With the Freedom Tower sparkling in the background like a lighthouse and the Henry Hudson shimmering in the sun, the world's best beach volleyball players brought the spirit of Southern California to Manhattan as the AVP Kingston New York City Open concluded last weekend at Hudson River Park's Pier 26.
In the men's division, the top-seeded team, Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson, defeated the number two-seeded Ryan Doherty and John Mayer 19-21, 21-15, 15-12 in a Sunday three-game scorcher. It was the fifth straight AVP title for Gibb and Patterson, extending their match win streak to 25 straight and marking their 10th AVP Tour championship as a team.
And just think: Before they became such a dominant force on the AVP Tour, they won their very first tournament back in 2009 when the AVP brought its tour to Coney Island as one of its East Coast stops. Gibb and Patterson, in spite of their Southern California, surfer charm, are practically adopted sons of New York City.
On the women's side, the number two-seeded Jen Kessy and Emily Day, playing together only for the second time on the AVP Tour, also needed three tight, grueling games to defeat the number four-seeds, Nicole Branagh and Jenny Kropp, 22-24, 19-21, 23-21. It was the 15th AVP title for Kessy, who won a silver Olympic medal in London, and it was also her first win after having a baby. It was Day's second AVP title.
This was the first time the AVP Tour showcased in Manhattan in its 33-year history. In addition to Coney Island, the Jersey Shore has also hosted the tour over the years. This year's AVP Kingston New York City Open was the only stop the tour would make in the Northeast, and it was only the second tournament on the 2015 schedule so far, which is this week headed to Seattle, then onto Manhattan Beach, California, Chicago, Cincinnati, and winding up in Huntington Beach, California--the putative home of this sand-caked, sunbaked sport.
And, yet, surrounded by the skyline of lower Manhattan and with the rolling Hudson River standing in for the gnarly surf of the Pacific, beach volleyball looked perfectly at home on this picturesque island where board shorts are usually not as visible as three-piece suits. And these long-bodied, professional volleyball players diving on and digging themselves out of the sand looked positively native on an island far better known for its more treacherous concrete and potholes.
Stadium Court was packed solid for the semifinals and finals of last week's AVP Kingston NYC stop, proving once again that beach volleyball is one of the most fan-friendly and exciting sports around. It also proves that time-crunched and smartphone-obsessed New Yorkers know when to chill and admire the balletic beauty of a Southern California treasure.