Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gotta like Spike: Only good times and great times at outdoor volleyball party

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The City Kitties, left, versus Team Whiskey Dix at the Super-Spike volleyball tournament at Maple Grove Rugby Park, Friday, July 18, 2014.

As the wind picked up the Super Spike beer tent swayed, shivering to the sound of jacked-up young men chanting "olé, olé-olé-olé."

It was the first time that chant rang out on Friday night, though veterans of the annual volleyball party laughed it wouldn't be the last.

"Oh, there it is," Rona Rosier said, tipping her head toward the ruckus with a patient smile. "Soon, there'll be some beer-can stacking too."

She mimed that party game on a nearby table, her hands playing out how cans of Bud Light and its festive cousin, Bud Light Lime, would grow into tipsy pyramids. The sunlight fell on Rosier's shoulders as she did this. The chants around her were loud, the beer lines were long, but it was still light out. It wasn't quite 8 p.m.

Welcome to the first day of Super Spike, friends -- a two-day volleyball tournament, bangin' party, and top fundraiser for the Canadian women's volleyball team.

For awhile, Friday night threatened to be a wash. As hail hammered Winnipeg and the skies leered dark, organizers nervously flitted around Maple Grove Rugby Park. But the storm skipped by harmlessly, and clouds unleashed only trickling spits of rain on the food trucks, and the endless grass courts where rambunctious young teams whooped through their play.

Mother Nature has always been kind to Super Spike, co-founder Greg Paseshnik said. Improbably, it was again. "She's keeping us on our toes today," he laughed.

Thirteen years ago, Paseshnik and about a dozen other volleyball diehards launched Super Spike, inspired by a similar event in Ottawa, and by love of the sport. "We didn't want to do another rubber-chicken dinner," Paseshnik shrugged. "We thought, why don't we go after the younger demo, put together an event they would go out to, and use that to support the national women's team?"

The first two editions of Super Spike were one day and held at The Forks. Yeah, it was a good time. People came out. But something about the vibe just wasn't quite right. "It was a bit too baby-carriages in the city," Paseshnik said. "We wanted something a bit more outdoorsy, that we could own."

Searching for that sort of home, organizers moved the third edition of Super Spike down to the corner of St. Mary's Road and the Perimeter, at Maple Grove. They got the venue right: That first year, Super Spike doubled in size, and it's grown almost every year since.

In 2013, 432 six-player teams signed up. This year, organizers were hoping to bust 500, but after a late and wet and dismal spring, they were still pleased to register 441. Within a decade, they hope to crack the 1,000 mark.

"It's a sexy event," said Paseshnik. "There's a lot of bikinis, a lot of guys with hard abs wandering around. But it's part of the fun."

The festival grew too, swelling into a two-day bacchanal, with loads of live bands. Tonight, Hamilton, Ont. rockers The Arkells will wind it up, followed by the Red Bull Beach Party with DJ Dow Jones.

"It's bigger than the community now," said Rosier, a regular player who turned out to that very first Super Spike in 2001. "I look around here now, and it's one of those festivals where you're kind of amazed at how many people you don't know in Winnipeg. It used to be quaint, now it's huge."

That's good news for Team Canada -- they expect to raise at least $120,000 by the time Super Spike wraps up late tonight. That's the biggest source of funding for the team. But it's also good news for the young, fratty crowd that comes out to bump balls, pump beverages, and dance around.

"I'm just here to drink," one 20-something dude in a white tank-top whispered conspiratorially, before vanishing back into the beer-tent buzz.

For that guy, Super Spike makes no bones about the main attraction. Signs around the beer tent even poke fun at its boozy reputation: "You Might Not Remember This Tomorrow Morning, BETTER TWEET NOW!" one read, with a link to its Twitter account. It's exactly the party-hearty vibe they dreamed of, at the start.

Almost all the team names are cheeky and decidedly PG-13. There are puns about balls (Balldiggers, Balls Deep, Balls Out), and puns about sets (Sets All Night, Mind Blowing Sets). Some are a little more R-rated than that. "Oh, it's embarrassing," Rosier laughed, when asked about her team name. (This is, after all, a family rag.)

But hey, in its own way Super Spike is becoming a family affair.

When Rosier first started playing, she came with her young daughter Mica in tow. (The event is now mostly limited to adults, though kids can come during the day with a parent.) Now, Mica is 19, and turned out to Super Spike this year with her own just-for-fun team. "I'm glad she's here and can experience the music, the fun you have with your friends, the whole experience," said Rosier.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2014 C1

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