Volleyball

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.

Episodes

This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features AVP professional beach volleyball players Rafu Rodriguez and Piotr Marciniak, former partners in 2017 who have agreed to compete together again during the AVP Champions Cup. 

On this episode, we discuss:

- Rafu's recent cross-country move from Southern California to Florida.

- Piotr's move from Poland to Florida, and the life he has been able to build there in the eight years since.

- How much the two have been able to train and play in Florida, despite Covid-19

- Why they chose to partner up again in 2020

- Piotr and his wife, Kaya, and the success they had on the NVL from 2013-2016

- Piotr's transition into becoming a dad, and the blessings that have come from it

- Piotr playing with so many different partners in the last two years, and the lessons he has learned

Big thanks, as always, to listening to the show. And a big thanks, as always, to our sponsor, Wilson Volleyball, who makes the BEST ball in the game. To get a discount of 20 PERCENT OFF, use our code, Sandcast-20. 

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This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features Casey Patterson, one of the biggest personalities and talents on the AVP Tour since Donald Sun brought it out of bankruptcy in 2012. 

In the past nine seasons, Patterson has won 14 AVPs, qualified for the Rio Olympics with Jake Gibb, and was named the AVP Team of the Year three times. He has since partnered with Stafford Slick, Theo Brunner, Chase Budinger and, once again, Theo Brunner. 

On this episode of SANDCAST, we discuss

- Patterson's insane nine-day stretch in 2009 in which he won the Swedish Tour, flew back to California for the birth of his first child, flew to New York to win his first AVP with Ty Loomis. 

- His journey into volleyball, including riding the bench at BYU, and living on a floor in Hawai'i with $42 and a skateboard to his name. 

- The early grind of being a professional beach volleyball player, living, as he calls it, a "gypsy life," finding anyone who would play with him and doing it, no matter where in the world it would take him. 

- How the Covid-19 shortened season is different from the multiple bankruptcies Patterson has experienced in the sport. 

- His 2012-2016 run with Jake Gibb, and how his big personality was not only ok with Gibb, but encouraged

- The development of Casey's "hype-man" personality, otherwise known to Patterson as going "full-Hulk mode." 

- His breakup with Chase Budinger, and how he handled it with more class and respect than he would have previously, because he's simply in a different phase of competing. 

- His thoughts on the AVP Champions Cup, and all of the crazy partner switches currently happening. 

This episode, as always, is brought to you by Wilson Volleyball. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20, to get 20 percent off on the best equipment in beach volleyball. 

Watch the full episode on our YouTube channel!

In case you haven't heard, Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter wrote a book! It's called Volleyball for Milkshakes, and we'd love it if you picked up a copy and let us know how it is! You can buy on Amazon.com!

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This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features a fun announcement from the hosts: They have co-written and published a book!

Their book, Volleyball for Milkshakes, is out today! The easiest place you can find it is on Amazon, and the audio version will be out in a week or so!

This episode covers, first and foremost, the book: how it came about, what it’s about, and how the podcast influenced the narrative. At the bottom of the show notes, we’ll provide the synopsis.

We also answer a number of fan questions, so thank you to all who submitted them!

  • We take a look at all the new teams signing up for the AVP Champions Cup, and why there are so many breakups happening despite no tournaments having been played just yet (hint: POINTS!)
  • Who our underdog picks are to stand out during the Champions Cup
  • If the AVP were to host a co-ed tournament, who would we pick as a partner?
  • Tri’s perspective on the AVP’s Covid-19 precautions
  • Who is our fantasy four-man team
  • Who has been practicing regularly and who might be a bit rusty
  • Which non-coastal city would we like to see the AVP host a tournament?

Thanks as always for listening, and supporting the show. As always, this show is brought to you by our guys at Wilson Volleyball, the No. 1 source of equipment for all things beach volleyball. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20 for 20 percent off! 

SYNOPSIS OF VOLLEYBALL FOR MILKSHAKES

Tri had anxiously been waiting for this day throughout the entire school year: The beginning of summer, when his days would be filled with beach volleyball, surfing, and more beach volleyball. But when he signs up for summer beach volleyball at Outrigger Beach with his best friend and partner, Trevor, he discovers the devastating news that Trevor had teamed up with his arch rival, Ricardo.

Now Tri, with the help of his tough love Auntie, must befriend a misfit named Travis, building a new team, a new partnership, and a deep friendship that changes his view on beach volleyball, and life.

