There are some conflicting suggestions as to when and where beach volleyball started but there is significant documentation to suggest that it started on the beaches of Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, at the Outrigger Canoe Club around 1915. Since then the sport has grown rapidly around the world with the first official World Championship happening in 1987, in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro. Many see Brazil as the spiritual home of beach volleyball and it’s definitely a sport that they excel in.
Beach volleyball became a part of the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and has been in the Olympics ever since with the number of countries playing increasing each time. The most unusual setting was last Olympics in London 2012 when 2,274 tonnes of sand was loaded onto horse guards parade in central London. It is not however without its controversy as a sport though facing significant opposition to the kit worn by the female athletes. This often takes up more column inches than the sport itself but in talking to the players I have yet to find one that has an issue with it and in fact they think it’s a positive thing as Zara Dampney (Team GB London) said “I think that it was really beneficial for the sport it got people into the stadium, it got people watching it on television to find out what it was all about. It worked in our favour.”
By far the most successful beach volleyballers are Kerri Walsh and Misty May who are the only pair to never lose a match in the Olympic Games. Their career saw them win gold in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012! The two favourite countries to win hold the records for most medal placements in beach volleyball with the USA being the only country to win gold in either the men’s of women’s in every Olympiad and not far behind them, Brazil who have won gold or silver in every Olympics. Given that this is Brazil’s home games the advantage sits with them I think.
Twenty-four team with forty-eight athletes will be competing for glory in Rio with a total of 54 matches being played across the competition format. Taking place between the 6th and the 18th of August at the world famous Copacabana Beach, amazingly it is only the third time that it will be played on an actual beach.