European beach volleyball players dreaming of success used to have to pack and head off to Hermosa or Manhattan Beach in California, or Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, to get their fill of winter training. Players from Brazil and USA dominated the sport and it's no wonder that players around the world travelled to their home sands to pick up some experience. And if it wasn’t Rio or LA, it was Australia and Manly Beach.
As beach volleyball has progressed and professionalised over the years, however, European teams have become much more of a force in the world game. Twenty of the men's top 30 teams in the world, and half of the women’s, are currently European, and they no longer have to travel quite as far for that strong competition. And as European beach volleyball has grown over the years, Las Vistas Beach in Tenerife has got busier and busier.
A two-time European champion, Marleen van Iersel chose to make Tenerife her base and trains at Las Vistas all year around. Other teams have chosen to visit once, twice or maybe even three times in a season. One of the most experienced teams on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, Spaniards Liliana Fernandez Steiner and Elsa Baquerizo have trained in Tenerife since 2005.
“Men started training here in the 90s, before the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games," said Lili. "Sixto Jimenez invited different teams to train here because of the weather and conditions. He started coaching Pablo Herrera and Javier Bosma, and then Pablo and Adrian Gavira, so over the years more and more teams have attended training camps here in Tenerife.”
“The women were different. There were no women’s teams training here until 2005/2006 when we were still juniors. Little by little, however, junior teams started to come to Tenerife and when we started to get results, senior women teams started to join us for training too. Then it started to be for longer periods, not just February and March, but November, December and January, depending on what they were training for.”
Sixto Jimenez may have led the way, enticing teams to Tenerife during his Olympic journey to Atlanta 96, but Danny Rodiguez Wood, former coach of Lili and Elsa and current coach of Switzerland, lives on the island and says the courts were busier than ever before Christmas, with four courts full all day, from dawn to dusk.
Lili, for one, believes the island has it all.
“We have done training camps in L.A. and Brazil and they were both great, but having Tenerife and so many teams close to Tenerife, you have the same environment as you would there. You do miss the high level competition from Brazil, USA and Canada, but if you want good facilities, good weather and good teams, then Tenerife has it all.”
Joining the Spaniards and Marleen van Iersel and her partner Pleun Ypma this year were the European champions Anouk Vergé-Dépré and Joanna Heidrich and their Swiss teammates Tanja Huberli and Nina Betschart. Also spotted post-Christmas were Czechs Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova. The two Olympians love the convenience of Tenerife, especially at this time of year.
“Tenerife is awesome. Not only is it the only place we can go to train right now, but also everything is very easy there. Four courts right on the beach, many teams to practice with, stable weather conditions and it's way cheaper than to fly to Rio or L.A.,” said Slukova.
It’s not just the women who have been flooding to Tenerife, the men have been there in full force too. The Swiss national teams of Mirco Gerson and Adrian Heidrich, Marco Krattiger and Florian Breer, and Yves Haussener and Quentin Metral are on their second camp in Tenerife. Also present were Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi, who joined the former world champions Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen and 2019 vice world champions Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler.
Latvians Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs enjoyed their first off-season in Tenerife too, after spending last season in Rio. The pair have played together since 2013, and Samoilovs is a fan although it can be a little bit too busy for his liking!
“It was our first time in Tenerife in December. Why Tenerife, firstly because it is Europe and with this situation with Covid it’s hard to go further. Secondly there are many teams here and you can always find one to spare with.
“As there are only four courts, however, most of the time we have to practice early in the morning, and it is pretty chilly for the first 30 minutes. The sand is also pretty hard. But overall it is a very nice training place for the winter months.”
The fact that courts are busy makes for similarities with the shores of Rio and LA. And over the years, the Spanish teams have managed to create a culture and environment in a great climate, that seem to keep attracting Europe's best sides.
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020