There are exactly two indicators in Jake Gibb’s house that there is a professional volleyball living there.
One is a panorama of the 1976 Manhattan Beach Open, the year Gibb was born. The other is a panorama of the 2005 Manhattan Beach Open, the first of three occasions in which Gibb would win and cement his name onto the famed Manhattan Pier.
“It’s just kind of cool to see what it was when I was born, and you see the crowd just lined up like 30 deep watching, I think it was [Steve] Obradovich and I forget who he was playing with,” Gibb said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “Then I have my first win, we played actually Nick and Phil, and I played with Stein [Metzger], and it’s a picture that Stein gave me after.”
Nothing. Nothing from the guy who has been to three Olympics and once, in 2012, finished ranked No. 1 in the world alongside Sean Rosenthal.
“Those,” he said of the Manhattan panoramas, “are the only volleyball pictures I have.”
It really shouldn’t be all too surprising coming from Gibb, who has for years been one of beach volleyball’s most humble ambassadors. It’s not uncommon that his fellow AVP veterans liken him to Tim Duncan, the soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer after a brilliant career with the San Antonio Spurs. It’s easy to see the comparison, for the most notable characteristic the two share – aside from being excruciatingly modest, rarely succumb to any theatrics, unanimously respected by their peers – is this: They just get the job done.
Since the AVP began hosting full seasons again in Donald Sun’s second year of ownership, in 2013, Gibb has won 16 AVP tournaments and competed in five more finals. He has won in Salt Lake City and Cincinnati, in Shanghai and New York, St. Pete’s and Atlantic City. He has won in the torrential rain, as he did in New Orleans of 2015, and stifling heat (Manhattan Beach, 2016).
And, age be damned, at 42 years young, he’s doing it as well as he ever has. In four events this season, his second with Taylor Crabb, Gibb has made at least the semifinals in all four and thrice competed in the finals, beating Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in Seattle.
“I feel like age really isn’t in the equation for me,” he said. “It’s how I’m playing and how I feel and my desire to play and I love playing and I feel like I’m playing well and I feel like I can keep increasing my knowledge of this sport so I want to keep doing it.”
At the moment, it seems he’ll be doing it for another several years longer. Throughout the year, he and Crabb have only improved, finishing their last three FIVB events in the top 10. They claimed a fourth in a major in Gstaad, losing a thriller against current world leaders Anders Mol and Christian Sorum that would have pushed them into the finals.
Two weeks later, at a major in Vienna, they came out of the qualifier to take fifth.
Two weeks after that?
Manhattan Beach, Gibb’s favorite stop. Again, he was in the finals, and had it not been for a swing that went two inches too long at the score freeze in the second set, he’d have had his fourth plaque on the Manhattan Beach Pier with his fourth partner.
“It’s raw right now is where it is,” he said. “I’m going to need some time to let it sit. Like anything, you need time to learn from it, because right now I’m not in that space. Right now, it’s a car ride home by myself with a lot of F bombs and grabbing the wheel.”
There’s not much time for reflection. Two days after Manhattan, Gibb began coaching duties for his son’s soccer team. Then a NORCECA qualifier on the day after that, one that begins the Olympic qualification process. Then it’s onto Chicago, the Netherlands, Hawaii, Vegas, maybe China, he isn’t sure yet.
What he is sure of is this: He wants to go to Tokyo.
And he isn’t ready to retire just yet.