In this first-of-its kind novel, SANDCAST podcast hosts and professional beach volleyball players Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter take you through a fictional tale that will inspire, humor, and teach lessons that will last a lifetime.

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This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features Falyn Fonoimoana.

Times have, obviously, been a bit fraught lately. Between Covid-19, George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing riots, tension has been high. Fonoimoana, one of only a few black athletes on the AVP Tour, has been outspoken on social media on the racial issues throughout the United States. This conversaion on SANDCAST covered much more than the standard beach volleyball chatter typically featured on the show.

On this episode, we discuss:

  • Fonoimoana’s upbringing in the California South Bay, a predominantly white and affluent community, and her experiences growing up as one of only a few black individuals.
  • Recent experiences she’s had involving racism, including a bizarre run-in at Lazy Acres, a grocery store in Hermosa Beach.
  • Why she has been so active on social media, and what she’s hoping to achieve by it.
  • What we as a volleyball community can do to continue having conversations on uncomfortable topics, no matter what your stance on these topics may be.
  • Plans she has to improve this community, including launching a start-up non-profit business, similar to her uncle Eric Fonoimoana’s Dig For Kids Foundation.

 

This episode, like all episodes, is brought to you by our guys at Wilson Volleyball. The beaches are opening up again, so it's about that time to get some new OPTX volleyballs, using our discount code, Sandcast-20, for 20 percent off! 

You can watch the full episode on our YouTube channel!

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This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features University of Hawai'i assistant coach Evan Silberstein. 

Silberstein is a New York native turned full-blown Hawai'ian. He has been the assistant at Hawai'i for six years now, helping the Bows become one of the perennial powers in NCAA volleyball. 

In this episode, we cover:

- How Silberstein came to Hawai'i from, of all places, New York City. 

- How he left his own law practice on the Island to take a volunteer position at the University of San Francisco

- Taking his dream job at the University of Hawai'i, and how different that dream is from his initial dream of practicing law for a living. 

- The art and importance of developing rapport with his athletes. Indeed, it was Silberstein who drove a van nicknamed the "Vegan Vaagen" at Hawai'i, ensuring all of the more dietary conscious athletes got their needs fulfilled. 

- Why AVP Hawai'i is generally devoid of fans despite such a rich beach volleyball culture. 

- What the NCAA beach volleyball scene will look like following Covid-19. 

I hope you enjoy this episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. As always give some love to our sponsor, Wilson Volleyball, and for a 20 PERCENT discount on all Wilson products, use our discount code, Sandcast-20

You can find the full video on our YouTube channel: SANDCAST Podcast

The write-up is available at VolleyballMag.com!

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This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features longtime beach volleyball coaches and advocates Megan Burgdorf and Michelle Meyer. 

The two have been involved in the sport in virtually every capacity. Both were players at the college level -- Burgdorf at Cleveland State, Meyer played club at UC Santa Barbara before an overseas career in Denmark -- and have coached at all levels of the game. 

With the advent of the college game, however, the sport has exploded in numbers, and Meyer and Burgdorf saw a number of opportunities for a business to bridge many of the gaps being created. Thus, they launched Beach Volleyball Consulting. 

It's a wide-ranging business, and in the episode, we discuss every corner of the game the two are covering, from grassroots to men's college beach to the AVP and FIVB. 

On this episode, we cover:

- How Beach Volleyball Consulting was launched, and whom it serves

- The advent of men's collegiate beach volleyball, and how Burgdorf and Meyer are spearheading an effort to make it happen

- The importance of athletes building their own personal brands and adding value to their community

- College athletes getting paid 

- The Pro Athlete Mentorship Program launched by Beach Volleyball Consulting that is connecting the top players in the country to juniors all over the United States

 

Thanks, as always, for listening to the show. 

This episode, as all are, is sponsored by Wilson Volleyball, who makes the best ball in the game. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20, to get 20 percent off!

 

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The idea for this episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter came, as most do, on a whim.

Tri had been talking to Wilson, our main sponsor of the show and who also sponsors some of the most talented athletes on the AVP. Wilson wanted to know if we could do a roundtable of sorts: All seven Wilson athletes – Tri Bourne, Stafford Slick, Riley McKibbin, Madison McKibbin, Casey Patterson, Kelly Reeves, Sarah Sponcil, Irene Pollock – on a single podcast. Adding in my voice as a host of the show, making it eight in total, seemed crowded. A good idea, but a noisy one.

