Volleyball players compete as crowds flock to the annual Charlie Saikley… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
Manhattan Beach's annual Charlie Saikley Six-Man Volleyball Tournament has long held a reputation as one of the biggest and rowdiest beach parties in the South Bay.
But that all changed this weekend.
When 60,000 people and 200 teams packed the beach with coolers and kegs last year, city residents and businesses said they'd had enough. This year, officials tightened the reins and placed the emphasis on volleyball instead of partying. The result: a smaller, more controlled beach event Saturday and Sunday.
There were still plenty of outlandish costumes, competitive volleyball games and party-hearty spectators, but the mood was different from past years'. The event featured a quarter fewer teams and twice the number of police and security officers. Also, alcohol consumption was strictly prohibited. In past years, officials turned a blind eye to surfside drinking.
The tournament's teetotal makeover drew mixed reviews from attendees.
"It's tamer but nicer," said Dawn Christianson, who played on the Smooth Sallies team. When she attended three years ago, "it was so much more crazy. Spectators interfered with play."
Some, though, were disappointed.
"It's so different this year," said Blake Parrish, a Manhattan Beach resident. "I don't really care about it being a party. I just want the attitude to stay the same, and it wasn't. This year, because of the restrictions, there wasn't the same energy, that excitement. There was almost an apprehension in the crowd."
Round-robin games in women's and men's divisions began at 9 a.m. Saturday on 32 courts just south of the Manhattan Beach pier and concluded Sunday with finals and awards. The volleyball tournament was just one event in the weekend International Surf Festival.
The beach area was patrolled by 65 security officers, as well as 30 to 35 officers from the Manhattan Beach Police Department. Metal fencing was installed around the event to channel spectators through limited access points, and purses and backpacks were checked on entry for open containers.
To cover the increase in security, entry fees for teams increased to $1,100 for non-sponsored teams and $2,500 for sponsored teams in the open division. Teams that violated the strict alcohol ban faced a fine up to $600 and a five-year ban from the tournament.
Six-Man tournament director J Parker Saikley, son of the event's founder, the late Charles Saikley, calls the tournament a labor of love, an event to honor his father's legacy.
"He ran so many recreational programs, so he touched thousands of lives," said Saikley. "He included everyone. We allowed anyone to play — novice, professional, Olympian — and it's rare to find a tournament like that."
Despite rumors that they were prohibited, costumes abounded, including wigs on a WWF team to a team and glittery body paint covering a team of mermaids.
"There's a lot of team camaraderie in the costumes," Saikley said. "It's a way to express their creativity, to be one of a kind."
With fewer teams playing — 151, down from 200 last year — the usually jampacked beach was more navigable, as several open courts created more space for spectators.
"The beach isn't as crowded as it was last year," said Police Capt. Derrick Abell. "And the crowds are being compliant." But heightened security on the beach drove more spectators into bars and restaurants in the downtown area, "which is a different problem now," said Abell.
Authorities made 32 alcohol-related arrests Saturday.