Life’s a Beach

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Beach volleyball action at the Laguna Open

Hit the sand to learn volleyball basics this summer.

By Jessie Dax-Setkus

 

Sunny summers and beach volleyball go together like peanut butter and jelly, and with plenty of warm weather and sandy coastlines, Orange County is the perfect place to experience this beloved sport. While beach volleyball can seem intimidating at first, it’s easy to get started—and no one expects your skills to be reminiscent of Kerri Walsh Jennings’ from the get-go.

Those looking to try their hand at this treasured sport or step into a more advanced level can sign up for classes from the City of Laguna Beach in order to learn to block, serve and spike like a pro. We caught up with the coach, Kirk Morgan, for a closer look at these local sessions.

 

Laguna Beach Magazine: What do you like about beach volleyball?

Kirk Morgan: It’s such a combination of skill, grace, speed and power, but it also has the elements of strategy and mental toughness. I love everything about it, especially the low impact of the sand and the way a day of volleyball is a complete full-body workout that leaves you exhausted and wanting more. … The folks in our classes start out learning the basic skills and the ones that really get into it quickly form player groups that become cohesive cliques. … During the pandemic, outdoor beach volleyball really kept a lot of folks sane.

 

How did you get into beach volleyball?

KM: I started playing in college in San Diego and I’ve been hooked ever since. I tried out for the college indoor team, but I was simply “too close to the floor,” as my coach put it. When I found beach volleyball and watched the pros like Karch Kiraly, Randy Stoklos and Sinjin Smith playing, I knew I wanted to get better and it’s become a lifestyle. I started coaching beach [volleyball] in Corona del Mar, substituting for the late, great coach Ron Hanks and eventually had my own classes.

I’ve always liked running tournaments because I run them the way I enjoy them—with music, food, … quality hydration and great prizes. … This year’s Laguna Open will be Sept. 9-11 and feature equal prize money for both men and women, … [plus] our third annual Battle of the Beaches, which pits teams from the four historic volleyball beaches of Laguna—including Main [Beach], Emerald Bay, Three Arch Bay and Victoria Beach—… against each other for bragging rights.

The Spring 2022 city volleyball class advanced class students with instructor Kirk Morgan at the far left
The advanced beach volleyball class from spring 2022, with instructor Kirk Morgan (far left)

What kind of workout does beach volleyball typically offer?

KM: The workout you get from beach volleyball is intense and you’re having so much fun, you often don’t realize how taxing it is until you’re done. … You get a great cardio and strength workout from running and jumping at full speed in the sand, especially if you’re in long, competitive games. If you play doubles, you are engaged constantly and it can really exhaust you quickly. … It really develops your balance and hand-eye coordination as well as your physical strength.

 

What are the differences between playing on a sand court and playing indoors?

KM: Playing in the sand is amazing, exhausting and very difficult when you first start out. It’s difficult to move, much less jump and run in the deep sand, but it’s a lot easier on your body with the low impact. … In a competitive situation, the other team is going to serve you every time, so you need to be well-rounded in passing, setting, hitting, serving, blocking and playing defense. You have to dig deep sometimes.

 

What are some challenges faced by beach volleyball players?

KM: Beach volleyball is very challenging to play well at a competitive level, because it demands a full set of physical and mental tools. You must control a fast-moving ball only with precision, and work in concert with your partners to pass, set and hit effectively. It’s not as easy as it looks in the Olympics. … At the recreational level, beginning players can get into fun, social, engaging games in a short amount of time, but it takes some practice and it really helps to go through some drills or classes. Players won’t really improve by just taking our classes once a week, they need to practice with others during the week.

 

What should you expect for your first class?

KM: I really emphasize fun, communication and sportsmanship from the beginning, because it’s supposed to be joyful and healthy. … Most first-timers aren’t ready for how hard it is to move in the sand, but they get used to it. They need to drink lots of water, so I bring water and also sunscreen to every class. … I try and rotate players, … because if you stick with the sport, you end up playing with a lot of different types of players and the successful player will learn to adapt their game to their partners. … I play upbeat rock and blues and lounge music in class and the players love it. In over 25 years of coaching, nobody has ever said they don’t like music while they play.


Like a Pro

Ensure you have all the essentials when heading to the beach volleyball court.

 

From proper clothing and sunglasses to the ball itself, these local products will help prepare you for your time on the sand.

Baja Blanket Beach Towel
Hit the court in style with the colorful, patterned BAJA BLANKET BEACH TOWEL from the Circle Roots collection—it’ll help get that tricky sand off your feet and also provide you with a place to soak up some rays or dry off after a dip in the ocean once practice is over, $29.95, at Laguna Surf & Sport. (949-497-7000; surfandsport.com)
costa-tuna alley-black
Sunglasses are essential to both protect your eyes from the sun and keep your sight locked on the ball, and you can’t go wrong with the sporty TUNA ALLEY SUNGLASSES from Costa, which will help you accomplish both and look cool while doing it, $259, at Milano Eye Boutique. (949-715-7822; ocmilanoeyeboutique.com)
Graffiti volleyball
Make a statement on the court with Wilson’s flashy GRAFFITI OUTDOOR VOLLEYBALL, which features superior air retention and a durable synthetic material specifically made for usage on the sand in addition to its unique, artistic print, $25.99, at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Laguna Hills. (949-472-8180; dickssportinggoods.com)
RipCurl2
Keep your shoulders covered and out of the sun with the FADE OUT ESSENTIAL TEE, a breathable T-shirt made from organic cotton that offers a relaxed fit, making it easy to move around during classes, practice or tournaments, $26.95, at Rip Curl. (949-715-4885; ripcurl.com)
Sun Bum sunscreen
The SIGNATURE SPF 50 SUNSCREEN LOTION from Sun Bum features a clear, mineral-based formula to keep you protected from the sun’s harsh rays, but it’s also water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it the ideal cream to apply before beach volleyball sessions, $13, at Bushard’s Pharmacy. (949-494-1059; bushardspharmacy.com)
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