GOLD AGAIN! Kristen Nuss, Taryn Kloth join rarified air with Beach Pro Tour Finals win
December 9, 2023
November 15, 2023
HERMOSA BEACH, California — Seain Cook is an idiot.
“What’s my brand?” he wondered aloud on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “An idiot who plays beach volleyball? That’s good.”
Cook is the one who once competed in a Santa outfit — sleeves cut off, mullet glorious, mustache perfect — at the AVP Central Florida Pro Series in 2022. For almost a full year, he and Logan Webber could be easily identified.
They were the team who played in shirts snipped at the midriff with tassels dangling to their waists.
In Chicago, during a tremendous three-set battle with wunderkinds Andy Benesh and Miles Partain, Cody Caldwell over-set a transition ball out of play. Cook ran around the pole and batted the ball onto Benesh and Partain’s side of the net and had a laugh-out-loud look and brief conversation with the ref as to why that should be legal. Meanwhile, Caldwell, laying on the ground, pumped his fist in mock celebration.
They’d lose that match, but Cook had bigger things on his mind, like chasing Benesh around the court on every side switch in search of a high five, something he amped up a few months later in the semifinals of the Laguna Beach Tour Series where he’d attempt the impossible: To get Bill Kolinske to acknowledge an opponent’s existence.
“I did chase Bill around the court in Laguna, because we’re fine, it’s a show,” Cook said. “Every time he changed sides I’d go one way. I did it to Andy in Chicago, and he almost didn’t crack, but I managed to make him crack. [Mike] Placek as well. That’s a little point for me. But Bill remains solid. I’ll chase him around. That’s just part of the game.”
All of it — the antics, the humor, the garish and silly outfits, the “show,” as he calls it — bely something it seems he almost wants to keep secret: Seain Cook is one of the most talented defenders in the country. He’s currently No. 19 in the AVP rankings and ninth among defenders. In back-to-back matches at the Manhattan Beach Open, he lopped off two individuals who belong on beach volleyball’s Mount Rushmore, upsetting both Phil Dalhausser and Alison Cerutti. Only Caldwell, his own partner, beat him out for Most Improved in 2023.
“Consistency,” he said of the difference between 2022 and 2023. “Just being able to do it again and again and again was the difference. Every so often I could do something that was pretty sweet but if I got asked to do it again, it was crazy lucky.”
There you have it: 39 words of somewhat honest talk from Cook in which he acknowledged he might know a thing or two about this sport and how to play it. That’s all you might get. Because the next sentence was back to the humor by which he has become so known: “Now I can string together two lucky points. One to two? That’s big.”
He wants you to laugh. To engage. And he’s become exceptionally good at doing both while also getting excellent results on the court, something you might not actually be aware of if you only follow him on Instagram. Where most players will throw up highlights, Cook takes the path less traveled, with one blooper after another. Low-lights only. The dichotomy between his results and his online persona has turned him into something of a must-watch player on the AVP.
“If you’re not quick on defense, you have to be quick of wit,” he said. Here a player might laugh, taking a crack at himself like that, but Cook’s humor is deadpan. You never really know when he’s being serious. This only makes him funnier.
“I’m a social media guy, not a volleyball guy,” he said.
Joking? Not joking? Who knows?
“I definitely did more on Instagram than I did on the volleyball court. If I’m going to do volleyball, maybe I need to do other avenues, and social media is one of them, so I’ve tried to get after it.”
The strategy has worked out well, both on the court and off. His Instagram boasts a hair below 10,000 followers, which isn’t a ton, but it is about 30 percent higher than Benesh, the highest-ranked blocker in the country who will most likely be competing in the Paris Olympic Games. On the court, he won a pair of Tour Series events — in Waupaca and Laguna Beach, both with Caldwell — and made the semifinals of the Manhattan Beach Open. In three of his final four tournaments, his lowest finish was a third.
He loves talking about that third.
None of the good parts making the retelling.
He won’t mention the wins over Evan Cory and Troy Field or Billy Allen and Alison or Dalhausser and Avery Drost. Not the fact that he made the semifinals of the biggest tournament on the beach volleyball calendar. Nor the fact that he nearly made as much money in that single tournament ($6,000) as he did in his entire 2022 season combined. No, no. That’s what most might do.
But this is Seain Cook, beach volleyball idiot.
Here is what he instead chooses to bring up when talking about his run to a third place finish in Manhattan: “We had such a big day [on Saturday] and then it’s like half past 8, I jump in the water, I almost die. I got caught in a wave, both of my legs cramped up, and I go ‘I’m gonna die happy, this is cool.’ I was stuck, and I was like ‘Ah, well.’ I managed to drag myself home, pass out, fell asleep with the recovery legs on. I ate anything I could. I get back to the courts, and our warm-up was straight up serve receive, let’s see what we can do, and we just got decimated.
“I got roofed so many times. I needed to pad out Theo [Brunner’s] stats. He’s let me train with him a few times, figured I’d make him look good. We’re at the end, in serve receive, and Theo goes ‘Is it OK if Trevor [Crabb] skyballs?’ Cody and I are like ‘What do you mean?’
“It’s more disrespectful that you’re asking us. It’s that bad?”
“Trevor’s a nice guy.”
“This was worse.”
“Skyball, and Cody goes off chasing it. ‘Are we playing it no matter what anyway?’ We’ve lost. It doesn’t matter how good you are, 20-6 is a big deficit. So, yeah.”
So yeah … with that skyball and the forgettable conclusion to that play, he finished third, a career-high in a Pro or Gold Series. He’d only like to remind you of the egg he laid in the second set of those semifinals.
Internally, though, Cook knows the leaps he has made. He has elevated himself from the top of the mid-level group of players on the AVP to the bottom of the upper-tier. Which is why you can find this self-deprecating 31-year-old father on the beach at 8 in the morning. No partner. No camera. Just repping out passing and setting with coach Pompilio Mercadante. These are the moments you won’t see on social media, the ones that have made him an enormous talent on the AVP.
“It was a good year,” he allowed. “It’s going to be tough to compare year to year now. Everything so far that I’ve done in my career has been three year [cycles]. This is the peaking year of the three. Now it’s at the bottom of the three years for me. Now with my points, I’m on the higher end of one group, and the lower end of the World Tour group. It reinvigorates my off-season. I want to be in the gym. I want to train.”
He is. You just won’t see it.
All you’ll see is Seain Cook, beach volleyball idiot.
Just the way he wants it.