Life’s a beach for volleyball lovers

MEMBERS of the JBT volleyball team took part in a charity tour of the isles’ beaches last weekend. Ben Laurenson explains the reasons behind the marathon effort, which begin in Norwick, Unst, and finished at the West Voe in Sumburgh.

“WHAT about a sponsored skinny dip around Shetland’s lochs?” I asked the rest of the players when we met in May to discuss what kind of charity fund raising event we should stage.

Such were the outlandish propositions put forth to raise money in honour of our friend and team mate Kirstine Sclater who sadly passed away earlier this year.

We decided that we would play on six different beaches the length and breadth of Shetland in one day. Many questions were asked, specifically how such a challenge could be possible. But we had answers to all of these problems. We just had to pull everything together.

Our biggest hurdle was how we would get around but our fears were short lived as our sponsor Jim Brackenridge Transport came to the rescue and generously provided us with a truck and a driver for the day.
Then there was the problem with the net. How could we get something that could be put up and taken down in as little time possible?

We thought about investing in a proper beach volleyball set but, because we wanted to spend as little money as possible and they cost over £100, we thought we’d try something else. We procured a couple of netball stands, strung up a net between them and after it was all pinned into the sand it actually worked exceptionally well.

The only problem I could now foresee was how to get everybody out of bed early on the day. Thankfully I shouldn’t have worried as all of our available team met at the Clickimin Centre at 6.45am on an unusually tranquil Saturday morning. As we set off for the first venue there was hardly a breath of wind and the previous day’s downpour was drying fast. Perfect!

Our first game took place with waves crashing on the shore and next to no wind. We were on Norwick Beach, Unst, about as far north as we could go in the British Isles to play beach volleyball.

Our makeshift net was erected in a matter of minutes and did its job superbly well. Although all of us were rather rusty after a three-month volleyball lay-off, we struggled on and everybody had fun.

The smiles on our faces were still evident when the ball ended up in the sea and became twice as heavy with its covering of wet sand. As enjoyable as this was we had a job to do and we needed to get on. West Sandwick Beach in Yell was waiting.

The scene was similar in Yell. It was the most serene setting and a nice clean beach. We were up and running within 10 minutes of arriving and we even had our driver in on the action.

By now we had found a new respect for the proper beach volleyball players. All of us are used to playing on a nice springy hardwood floor in one of the isles leisure centres. This is totally different. We may as well have been playing with five stone weights tied around our ankles because every time you tried to jump it felt like the ground would disappear from beneath your feet. Some of the pros can leap up to 50 inches out of the sand!

After a small pit stop in Brae for our lunch (including an unplanned detour through Voe) we were off to the Meal Sands in Burra. All of our wishes had come true by now. We had glorious, sunshine, a smattering of spectators, a beautiful, flat stretch of beach and a light, cooling breeze. If there was a perfect place for playing this game, it was here.

We would have stayed the rest of the day but we had to three more beaches to go so, after a quick dip in the sea, we cleared everything away. By now we had become a well-oiled machine at getting set up and taking everything down. Or so we thought.

Upon our arrival at the Sands of Sound in Lerwick we unloaded the truck as normal and started to set up. I thought nothing of it when our driver Cliff said he was going to refuel, until somebody pointed out that the balls were still on the truck.

This still didn’t dampen the mood. We were making good time so all had a well earned rest, schmoozing with some of the gathering crowd. Some of us even tried making up their own new sport of frizbee ball. I don’t think it’ll catch on.

We didn’t have long to wait as Raymond Aitken made a mercy mission to retrieve our balls and we were back playing in under 10 minutes. About midway through our stint in Lerwick we were treated to a fly past from the new Oscar Charlie and his crew who gave us an encouraging wave.

Next came the wonderful sight of St Ninian’s Isle. Perhaps the most picturesque venue we visited throughout our day but unfortunately not the most conducive to playing beach volleyball as the sand is covered in small stones. Even though it was late and the sun was waning, all involved were still wearing a smile and their pink JBT shirts bearing Kirstine’s squad number.

At 8.30pm we arrived at our final destination, West Voe in Sumburgh, where the temperature was falling as rapidly as the sun. As it dropped behind Scatness the only thing catching its last rays was the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head.

Meanwhile, our group of 17 hardy players were nearing the end of our journey. At 9.30pm we packed away our balls and once we had taken the obligatory picture we remembered our friend by having one last jump into the not-so-icy-but-cold-enough sea.

As is the case with any event of this kind a lot of time and money has been donated. Thanks must go to Davy Paul at JBT for lending us a truck for the day and Cliff for driving. Thanks also to the Mid Brae Inn and J. W Gray & Co. for providing much needed sustenance and refreshment.

Thanks to all of the folk who turned out to support us at the various beaches and to anybody who gave any donations large or small. Many thanks to Scottish Sea Farms, for the most generous donation of £4,500 in aid of the CLAN 123 appeal.

Finally I would like to thank all of the JBT volleyball team for showing a real team spirit on the day and working together to achieve a fantastic total of £3,000 for the benefit of Cancer Research UK.


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