For the last 13 years, Mark “Godfather” Shilling has pulled a wagon of supplies down to Willows Beach on Saturdays to set up his volleyball net and play the sport that is in his blood.
“My dad was a beach volleyball player for 30 years in West Palm Beach, Florida. He instilled that desire to play in me,” said Shilling. “Then just meeting other volleyball players in Victoria, we got it going.”
What began as four players at the beach in the beginning, has now grown to 50 people enjoying their Saturdays in the sun and sand, in a competitive but supportive environment. The group plays upper-end beach volleyball, and over the years, a number of the players have gone on to play tournaments in Kitsilano Beach, Parksville, Seaside Oregon or even Florida and Hawaii.
“My brother, John Galloway, started here about 10 years ago. Now he is really prominent in the Kitsilano scene as a coach. He brought me down here to try to get me better. I started off as a super recreational player and then through these guys, they took me under their wing and helped me really develop as a player,” said Graeme Galloway.
22-year-old Eduardo Bidá from Brazil is one of the newest Willows Beach additions. He just started the Exercise and Wellness program at Camosun College, and plays competitively on Camosun’s volleyball team.
“The best moments are when you get a group of friends and family, and they bring their kids here. We all hang out. We run competitive ball and then right after that families jump in and play recreational ball to have some fun,” said player Mark Yuen.
“We love Willows. We try to be respectful with the space and keep the beach clean,” said Shilling. “We’ve been down here every year for 13 years, and we hope to have 13 more.”
It is “Aloha” style, Shilling says, with no money being exchanged.
“In fact the only thing that ever gets back to me maybe is a volleyball and then it is shared amongst the family of volleyballers. We have a really good scene going down here,” said Shilling.
Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.