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No typical day at the beach in SoCal

Beach volleyball action Tuesday on the Pier courts in Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach, USA, May 1, 2018 – On the short wall dividing the bike path and the sand, beach volleyball fans took in a sight not usually seen on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.

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Dozens of players hoping to someday crack their way onto a professional tour, whether it’s the FIVB or the Association of Volleyball Professional, began competing in the pre-qualification tournament for the 2018 Huntington Beach Open.

Among the spectators were some pretty big VIPs. Olympic gold medallist Alison Cerutti of Brazil (Rio 2016) watched for hours, as did Athens 2004 gold medallist Emanuel Rego of Brazil, whose partner in those days, Ricardo Santos, is still competing. Germany’s Julius Brink (London 2012 gold), now a broadcaster, was back on the sand where he once trained with American teams.

Olympic & world champion Alison Cerutti of Brazil watching the action Tuesday at the Huntington Beach Open.

Many of the main draw players hit the sand to train for their first matches, which begin on Thursday with a rarity on the World Tour – a double elimination event with 48 men’s and 48 women’s teams taking aim at the $20,000 first-place prize.

But the setting with courts on both sides of the Huntington Beach Pier has caught the attention of the players who are seeing this slice of Southern California for the first time.

“This means a lot because it was my first training camp in 1996 in California, in San Diego with my father and former partner,” said Clemens Doppler, a three-time Olympian from Austria. “This is where it all started and it’s also a little bit of a hometown of beach volleyball. It’s also great to have more teams in the main draw. To open up a tournament, that’s a really good idea. With the setup with the pier, it’s beautiful. We’re more and more in the cities and I believe beach volleyball belongs on the beach, with the sea, the wind, the difficult conditions, you have it all here.

“Here I have more of a beach feeling, also with the little shops, the bars, I like it much more. People are more calm here so it’s beautiful.”

If it’s a business trip on court for the players – many of whom recently arrived from China, with their next stop being in Itapema, Brazil – they’re not exactly burying their heads in the sand at just another stop on the World Tour.

After a workout on Tuesday, Switzerland’s Anouk Verge-Depre, an Olympian in 2016 with now-retired Isabelle Forrer, said she has been in Huntington Beach before but this will be her first time in competition.

“We love to come back here, we like to play here,” Verge-Depre said. “It’s a feeling, it’s a lifestyle and people welcome us so it’s real nice. To see all the courts at the beach is nice as well, the people are used to beach volleyball and like the sport.

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