Dropping in on The Waupaca Boatride – the world’s largest volleyball tourney

Some of the crowd preparing to watch the grass Open finals

On the second weekend in July, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the annual Waupaca Boatride in my hometown of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The unusual name for this multi-event tourney stems from its history in the resort town of Waupaca, Wisconsin. Oh yeah, in the early days there was apparently an associated boatride. Years ago, the tourney outgrew Waupaca and was moved initially to the larger resort area of Wisconsin Dells, about an hour north of Madison. Then, two years ago the event was relocated to Oshkosh. This year, it was played on the grounds of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), adjacent to the Oshkosh airport.

Also new this year was an affiliation with the NVL, increased prize money, and the construction of 4 sand courts on the EAA grounds to host the Women’s and Men’s Open Divisions. Out of necessity, the Women’s and Men’s A divisions were held offsite at a local sports bar. Vooli, Plastic and Oakley were at the event getting the word out.

The Waupaca Boatride, which is also called the U.S. Open of Grass Volleyball, consists of a number of events:

• Butch (father of Misty) May’s clinic for young women prior to the start of the tourney
• Sand doubles and co-ed grass 4s on Friday
• Grass 3s on Saturday (the single biggest event)
• Grass doubles, co-ed sand doubles and reverse co-ed grass 4s on Sunday

More than 900 teams were expected, spanning all of the events. While most of the draw is from the upper Midwest, some teams travel from the coasts for the party, which is in many ways a huge reunion. As you can see from the accompanying images of the finals of the Open sand doubles and grass 3s, the crowd was big, highly engaged, and very sociable. Many of the teams camped on the EAA grounds for part or all of the weekend.

On the sand in Men’s Open, top-seeded pros Dana Camacho and Andrei Belov were upset in the finals by Brian and Tim Bomgren. Impressively, the Bomgrens and their partner were also top seeds in the grass 3s event on Saturday, but lost in the finals to the team they had beaten to win that division last year. In the Women’s Open, Chara Harris and Megan Wallin defeated Laryssa Mereszczak and Andrea Peterson. All four teams earned an automatic entry into the MotherLode on Labor Day weekend, so if you’re traveling to Aspen, keep an eye out for these teams.

Watching the Women's Open sand finals

At least two of the teams that competed in the Open sand division traveled Friday night to compete on Saturday in the Jose Cuervo Tour Stop in Chicago. It was a big weekend for volleyball in the Midwest.

The Waupaca Boatride is a tourney to put on your volleyball bucket list and one to keep an eye on, particularly given the new affiliation with the NVL.

Big crowd for the grass Open finals on Saturday night