Team Fletch & Horny Unicorns Win This South Bay-Unique Beach Volleyball Tournament
There were costumes, people on teams cheering and acting silly, music and exceptional – with some exceptions – outstanding beach volleyball.
What there was not a lot of was a crowd, certainly not what it was in its heyday.
But as the Manhattan Beach 6-man returned to a weekend – being played on a Friday and Saturday, as opposed to the past few years when it was held during the week – there was a glimpse of and reminders of its glorious past.
The 2017 winners were Team Fletch (dressed as the LA Lakers) over Team Spyder in the Men’s Open and, in a riveting finals that went to an extra game, the Horny Unicorns (yes that was their name; well, you know, the horns on a unicorn, right!?) over R&B (Rock & Brews) in the Women’s Open.
This South Bay-unique beach volleyball tournament, in which teams consisting of six players dress in themed costumes, had a buzz about it not experienced since the tournament’s heyday in the early 2000s to its final big year in 2012. It took place Aug. 4-6 as part of the International Surf Festival, or Surfest.
Locals took off work – or skipped out early – to either play or to walk on the sand to check out the action.
There was a near-constant roar coming up from the courts as teams scored points, boomboxes on beach wagons and, in a true 6-man tradition, a couple of comedic team members on bullhorns shouting out harmless but funny insults to other teams.
The mood was good, the vibe positive. Everyone was smiling, laughing and cheering.
There were a couple of house parties (for a certain members of teams) on The Strand.
Some of the “old guard” teams were back – the aforementioned Fletch with players dressed in Lakers uniforms and wigs and the WWF wrestlers complete with a guy who looked identical to Hulk Hogan (“tall Paul”) and with an actual ring set up around the court, along with some interesting team names such as the Mile High Club and a girls team named The Landing Strips.
There was security to check people’s backpacks and purses to be sure they did not bring alcohol on the beach and designated entry points were established.
The crowd size, instead of being at around 20,000, was more like a couple of thousand. A lot of long-time locals were anticipating for months that Saturday would be close to the old days and were disappointed when they arrived to find only pockets of crowds around the courts.
But those people that were there were loud and lively, and for the men’s and women’s quarterfinals, semis people were 10-12 deep sitting and standing on the sand in some places.
There were a total of 75 teams, a far cry from its high of 200 but a lot more than the 30 or so that were likely to have competed if the tournament were held on its originally scheduled days of Thursday and Friday.
Many of the teams were comprised of players from top collegiate 6-person indoor teams, so the level of play amid all the fun was of Olympic Games caliber.
Then again, there were some “fun” teams like the group dressed in camouflage calling themselves Tropic Thunder from the movie. When this collection of South Bay occasional recreational volleyball players went up against Team Fletch “it was like a group of Greek gods against used car salesmen,” noted one observer.
But that’s part of the fun of 6-man, and it certainly was fun in 2017.