We decided to cut the number down to four – five, including me, the moderator – and have a debate-style show, not unlike ESPN’s Around the Horn. You’ll have to let us know what you think.

We cover 15 topics, including, but obviously not limited to:

  • Why Stafford Slick, king of the NORCECA tour, thinks Wilson makes the best volleyball
  • Does Ron Von Hagen belong on beach volleyball’s Mount Rushmore?
  • Is the Last Dance the best sports documentary ever?
  • Is Tim Bomgren the best player yet to win an AVP?
  • Why Riley McKibbin thinks there should be a substitution rule in beach volleyball

 

Let us know what you think. As we mentioned, it’s an experiment, and we have no idea if it was a mess, fun to listen to, or somewhere in between.

 

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Madison and Riley McKibbin can still remember -- with much amusement, as memories go – one of their first disasters as producers of beach volleyball videos on their eponymous YouTube channel. Not that it seemed like a disaster at the time – they rarely do. Riley probably thought it was a stroke of genius when the wind had muffled up the sound of one of those early videos, and rather than redo it, he simply recorded a voiceover, trying to match his cadence on screen.

“You can really tell,” Madison said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “It’s like an old, bad movie, like they’re speaking English words and it’s Japanese.”

“There were some bad decisions that were made for sure,” Riley added, laughing. 

That’s the beautiful thing about being first in an industry with a large fanbase and what was at the time, and still sort of it, an almost entirely untouched gold mine of digital media: Even when bad decisions were made, they didn’t seem bad at the time. They seemed innovative, because the crux of their content was innovative, something that had never really been done before.

When the McKibbins were initially tinkering with the notion of retiring from indoor volleyball, which they played professionally overseas – Madison finished in Greece, Riley in Italy – and switching to beach, they did what anybody in this current generation would do: They searched YouTube.

They found what nobody in any future generation will now find: Little to nothing. Nothing that was great, anyway. There were some out there. But Riley, now 31 and coming off a career-best AVP season, knew he had found a hole. Why he knew that he and Madison thought they could be the answers to that problem is still a mystery to them. Riley had no prior experience editing film. Madison had little, though he did have a camera. An early issue there was that Riley couldn’t even turn the thing on.

In spite of that, Riley said, “we somehow thought we could fill that void.”

They have. And they have done it to such a spectacular degree because the foundation of virtually every video posted on The McKibbin Brothers YouTube channel has remained the same, whether it’s a hilarious voiceover edit, a tutorial on jumpserving, or a supremely well-done vlog: They’re telling stories that ought to be told.

“The thing is,” Madison says in their video following filming the 2020 AVP Media Day, “all these people aren’t just beach volleyball players. They have these passions outside of beach volleyball, which are so differentiating, so spread out all over the place, which makes them them, sometimes these volleyball questions – they get asked every single Media Day.”

They do things different. They don’t ask Alix Klineman what it’s like to transition from indoor to beach. They get her rolling on cooking, and food, to the point that Klineman, one of the more reticent individuals on Tour, actually asked the McKibbins to let her talk more.

“Actually, I have one more,” she said. “I can really just keep going.”

Nobody had ever gotten that story, because nobody had ever bothered. The McKibbins saw the void there. They were unqualified to fill that void. They didn’t care. They filled it anyway.

“It’s been a long learning process and during that learning process we’ve discovered different avenues we could take it,” Riley said. “So it moved just from doing beach volleyball tutorials to workout videos to some blogs to some mini documentary kind of videos. It’s been a pretty crazy, great learning experience.”

They’ve discovered the videos that are most fulfilling to them. The slow-motion replays of matches throughout the season are entertaining, and there is some benefit there, but there isn’t character building. No storytelling. There isn’t the reward of stringing together a narrative, drawing new fans into this sport, as a Formula One docuseries called “Drive to Survive” did for them.

“That’s something me and Riley realized about our content recently,” Madison said. “The ones we’ve been super excited for, you can see it. The ones where we’re like ‘meh’ you can tell as a viewer.”

“It’s almost like YouTube knows how much energy and how excited we are about the videos that we’re making,” Riley said. “When we’re super excited about a project, the views show it. When we’re throwing up filler content to hit that Wednesday quota, YouTube knows: ‘Nope, we’re punishing you. You only put in 75 percent effort’ and we’re like ‘Dammit!’”

They’re back to their metaphorical drawing boards. They couldn’t elaborate on the specificity of future projects, because they don't know the exact direction of them just yet. There are vague ideas, visions – something big out there. They just don’t know precisely what it is.

