Bud Light will flow, music will blare and a host of locals, including 2004 Athens Olympian Dax Holdren, will compete in the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) Santa Barbara Invitational presented by Bud Light this Saturday and Sunday in downtown Santa Barbara at West Beach.
The AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour returns to Santa Barbara to conclude its 2004 season after taking a year off from the venue.
Among the locals to watch are UCSB men’s volleyball Assistant Coach Todd Rogers, former Gaucho standout Eric Fonoimoana and Holdren, who is still beaming from his fifth-place finish in Athens with partner Stein Metzger.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people and it was pretty amazing,” Holdren said. “I’ve won almost every stop that we’ve had here on the AVP and nothing compares to even just competing over there.”
Over the past few years, beach volleyball tournaments have become increasingly more entertainment-oriented. Athens introduced courtside cheerleaders scantily clad in bikinis at this summer’s beach volleyball event, making it the only Olympics event to play music and use cheerleaders.
“I think that’s why a lot of the events at the Olympics were kind of stale and didn’t have a lot of people – because they didn’t have loud music going on and they didn’t have girls in tiny bikinis dancing around,” Holdren said. “You gotta make it somewhat of an experience for people to come so they’ll come back.”
AVP players are some of the most exciting athletes to watch and are swiftly becoming more popular and better paid with this weekend’s purse of $125,000.
“I enjoy getting up and getting to go to the beach, calling the beach my office,” Holdren said. “There are some athletes making enough money that they don’t have to have other jobs and, luckily, right now I happen to be one of them.”
Despite the beautiful office locale, AVP players cannot escape volleyball politics. Holdren and Metzger ended up together when, in the middle of the Olympic qualifying process, their former partners ( Fonoimoana and Kevin Wong, respectively ( decided that they wanted to play together.
“We ended up making it to the Olympics and doing pretty well,” Holdren said.
However, because both Metzger and Holdren stand at 6’3″ and are relatively small for the AVP tour, they elected to switch partners and will be playing with Wong and Jeff Nygaard, respectively, this weekend.
“Jeff and I have practiced two or three time so we’re not going to be a finely tuned machine, but we’re gonna go out there and have fun,” Holdren said.
Holdren and Nygaard will compete in their first event together this weekend at West Beach, just west of Stern’s Warf and East of the harbor. The women’s final will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. with the men’s following at 3:15 p.m.