Sunday, March 28, 2010

El Salvador final four!

After the amazing rush of standing on top of the podium, we were forced to regain our focus and settle into the Sheraton Presidente in San Salvador, El Salvador. It is hot, humid and there are a lot of guns!!

The hotel has assisted in making this tournament bearable. I hate to go to negative town because El Salvador is a developing nation in many different facets, however, the standards we have grown accustomed to have not been met by a long shot. Our training on the first day was tragic as the NORCECA doesn't believe in sign up times for training! There were 10 teams on one court for about an hour and a half and then we squeaked in with USA and Mexico for a solid sideout before the shut the training down. The net had soooo many holes, the sand was super shallow (black volcanic sand) and it was by far the hottest sand I have ever set foot on. It clouded over for a bit so it cooled and it was a mediocre start to an interesting voyage.

We were super bummed that our tournament was going to be played in their national training facility (mentioned above) which was built in 1970's. Luckily, for the opening meeting, we went to a mall and discovered there is a completely different venue in the parking lot of the largest shopping mall of El Salvador. The site is interesting to say the least and they did not build a warm up court for the athletes. There is a massive stage where they have hosted concerts over the weekend and today is a national holiday so it should be packed. The food has been hit and miss and there is no air conditioning for us white boys to rest in!

Our draw for the tournament was a beauty because the NORCECA ranking system resets after the first event of the year. Since we won the first stop on Grand Cayman, we had the first seed and our draw worked out to be Honduras, Costa Rica and the Jamaica to get into the semi finals. The first two games weren't very competitive but our game against Jamaica was even due to the extreme heat and humidity.

The Jamaican boys are both 6'7 and solid athletes. They serve big and hit big but lack in other areas of the game. Our ball control was superior but the heat really evened out the score. We won the first set handily but the second set dropped a notch on our side as fatigue set in. Ray's sensitive skin tone and redheaded sun prowess failed him slightly and we dropped the second set. Third set was a different story as Ray has the ability to pick his game up in 3rd sets regardless of the way he feels. I am sure he felt worse than in the second set but he was able to gather his remaining energy and focus them on winning at all costs. I hit standing on two's frequently to give him some rest and save some jumps and we went up 4-1 to start. Our comfortable lead grew with some passing errors on their part and then to close it out, I blocked them 3 times in a row. Ray then went to the bench and vomited. Somehow the mango's he ate for breakfast were completely undigested forcing me to believe we don't function properly in extreme heat!!!

We rested in our air conditioned room for the rest of the day and then returned to the mall to watch USA vs the Dominican Republic. The winner of that game would slide into our semi final match up so it was important for us to study that game. The USA team of Matt Prosser and Ty Loomis won as they out blocked and dug the athletic yet green Dominican team. We match up well with the USA team and it will be our most challenging match of our 2010 NORCECA competitions.

We are three hours from game time right now and it is time for us to prepare fully. Wish us luck and thank goodness the semis will be matched up fairly with respect to skin tone and heat capacity.

Time to get big and loud,


Saturday, March 27, 2010

I apologize, I am in a hurry and can't spell check. I will return this evening and correct my errors so in the mean time, patience!!!

WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!!!! Ray and I have had the most amazing time here on Grand Cayman. Incredible people, amazing activities, a splendid tournament and last but not least a career first for the both of us.

Where do I start?! Well I guess I will start where I left off from the volleyball perspective and explain our progression to the top of the podium.

My last detailed post ended with us facing team Canada #2 of Maverick Hatch and Ben Saxton in the semi finals. This was a match I knew would happen and I was mentally prepared for it before we left Canada. Maverick and Ben are two talented athletes but I was confident Ray and what was necessary to win. It was a hot day and I knew the heat was going to play a large factor and right I was. Unfortunately for me, the night before was a terrible evening of nutrition as there was a mistake with organization and we were the first athletes on the scene to experience it. A Mexican restaurant wanted to help and let the organizers to believe they were serving a buffet style feast. This was not the case when we arrived and I was told we had 2 free tacos and the rest we had to pay for. Mexican food isn't my #1 recovery food and I was only going because it was free so I was NOT pleased. We ate our two tacos and left for another place. Sadly, time went on and the window of optimal recovery time passed before we could replenish what we lost during the day.  It is for this reason I felt sluggish and took ages to get feisty and mean in the game!

