you’re the McKibbins. In the first qualifier they entered, not long after scraping the rust off their beach games, in New York City in 2015, they qualified.

And thus the Beard Bros. were born.

Their relationship is both like that of any other siblings –- fighting and squabbling wrapped in brotherly love –- and yet it is also nothing like that of any other siblings. The McKibbins are partners in everything they do. They’re roommates. They’re business partners. They’re AVP partners. They shoot the wildly popular McKibbin Volleyball videos together. They vlog together. They play together.

Even when Maddison won AVP San Francisco while Riley sat out with an injury, even when he was fielding calls from Reid Priddy, even when he had no shortage of partner options, there was never any question whom he would be playing with: Riley McKibbin.

“Riley,” he said on SANDCAST, “is the reason I’m playing volleyball right now.”

And so it is that Maddison, so long as Riley is healthy, will not play with another who’s last name is not McKibbin. They’re a package deal. Whether they’re vlogging about the frustrations of volleyball, filming a tutorial with Kelly Reeves on the nuances of bump setting, or practicing against Sean Rosenthal and Chase Budinger, they’re going to do it together.

The only thing, for now, that it seems isn’t on their agenda?

Shaving.

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