The first thing Kevin Cleary will always remember is the crowd.
It didn’t begin as the massive, heckling contingent that would mob the Manhattan Beach Pier. It began simply, just a couple of his buddies from Mira Costa giving Steve O’Bradovich and Gary Hooper a tough time while the “bad boys of beach volleyball,” as Cleary describes them, were about to make quick work Cleary and Joel Jones, a pair of unseeded teenagers.
Only that never happened.
Cleary and Jones, high school pals, stunned top-seeded Hooper and O’Bradovich in the first set of the Manhattan Beach Open, 11-8. Midway through the second, word had gotten out about the scrappy young teens taking it to beach volleyball’s loudest and most exuberant team.
“I’ll never forget about halfway through the second game, my head’s down in serve receive, and I look up and there are thousands of people around the court,” Cleary recalled. “I was like ‘Jesus, wow!’ The pier was lined with people and basically word had traveled around that these two kids in gym shorts were beating the No. 1 ranked team in the tournament.”
The kids won the second, sending the bad boys to the contenders bracket, where they would ultimately grind through to take third for the tournament.
This was 1978.
Six years later, Cleary would go on to become the first president of the AVP Tour and has missed only one or two Manhattan Beach Opens since. In 2010, he was inducted into the CBVA Hall of Fame.
And the guy is still playing.
Scroll down far enough on the endless AVP Hermosa Beach Open entry list and you can find him, just there, Kevin Cleary and Jack Walmer, seeded (initially) No. 82 in a qualifier of 86 teams.