Some of the best entertainment in Vancouver can still be had for free. Just don’t forget your water and sunscreen.
For 2019, the Vancouver Open beach volleyball tournament attracted some of the world’s top players to Kitsilano Beach Friday through Sunday. Public seating and admission are free and put attendees right up close to the sweaty, sandy action.
Sixty-four teams are competing for an attractive $30,000 purse, split evenly between the men and women, and top prizes of $7,000 for first place.
The tournament, in its 28th year, has drawn more international athletes than ever due to many of them making a stop here before the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Edmonton Open, which runs July 17-21 and is part of the qualification process for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
“It’s the deepest draw we’ve ever had,” said Adrian Goodmurphy, director of operations for Volleyball B.C. and tournament director for the Vancouver Open.
Vancouver is hosting teams from the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Australia and Brazil, and Canadian 2016 Olympians Jamie Hatch (Broder), Josh Binstock and Chaim Schalk.
Goodmurphy said the event has come a long way from when it was just five rows of bleachers and a tiny beer garden. A crowd of 1,000 is expected Sunday, if the good weather holds.
The tournament — B.C.’s biggest for beach volleyball — highlights the growing popularity of the sport in Vancouver, where courts at Spanish Banks and Kitsilano beaches are constantly packed evenings after work and on weekends, Goodmuprhy said.
“It’s a fun tournament,” he said.
“It’s not sterile, it’s exciting to be here. You get close to the action. We have Olympians on this court here and you’re 10 feet from the action. You don’t get that access anywhere else.”
Ben Feist, 39, from Vancouver, said he’s played at the Vancouver Open 15 times but this year is up against the highest-calibre of players it has ever brought.
Given Vancouver’s reputation as a world-class venue following the 2010 Olympics, and with its strong volleyball scene, the city is proving to be ready for an FIVB event like the one in Edmonton, he said.
“Over the last couple of years, the organizers have stepped it up to such a level that you’re seeing teams from all over the world,” he said.
Malina Terrell, 27, came up to the event from California with a friend from Oregon for her first visit to Canada and first professional volleyball tournament.
“It’s awesome, it’s beautiful,” Terrell said. “I run into people that I know, friends from back home in California, people I’ve met in my travels abroad. It’s great.”
Chris P. Austin, who runs a beach volleyball training program in California, said he and teammate Kristopher Johnson were drawn in part by the big prize purse and elite competition.
“We would come back for sure,” Austin said. “This place is gorgeous.”
“I thought that every team we played got progressively better and that was a good thing for us,” Johnson added.
Both said they appreciated the solid refereeing, relaxed atmosphere and superb organization of the tournament.
“There’s definitely volleyball fandom out here so it’s a good place to be,” Austin said.
Sunday’s events start at 11 a.m. The women’s final takes place around 4 p.m. and the men’s around 5 p.m.
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