Since 1955, Laguna’s Main Beach has been the backdrop for the Laguna Open, the longest-running beach volleyball tournament in history. From Sept. 9 to 11, players will meet on the sand for the three-day men’s and women’s open competition, the fan-favorite “Battle of the Beaches,” pitting four historic Laguna volleyball beaches against each other in a four-person battle, and the highly anticipated Saturday evening beach party.
The tournament is held in partnership with the California Beach Volleyball Association and the Association of Volleyball Professionals.
Laguna Beach local and winner of Olympic gold at the 2000 Sydney games, Dain Blanton, will be in the announcer’s booth alongside beach legends Sinjin Smith, Randy Stoklos and Dane Selznick. Smith and Stoklos are the most successful winning pair in pro beach history.
“Blanton, is an alumni of Laguna Beach High,” said Laguna Open’s Assistant Director Blair Applegate, who has worked with the tourney for ten years and is a local weekend player at Main Beach. “He grew up in Laguna playing with his brothers, Everett and Kirk. He played for Laguna High and went on to have great success on the pro tour and the Olympics. We’re excited to have him on site.”
But the storied history of beach volleyball in Laguna doesn’t stop there. Jean Selznick won the first seven Laguna Opens from 1955 to 1961. His son, Dane, also announcing this weekend, won the tournament in 1980 and had a successful pro career. He went on to coach Misty Mae and Kerri Walsh Jennings to Olympic gold medals, and has coached several Olympic teams. Selznick is now the head coach for Laguna Beach High School women’s varsity team.
A prize payout of $24,000 for the men’s and women’s open tournament is on the line, up 30 percent from last year. The equal prize purse came into effect in 2021, and Applegate said the Laguna Open is proud to make it happen.
“Also, the women’s and men’s open events are being held together now for the second year in a row,” he said. “The prize money is awarded evenly to the men and the women across both genders, as is done in a pro tennis event. We’re very proud of that in our efforts to represent the city of Laguna well.”
But it’s not just the scenic views that make the Laguna Open special. Applegate said it’s the type of sand that also entices players.
“All the players always comment on playing in Laguna Beach, that there’s kind of a special quality to the sand,” Applegate said. “And there’s no other beaches like playing in Laguna, because of it. Not only that, it’s just a beautiful arena to play in, with the Hotel Laguna right there, the boardwalk going right up against the championship court. All the crowds fill in on towels and lawn chairs, surrounding the players, which kind of harkens back to the beginning of the game.”
“It brings an old-school feel to the tournament,” Applegate went on to say. “We are the oldest tournament, and we don’t plan on bringing in big grandstands and all that, making it into a corporate monstrosity. We like to keep the old-school Laguna vibe alive.”
The Laguna Open is a non-profit, run entirely by volunteers, and always looking for patrons who want to set up an endowment to help grow the event. Applegate said the organizers seek to build the tournament similarly to the Pebble Beach Pro Beach Volleyball.
“We want to bring in the best athletes from around the world, pay them a high purse, and give them a true Laguna Beach experience – the best hotels, the best restaurants and really show them we are the beach town on the West Coast.”
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