Nutrition aside, we felt slow in the morning preparing for our match so we went to the beach at 9 (we were scheduled to play at 1) to do an initial serve and pass to shake it off. Sadly that didn't do much for us and our nutrition that day didn't move us too far forward. We slammed a series of electrolyte pills and drinks prior to the game but I was low on fuel prior to the game. Ray felt the same and I knew it was going to be a rough start.

They came out banging. They tagged 7 line aces and we didn't make more the 3 serves the entire match trying to match their pace. They beat us 21-10 but we knew the second set would be a different situation entirely. We entered the second set with a new demeanor and it showed. We were neck and neck for the start of the game but a few heated rallies brought is into the lead. It was hot and we were all starting to fatigue but then, the weirdest thing happened to me! I found my legs. Out of nowhere in the heat of the day, my energy rose as all the electrolytes I had taken in pill and drink form found their targets!!! I began to feel much better right as Maverick began to really fatigue. It was then a mental game and Maverick called a medical timeout with us in the lead late in the second. I forget the score but it we had the energy and our lead was building. We won the second set at 21-18 and off we went to the 3rd set.

Getting more energetic and mentally alert by the second, I was hot but feeling superior to anyone on the beach at that time. Ray was starting to feel the heat but he is a tough redhead and I knew I could count on him for a win. We attacked Maverick again knowing he was struggling and we made a few points here and there. Ray had a great read on him and he hit a few balls out which gave us a comfortable 11-9 or 12-8 switch to the bad side. That is where the magic happened. We went on a tear of blocks and shut out the game with 3 blocks in a row!!! Ray had a pivotal dig to start the blocking streak and they really felt the pressure and heat after that. I would also like to mention that midway through the 3rd set I had one of the most athletic plays of my life. I got a substantial touch on a deep cross court attack and then Ray was able to get a single hand on it but directing it high and deep. The ball arched high into the wind and almost perched mid air for a second before falling to a meter or two from the back banners. I turned to chase the ball and read its trajectory well enough to know I only had one option; a bicycle kick!!! I hustled to the back of the court, dove feet first and kicked the ball 11 meters from the net all the way back over to their side of the court!!!  Sadly, Ben hit the ball on two before I could get back into a defensive position but it was certainly an impressive play! This three set thriller unfortunately wasn’t caught on tape. I nearly cried when I saw that my camera ran out of batteries and therefore didn’t record the second and third sets. What a bummer, it would have been an amazing match to summarize with highlights. You will all have to take my word for it!

With a few hours to kill we headed back to the hotel to rest, eat left over pasta and gather our thoughts and concentration for what we knew would be a thriller against entertaining rivals from Puerto Rico! We have a history with them from Mexico last year and we were not going to lose.

The fans were out in full force and I would venture a guess of 1200 people on site to watch the men’s finals. It was the most highly touted match of the tournament and the “favored” Canadians had not disappointed.

Packed house, lively atmosphere and a beautiful location sums up the Cayman Center court. It was pumping with tunes and the MC’s (our friends and the people we had stayed with all week) were deep in beers and talking trash for us. Energy was peaking and Ray and I were ready to harness it and turn it into a killer show.

The finals are a blur and I hope the highlight video helps you relive the experience. We won the first, lost the second and took the third set but Ray was feeling fatigued. How do I know this you may ask? Well lets just say I looked over at Ray in the middle of the second set and he was vomiting seconds prior to receiving a serve. Ray is a trooper and has an amazing ability to regain consciousness and skill after bonking in heat. It has happened to us before so I had confidence in his ability to scrape all resources for a third set.

We were up large in the third due to magnificent defensive plays and Ray was digging up a storm. A timely block by me, a missed serve by them and a great dig by Ray put us in the lead on the good side with a sideout for the championships. I knew Ray was tired so upon judging the pass, I went it hard for a second touch attack. With a set in mind, I brought the blocker in and jump set Ray what was my best jump set ever! With no blocker close to the ball, Ray had line wide open and he capitalized!!!!! WE WON!!!

