Beach volleyball is played by two teams of two players on an 8- by 16-metre sand court, divided by a net more than 2 metres high. Points are scored when the ball, hit by hand over the net, lands outside the court or cannot be returned to the opposing team in three hits or less. The difficulties of playing in sun and on sand, along with the potential effects of wind on the ball, make beach volleyball a sometimes challenging sport.
A Sport and Recreation New Zealand survey in 2009 found that 2.5% of New Zealanders played outdoor volleyball, which includes beach volleyball. Beach volleyball is also a popular spectator sport.
Bikini or not?
In 2010 top New Zealand player Anna Scarlett told reporters, ‘People always ask about the bikini. At the end of the day we play in a sports top and the bottoms you get to choose. If you choose to play in one that looks like a g-string, it's the player’s choice, they haven't been forced to. Bikini bottoms are the most comfortable thing to play in so I don't know how you get around that in terms of image.’1
Beach volleyball has been an Olympic sport since 1996, when New Zealand brothers Reid and Glen Hamilton competed. In 2012 New Zealand players Kirk Pitman and Jason Lochhead ranked 30th in the world, while New Zealand coach Craig Seuseu trained the third-ranked German women’s team.. Beach volleyball was Volleyball New Zealand’s high performance focus, and brothers Sam and Ben O'Dea won bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
From the 1990s New Zealand hosted a professional summer competition that attracted international teams. A dispute between Volleyball New Zealand and organisers, as well as loss of sponsorship in 2010 (when the Rugby World Cup directed support away from some other sporting codes), reduced but did not stop the competition, which was taken over by regional associations.
Although beach volleyball was not recognised by the International Federation of Volleyball Associations as part of the sport until 1986, it was being played in New Zealand in the 1970s. Volleyball New Zealand is the national association representing beach volleyball, as well as the indoor version of the sport.
Beach volleyball was, and remains, strongest in the north of the North Island, where the milder weather encourages play. Because of the quality of its sand and its level beaches, Mt Maunganui is sometimes called the home of beach volleyball in New Zealand.