Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Movement

Marc Alheim was taking a leisurely stroll along the striking, sun-drenched MooMba Beach in Aruba.

It was the scintillating summer of 2003.

Staying at a resort on a family vacation, Altheim--a sports junkie with an ever-growing predilection for racket sports--suddenly halted in his sand tracks.

A boggled Altheim witnessed a growing crowd engaging in what appeared to be a volleyball game.

Only the nets weren't regulation size, and the players had tennis rackets in their hands.

It wasn't badmitten. It was nothing he had ever before witnessed.

Enter, Beach Tennis. The brand new sport, one that's burning up the sand in shark-size bites this summer, changed Altheim's life.

He shifted his gear into a new focus. Altheim now has lofty expectations for a sport that he believes is just three years away from Olympic-level.

"It is a thrill," said Altheim during an interview with the NBC Today Show.

"Everyone loves it. It's addictive...I'm a racket guy, and I'm a beach guy. If you combine racket sports and the beach, you have beach tennis.

Here are the basics.

The deflated ball cannot hit the sand. The scoring is identical to regular tennis, only there is only one serve.

"The best part about it is it's very easy to play," said Altheim.

"People of all ages can play it, from 8 to 80. It is a movement...One day it will be an Olympic sport. We have a professional beach tennis tour. We're in ten cities. We're on national television all over the country. So it is a movement."

Altheim continued, "There's other sports that I think are less exciting, that have made it to the Olympic level."

The founder and local pioneer of Beach Tennis USA (www.beachtennisusa.net), Altheim was quick to divulge the recipe for setting up a beach tennis court in your neck of the woods.

"You can play on any beach in the United States of America," explained Altheim.

The essential tools for beach tennis buildup on any sandspot are an old volleyball net, a tennis racket, and a depressurized tennis ball.

These depressurized tennis balls were originally used for paddle tennis. Many area high school teams use them for practice. They can be purchased at the local Sports Authority or Modell's.

Altheim has worked at a furious pace to bring beach tennis to America. The Long Island native competed in the 2004 International Beach Tennis Tournament.

Overwhelmed by the excitement and the event's high-tide level of competition--a total of 300 players competed--Altheim avidly brought the sport to the states.

"I went home and told my friends about this great new sport I found in Aruba," recalls Altheim.

"The following summer, a group of us played beach tennis locally in the Hamptons and Atlantic Beach in New York and in Manhattan Beach in California while we were on vacation. It felt a little awkward getting out there with tennis rackets on a beach volleyball court, but once we started playing a crowd began to gather. They were really intrigued and, more importantly, they all really enjoyed it."

The 2009 Beach Tennis national tour continues this month, with the Evolution Home Theater's Beach Tennis Smash in San Diego. The event is slated for June 19-21.