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Alki Beach, the place for serious beach volleyball

During the summer, Alki Beach becomes the hub for serious beach volleyball in the Seattle region.

Leading this craze is Seattle’s Alki Volleyball Association, the top promoters of beach volleyball in the Pacific Northwest since 2005.

“It grew out of a tradition here at Alki,” says AVA co-owner Phillip van Rooyen, “We wanted to open that up to all those that play, and our tournaments are central for all the players and their results."

Over the past three years, AVA has added two junior divisions with the hope that kids can start playing at 12 years of age, and then possibly get into novice or open division by early their 20’s.

Growing fast

While initially a local association, AVA has partnered with other organizations such as USA Beach to give athletes some kind of national stage.

This year, while running their annual West Open Qualifiers Tournament, AVA was inundated by more than 70 teams on Alki. Van Rooyen attributes this growing popularity of beach volleyball to AVA’s openness to players and to the Olympics.

“The fact that beach volleyball is an Olympic sport [means] there’s a lot of excitement around beach volleyball now.”

Alki’s growing popularity as Seattle’s beach volleyball hub has also made it possible for AVA to host training camps during the summer for local players, taught by top national and global players such as 2004 Olympian Stein Metzger.

“We try to create an elite program to learn from some of the best players in the country,” says van Rooyen.

Beach size matters

A larger beach means more space for courts, which is what primarily sets Alki apart from various other Seattle beaches. Alki is the largest of the beaches, with Golden Gardens coming in second.

However, Alki’s seven courts have not been enough for the number of players that have been showing up lately. Because the popularity is so high, van Rooyen said AVA has actually dug in extra net poles just for weekend tournaments, and they still have to make people wait.

Additionally van Rooyen claims:

“During the summer, there are a lot of people that come by (Alki Beach), so it’s great for sponsors. Sponsors love to support (AVA) when they get exposure, so that’s why we focus on Alki … Golden Gardens just didn’t have as much traffic as Alki does.”

Beach vs. volleyball 

Although an ideal location for AVA, Alki Beach does not come without its frustrations.

According to van Rooyen, it has been difficult for AVA to get the city to recognize the growth of the sport. While AVA would like to put in more nets and poles to reduce the amount of volleyball players waiting to play, the city insists that there are enough poles and that AVA shouldn’t take over the entire beach. 

“It’s tricky at the moment because there are so few beaches in Seattle and people want to play, so we only take up half of the beach at Alki when we play … but it’s tricky because you max it out and still some people are waiting.”

Though van Rooyen insists that, while the congestion of players waiting to play is a testament to Alki’s maxed out size, it is also a testament to the ever-growing popularity of the Alki Volleyball Association and of beach volleyball in Seattle.