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Volume #1: 1895-1969
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"SANDS OF TIME" is a complete history of Men's and Women’s beach volleyball, including its roots that began with the indoor game.

The following is a selection taken from the book: "THE SANDS OF TIME"


On a sunny afternoon, in 1998, the inventor of Two-Man beach volleyball, Paul "Pablo" Johnson, relaxes in-front of the "fenced-in" Sand & Sea Club.
Photo courtesy of "Couvi"
The idea of the first doubles beach volleyball game is attributed to Paul "Pablo" Johnson, one of the best indoor-doubles players of this era.

Paul had previously organized a beach four-man volleyball format, but on one summer day in 1930, when there were not enough players for 6-Man at "SMAC" (Santa Monica Athletic Club), Charles Conn, Billy Brothers and Johnny Allen joined Johnson to play in the first recorded beach doubles volleyball game.

They didn't feel that two players could cover the full court, so they started out playing on only a "quarter-court." Lines were drawn in the sand by the player's feet, dividing the court into quarters. The quarter of the court, closest to the net, on the east side, measured 15 feet by 15 feet. The east side of the court was generally used because that was the side farthest from the ocean. The side farthest from the ocean was desirable, because in those days the beach was very narrow and the balls had a tendency to roll into the ocean on hard hit spikes.

Johnson, being the tallest player of the four, teamed with Brothers, the shortest player. They defeated Conn and Allen in this first recorded beach doubles volleyball game. Later on, they decided that they could cover more of the court, and they wanted to offset Johnson's height advantage, so they enlarged the playing area to half court for each team. Finally, all of them agreed that it would be a better game if they tried to use the full court. They gave it a try and history was made.

They soon realized that, on the full sized court, the shorter players speed and ball handling skills were able to neutralize the taller player's spiking advantage. All four players were sweating profusely, as they were now getting a real workout playing this game. They had so much fun, on the full court, that they almost exclusively played two-man from that point on.

Buster Crabbe spent a lot of time on the beaches of Santa Monica swimming and playing volleyball.
Photo courtesy of Nat Shargo
The "quarter court" games died out quickly and the two-man game quickly spread to the other nearby Beach Clubs and eventually to the public courts. The half court games were and still are used for one-on-one games.

Paul Johnson continued to play beach volleyball at a fairly high level until he was 63 years old. He did continue to play in later years after his level of play went down, but his enthusiasm for the game always remained high. Paul played a lot of beach volleyball with Gordon Smith. While playing against the top competition of the era, they enjoyed numerous victories together. When asked whom he enjoyed playing volleyball with the most, Paul said that it was Gordon "Gordie" Smith, because they had so much success together and Gordie was such a coordinated athlete. Paul said that Gordon had great setting hands and was a great leaper, although he took off with a one foot approach. Paul pointed out that he also enjoyed playing with Clarence "Buster" Crabbe (movie star and Olympic Swimmer), because he was such a great athlete.

Johnson and Crabbe met each other at the Los Angeles Athletic Club in the 1929. Crabbe was training at the L.A. Athletic Club to get in shape for his swimming career. He was getting ready for competition at U.S.C., where he had obtained an athletic scholarship for swimming.

Johnson and Crabbe were also playing a lot of volleyball together on the beach which helped them win the 1931 Santa Monica Athletic Club doubles championship.

Johnny Weissmuller spent a lot of time on the beaches of Santa Monica, swimming and surfing.
Photo courtesy of Nat Shargo
Johnson felt that if Crabbe’s career had not been destined to compete with Johnny Weissmuller, in both swimming and acting, he could have been one of the best players on the beach. In retrospect, it seems that Buster Crabbe may have been looking over his shoulder at Weissmuller. Weissmuller was an Olympic swimming champ in 1924 and 1928, while Crabbe missed the finals in 1928 and couldn't compete, but he beat Weissmuller's time in 1932, while Weissmuller was playing Tarzan. Crabbe took the Tarzan job away from Weissmuller in 1933, only to lose it to Weissmuller in 1934.

Of course, Crabbe, went on to have a successful acting career as Tarzan, Buck Rogers, Captain Gallant, and of course his role as Flash Gordon was a classic. As an athlete, Crabbe, who grew-up in Honolulu Hawaii, learned to swim by diving for tourists’ coins. He also played Polo for the Honolulu Military Academy. He won two silver medals at the 1924 Olympics in the 400-meter free-style swim, a bronze medal in 1928 in the 1500-meter free-style and a gold medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics in the 400 meter free-style swim. He held six world records at one time.

Take a look inside Volume #1:

Sneak Previews to Volume #2:

THE SANDS OF TIME" and the "Winners" series, as well as additional beach volleyball publications are available from:

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