The Summer Issue: Beach Soccer Blast heats up the sand

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      There are a few reasons why soccer has long been considered the world’s hottest sport. Besides being accessible and affordable to play, it entails extraordinary speed and endurance and offers up some of the fanciest footwork outside of a dance studio.

      Now imagine the super-swift game being played barefoot on sand in the sun amid stunning natural surroundings right here in Vancouver.

      Taking place at Spanish Banks every summer, Beach Soccer Blast is the only competition of its kind in B.C.

      Having started in 1996, the event gets bigger every year, with approximately 800 to 1,000 players expected at this summer’s showdown in August.

      Soccer on sand is said to be even more exciting than regular play, the soft surface making it more likely that players will be in the air and try tricks like bicycle kicks. Plus, technical skills like juggling are especially important for players to manoeuvre on the ever-changing, unpredictable ground beneath their feet.

      “We find that beach soccer is so popular because it’s such a great way to spend a sunny summer weekend, particularly in Vancouver, where we not only have gorgeous weather but the views of the North Shore mountains and downtown Vancouver as our backdrop,” tournament director Dean Tsatouhas tells the Georgia Straight. “Plus, the weekendlong tournament is the perfect excuse to hit the beach with a group of friends, soak up the sun, and get active.

      “Beach soccer is such a fun twist on the sport,” he says. “The added challenge of how the ball reacts to sand rather than grass or gravel keeps players on their toes and keeps the pace of play quick and exciting. Playing in a beach setting also means downtime between games is more fun, with teams setting up on the beach for the day with barbecues, music, and the option to go for a cool-down dip in the ocean.”

      The Beach Soccer Blast tournament is officially sanctioned by B.C. Soccer, the province’s governing body.

      The five-on-five games consist of 14-minute halves on a 30-by-50-yard field, using a regulation soccer ball (but nets that are smaller than regulation-size). Players don’t wear shoes, cleats, or shin pads, though some don socks if the sand is hot or tape their ankles or toes as protective measures.

      The tournament is open to players of all ages and all skill levels. The youth division is open to under-10 and under-16 boys’ and girls’ teams, while the senior division is for players aged 16 to 18 or 18-plus, with options for men’s, women’s, and coed competitive and recreational play.

      Teams can register up to 10 people, and coed teams are required to have at least two female players on the field at all times.

      The Whitecaps Football Club’s ’Caps Cruiser will be on-site at this summer’s tournament, along with music and prizes.

      The 23rd annual Beach Soccer Blast takes place from August 9 to 11 at Spanish Banks Beach East.