“Our main goal is to start innovating again,” Riley said. “I think one of the reasons we had such great success in the very beginning was because we spent a lot of time writing and trying to make the content at least somewhat entertaining.”

They’ve accomplished that much. They’ve filled one void, and they’ll surely find more as their abilities evolve and the perimeters of their limits as storytellers and creators expand.

There isn’t a team in beach volleyball better suited to do it.

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 The idea began, like all viral ideas do, with something so blatantly obvious it had been overlooked by everyone. Parker Conley was the rare type of teenaged boy in Arizona who was obsessed with beach volleyball. It isn’t entirely unheard of. A handful of professionals hail from Arizona, and the sport has a small presence.

But it is rare, to be sure.

Conley sought any resource he could to learn the sport. Namely, YouTube. He’d watch anything he could find, no matter the era – old school Sinjin and Karch, all things Taylor Crabb, American or international, male or female. He’d see highlight after highlight, realizing, to his own subtle surprise, that there was no Instagram account that shared them. Other sports – basketball, primarily – have thousands of social media accounts dedicated almost exclusively to highlights, sharing clips that go viral, the type you’d see on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays.

Beach volleyball had none of that.

“I thought,” Conley said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, “I should do it.”

Thus, BounceBeach was born.

Maybe. He waffled between names for a bit, seeking something about beach volleyball and some kind of impressive play within the sport. Bouncing a ball is one of the more highlight-worthy plays – just ask Sean Rosenthal, who is still, 13 years later, asked about his “Vegas Line” – and the alliteration worked.

Conley created the Instagram account, pouring over film from The Hague four-star in 2019 as his first event, and began creating highlights.

“I posted six or seven videos, the quality was horrible, I had a huge watermark, you could hardly see the players,” Conley said, laughing at the memory of his first attempt. “I was like ‘I’m not letting those stay on my page.’”

Nevertheless, the social media world took notice. When a sport is starved for content, particularly highlights that players can use to market their own brand, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the highest of quality. As Conley perfected his craft, the momentum only increased, a snowball careening down the mountain.   

Soon, the pros themselves, the same ones on which Conley had watched so many hours of film, began reaching out: Phil Dalhausser, Jake Gibb, Nick Lucena, Casey Patterson. Could Conley send over a few highlights they could use?

After sitting down for half an hour, processing the fact that it was, indeed, that Phil Dalhausser who had messaged him, Conley would reply: Of course he’d send over a highlight.

“I had no idea where it was going to go,” said Conley, who is 17 and enrolled in online classes both at a high school and Arizona State. “I’m still blown away by how many people are following it. I thought I would eventually hit the cap and I’d stop getting followers but I haven’t hit it.”

If anything, BounceBeach is only picking up speed, taking on a life of its own. It’s morphed into something of an online forum, a place to discuss the highlights, where the best players in the world can beat their chest or poke fun of others. It’s its own subculture, in a way. When Conley posted a video of John Hyden digging a ruthless swing from Taylor Crabb, putting the ensuing transition point away with a jumbo poke that tagged the back line, Crabb commented, in jest, “Who won?”

This ignited a string of amusing comments and debates, becoming its own chat room.

“As I started growing, it’s been cool to see how the pros interact with it,” Conley said. “That was my goal, originally: to have my name known, build a brand for myself in a way. Having it be a forum in a way where pros will talk about highlights has been kind of surreal.”

In less than a year and a half, Conley has amassed nearly 40,000 followers. More than that, he’s created something that virtually every beach volleyball player and fan turns to when seeking highlights. He tapped the latent gold mine of content, becoming essentially the exclusive source of viral clips. The FIVB took note, asking Conley to edit some highlights for them as well, joining the growing list of players.

It’s become almost a competition among players to get their highlights featured on BounceBeach, which has become beach volleyball’s version of SportsCenter.

“It’s been crazy, surreal to see people say ‘I got on BounceBeach!’ I never expected that,” Conley said. “It’s insane. It almost has become something on its own, where people consider it a brand. When I started, I was just posting highlights for the fun of it.”

He’s still having fun with it. Still digging through YouTube, discovering gems with barely any views.

“I’m like ‘How has nobody ever seen this?’” Conley said.

With him, and BounceBeach, now everybody can.  