What an amazing feeling! It was so rewarding being able to win in front of a thousand plus supportive fans (especially for Canadians) and many family members and friends due to the online streaming. We were humble in our winning and so pleased to stand on top of the podium in the first time of our careers!!!

OH CANADA. I sang loud and proud. I always imagined myself upon the podium with my eyes closed, breathing the beach scent in and banking the visual of our flag but it didn’t go like that!! I wanted to sing and together we sang our anthem loud and proud. We popped the champagne sprayed it on our opponents, then shared the bubbly around with Puerto Rico and USA (who beat our Canadian boys in the bronze 19-17 in the 3rd).

It was an amazing experience at one of my favorite places to play beach volleyball in the world. It has all the necessary components for a world class event and it has a community that wants it to succeed more than anything. I truly hope this event grows and I will do whatever I can to assist my new friends in carrying out their dream of increasing its size each year.

A special thanks goes out to Carl and Wanda for hosting us throughout the week and giving us their vehicles to roam about. I truly felt at home and CAN’T WAIT to come back!!!!!!!!

Monday, March 22, 2010


WE WON GOLD!!! I will do an in depth write up shortly but I need to check out of the hotel. Until then, enjoy the photo and write up on the FIVB site!!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Back to back wins on day two!

The sun seemed to be magnified this Saturday on the Cayman Islands and the humidity played a large roll in the days matches. Ray and I were prepared for the heat and handled it like champions but I can't say the same for everybody. Fatigue aside, Ray and I played fantastic ball and came out victorious against Puerto Rico #2 and USA #1.

I am unfortunately short on time so I won't be able to expand on the games but we won the first game 21-16, 21-10. We have established ourselves as crowd favourites and the guys on the mic just LOVE us!

We then went on to beat USA #1 who are solid AVP players, not Phil Dalhouser and Todd Rogers! We played great defensive ball and sided out consistently for the most part in a slow serving, bit hitting game. I had some MONSTROUS blocks and Ray made some incredible digs, including one off his chest and over to score!! We beat them 21-16 and 21-11 in a convincing two setter and once again we put on a show!!

Sadly I don't have any photos yet cause the photographer hasn't uploaded images but we will have some by the end of the event. We will be playing in the semis against the #2 Canadian team consisting of Maverick Hatch and Ben Saxton. That game will be played at 1 and then our finals (should all go to plan) will be streamed live on the internet on  at 5 PM Caymand Island time.

If you have the time, look into it cause it is going to be a great show!!!!



Saturday, March 20, 2010

Victorious on day one of competition

It has been a whirlwind of activities, events and training over the last week here in the Caymans and I am really starting to feel at home in this place. We have met so many fantastic people and everyone has been so receptive to Ray and I (especially since we have been wearing our speedo's around!). 

Last evening we had a special dinner funded by the President of the Cayman Islands which counted as the opening ceremonies at an AMAZINGLY swanky place on the water. White linens, white chairs, beautiful vaulted wood ceilings and an ultra white lounge highlighted the restaurant we ate at. It was a wonderfully intimate gathering and one that can't doesn't happen often at beach volleyball tournaments. Since this event is new, they are looking to build it into their annual tourism plan and sell it as an island attraction. I love how they are bringing tourism into it as Grand Cayman has a lot to offer beach volleyball. A lot of heavy hitters were present and all the financial partners were presented awards of support, not to mention some crucial people in the set up and development of the event were awarded plaques of appreciation. A highlight for me was when our friend Carl Brenton was presented an award and all the Canadians and Cayman Islanders gave him a whooping standing ovation. He has been integral to the development and inspiration of this event but keeps on the low in terms of political activity. He also housed Ray and I and has been working at the ground level with the athletes for quite some time, plus, he hosts the social Sunday league on the island with over 200 rec players!

