Before winning Olympic Gold Medals, NCAA National Championships and 148 beach volleyball titles, a young Karch Kiraly developed his game at the East Beach volleyball courts in Santa Barbara.
Kiraly was back at his old stomping grounds on Saturday as the Friends of East Beach Association dedicated Court No. 9 in his honor. Among the speakers were Kiraly’s father, Lazlo, and lifelong friend and former teammate John Hanley.
Kiraly recalled his first memories playing volleyball at the storied location.
“Six years old, down there, playing a little, just pepper back and forth (with my dad),” he said, gesturing towards the Cabrillo Bath House.
He credited playing with adults at an early age as helping him improve greatly. At nine years old, Kiraly played his first match at East Beach with one of the better adult players at the time, “the mayor” Bill Conway.
Kiraly’s court dedication is the third at East Beach following Henry Bergmann in 2009 and Kathy Gregory/Kathy Hanley in 2013. The idea to honor the legacy of Santa Barbara beach volleyball players started as a way to memorialize Bergmann, who passed away in 2009.
Subsequent meetings with the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department led to the idea of naming all 16 courts after local legends. The Friends of East Beach are in charge of the effort.
“I’m just really humbled and greatful so thank you all,” Kiraly said.