Beach volleyball is active and spectator friendly.

The Association of Volleyball Professionals will hold the Salt Lake City Open on specially reconstructed sand courts. Play will be held Friday through Sunday at Liberty Park. It is the first of seven tour events.

Beach volleyball, as you might remember, first hit primetime back during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. A U.S. men’s pair won a gold that year. Over the years, it gained in popularity and in the London Olympics last year was considered one of the most popular events on TV and with spectators. 

The game, as played today, with four players on a soft bed of sand, dates back to 1930 when a player, waiting for his six-man lineup, tried playing with just two on a beach in California. Word is players liked it because there are no positions, no complex rotations, no specialized players. A beach player must be able to dig, serve, pass, set, attack, block and anticipate.

Other than the court and two-player teams, there are other differences.

  • The court is open and the landing is soft.

  • The court is smaller—roughly six feet narrower and three feet shorter. The reason is simple enough. Soft sand restricts movement and the smaller court ensures longer rallies.

  • Instead of four games to 25, with a fifth, a tiebreaker, to 15, they play two games to 21 on the sand with the tiebreaker to 15.

  • There are no special positions or rotations. Players cover the court as returns dictate, alternating service and moving to pickup returns and place setup as strategy dictates.

  • The ball for beach volleyball is softer, lighter and larger. The lighter ball floats and brings into play, for the better players, the weather.

  • Players communicate, like in baseball, with hand signals—closed fist, one finger, two finger and open hand—that dictate strategy.

  • And, of course, beach volleyball is played strictly outdoors, although there are plans to place a couple of sand courts indoors for winter play.

  • Other than the above, the indoor and outdoor games are very similar in that after the serve each side has up to three hits to ground the ball in the opponents' court

Some of the country’s best players, as well as top local players, will compete at Liberty Park starting Friday. The event will feature 16 men’s and 16 women’s teams. A qualifier will be held today and Thursday at the Sports Mall, 5445 S. 900 East, headquarters the local association—Wasatch Beach Volleyball. One-day tickets are $10. Three-day prices range from $25 to $60.

Facts

Sport: Beach Volleyball
Event: Salt Lake City Open 
Dates: Friday through Sunday
Where: Liberty Park
Tickets and info: avp.com and wasatchbeachvolleyball.com