A beach volleyball club that has bounced around a half dozen locations in the past 13 years, including a less-than-beachy location behind the old Whitesides Elementary School in Mount Pleasant has finally found a home.
What: Charleston Beach Volleyball & Social Club is offering pickup games as well as league play.
Where: All games are played at Santi's Restaurante Mexicano, at 1471 Ben Sawyer Boulevard in Mount Pleasant.
When: Pickup games are 6-8 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays and 5-8 p.m. Sundays from now until Aug. 31. Junior leagues started Monday. Adult leagues start June 24 and 25.
Cost: The fees are $5 for pickup games; league play is $50 for eight weeks.
More info: www.charlestonvolleyball.net/
Weeks ago, the Charleston Beach Volleyball and Social Club began play on three newly created beach volleyball courts carved from the woods beside Santi's Restaurante Mexicano in Mount Pleasant.
In its 13th season, the private-but-affordable club has a renewed sense of energy as it enters into summer league play, particularly given the aftermath that the folks on Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms put club founder Jeff Hefel in the summer of 2012.
That's when the town of Sullivan's Island and The Windjammer on the Isle of Palms basically said the club was not welcome, largely because Hefel charged fees.
The island even presented Hefel with a $1,000 ticket.
Hefel moved the club behind Whitesides, on grass courts, and hatched a plan to put courts next to Santi's and started working out the details with his business partner, the landlord and town officials.
"It (all the trouble) was a blessing in disguise," says Hefel, in reference to an improved facility and the club's first-ever permanent home.
Participants are enjoying the deeper, more consistent sand, ease of parking, and easy access to post-game refreshments.
Hefel likes having nets that are permanently up and not having to worry about high tide or excessively high winds.
"The level of play has increased because the rallies are going longer," says Hefel.
Filling a void
I have long wondered why the Charleston area, with basically six beach towns, has such a miniscule beach volleyball scene.
The Windjammer is the hub with courts and tournaments. Sullivan's Island Park has one court, which is rarely used. One beach court near the Folly Beach pier is usually always in use in the warm months. And Creekside Tennis & Swim Club has three sand courts that play host to the College of Charleston women's sand volleyball team.
But it's been the Charleston Beach Volleyball and Social Club that has done the most to offer a variety of league play and regular pick-up games.
For Hefel, who is co-owner of Santi's, the club was never about making money. At best, with it's fees of $50 for eight weeks of league play and $5 for pick-up games, he says it's a break-even proposal.
"I believe in living a healthy lifestyle and beach volleyball combines fitness with social interaction," says Hefel, who first got hooked on beach volleyball when he lived in Chicago where 1,000 people would show up to play on 100 courts along North Avenue Beach during the summer.
Since starting the club in May 2002, he's been one of the most steadfast ambassadors of the sport in Charleston, albeit quite the nomadic one.
Hefel started it at The Windjammer. He then moved to two courts behind the former A Dough Re Mi Pizzeria on the Isle of Palms. When that was sold, he found a home on the faux beach at the Charleston Harbor Resort in Mount Pleasant, which later needed the space for "other opportunities." He then headed to Sullivan's Island, where he set up and broke down courts on the beach near Station 22, and the courts on the beach near The Windjammer. And after the controversies, he kept things alive behind the old Whitesides Elementary in Mount Pleasant.
Dee Knight, 49, of Mount Pleasant, has been playing volleyball with the club for eight years because she loves the competition, fellowship and "scenery." She's very pleased with the new facility.
"Every time I come out here, it's like a dream - is it really real?" says Knight.
Is his string of being bounced around over?
I wondered if he had a crossed the line with anyone in Mount Pleasant and contacted Mayor Linda Page, who has a long, long-time business, Linda Page's Thieves Market, next door.
"I'm OK with it and have heard no complaints about it," says Page. "I think it's great seeing folks playing volleyball."
Reach David Quick at 937-5516.
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