Volleyball: The spirit of Malibu seen in Margate: Guy Hodgson discovers the culture clash that's called beach volleyball

THE bad news came over the sound system, for beach volleyball takes place to the accompaniment of booming disco music. 'The Boogie Bus will be on all day,' a voice thundered out to the alarm of two elderly ladies who had settled to watch.

It was not the only clash of cultures. No more than 20 yards from the candy-floss and tat of a British promenade there was a taste of California as pure as freshly-squeezed orange juice. It was Margate and it was cold, windy and occasionally rainy but on the sandy courts the sun reigned. Beach boys and girls with tanned swim-suited bodies itched to emerge from their track suits and sweaters but it was to be only fleetingly. Sun glasses were de rigueur but almost everyone was wrapped up like winter watchers.

On view was a sport that owes its roots to beach bummery but has since been hijacked by the serious. You have to be: the five grands prix circuits and training costing around pounds 2,000 a year. Margate, a two-day event, represented a watershed for the sport in Britain in that prize money was being awarded for the first time but even the winners of the pounds 150 first prize would only have been cutting their losses. Next week the money will go on a grand prix in Bridlington, later in the summer it will be at Weymouth and then Newcastle.

'You have to really love beach volleyball,' one participant said. 'It's a not a cheap sport unless you stay in a tent. If it rains it can be pretty miserable.' It was not the sort of thing you would expect to hear in the home of the sport, southern California. There, huge crowds and television cameras view the major events - not to mention the women who play in little more than G-strings - and top players earn small fortunes. Karch Kiraly, the men's world champion with his partner, Kent Steffes, earned dollars 320,000 ( pounds 210,000) in prize money alone last year. With endorsements he is a substantial dollar millionaire.

Which is a comprehensively different league to the sport in Britain, which was given its initial shove by a scene in the film Top Gun and now has some 60 male and female partnerships playing to a standard where they would not have sand kicked in their faces by the leading Europeans. The Americans and Brazilians are the lords of the beach but Britain is catching up.

There are suggestions too that it might become an Olympic sport in either 1996 or 2000. The IOC is discouraging new events but beach volleyball might get in as a variation of the indoor sport.

'It would give the sport a massive boost,' Ian Fairclough, chairman of the Beach Volleyball Commission and a leading player, said. 'We would gain enormously in credibility.' At the moment only 5 per cent of the pounds 50,000 given to the English Volleyball Association by the Royal Bank of Scotland finds it way on to the sand.

Fairclough slipped on to the beach from the indoor sport, preferring the emphasis on fitness and all-round skills that playing with one partner brings. The court and net are the same size as volleyball proper and there is the speed-sapping effect of the sand. 'It's possible to get by in the six- a-side game,' he said, 'but on the beach, with only two of you, your deficiencies are exposed.' Even Lori Flynn, a 28-year-old former Canadian women's indoor international, found the change in pace staggering. 'I'd given up the sport for a few years but when I arrived on the beach I assumed I'd be tearing up the court. When I started playing I realised I was absolutely crap. Because of the sand I was hardly reaching any speed at all.'

Flynn and her partner, Shelna Sinte, had their limitations revealed 15-5 by the No 1 seeds, Mandy Kittlety and Mo Glover, who will represent Britain in the World Games in the Netherlands in a fortnight's time. 'We would be disappointed to finish lower than sixth,' Kittlety said. 'The gap between us and the best of Europe is narrowing.'

Meanwhile, Little Richard was belting out. Isn't the music intrusive? 'Sometimes,' she agreed, 'particularly on important points. But we played in an event last week in Bournemouth without music and it seemed curiously flat. All the big events have it.' There are limits, however, and later the players requested the music should be turned down.

The voice on the Tannoy interrupted: 'Hawkins and Tuohey and Pincott and Rodgers on Court Four.' In the disco-accompanied world of beach volleyball, even the players sound like pop groups.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living