If Mark and Marisa Bonfigli can predict the future, other beach lovers and locals will come to love the sport of beach tennis as much as they do.
The married couple will be among beach tennis pros, amateurs, fans and the curious to gather beginning Friday for the Dealer.Com Hermosa Beach Open on the sand north of the Hermosa Beach Pier.
For Mark, founder of Dealer.com which has an office in downtown Manhattan Beach, the tournament is a great way to build the sport--its players and fan base.
For Marisa, the No. 1 American female who hails from Hermosa Beach, it will be great to play in front of a local crowd.
A player himself who will compete in the tournament this weekend, Mark says the sport is fun, fun, fun and easier to play than most sports. And, unlike the quietude of golf, music is the norm during matches, he told Patch.
Overseen by the International Tennis Federation, which oversees Olympic Tennis, the sport is played in more than 80 countries. Beach tennis got its start in Ravenna, Italy about 40 years ago and is the dominant coastal sport in that region, said Mark, noting that most of the top 20 players in the world are from that area.
The Hermosa Beach tournament will include America's top three players who will be joined by more than 150 players, he said. The open boasts $10,000 in prize money.
The sport has a pro circuit with tournaments around the globe in more than 30 countries and growing. The ITF holds different grades of tournaments, ranging from G1 (the hardest with the most prize money, usually $10k or more) to G4, being easier with little or no prize money.
Since beach tennis is a relatively new sport in many countries, Mark said players can frequently enter the pro divisions with a fee of $10-$50.
Most beach tennis pros supplement their income by working beach tennis camps and collecting fees for instruction at the highest level.
"There are many who say the sport is perfect for the Olympics because the volleyball stadiums require no modifications for beach tennis and it may be the most exciting sport to watch," Mark told Patch.
The sport is fairly easy to learn, he said, unlike tennis and volleyball. All you need to play is a paddle (they start around $50) and ball ($1 each at your local tennis shop; 10 and under depressurized balls are used).
A beach volleyball court with a lowered net makes the perfect court, he said, hence his and Marisa's hope for more players taking up the sport.
"We have incredible sand, weather, athletes and the right energy and vibe for the sport," he said.
The local spot for playing these days is 14th Street in Hermosa Beach.
Young ones four years old are known to play as well as 80+ individuals, he said. You simply need to be strong enough to lift a paddle.
"Playing at the beach, dancing to the music as you play, making a great diving save or a powerful overhead smash, the rallies are very exciting because they seem to go on in spectacular fashion," said Mark of the sport he's been playing for 4 years and come to love.
"Many of us at DDC (Dealer.com) believe this is the ultimate family sport and has huge potential," he said of his company's sponsorship of this weekend open. "We support it because we love it and have over 50 players now between our two offices."
Play begins at 9 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free and seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, he said.
Loaner rackets will be available for anyone who wants to hit some balls so he says to wear comfortable beach wear you can play in. "A beach towel is a great idea, too," he said.To watch a contest, click here. To view more videos and photos of the sport, go here.