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Walmer progeny, with Costa coach win 20th Annual BarryBob Tourney

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Winners of the 20th Annual BarryBob beach volleyball tournament (from left), Tim Walmer,  Avery Drost, Kevin Barry and Jon Mesko. Photo courtesy of Kevin Cleary

by Megan Garringer

Saturday afternoon took volleyball players back to the ‘80s, with a sea of platinum hair and bronzed bodies sporting ill-fitting swimsuits. The occasion was the 20th Annual BarryBob Volleyball tournament at 10th Street in Manhattan Beach.

It all began in the summer of 1998, following the deaths of beach patriarchs Barry Walmer and Bob Cleary. Surprisingly, neither of them played volleyball. But their sons Kevin Cleary and Tim Walmer traveled up and down the coast playing professionally, supported by their dads.

“These were two best friends of 35-40 years, and once they retired they loved to watch Tim and I play. They brought their wives, really made a weekend out of it. They just loved it,” Cleary said at the start of Saturday’s tournament.

In memory of the two beloved men, over a thousand participants have come out over the years to play in the BarryBob, one of the most competitive local tournaments of the summer. This year’s players included 1996 Olympic silver medalist Mike Dodd, Lakers Coach Luke Walton, Cavaliers NBA star Richardson Jeffers and 2005 USC Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart. Cleary loves the tournament not only for the families it brings together but for the slice of his childhood it brings back to life. “Life in the South Bay is just so different now,” he said. “Everything now is about zero period, and your SAT score. Everything’s so scheduled. We used to get up at 9 on summer mornings, my mom would say be home at 6, and we’d be down at the beach all day long. Now with cable TV on 24/7, parents are scared to let their kids do anything.”

Walmer’s son Jack, a junior at Mira Costa’s volleyball team, takes the same approach to summer freedom. A talented athlete himself, Jack looks up to many of the more senior Manhattan volleyball players and looked right at home playing in the BarryBob this year.

And although the talent level was high, competition remained friendly. Many of the players share bonds built over years. It was nothing short of a party. Speakers blared and snacks were devoured from 10 a.m. all the way until 7 p.m. Former AVP announcer Jim Arico’s commentary became increasingly colorful.

Though the night ended with a winner, no one walked away looking upset. The finals, a showdown between the McFarland family and Tim Walmer’s stacked team, left the tournament’s founder with an unsurprising victory. Walmer’s team included Mira Costa volleyball coach Avery Drost, lifeguard Kevin Barry and former pro volleyball player John Mesko.

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