Last Modified: Thursday, May 02, 2013 12:36 PM
Contraband Days has snagged a position on the Spike and Splash beach volleyball and personal watercraft tour, and 300 or so professional and amateur competitors will converge on North Beach from Friday through Sunday.
The event is sanctioned by two professional athletic tours, the Extreme Volleyball Professionals and the UWP-IJSBA, a pairing of watercraft groups.
“People who like NASCAR will like the watercross. There are stock and open divisions,” said A.J. Handler, commissioner of the watercross tour.
“Some of the open competitors have as much as $80,000 invested in their boats. The Australian national champion will be competing. He is trying to win the U.S. championship. His boat reportedly can reach speeds of 90 mph.”
Contestants will be coming from Kuwait, Mexico, Canada, Indonesia and other countries, Handler said.
“When I came for a site visit, I flew into Lake Charles and saw the city, lake and beach and thought, ‘Wow,’ ” he said. Handler considers it one of the top five venues on the tour and expects plenty of spectators.
Ross Balling, tour commissioner, said the professional volleyball tour is growing in popularity as a spectator sport.
“At one venue where we have been 10 years, we have a crowd of 7,800,” he said. “A smaller site where we have had three tournaments, we have drawn about 2,000.”
Balling said he knows of fans coming from Slidell, Minnesota and Houston.
“Once they see the show that Contraband Days is putting on, they will be impressed, so this will be an excellent draw for tourism now and in the future,” he said.
Riley Salomon, a member of the U.S. gold medalist volleyball team, is one of the tour’s players.
The purse for volleyball will be up to $5,000; it will be up to $14,200 for the watercraft races. The tournaments will be nationally televised on the Beach Sports Network.
Pro athletes will complete the setup of their assigned spots Friday afternoon. The action will start at 3 p.m.
At 5 p.m. the watercraft will form a flotilla to join the Buccaneers in their invasion of the city at the Civic Center seawall.
Jet Ski races and the volleyball professional division games will be at 9 a.m. Saturday.
A special contest is set for 11 a.m. on the center volleyball court.
Watercraft drivers will get fancy with startling freestyle competition at 2 p.m.
Pro Beach Volleyball semifinals will be 3 p.m.; all amateur team finals will be at 4 p.m.
Awards for amateur teams will be presented behind the Civic Center at 6 p.m.
Co-ed amateur volleyball will be at 10 a.m. Sunday, with pro volleyball finals and pro watercross championships at 11 a.m. Awards will be presented at 3 p.m. at pit row.
North Beach will be open free of charge to spectators, and there will be no charge for parking, which will be limited.