I literally ate 5 pounds of food. Incredible cuisine doesn't come by all that often so I feasted. I had two portions of the main dish as well as some wonderful desert plus a couple nightcap coffees at the end. I left satisfied to say the least and then connected with the President of the Cayman Island Volleyball federation on the way home. We discussed developmental programs and ways to incorporate a youth development camp prior to the event to spur base level sport growth locally while showcasing international players. I hope to be a long lasting partner in Cayman beach volleyball activity because this place is paradise and the people are off the charts nice. They are actually saying we are locals because we came so early! With the props we have been receiving, and apparently being "The Favourites" to win, we have hundreds of Canadian fans to cheer us to the top of the podium and I feel great about it.

Now for the competition. The venue shaped up really nice and we drew the fourth match of the day yesterday against St.Kits. A developmental team (most of the small islands are) but talented athletes none the less. We weren't concerned and knew by controlling our side of the net and our execution that we would be off to an excellent start. 

They served Ray the majority of the time and he sided out moderately well aside from forgetting to pass a bit. They were deep float serving so we were able to control the pace of the game but as the match wore on we eased on our serving and depended on our superior defence to get us points. We had multiple spectacular plays and were able to get the crowd going a bit but all the energy in the second set was dulled by my nose bleeding! ARG!! When I woke up that morning my nose was plugged so I blew the hell out of it. Sadly, I burst some vessels and had a pretty messy bleed so apparently that seeped open during the match to force a medical timeout. People were concerned but it was a minimal injury and will not limit anything this weekend. 

We won the match 21-16, 21-11 and are looking at a next match versus Puerto Rico 2 and then if all goes to plan, our winners semi-final will be against USA 1. A good draw for us and also a chance to take down a respectable USA team and prove the Canadians are making a push on the beach.

Our teams are more athletic and have superior team play so I am PUMPED to get back in the white fluffy to do our thing. 

Game time.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Radio interview

We had a brilliant day which I hope to expand on later but I don't have the time right now to lay it out.

I do have a radio interview we did with the local radio station on the Caymans as a promo for the event. Super fun times and the DJ's were great. Check it out!!!

Time to apply some sunscreen and get back out in the sun!


Stingray City!!!

So Ray and I went out and petted wild Stingrays.  Here is the video

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Topless in the Caimans

After an unnecessarily long travel day, we have found solid ground and regained our composure. I mentioned in my last post that we had an unfortunate itinerary through Kingston (8 hour layover) but that was extended by 4 hours as our flight was delayed. We landed at 1:15 am in the Caymans and Carl the champion was waiting for us. We made the short commute to his place and to our pleasure, we each had our own rooms let alone our own beds! Ray and I have slummed it all over the world and have been known to share the odd bed to save cash; having separate accom is royalty. Needless to say, we had been up for 21 hours so we tucked it in as soon as we made it into our bedrooms.

We woke up to the amazing scent of breakfast. Wanda and Carl were cooking us a spread of scrambled eggs (my fave) and a Paleo oatmeal (let me explain) replacement. Wanda had apparently taken a Paleo (Caveman) challenge at her Cayman Crossfit gym where she would drop processed foods, grains, dairy, sugar, soy and alcohol for a month to mimic early human dietetics. So, her oatmeal replacement was as follows. Blended pears, almonds and coconut milk then heated and complimented by in season berries and a dash of organic Stevia for extra sweetness. IT WAS AMAZING!! Seriously, it was soooooo tasty!! I will be using this one when I get home in addition to my regular oatmeal diet. It is loaded with great fats (almonds and coconut milk) plus you get a healthy start with the fruit and berries. It needs to be supplemented by some form of protein (that is where the eggs came in) but it is in all honesty an amazingly healthy treat.

We then hopped into Carl's topless Jeep and cruised the town. Carl took us to the tournament site and explained their development plan for this years tournament as well as for ones to follow. They will be bringing in some small grand stands and are expecting over 1000 people to watch on Sunday! We have been told there are a massive number of Canadians here so I know my style of entertaining play will be appreciated and celebrated on the island. I am really looking forward to firing up the Island with some Canadian spirit.

