Did you know there was beach tennis right here in the shore? Did you know there was even something called beach tennis? I didn’t know either of these things until I went down to La Verne and Ocean avenues last Wednesday and met Peter Mundth, owner of the Orange County Sports and Social Club. In fact, I went down there to find out about sand flag football and got an earful about both sports which are offered through his sports and social club. The club is open to “anyone who likes to have fun playing sports and is old enough to drink a beer afterwards.” The website http://orangecountyssc.com/ includes registration, contacts, photos and monthly schedules of all sports.
Patch: How long has this club been in existence?
Peter Mundth: We have been in Huntington for six years and started in Long Beach last summer with co-ed sand touch football and now we have added Wednesday evening sand tennis. We found that a lot of people were driving from Long Beach to come and play in Huntington so I got the idea to do some activities here.
P: What sports are offered through your club?
PM: We have done wiffle ball, kickball, two-hand touch football, ultimate Frisbee and tennis. It is all on the sand. Football generates the most interest. We are currently forming teams for the summer. The season starts June 12th. You can bring your own team or part of a team or sign up alone. We fill in the gaps. Teams need to have extra players so that everyone who is counting on a game that weekend gets to play. The tennis is cool because it is the opposite atmosphere of regular tennis. We have music playing and yell a lot.
P: What is the level of play? Do you have to be a good athlete? How often do teams practice?
PM: The levels are social and very social. As long as you’re here to have fun you are welcome. We do tournament play on Sundays. As far as practice, it is up to the team.
P: What inspired you to start the club?
PM: I moved here from Baltimore. I helped out with a club there. I went to school totally for something else and played lacrosse in college. I realized that my best friendships always got started when I met people playing sports. Those are the ones that last. So, when I came out here I decided to start the club. It’s like middle school PE for adults.
During the entire interview, Peter never stopped smiling. He is one happy guy. Throughout our conversation, he introduced me to everyone who showed up. They also seemed especially happy. One of those is Marc Atheim, who introduced beach tennis to the United States.
Atheim was on vacation in Aruba in 2005 and saw some people playing tennis on the sand. He ended up joining in a tournament and fell in love with it. Atheim was a real estate developer, and when he came back to New York with the real estate market taking a downturn and sand tennis on his mind, he convinced some tennis players to try sand tennis and took them on tour. Atheim said he dove right in, not knowing what he was doing and said he was crazy. He offered prize money for tournaments and went all out. He hasn’t stopped since and takes every opportunity to promote the sport. His only regret is that he copied the game from Aruba, which is one of the few places where they play with a tennis racquet. When he first came out to Southern California, he had people play with the tennis racquet, and later realized that the sport is played around the world (most prominently in Europe) with specially-made paddles. Once he tried the paddles along with the uniquely designed (pretty flat) tennis balls, he knew he had to change and use them (www.beachtennisusa.net).
The tennis game is played by keeping the ball in the air the entire time though Atheim does not like the reference to badminton since it conjures up images of a quiet indoor game.
Whether it is tennis, football or other “middle school-like sports,” you can be sure this group is having a good time. While they welcome sports skill, it was clear from Peter that he intends the socializing aspect to take precedence over the sports skill. Although I must say, the players that were out Wednesday night must have been the “social” ones rather than the “very social,” because they were good.
Beach tennis is played Wednesday evening from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at La Verne and Ocean. Sand football teams are currently being formed. All information to register can be found on the website. Peter says that it is a great group for everyone: singles, couples and friends. As it says on his business card it is “for people who enjoy sports” and “just love to socialize.”