SANDCAST is the leading podcast for beach volleyball and stories in the volleyball world. Hosts Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter take listeners into the world of the AVP, FIVB, NORCECA, and any other professional beach volleyball outlets, digging deep into the lives of the players both on and off the court as well as all of the top influencers in the game.


The McKibbins are not all that different from any other set of siblings, if not a touch more hirsute and athletically inclined.

They fight. They argue. They point out one another’s flaws, sometimes a bit gleefully. And they do this often. Often enough for Riley McKibbin to film a video blog detailing the frustrations of volleyball, and playing volleyball with your brother, and how to deal with these frustrations.

“I think we would both agree that we have a hard time listening to each other,” Maddison McKibbin said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “Just because you’re brothers, if you hear one word of critique, you go straight back to the last thing he messed up on, and you’re thinking ‘Dude don’t talk to me when you’re doing this.’ You revert to it and it’s so bad. I would never treat anyone else like that.

“It’s this battle of trying to take suggestions and criticisms and critiques constructively and I know that sounds very basic but it’s hard when it’s your brother.”

Their relationship is at once their biggest strength and vulnerability. On a tip from defender Geena Urango, a fellow USC Trojan, the McKibbins now pick out three aspects or skills each of them want to work on in practice, which has both improved their volleyball and reduced the resistance to critiques from a sibling.

“If we mess up on something else, it’s ‘I’m not going to get mad at you, you’re not going to get mad at me, we’re just working on these three things,’” Maddison said. “And then enforcing at the end of practice one thing that went well and one thing that we’re working on. The idea is to cut down on the frustration and whatever you want to call it between you and your partner, because when you have a plan, you can call someone out if you really want to, like ‘Hey, Riley, you suck at number two.’”

It’s why this past season was so different for Maddison, who hadn’t played with anyone aside from Riley since 2011. When Riley hurt his hand in the season-opening event in Huntington Beach, Maddison was forced to explore partner options, to play with someone he didn’t share a childhood with, didn’t share the USC court with, didn’t travel throughout Europe with, didn’t grind through the qualifiers with.

What he found was this: Finding, and keeping, partners, is tough. Meshing with new partners is tough.

Playing without your brother is kinda weird.

He played Austin and New York with Reid Priddy, and in the subsequent shuffle prior to Seattle, he wound up with Ty Loomis. And after getting swept out of Seattle, they stunned no small number of people in winning San Francisco just two weeks later.

Most would have thought Maddison and Loomis would stick together. A no-brainer. They were champs!

Then again, most don’t understand the bond between the Beard Brothers.

“When I played with Reid I told him ‘When Riley’s coming back, I’m playing with Riley’ and it was the same thing I told to Ty,” Maddison said. “And Ty wanted to keep going and I completely understand. But to me, I’m an incredibly loyal person, and I love the game of beach volleyball, but we both know that, financially, it’s hard to sustain, and playing with my brother, I love playing with my brother.

“When we win, it’s that much better, and when we lose, it sucks. In order to make this lifestyle sustainable, we have to create content, we have to develop a brand within the sport, and I’m not saying I’m only playing with him because of our brand, but when you win with someone who’s had your back for that long, or has encouraged you to pursue so many different things, that in itself is enough to say that ‘I know I had success with this one person but I’d much rather win with you.’

So my goal is: ‘I want to win with you. I want to be these idiotic beard brothers on the AVP. That’s where I want to be in life.”

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Maddison McKibbin was finished.

Finished with volleyball. Finished with being overseas. Finished with not being paid. Finished with the shady ownership of international volleyball teams. Finished with it all.

He had played the game long enough, beginning at Hawaii’s famed Outrigger Canoe Club then onto Punahou School, where he became a three-time state champ, which preceded four years at USC, where he made a pair of Final Four appearances.

And now there he was, in Greece, looking at his bed, where a random Brazilian man was laying, fast asleep.

Evidently, the owner of McKibbin’s team had signed a new outside hitter. He didn’t tell McKibbin, though apparently he did give the new Brazilian outside the keys to the apartment.

That was it. McKibbin was out. He was going home. Was going to finish his Master’s Degree. Was getting out of volleyball. 

Time for something else. 

Riley McKibbin, Maddison’s older brother of two years, had other plans. He was going to play in Italy. Would Maddison want to come, just to kick it for three months, drink some wine and hang out in Italy?

For that, sure, he could delay grad school for a few months to hang in Italy. So long as he wasn’t playing volleyball, he was in. And then Riley had another idea.

“What if we give beach a try?”

They had the talent. There was no questioning that. They had been raised in uber-competitive Hawaii, alongside Taylor and Trevor Crabb, Spencer McLaughlin, Brad Lawson, Tri Bourne, competing occasionally against AVP legends Stein Metzger and Kevin Wong and Mike Lambert. Both of the McKibbins had played in FIVB Youth tournaments, and they proved they were good enough indoors to compete and make a living at a professional level.

The transition from indoor to beach sounds simple enough. It's a similar game with similar skillsets, where the underlying principle is the same: pass, set, hit. It, of course, was not. They weren’t entirely sure what the state of their beach skills was, so they bought a handful of AVP volleyballs from Costco and exiled themselves to a court in Venice Beach, a few zip codes away from any serious players. And so there it was that you could find two professional volleyball players, practicing in Venice Beach, legitimately mortified that someone might see them dusting off the rust of a game they hadn’t played for the better part of a decade.

“We couldn’t even hit it over the net,” Riley said in an earlier interview. “The transition from indoor to the beach is so hard. We’re both indoor players, and making that switch is a lot harder than people think.”

Unless, of course, you’re the McKibbins. In the first qualifier they entered, not long after scraping the rust off their beach games, in New York City in 2015, they qualified.

And thus the Beard Bros were born.

Their relationship is both like that of any other siblings – fighting and squabbling wrapped in brotherly love – and yet it is also nothing like that of any other siblings. The McKibbins are partners in everything they do. They’re roommates. They’re business partners. They're AVP partners. They shoot the wildly popular McKibbin Volleyball videos together. They vlog together. They play together.

Even when Maddison won AVP San Francisco while Riley sat out with an injury, even when he was fielding calls from Reid Priddy, even when he had no shortage of partner options, there was never any question whom he would be playing with: Riley McKibbin.

“Riley,” he said on SANDCAST, “is the reason I’m playing volleyball right now.”

And so it is that Maddison, so long as Riley is healthy, will not play with another who's last name is not McKibbin. They're a package deal. Whether they're vlogging about the frustrations of volleyball, filming a tutorial from Kelly Reeves on the nuances of bumpsetting, or practicing against Sean Rosenthal and Chase Budinger, they're going to do it together. 

The only thing, for now, that it seems isn't on their agenda? 



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