Like many Oak Bay teens, Kai Higuchi and Lukas Maffia plan to spend their summer playing on the sand.
But instead of sunbathing on Gonzales or playing ladder ball at Willows, the two 16 year olds are already in the midst of a successful beach volleyball season.
This week the duo are in Vancouver for a training block ahead of the Vancouver Open, July 12 to 14 at Kitsilano Beach (the pros go July 13 to 15). On June 23 the boys won the Sand Series tournament at Spanish Banks. It was six matches in one day and they ended it by defeating the same team in the final that they had defeated in the final of last year’s 15-and-under provincials.
“By the end of the day you’re getting pretty tired,” Maffia said. “You’re in the sun, it’s a long day, [but actually] once we got to the final it was in the rain.”
As indoor volleyball players the two soon-to-be Grade 11 students played on both the Oak Bay junior and senior volleyball teams this year and also won the U16 club championship with the Victoria Volleyball Association team. They have been playing together since Maffia joined Higuchi on the Central middle school boys team in Grade 7.
As a beach volleyball team, they’ve won the right to represent B.C. this summer and are hoping to raise up enough money to visit California and Toronto.
When they’re in town, they can be seen training on the sand courts at UVic’s Ian Stewart Complex.
Volleyball has become the sport of focus for both athletes. They already know they’d like to play at the post-secondary level, with a goal of playing at the national level.
When they play at the provincials later this summer there will be scouts for post secondary sports programs in Canada and the NCAA, where beach volleyball is big. The two aren’t focused on indoor or outdoor yet.
“We’re not closing any doors,” Higuchi said. “Beach is fun because it’s a lot more individual. There’s a lot more touches, and more responsibility, and your play contributes to winning. Also, the coaches for [beach volleyball] aren’t making game decisions, they’re not a big part of the game, you have to coach yourself through decisions.”
You also develop a lot of one-on-one trust factors, Maffia said.
“You have trust your partner to make the play. Plus, beaches are fun.”
The ultimate goal this summer is to travel to nationals in Toronto, which are in August.
They boys plan to visit Hermosa Beach, California, for the U.S. nationals at the end of July.