Air & Speed, whose roster includes Summer Foley, Kim Valverde, Jon Jamet, and Dan Weaver, took over first place last Thursday in the 10-team beach volleyball league at Gurney’s Inn with a 9-1 record.
Organized beach volleyball has been a rarity here in the past 20 years, and the 4-on-4 games Kathy McGeehan has been overseeing at Gurney’s have proved popular indeed.
“It’s a good way of getting the kids to train without knowing it,” McGeehan, who coaches East Hampton High School’s girls volleyball team, said when questioned later in the week. “They think of it as a pleasant evening on the beach, and this coach is happy that they do, for beach volleyball is a great way to train for the indoor game. You get to play all the positions, you improve your vertical leap, your agility. . . . Going from sand to indoors has great benefits. The Shelter Island coaches and I agree on this.”
The aforementioned S.I. coaches, Cindy Belt and Karen Gibbs, have entered two teams in the league, and though Kelsey McGayhey, apparently the sole Shelter Island High School female ever to be all-county in two sports (volleyball and basketball) is not among them, Belt reported that McGayhey is to play the sport at Springfield College in Massachusetts come the fall.
“She’s a lefty, so she’ll probably be used as a right side hitter,” said Belt, who’s in her 10th year of coaching Shelter Island’s girls varsity, and who added that despite McGayhey’s absence, “we’ve got some great kids [five girls and three boys] here.”
Shelter Island had lost a very close match to the eventual Class D state champion in a regional final last fall, Belt said.
Gibbs said, when asked to compare the beach and indoor versions, “If you’re quick on the court, you’ll be slow on the sand. Playing on the beach makes you a better all-around player.”
One of the league’s sponsors is Diplomatico Rum of Venezuela. “Rum in Venezuela is like cigars in Cuba,” said Chris Carney, owner of the Railroad Avenue Fitness Studio, who’s the privately owned company’s “Hamptons ambassador.”
“It’s very big in South America and Europe — it’s won all sorts of awards, in Madrid, in New Orleans . . . but it’s just beginning to be introduced here,” said Carney, a former Montauk Rugby Club player who is known more widely for his cross-country bicycle trips on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Carney suggested that McGeehan form a league, under Diplomatico’s sponsorship (Gurney’s and Smartwater are the other sponsors), and McGeehan, who retired from teaching this year but who is continuing to coach girls volleyball here, took him up on it.
Every Thursday night, beginning at 6, the 4-on-4 games are played on three courts at the foot of the inn. Spectators can avail themselves of a beachside bar, where Diplomatico’s offerings, including its smooth 12-year Reserva Exclusiva, are also on display.
Going into last Thursday’s competition, Sloppy Tuna, a team of Montauk lifeguards — Marta Johann, Peter Johann, Andrew Foglia, Garner Minetree, Trevor Shea, and David Carman among them — had been in first, at 6-0, but finished the evening tied for second, with Carney’s team, the Beach Diplomats, at 8-2. These teams are to open this evening’s action.
Carney’s team has on it a former Olympian, Kofi Sekyiamah of Ghana, who represented that country in the decathlon in the 1988 Games.
Sekyiamah said, with a smile, in between matches, “We’re the team to beat — we have a target on our back.”
Asked how he liked East Hampton, he said, “I love it out here.” As for the league, it was “a great idea. . . . My objective is to teach the young people here, the 9-through-16-year-olds, how to improve their health through nutrition and exercise. I’m for any activity that gets them off the couch, anything that will get them outdoors.”
Sekyiamah added that he was looking forward to the Olympics’ 2-on-2 beach volleyball competition. “The U.S. should do well,” he said.
Summer Foley, who rooted her mother on at the Montauk Lighthouse sprint triathlon Sunday morning, said she missed playing 2-on-2, which she and McGeehan had done in Newport, R.I., and at Cedar Beach last summer. For her part, McGeehan said she was tempted to do the triathlon, as she has in the past — “we live on East Lake Drive, near where it started” — but thought better of it inasmuch as she’s still recovering from meniscus surgery.
Valverde, an honorable mention all-American when she was East Hampton High’s libero, is to play at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla., this year, beginning soon.
“It’s a pipeline for Division I schools in Florida,” McGeehan said. “I’m excited for her.”