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Know the Origin: The History of Beach Volleyball


When the weather is warm and the sun is shining, there is nothing better than a game of beach volleyball. A day at the beach just isn’t complete without this popular summer pastime, and yet the game has developed quite the name for itself in a relatively short period of time. Shortly after volleyball was invented in 1895 by William Morgan, beach volleyball quickly spread around the world. While the exact origin of beach volleyball is debated and a bit convoluted, the sport has taken some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Want to learn more about the history of beach volleyball? Check out our beach volleyball timeline to learn more about this exciting, family-friendly sport.


1915

  • A beach volleyball court was constructed on Waikiki Beach by the Outrigger Beach and Canoe Club in Hawaii. However, it is important to note that these early games bear little resemblance to modern day beach volleyball.

1918

  • Beach volleyball took to the beaches of Europe during World War I, and reached China, Japan, South America, the Caribbean. It wasn’t long before beach volleyball gained worldwide appeal.

1920’s

  • Credited as the official birthplace of beach volleyball, Santa Monica established the first beach volleyball courts and helped kick off the sport.

  • The first beach volleyball tournament was played in 1924.

  • Beach volleyball became the primary sport at a nudist camp in France.

1930’s

  • By 1930, beach volleyball appears in France, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Latvia

  • In Santa Monica, California the first two-man beach volleyball game was held.

  • In the USA, people used beach volleyball as a means to escape the depression since it is an activity that is inexpensive.

1940’s

  • In 1944, the Santa Monica Recreation Department hosted the first of four annual tournaments for two-man beach volleyball.

  • The first official two-man beach volleyball tournament was held at State Beach in Santa Monica, California in 1947. There was no prize money on the line for this tournament.

  • The first beach volleyball tournament to offer a prize (a case of Pepsi soda) took place in Los Angeles in 1948.

1950’s

  • Women started to become more involved with beach volleyball. Initially participation was limited, but now they were forming two-woman teams and competing in tournaments.

  • Among the players, the first circuit of tournament play was organized, and included beaches in Corona Del Mar, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Laguna, as well as State beaches in California.

  • In Brazil, the first newspaper-sponsored tournament took place.

  • “Beachmania” was introduced, a beach volleyball entertainment show that also included beauty contests in the program.

1960’s

  • In California, beach volleyball becomes a mainstream sport and the rest of the country was starting to take notice.

  • Competitive tournaments are now held at 13 of the top California beaches.

  • The first Manhattan Beach Open takes place in 1960.

  • The CBVA (California Beach Volleyball Association) is founded in 1965 and became beach volleyball’s first official governing body.


1970’s

  • Prize money for major US events goes up to $11,000.

  • The first beach volleyball event takes place outside of California in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

  • In 1974, Winston Cigarettes sponsored a beach volleyball tournament in San Diego, making it the first commercially sponsored tournament.

  • In 1976, the first professional beach volleyball tournament was held at Will Rogers State Beach in California.

  • In 1978, Jose Cuervo Tequila becomes the sport’s first major sponsor.



1980’s

  • In the United States, the first sponsored tour is organized.

  • In 1981, Miller Brewing Company becomes another major sponsor.

  • In 1983, the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) is founded.

  • Professional beach volleyball makes it network debut on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1986.

  • In 1986, the Australian Pro Beach Circuit and the WPVA (Women’s Professional Volleyball Association) is formed.

  • In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil the first international beach volleyball exhibition was held.

  • In Brazil, the FIVB Men’s Beach Volleyball World Championships are held for the first time in 1987.


1990’s

  • For the first time ever, beach volleyball is included at the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia.

  • Women’s and Men’s World Championships are organized in Europe.

  • Beach volleyball becomes even more popular thanks to the Olympics and television.

  • The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona helped beach volleyball gain world recognition as a demonstration sport.

  • In 1992, the first women’s FIVB event was held in Almeria, Spain.

  • Beach volleyball was officially included in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

  • Beach volleyball makes its official debut on NBC Sports.


2000’s-Present

  • In 2002, beach volleyball court dimensions were officially reduced.

  • To help encourage future generations, the FIVB introduces the Under-21 and Under-18 Beach Volleyball World Championships.

  • The NVL (National Volleyball League) is formed.

  • Beach volleyball shows up at US colleges and quickly becomes one of the NCAA’s “emerging sports.”

  • In Le Lavandou, France the first Junior Under-21 Beach Volleyball World Championships are held.

  • The first ever indoor beach volleyball tour was called “Hot Winter Nights” and was held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

  • In 2002, Holly McPeak became the first woman to earn more than 1 million dollars in prize money.

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