We then headed home, took a nap and returned to the beach. Carl lent us his Jeep so we navigated left side of the road traffic and made it safely to the beach where we did a 10 minute beach run followed by 8, 45 second sprint intervals with 45 second active rest periods. I felt like I was 300 pounds so running out the funk in my body was essential to return to my normal state. We then played pepper in the wind (totally different than the still air in Beach Blast) and then finished our day off with a 30 minute workout on the new TRX system. The TRX system consists of two straps with handles that you can attach to a door frame or an overhead hold. You do a series of body weight movements and you can really get a full body workout including some killer abdominal exercises. We had some fun trying out new movements and felt far more coordinated after our last set.  We will be ready to play a fun little king of the beach tomorrow with the Cayman Island athletes which will be an optimal way to get used to the sand, wind and sun!

We are now off to watch a boxing match at one of the local pubs so I am out. Good times today and the next 5 days will be dedicated to getting back to 100%.

Chat tomorrow,


Friday, March 12, 2010

Stuck in Jamaica

5:30 wake up for all the right reasons! The promise of sun, natural sand and beautiful turquoise oceans will wake me no matter the time!! I packed evening last night and had an early subway commute to check in at 7. I met Ray at the entrance of departures at the Toronto Pearson airport and as we walked to check in I couldn't help but go up to the TV crews (there to document the expected spring break rush) and ask them if they wanted a story! Ray and I stepped in for two television bits on channel CP24 and Global! Great times promoting our quest and getting some face time on air! I also had the chance to plug my youtube videos so hopefully I get some more hits and fans

Now for the lame part. We have been stranded in Jamaica for 7 hours and will have to deal with it for another 3. After a short trip from Toronto to Kingston, Jamaica we unfortunately had a long layover and our flight has been postponed by 3 hours. We were stuck with our bags inside the airport (minutes from a beach) and now that we checked into our flight, we are stuck on the other side of security so we can't head into town for a bite!

Being immobile in such an amazing place is frustrating. Jamaican "jerk" food is incredible and unfortunately there isn't much for us to experience in the airport aside from a stale BBQ chicken joint and burger king. We dined on both to pass the time and the experiences didn't do this country justice. That being said, once we made it through the security/passport checkpoint we rolled upstairs to find a cute little vegetarian/fruit based stand. We chatted with the owner and upon our request, she put together the most "in season" fruits to create a delicious smoothie that will certainly sustain me for the next few hours! She blended a mixture of guava, pineapple, banana and june plum juice over ice and it was super tasty. Then, she added some ginger to it after a small discussion on immune function inspired by an old man from our flight who came close to coughing up one of his lungs. He was concerning and I am happy to be free of the recycled air full of nasties.

We now await to board the airplane and hit the Caymans far later than expected. Hopefully our ride got the message and hasn't been waiting for 3 hours, but I assume the island is small enough that it wasn't a big deal had he not heard.

We are looking forward to sand and sun tomorrow and the potential to kiss stingrays, swim with dolphins or scuba dive the wonderful local waters. Tough choices all round!!



Sunday, March 7, 2010

Just a beauty weekend

This weekend was a peach! Amazing weather, incredible times and wonderful company. It was so glorious shopping and browsing on Queen St. West Saturday afternoon. Julia and I enjoyed the beauty temperature while watching people skate on the public outdoor rink downtown! Such a neat thing to do on a weekend, especially considering it was over 10 degrees in March! I then then I had an amazing turkey dinner with Julia's family! Turkey with all the trimmings for no other reason than to have it was such a great idea, I FEASTED!! As some of you may know, family is very important to me and I always looked forward to family dinners, breakfasts and gatherings. I had a lot of fun improving my relationship with her parents as they told stories of their own lives and of course, embarrassing ones of Julia's childhood. Good times all round!

Leading up to the weekend I had to make a few decisions about partnerships and trip itineraries. It is now official that I will be playing with Ray Sewell for the first 3 NORCECA beach volleyball tournaments (Grand Cayman's, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic) before returning to Toronto for Ray's impending knee surgery. He has a torn meniscus (seems like a popular beach volley injury) and will be going under the knife on April 12th. Upon our return to Canada, I will commence training with Chaim again as he will be two weeks out of his sling and hopefully back in passing/setting and potentially hitting action. We will do our best to prepare and if Chaim feels confident about his shoulder, we will look into flying to Brasilia, Brazil on April 18th to compete in the first FIVB tournament of 2010.

