Beach Volleyball: Beach tour volleyball is coming to Belfast
Belfast is to play host to the Urban Beach Tour, along with the arrival of a team of top volleyball players, as the Phones 4u Urban Beach Tour comes to town from tomorrow until Sunday.
Sixteen players will showcase their talents, on a specially constructed beach volleyball court in Custom House Square, complete with 200 tonnes of golden sand, where they intend to show that there is more to the Olympic sport than just skimpy bikinis.
According to former international player and Beach Kids coach Denise Austin, Miami Beach or Copacabana are not the places you should be learning to play the sport, as playing in the not so exotic conditions of a Northern Irish summer is an essential skill of the game.
"You have to be able to play in really adverse conditions and we always got really good results on the world tour," she said. "In 1999 we were at the world championship in Marseille, where there was a 40mph wind, the players from Brazil couldn't serve, but we could.
"Some of the UK's top players, including Northern Ireland's Allan Moore, Chloe Walkingshaw and Peter Stursa, will be in action and we hope that the spectators will come down to Custom House Square for a unique opportunity to see beach volleyball in your city!"
The event includes junior coaching sessions (Beach Kids), a tournament for local people and businesses to get involved with (Beach Six) and also the Urban Beach Elite, where the stars of the sport will be battling it out on the sand.
Bangor-based NI player Allan Moore adds: "This is the biggest volleyball event we have ever hosted and the elite players are world class. Having played indoor volleyball for some time I only took up beach volleyball three years ago, I couldn't believe how more difficult and demanding a sport it is.
"There are only two players covering the court and playing on the sand is draining. The required strength, fitness and skills far exceed the indoor game and people will be amazed at the physical demands of the players.
"We will be playing against very experienced and long-trained players and I hope we can be competitive. I have now put in place a long-term stepping stone training programme and it is hoped that the younger players now will develop year-on-year with the right coaching into world stars of the future."