When Joel Maag first started playing in the Seaside Beach Volleyball tournament, the conversations he would have with friends after a match revolved around what they planned to do that weekend.
Now, 25 years later, Maag and those same friends still play together in the tournament. But the talk has shifted from weekend plans to bonding over their kids, families and full-time jobs.
“Today, almost all of us have kids. And maybe we aren’t as athletic as we all once were. But it is still great we are playing today,” Maag said. “Between reminiscing about the old days, to experiencing this with our kids today, it has been fun to watch that transition.”
As he has for the last 25 years, the Portland resident will return to play in the Seaside Beach Volleyball tournament Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 10 through 13. He will be on one of the 1,400 teams estimated to register this year. This equates to almost 3,000 volleyball enthusiasts crowding the soft sands of Seaside.
Skill levels vary from casual play to the open division, where world-renowned players compete in the center court for a first-place $4,000 cash prize and prestige.
In its 36th year, the tournament includes players of all ages and has been recognized as the world’s largest amateur volleyball tournament. Many aspects of the tournament will remain the same, but, this year, the youth division will be guaranteed to play at least two days in a row, according to Seaside Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brian Owen.
“These divisions used to be single eliminations, but we wanted to make sure that we were creating a positive traveling experience for these families who are coming from all over the country to participate,” Owen said.
‘So much magic’
While the minutiae of game logistics varies from year to year, what has remained constant over three decades is the feeling of excitement that builds throughout the weekend, culminating Saturday when open players battle for first place.
“I thrive on that environment myself as an extrovert,” Maag said. “There’s so much magic involved with meeting new people and playing alongside such talented players.”
Maag didn’t start playing volleyball until college. At University of Portland, he joined a club team and immediately fell in love with the sport, he said.
In that circuit he heard about Seaside’s tournament, and, after attending one, decided he “didn’t want to be missing any of these.”
Maag started playing in the eight-player division, eventually worked up to the open division, and now competes in what he calls the “dinosaur division” — more cordially known as “golden masters” for people over 45.
But as his volleyball career has progressed, competition is balanced with making memories with his kids and friends.
“For me, it’s a vacation. I’m still competitive and want to do well, but a lot of the people we’re playing with and against have been playing for 20 years. We get to carry on that relationship,” he said.
While Maag has found many reasons to return each year, Owen said what makes this event special for some is just the opportunity to get to play beach volleyball in the first place.
“I enjoy watching the kids get an opportunity to play. Not all players get to have regular beach access, so that is an opportunity, too,” Owen said.
THURSDAY, AUG. 10
8:30 a.m., players meetings and national anthem
9 a.m. Juniors “AM” (morning) wave pool play starts, “PM” (afternoon) wave after
FRIDAY, AUG. 11
8:30 a.m., Adult players’ meeting and national anthem
9 a.m., Adult Doubles and Junior Doubles begin in waves. Parent/Child and Coach/Child pool play begins after Junior bracket finishes
SATURDAY, AUG. 12
9 a.m. Junior Quads and Junior Sixes pool play begin. Parent/Child and Coach/Child brackets begin and finish
SUNDAY, AUG. 13
9 a.m., Junior and Adult Quads and sixes begin and finish