Right now I am six days away from sun, wind, tropical oceans and what I have been told is some of the nicest sand in the world! We were given a contact there by Chris Densmore and this fellow Canadian will be picking us up, hosting us and training with us on the lovely local beaches. Carl Brenton is his name and apparently there will be a fun king of the beach tournament on Sunday to prepare the refs and line judges for our level of play! I am so excited to start playing outdoors and start the 2010 season with a bang. We have been told the Cayman Islands are very supportive of Canadians so I can't wait to play for what will feel like a home crowd!

Well I am off to work on a new video I shot at the Canadian Sports Centre this past Thursday. I had a physical test called a "Functional Movement Screen" and I look forward to showing you what it consisted of and the purpose behind it.

You are as strong as your drive.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Moustache Friday and an indoor training match

Sadly Beach Blast isn't the sun soaked Ipanema beach we normally train on but in this case it will have to do. Just before Chaim popped his shoulder out we played this match against Maverick Hatch and Ben Saxton. They aren't partners, but will be pairing up for one event this summer which happens to be in 2 weeks time today in the Grand Caymans. I am still going to compete, however, I will be playing with the delightful redhead Ramone Sewell for that one and three others while Chaim regains his strength in Canada.

It is the morning, I am not feeling expressive and I have a cold practice to attend in a few minutes. Enjoy the vid and lets just say I am loving the new HD camera and have plans of stepping up my productions!! I can't wait to bring more entertainment and host them on my new website which is on its way! I just saw a proof of it last night and it is looking GOOOOOD!!!

Train hard,


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A change of plans

Well Feather's injured wing is officially 6 to 8 weeks away from being useful. Today we went to the doctor to have his MRI scan reviewed and our national team doc found his left labrum to be torn. Yes this is quite heavy as we were not expecting him to be seriously injured but to be on the court monday. We were way off!

An absolutely devastating blow to Chaim as this is his first injury and we are 10 days away from a 6 week, 5 tournament trip in our first season together. It isn't an ideal time for us to be out for a month and a bit, however, we do have science on our side. The brace I referenced in my last post (which Chaim is wearing full time on his left arm) has his forearm sticking out at an awkward angle. This is to tighten the point that attaches to the labrum, thus pulling it into place and having the body naturally mend it back in the proper position. This is a recent theory developed by a Japanese doctor, a theory that boasts a 100% non-reacurrence of shoulder dislocations post brace and rehab. This is a formidable claim since it used to be a 50/50 chance the injured party would require surgery. This keeps the vibe positive as we can look forward to an excellent non-surgical recovery on Chaim's part, but it doesn't erase the fact that Chaim and I won't be competing together until May.

So where does this put me? Good question. I still have every intention of getting out of Toronto to start competing! Those who know me, know that I would stop at nothing to compete in a tropical location or refuse the chance to bask in sun near the equator. I immediately spoke with Ray after Chaim's diagnosis and he is juggling his impending surgery (Ray has a torn meniscus) so that we can re-establish Reader/Sewell as a top beach volleyball and video producing duo.

Ray and I actually had a great week of training last week while Chaim sat on the sidelines with his freshly popped shoulder. Ray and I have a connection better than your marriage or relationship so it will be a seamless transition back to our last theatrics from the Mexican NORCECA series in October of 2009. Here is a video of our semi-final game from Puerto Vallarta 2009 to get you excited!

For whatever reason this doesn't have music so here is the link to a better quality version of this video with some house music. I would recommend the version with music, I just watched it and got JACKED!

You can look forward to these excellent features in 2010

1) Jump sets by me
2) Redheaded Productions
3) Cameos by Ray
4) Ray nearly dying of heat stroke
5) Cameos by me
6) Speedos

As you can see I am still in a positive mental state. That being said, I am bummed for Chaim's loss and look forward to making magic with him on the court midway through 2010. This is professional athletics and injuries are a part of the game whether it be us pushing hard in practice on in competition. No matter what happens we must stay strong and believe.

I will keep you all posted on my new competition schedule as I work out possible dates with Ray and potentially other players.

Keep training hard and pushing boundaries,