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Rich Heiles East End Volleyball

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Rich Heiles

East End Volleyball:

A New Era In Beach Volleyball

By Lalaena Gonzalez-Figueroa

Photography by Giovanni Lunardi

Design by Christian Lunardi

It all started in 1977, when a group of avid volleyball players in Long Island took the game to a new venue: the beach. “We played coordinated events in the winter,” recalls Rich Heiles, a founding member of East End Volleyball (EEVB). “Though the volleyball community was already playing on beaches during the summer, we didn’t have formal competitions.” That summer they launched their inaugural beach volleyball competition, a small event on Long Island that featured a single tournament.

REAL-Exclusive-Magazine-Featuring-Rich-Heiles-1-410As enthusiasm grew, so did participation. Tremendous talent was cultivated on those sandy courts, and beach volleyball came into its own. By 1987 EEVB was in full-swing, hosting an invitation-only event that showcased the game and its culture to local media. Volleyball greats Karch Kiraly, Brent Frohoff and Scott Ayakatubby proved their athletic prowess on the 70-ton sand makeshift beach situated in Central Park. Soon EEVB evolved into a complete summer tournament schedule, expanding into cities along the East Coast.

“We saw really solid players training and practicing within the organization,” says Rich. “In addition to players who went pro, we also noticed a cache of talented younger participants who simply enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the fun.”

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On a perfect Saturday morning the best players from Florida gather at the world’s best beach for one of the best tournaments of the year.

The players love coming to Siesta Beach for the yearly tournament. It is one of their favorite venues due to the fact the white powder sand is always cool to the touch to play on.

Throughout the years, notable players have plied their skills at EEVB matches, earning cash prizes and wowing spectators and fans with their athletic prowess. AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour favorite Sinjin Smith shared his insights with EEVB clinic participants, and Olympic standout Bob Samuelson competed fiercely before succumbing to formidable opponents Rafael Del Valle and Omar Vargas. EEVB has gone on to sponsor a team on the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour in order to promote the organization and inspire its players.

Beach volleyball is, Rich notes, a healthy activity that’s suited for players at all levels. At his home base in Long Island, he says, there are 50 to 100 courts every night hosting athletes ranging in age from their late teens to over 60. “Everyone finds their niche,” he observes. “The league features highly competitive plays and individuals who are simply out for exercise and fun.”

The Gulf Coast, with its top-rated white sand beaches, has proven an ideal location for EEVB-sponsored tournaments. With spring and fall events held at world-renowned Siesta and Lido Keys, the organization has carefully planted the seeds for a grassroots movement in beach volleyball.

With their first local tournament nearly 20 years ago, EEVB introduced 12 nets to the Siesta Key community. Today, April and October tournaments feature upwards of 31 nets. The growth has been steady, though Rich sees potential for greater regional participation. “The beaches here are ideally suited for an established, year ‘round volleyball league,” he states. “I would love to see the program move beyond tournaments.”

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AIRBORNE
Never at a loss for action beach volleyball is played fast and furious resulting in a quick paced event for the audience to watch. Matches start early in the morning and run till dusk settles in.

Recreational volleyball leagues, says Rich, contribute to the well-being of their communities in a myriad of ways. “You’re bringing healthy activities to families and individuals, providing a great outlet for people to engage in friendly competition,” he observes. “But volleyball leagues can also yield significant financial benefits.” He cites Long Island’s thriving beach volleyball league as a prime example. “Local governments are earning over one hundred thousand dollars each year in beach rent alone,” Rich states.  “And local businesses benefit, because they’re seeing increased activity and patronage in the areas where these leagues are active.”

A strategic alliance with Volleyball America has allowed EEVB to maximize its national reach to over 6,000 players competing in 35+ events each year. With each tournament, players earn national ranking points and qualify for end-of-the-season cash prizes. “It would make sense for a local group to work with Volleyball America in implementing an ongoing league here in Sarasota,” Rich remarks. “This region has the potential to become one of the country’s premier volleyball destinations, bringing in visitors and competitors to stay and play.” With existing tournaments and events occurring throughout the area, adds Rich, a cohesive approach to the sport of beach volleyball would maximize participation and spectatorship.

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A large percentage of females enjoy beach volleyball as we;;. Their level of play ranks right up there with the male teams. Here we see some serious jousting taking place.

“You really can’t beat the benefits of beach volleyball,” says Rich, who continues to play in his local league. “It’s a healthy and fun lifestyle that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and walks of life.”

Rich Heiles
East End Volleyball
PO Box 49
Hampton Bays, NY 11946
(631) 355.1293
eevb@i-2000.com
http://www.eevb.net/

Copyright © 2013 REAL Magazine
Links to this article are encouraged

Photography used under license from Giovanni Lunardi Photography Photography Copyright © 2013 Giovanni Lunardi Photography

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