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Santa Cruz Beach Volleyball

All About Santa Cruz CBVA

1965. Manhattan Beach. A small group of pioneers gather together at the fumy bar and scribble on the back of a napkin who would run the tournaments each week. This would be the beginning of officially rated sand volleyball tournaments, with clearly defined rules of the game.

This would be the start of the CBVA.

The California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) became the gold standard in rating and ranking in California from that time on. Other organizations have tried but CBVA always took the lead.  

“We'd get to the beach at 9am and just play, play, play all day long. It was the lifestyle. It was the golden era.”

Now fifty years later, here I am at a wine bar discussing CBVA with Mark Hull, co-establisher of the CBVA in Santa Cruz. “In the 1970’s there were only three rated tournaments a year in Santa Cruz. One of them was the Begonia Festival Championship in Capitola. Then Gustav Gysin and I started offering more rated tournaments,” says Hull.

That was an important time for more leadership in sand volleyball because it was a harsh winter and the waves took out the most popular courts; in front of the Dream Inn. The wash out forced Hull and Gysin to move the courts to the south-side of the pier. There was a lot of backlash from the locals for making the change, but they were able to get more courts built and offer a lot more tournaments. They went to eight events a year and it kept growing. It’s never gone back to Dream Inn but there are now two courts over there as a memorial and some of the players still play there.

“CBVA is growing,” says Hull.  “I've been involved with it as Gustav’s assistant since the 1980’s and then I took over when he retired and have been doing it for 20 more years. We now offer nine adult events and seven youth events each year. It’s gone big and continues to grow all over California.”

Hull got hooked on volleyball in college, playing indoor. In 1974, he moved to Santa Cruz and soon after discovered beach volleyball. “It was like lights out for me once I discovered beach volleyball.”

“Back in the day, my friends and I were pretty irresponsible; we worked late at night so we could play during the day. We'd get to the beach at 9am and just play, play, play all day long. It was the lifestyle. It was the golden era. Back then you could go down any day and you'd find 25 people down there willing to play. It’s that moment of being on the court that’s so amazing.”

During this time Hull worked with the AVP, traveled as an official, and helped lead CBVA tournaments.

Santa Cruz is the only place north of San Luis Obispo that has CBVA tournaments. Due to that, there are a lot more people traveling up here to play. According to Hull, there use to be a lot of territorialism with the strong Santa Cruz local vibe but now it’s become more friendly. Sixty-five to 70% of the competitors that play are from out of the area.

“Next year it will be an olympic year. Will Kerry be back?” Hull questions, regarding volleyball’s future.  “Will we continue to have such a presence that we've had lately as a country in the Olympics? I know that we need this push for the girls to be trained. Is the next Kerry Walsh out there? I think there has been some push from America saying, ‘we need to train our girls in volleyball’ and that’s probably why the NCAA is pushing scholarships with beach volleyball.” 

Hull explains beach volleyball like this: “Playing indoor is like classical music where everyone has a specific piece to play. Playing outdoor lis like jazz music where it’s like, ‘where are we going with this,’ every play on the beach is so different. That’s what we love about it so much.”