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On the evening of January 14, UCLA women’s volleyball coach Mike Sealy had the mic. As he expounded on the tremendous careers of his seniors, of which there were just two – setter Cali Thompson and outside hitter Savvy Simo – he turned to Simo and, instead of gushing about her laundry list of accomplishments, said a joke.

“You’re one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached,” he said.

At least, Simo thought it was a joke. Over the past four years, she had been, by her own admission, a “pain in the butt,” something her beach coach, Stein Metzger, will readily, if not warmly, agree to. But Sealy didn’t laugh. Didn’t betray a single sign of amusement. He couldn’t have been more serious, and afterwards, he’d hug Simo and tell her that she’s the best, and to keep in touch.

That’ll be easier to do than Sealy could have known.

Savvy Simo’s coming back to UCLA for one more year.

When the NCAA initially granted an extra year of eligibility for all spring athletes who had their 2020 seasons cut short, Simo had no designs on returning to Westwood. She’d done her four years, playing both beach and indoor. She’d won two NCAA Championships on the beach, piled up 91 wins, completed her sociology major.

She was ready to move on.

“When I found out everything was cancelled I was like ‘Screw it, I’m not coming back, I’m over college, I’ve had my time, I already feel old, I want to play AVP, I want to do interviews, I want to move on,’” said Simo, who went 13-2 on court one with Abby Van Winkle in the truncated 2020 season.

Already, she had plans to move to the South Bay to room with LMU transfer Iya Lindahl. She was going to play on the AVP Tour, launch what is already a promising career in sports media. Move on with her life. As the reaction to Covid-19 spread, and the economy was shuttered and sports, including the AVP, were postponed indefinitely, if not altogether cancelled, reservation began to take root.

With no AVP to play at the moment, few if any jobs readily available, many of her rivals – Kristen Nuss and Claire Coppola at LSU, for instance – returning to school, her roommate, Lindahl, remaining in college, was there any real reason to move on?

It was a picture painted by Rachel Morris, Simo’s old coach at WAVE in San Diego, that ultimately convinced her.

“Look, Savvy,” Morris, a former setter for Oregon, told her, “next May you’re going to be sitting on your couch watching your team compete for a national championship and, win or lose, you’re going to regret not being there.”

“That,” Simo said, “was the tipping point for me. I was like ‘You’re so right, I cannot imagine watching this team play, knowing I could have had an opportunity.’”

She called Metzger. She wanted to come back. It’s simple in concept, but not in execution. There was the academic side of things to work out, since Simo can’t exactly return with no classes on the schedule, only to play beach volleyball for a few months in the spring semester. There is still the thorny scholarship issue as well, something that schools around the country are dealing with. But there was zero chance Metzger would let that interfere with Simo returning. He’d make it work, because if there’s one thing UCLA could use most on its young and talented team, it’s the Bruins’ phenomenal pain in the butt leader.

“I friggin love Stein, I love Jenny [Johnson Jordan], I think they’re both incredible humans,” Simo said. “Literally yesterday, I said ‘I’m sorry for being such a pain’ and he said ‘You really are a total pain but I love you kid.’ I’m so excited to come back.”

The Bruins will be equally excited to have Simo back as well. Simo’s fellow seniors, Lily Justine and Madi Yeomans, are moving on, making Simo, already the vocal leader of the bunch, the de facto captain of a team that featured underclassmen in 50 percent of its starting lineup: Van Winkle (sophomore), Lindsey Sparks (sophomore), Lexy Denaburg (freshman), Devon Newberry (freshman), Rileigh Powers (freshman).

“I took on the leadership role with the other seniors and it was a challenge but I just kinda took it and ran with it and no program is ever perfect but we were on the ups and it was a bummer it was cancelled but thankfully I’m back and I’m fired up to see the potential this team has,” Simo said.

“Me and Stein, we have a really great relationship and I think a reason why we kinda go back and forth is because I do have a really high level of respect for Stein. I listen to everything he says and he is one of the best coaches I’ve had on the beach and he is so smart and I think especially this year, I wanted to win so bad and I know he did too.

“I’ve learned and matured and figured out when to pick my battles and when to not. Even this year, there were times where I was like ‘Stein we need to be doing more of this’ and agree or disagree, I think we both have a common goal and we want to win. He has so much experience but I also have the side of the players and the team and we worked out a balance to find out what’s best. Jenny also plays an incredible role in that balance as a female figure too. People like Sarah [Sponcil] and people like Zana [Muno] were the same: We all just want to win. And that’s an incredible part of UCLA’s culture and I hope it carries out.”

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