Footsteps in the sand: Lycra-clad enthusiasts in sunglasses are playing the Copacabana's favourite game in rain-sodden Britain. Richard Simpson wonders why

The Jamaican bobsleigh team is a shining example of how to cheat on nature. The island has not seen snow in living memory, and yet their four-man team slipped down Lillehammer's slopes like true virtuosos at this year's Winter Olympics. So there's no reason why Britain should not be a serious contender for the beach volleyball title.

In Brazil, where the game is second only to football in popularity, there is the lush setting of the Copacabana, while the sun-drenched Californians have their beloved Venice Beach for a practice ground. In Britain, lines are being drawn in the sands of Bournemouth and Bridlington, and in a purpose-built sandpit on the outskirts of London.

'A lot of people have probably played it or seen it abroad, or else seen it in films like Top Gun,' Phil 'Bear' Davies, who has been playing for five years, says. 'But people still look on in amazement when a spectator stand is erected along the beach for a volleyball competition, especially when it's raining. If it buckets down you play.'

By contrast, in the States beach volleyball is big business. Professionals can earn a meaty pounds 70,000 per competition, and top stars have their own fan clubs and groupies.

Over here, the unpredictable weather doesn't help. But enthusiasts approach the game with the same beach-bum gusto as their equatorial counterparts. There is no dress code, but wrap-around sunglasses and slinky tops are very much de rigueur. 'It does attract people who are image-conscious,' Paul Sullivan, a 42-year-old who runs his own company, admits. 'Because the game comes from the beach, it attracts a more laid-back, mellow culture. It's great for a suntan when the sun is out.' It also seems to attract some shady spectators. As one portly American confessed: 'A lot of people go to watch the girls play in bikinis. I like it when the foreign students play, because they play to please. They play out of their skins.'

Like the more established indoor game, the object is to send the ball over the net and within the boundaries of the court so that the opposing team are unable to return it or prevent it from hitting the ground. Any part of the body above the waist may be used to propel the ball.

Unlike the indoor game, where teams are made up of six players, beach volleyball is played in pairs. 'The six-people game is a much faster game: it has a higher level of technique,' Phil Davies, a PE teacher, says. 'Two-versus-two is much cheaper and it's easier to pick up a partner.' He adds that it is also more accessible to everyone since height is not such a crucial factor, though the beach game is male-dominated and there are few quality female players on the circuit.

Persuading people to take up the sport remains an uphill struggle. 'There aren't that many organised places where you can go and play,' Davies says, though the task has recently been made easier by the David Lloyd Tennis Centre in Raynes Park, which built a court on former wasteland using 45 tons of sand.

'The area was not being used, so we persuaded them to landscape it.' Davies said. 'In most countries they have sandpits outside large bars where people can play, although it is the only one in this country.' The solitary 'pit' may not have the same sex appeal as Venice Beach, but for now, it is as close to Baywatch as London gets.

English Volleyball Association: 0602 816324; David Lloyd Tennis Centre: 081-543 8020

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders