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The revival of the 2024 Hermosa Beach Open

The 2024 Hermosa Beach Open will take place September 4-7 in Hermosa Beach, California. The qualifying match is on September 4, followed by the main tournament.
Volleyball TV will stream the event. For more information and how you can support, visit https://hermosa-open.com/

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HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — The return of professional beach volleyball in Hermosa Beach this year started with popcorn.

Popcorn?

Popcorn.

In November 2023, when it became clear that the city of Hermosa and the AVP would not agree on hosting a professional event the following year, members of the Hermosa Beach government contacted Mark Paaluhi, a 53-year-old who had grown up between First and Second streets in Hermosa and made the huge move north, all the way to… 16e Street.

He’s a Hermosa lifer, Paaluhi, a man who started his playing career with the AVP at its peak in the mid-1990s and soon after witnessed the first of many collapses.

“I was lucky to play when I did,” he said. “I was blessed but also cursed because I came in at the height of the tour, with the prize money, the excitement, NBC, all that fun stuff. After my fourth year it just took a turn for the worse and we were on a rollercoaster going downhill, it Prize money fell from the sky. I was at my peak. I had just turned 27, 28, it was kind of washed away for me at that point.”

But he stayed in the game, playing until the early 2000s, co-founding SandCourt Experts, building beach facilities across the country and maintaining close relationships with players past and present. More importantly, he stayed in town. That made him the perfect person for city representatives to contact.

What did he need to organize an event as big – if not bigger – than what the AVP did in 2023?

Simple: the player participation and the prize money – “$200,000 in prize money,” he said, “would be a great start.”

“They said okay, and they talked back and forth, and it stuck for a few months,” Paaluhi said. SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “We brought it up again at the beginning of this year and talked about how we could make this happen, and the city was blown away by a lot of the things they were doing event-wise and city-wise. It just sat there and they came back in March and said we don’t know if we can get this done. I said okay and just washed my hands of it.”

Then it was over. No beach volleyball in Hermosa Beach, one of the most beautiful beach volleyball towns in the world. Until Paaluhi attended an AVCA convention and learned the magic of popcorn. A coach had raised thousands of dollars for his team by selling bags of popcorn. Paaluhi did the same with his indoor team at Redondo Union. Accustomed to bringing in a few hundred dollars here and there, his little popcorn fundraiser brought in seven thousand dollars.

It made him think.

“When I was going through this with Hermosa, I kept thinking, ‘how can I do this?’ The popcorn thing came back into my head,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m crazy. Well, I’m not crazy. I started doing math. Let’s say there are 100 players, and if 50 players get 100 people to buy $100 worth of popcorn, that would add up to 5,000 people, and if we got $50 from each person, we could easily get our money’s worth. can achieve the goal. We could do this. It is possible.”

Back to town he went.

He would handle everything: the financing, the permits, the logistics, everything. All they had to do was get the permit approved, which they did on an expedited schedule.

“I just tried,” Paaluhi said. “I spoke to you and many players, but no one said no. So I said, let’s keep going. We got the permit on May 28th and we are ready to go. Here we are.”

Here we are: an independent event, organized by a city in California’s famed South Bay, for the first time since the 2010 Manhattan Beach Open, a tournament that has since become a legend: an old-school tournament organized by beach volleyball purists. No grandstands. No extra fuss.

Just a beach, a ball and the players.

Exactly how Paaluhi wants to organize the 2024 Hermosa Beach Open.

“That’s what sparked this thing. For me personally, and for many others as well, we are a bit frustrated with how our sport has gone,” he said. “This is our chance, not just mine, but our chance to put something together, have fun with it and bring it back to what we think would make this sport good and exciting again. I hope people will commit to this, be part of the sponsorship, come out and support it when it happens.”

The event will be held September 4-7 at the north end of the Hermosa Beach Pier, and will feature a 32-team main tournament for both genders, with eight teams coming from an uncapped qualifier. And here’s the fun twist: there will be one foreign wildcard in the main draw and qualifier per gender, and any American player can play with any international player, making for unique, never-before-seen teams that may never be seen again – and it will all be available in person or on Volleyball TV, which will stream the event.

“All the players around the world want to come here,” Paaluhi said. “New Zealand was just here training for the Continental Cup, China, Japan, everyone comes here. That should say a lot about the culture here and the beaches here.

“There are so many things that make me want to do this. We have all these people who are critics, and one of these things is that people will learn from this, including the city of Hermosa and what it takes to help support this sport. They are a great asset of this sport. Manhattan gets it, they get it. The AVP, I hope they learn something from this too. And the fans and the players. That’s why I put some of the responsibility on the players to help, because if they don’t do anything, if they say ‘Thanks Mark’ and let it go and do nothing, it’s kind of like ‘eh, this is why it’s not us success.’

“I want everyone to be a part of it and have ownership. That’s why I don’t want a CEO or promoter running it. It’s our product, the fans and the players, to make this happen and have fun with it. It’s not about me or you, it’s about us and this sport, and hopefully we can keep this going and it gives people ideas about how this sport should move forward in the future and what the good things about it are.

Hermosa Beach
Hermosa Beach Stadium,/Ed Chan, VBHots.com