Wisconsin in July

Waupaca is a huge grass tournament in Wisconsin.
Dave Kamena
Waupaca is a huge grass tournament in Wisconsin.

The best summer month is the one the unstoppable politician and conqueror Julius Caesar chose to name after himself (before his friends threw him under the bus). The month that represents hot dogs and beer, pool parties, the independence of our country, and sand so hot it can burn your toenails off. Yup, we’re talking about July.

The only stop on our Plastic Tour in July is in Oshkosh, Wis., the weekend of July 13-14. There are many smaller tournaments around the country this time of year, but we have found nothing else large enough to warrant a personal brand appearance (email me if you know one). So for us, July is just one big grass extravaganza in the Midwest. You might have heard of it. It’s called the Waupaca Boatride (waupacaboatride.com).

The Boatride is a lot of things to a lot of people. To the organizers it’s the challenge of continuing to put on a fun event for the loyal players and spectators who have grown with the event from the beginning. To the sponsors it’s a chance to reach a large section of the Midwest. And to the locals it’s a chance to fill their hotels and restaurants. But the real winners of the tournament are the players.

Waupaca is a grass triples format on a big court. Over 200 courts of triples make it a pretty big event, to say the least. Everyone uses open-hand serve receive and defense – your jumbo shrimp is absolutely useless here. Hard charging corn-fed Midwesterners (I’m from Michigan, by the way) bring the heat in this game, starting with blazing jump serves that are almost impossible to hit out on a big grass court.

My first year at Waupaca I showed up with a few of my beach player friends from California. I figured grass triples was a little like mud volleyball and thought we would march through pool play pretty easily and see some talent in the finals. I figured wrong. We ended up facing some of the best players in the tournament the first game. The first play I dropped off the net from my block when I saw a strange approach which turned out to be a back X. I am pretty quick, so I was able to prevent the ball from hitting me in the face…and so the game went. We lost a few more games and eventually landed in the beer bracket (created to make sure you play all day, win or lose).

Play goes until sunset, which is when a band plugs in. Few people leave since pretty much everyone camps onsite. All in all, everything stays somewhat sane due to the steady nature of Midwesterners. They can drink you under the table and shotgun a beer faster than three seconds, but they don’t let a party get too crazy.

It should be noted that tons of junior athletes of all levels compete at the Boatride, and families abound. The event has an overall atmosphere of
participant-centered competition. Amateur is just as important as professional and everyone leaves feeling worn out and feeling good. No matter your age or experience level, you are guaranteed to have a blast at Waupaca. I’ll see you there!

– Dave Kamena

The Outside Edge is a preview of the major outdoor volleyball events coming up in the U.S. and will run in each of the summer issues of VBM. The column is written by Dave Kamena, president of Plastic Clothing, a volleyball performance apparel brand that sponsors many of the events. Send comments and feedback to davek@plasticclothing.com and follow Plastic on Facebook and at their website, plasticclothing.com.

Originally published in July 2013

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