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News Every Day |

Mark Paaluhui and the revival of the 2024 Hermosa Beach Open

The 2024 Hermosa Beach Open is September 4-7 in Hermosa Beach, California. The qualifier is September 4, followed by the main draw.
Volleyball TV will stream the event. For more information and how to support, go to


HERMOSA BEACH, California — The return of professional beach volleyball in Hermosa Beach this year started with popcorn.



In November of 2023, when it was becoming clear that the city of Hermosa and the AVP weren’t going to come to terms on hosting a professional event the following year, members of the Hermosa Beach government reached out to Mark Paaluhi, a 53-year-old who had been raised between First and Second streets in Hermosa and made the gigantic move north, all the way to … 16th Street.

He’s a Hermosa lifer, Paaluhi, a man who began his playing career on the AVP at its zenith in the mid-90s and, soon after, witnessed its first of many collapses.

“I was fortunate enough to play when I did,” he said. “I was blessed but also cursed because I came in at the peak of the tour, with the prize money, excitement, NBC, all that fun stuff. After my fourth year it just went down, and we’re riding a roller coaster going downhill, prize money is falling out of the sky. I was at my peak. I had just turned to 27, 28 it was pretty much washed away for me at that point.”

But he stayed in the game, playing through the early 2000s, co-founding SandCourt Experts, constructing beach facilities all over the country, maintaining close relationships with the players past and present. More important, he stayed in the city. Which made him the perfect man for representatives of the city to contact.

What did he need to put on an event the size — if not bigger — than what the AVP did in 2023?

Simple: The players’ participation, and prize money — “$200K worth of prize money,” he said, “would be a great start.”

“They said OK, and they dabbled back and forth, and it sat for a couple months,” Paaluhi said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “We brought it back up at the beginning of the year, talking about how we can make it happen and the city was overwhelmed with a bunch of stuff they were doing event-wise and city-wise. It just sat there and they came back in March and said we don’t know if we can pull this off. I said OK and I just washed my hands of it.”

It was off, then. No beach volleyball in Hermosa Beach, one of the finest beach volleyball towns in the world. Until Paaluhi attended an AVCA convention, and learned of the magic of popcorn. A coach had raised thousands upon thousands of dollars for his team by selling bags of popcorn. Paaluhi did the same with his indoor team at Redondo Union. Accustomed to pulling in a few hundred bucks here and there, his little popcorn fundraiser hauled in seven thousand dollars.

It got him thinking.

“When I was going through this with Hermosa, I kept thinking ‘how can I do this?’ The popcorn thing came back into my head,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m crazy. Well, I’m not crazy. I started doing the math. Let’s say there’s 100 players, and if 50 players got 100 people to buy $100 worth of popcorn, that would jump to 5,000 people, and if we got $50 from each person, we could easily hit our goal. We could do this. It’s possible.”

Back to the city he went.

He’d take on everything — the funding, the permitting, the logistics, all of it. All they had to do was approve the permit, which they did on an expedited schedule.

“I just gave it a shot,” Paaluhi said. “I talked to you guys and many of the players and nobody said no. So I said let’s keep going. We got the permit the 28th of May and we’re good to go. Here we are.”

Here we are: an independent event, hosted by a city in California’s famous South Bay, for the first time since the 2010 Manhattan Beach Open, a tournament that has since become legend — an old school tournament put on by beach volleyball purists. No grandstands. None of the extra hoopla.

Just a beach, a ball, and the players.

Just the way Paaluhi wants to run the 2024 Hermosa Beach Open.

“That’s what sparked this thing. For me, personally, and a lot others as well, we’re a little frustrated with how things have gone for our sport,” he said. “This is our opportunity, not just mine, but our opportunity to put something together, have some fun with it, bringing it back to what we feel would make this sport good again and make it exciting. My hope is that people will engage in this, be a part of the sponsorship, come out and support it when it happens.”

The event will be held September 4-7 on the north side of the Hermosa Beach Pier, and it will feature a 32-team main draw for both genders, with eight teams coming out of an uncapped qualifier. And here’s the fun twist: There will be one foreign wild card in the main draw and qualifier per gender, and any American player can play with any international player, making for unique, never-before-seen teams who might never be seen again — and it will all be available either in person or on Volleyball TV, who will be streaming the event.

“All the players around the world want to come here,” Paaluhi said. “New Zealand was just here training for the Continental Cup, China, Japan, everyone comes here. That should say a lot about the culture here and the beaches here.

“There’s so many things that are driving me to do this. We have all these people who are critics, and one of these things is that people will learn from this, including the city of Hermosa and what it takes to help support this sport. They’re a big asset of this sport. Manhattan grasps it, they understand it. The AVP, I hope they learn something from this as well. And the fans and the players. That’s why I put some of the onus on the players to help, because if they don’t do anything, if they say ‘Thanks Mark’ and let it go and don’t do anything, it’s kind of like ‘eh, this is why we didn’t succeed.’

“I want everybody to be a part of it and have ownership. That’s why I don’t want a CEO or promoter running it, it’s our product, the fans and the players, to make this happen and have some fun with it. It’s not about me or you, it’s about us and this sport, and hopefully we can keep this going and it gives people some ideas about how this sport should move forward in the future and the good stuff of it.”

Hermosa Beach
Hermosa Beach stadium,/Ed Chan,

The post Mark Paaluhui and the revival of the 2024 Hermosa Beach Open appeared first on


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