DEL MAR — Already considered a top training facility, WAVE Volleyball recently completed an expansion project that triples the amount of playing space and allows the Del Mar-based club to serve more players at all skill levels.
But as owner Brennan Dean said at a May 18 ribbon cutting, it’s not all about sports.
“We’re proud of what we’re able to teach these young athletes through team sports,” he said. “We think it’s just a unique, special place to teach kids life skills like teamwork and hard work and cooperation.”
“It’s amazing how the team camaraderie and character building … are building strong members of our community,” added Matt Olson, his beach volleyball business partner. “We’re really excited to be part of that. We’re so happy to offer this facility to North County and beyond.”
Founded in 2000 by Ed Machado — uncle of famed local surf legend Rob Machado — WAVE started as a three-court training center in oversized tent east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, on property owned by the state agency.
Dean, who played at Torrey Pines High School and later coached the girls team there, and his wife, Kristen, bought it from Machado five years ago.
Since then the popularity of women’s beach volleyball has exploded. An Olympic sport since 1996, it became an NCAA championship in January 2015 after 40 schools added teams and scholarships could be granted.
“The demand for high-level coaching and experience shot through the roof,” said Olson, a former pro beach volleyball player and 1998 La Costa Canyon High School graduate.
WAVE uses space at North Beach in Del Mar to accommodate beach players. Still, because of limited overall space, about 75 percent of athletes seeking a spot on any of the club’s competitive teams were turned away.
Dean and Olson knew it was time to expand, which they did with help from Doug and Lindsey Forsyth, their partners in the new facility.
“When we first started talking about it we were going to have one sand court,” Dean said. “Then we decided, ‘Let’s build the best facility in Southern California, if not the state.”
The project, which began three years ago, includes a 25,000-square-foot indoor facility with four courts featuring Taraflex, point elastic resilient floors now used in the Olympics.
“It has shock absorption so there won’t be as much physical punishment on the body,” Dean said. “It feels like you’re on a yoga mat.”
The indoor courts have been in use for about a year. Dean said some athletes who went on to play in college told him they notice the difference and really miss the flooring at WAVE.
Although beach volleyball continues at North Beach, the new facility has three outdoor lighted sand courts and a few new amenities, such as parking, showers and indoor restrooms.
Other features of the building that were recently completed for the ribbon cutting include an upstairs viewing area for parents that overlooks all seven new courts, rooms where athletes can do homework or “decompress” after school and a state-of-the-art gym for WAVE’s agility and strength program.
Dean said a volleyball professional formulated a workout schedule specifically for volleyball players to ensure peak performance throughout the year.
“We’ve already found it’s making a huge difference,” he said.
Dean credits most of WAVE’s success to the coaching staff, which includes many former college players, professionals and Olympians such as Steve Timmons, one of the most medaled volleyball players in U.S. history, and Beverly Buffini, an alternate for the 1988 Seoul team.
WAVE also has a full-time college recruitment staff for beach and indoor volleyball to help those who want to play at the next level.
Many WAVE athletes have gone on to play for elite and Ivy League colleges such as Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale, the University of Southern California and Stanford.
Karsta Lowe won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last year. Natalie Hagglund, her former La Costa Canyon High School teammate, was an alternate.
The club now serves about 600 kindergarten through 12th-grade athletes on 40 teams. It also offers adult beach open play and agility and strength classes.
The cost for student athletes ranges from $100 for a four-day camp to $5,000 for nine-month training that includes tournament fees, uniforms and coaches from four area colleges.
“The experience we can share with the youth of today has been really rewarding and exciting for us,” Olson said.
“We used to be an elite club and had to turn away families because of limited space,” Dean said. “But now we’re able to … bring in so many more new kids at different levels.
“We love the sport so much, we wanted to give back,” he added. “It’s been a fun endeavor. … Thank you to the community for being so supportive of this great club.”