Matt Stevens, Carson Edwards, Evan Fersinger and Cade Edwards stood in the Wrightsville Beach sand, forming a loose circle around what resembled a round, netted trampoline.
Stevens held an inflatable grapefruit-sized ball. Tossing the ball up with one hand, he smacked it onto the trampoline with the other. The ball rocketed toward Cade Edwards then to Fersinger, who smacked it back into the net.
The furious play continued, with Carson Edwards passing the ball to his teammate Stevens, who dinked a tricky shot toward the net, causing his opponents to dive to keep the ball from hitting the ground.
The game, known as spikeball, resembles a cross between volleyball and foursquare, and in recent years its popularity has spread to beaches and backyards across the nation.
The spikeball craze is likely due to its simple rules and equipment that can be easily folded up and taken anywhere.
“It’s really fun, too, and it’s active,” Cade Edwards said after the game. “It’s a new and cool game.”
The game is usually played two-on-two. Once the ball is served, the opposing team has three touches to spike it back off the net.
“That’s what you have to do, you have to have strategy,” Carson Edwards explained.
Edwards said one strategy involved hitting the ball so it caught in the slack part of the net near the rim of the trampoline, making the ball ricochet off in an unpredictable direction.
“That’s mostly luck, actually,” Edwards admitted. “I usually just slam it into the net.”
At its most basic, beach soccer requires two players and a rolling object to kick around.
Matt Zeko and his son Wyatt Zeko demonstrated this version of beach soccer Sunday, Aug. 24. In this incarnation of the game, goals were scored by kicking the ball into a rectangle drawn in the sand.
Wyatt Zeko played goalkeeper first, defending the rectangle while his father tried to score.
“He usually shuts me down, like 100 goals to one,” Matt Zeko said with a laugh.
There is really no limit to the number of players who can participate in a beach soccer match, as long as the teams are even. Friday, Aug. 22 at Wrightsville Beach, Matt Stevens and his friends decided to get a game started. They grabbed a soccer ball and two teams quickly formed. Someone volunteered a shirt and a pair of sandals to create a makeshift goal.
The friends set up their game not far from the water’s edge. The harder sand made it easier to run and pass the ball, Stevens explained.
“The harder the sand, the better, and as many people can play as you want, as long as the teams are even,” he said after the game.
Stevens added that it was an easy game to play on the beach because the only piece of equipment required was a soccer ball.
“And it’s fun because you can just go barefoot,” Stevens’ teammate Luke Kelly added.
A large group of University of North Carolina Wilmington students milled around a volleyball net set up near Crystal Pier. They formed two teams of six, with leftover students gathering around the perimeter of the makeshift court to watch.
One of the players served the ball and the other team volleyed it straight up in the air. Jeff Peart jumped up and spiked it down over the net, earning his team a point. After rotating through the six different positions on the court, Peart subbed himself out to give another student the chance to play.
“There aren’t a whole lot of rules,” Peart said, watching his team play. Peart added the simplicity of the game and the fact that so many people could participate made it a great way to meet new people.
“All these guys are freshmen on my [dormitory]floor,” he said. “We don’t really know these guys, but now we do.”