6Pack Beach's Barry Law makes beach volleyball a year-round sport in the Lower Mainland
Barry Law, co-founder and co-owner of 6PackBeach, has a job where he spends lots of time playing…beach volleyball, that is. 6Pack Beach is Vancouver’s first indoor beach and premier beach volleyball facility.
My first visit to 6Pack Beach on Mitchell Island was on a dark, rainy February night- not typical beach volleyball weather in Vancouver. Or not until now anyway. Inside 6Pack, it was bright and warm. Friendly laughter permeated the air along with the pops and squeaks of hands hitting volleyballs. Male and female players dressed in shorts and tanks ran barefoot in the sand diving occasionally to save the ball.
Sitting at a picnic table in the spectator area, thirty-something Barry Law dressed in neat sweats with his black hair gelled expertly upward, reflects on how he and business partner, Jeff Cheng, came up with the idea to build sand courts in a brand new warehouse on Mitchell Island- an idea which was later awarded Richmond’s Best New Business of the Year in 2012 by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
“Growing up,” says Law, “we always talked about life and about what we can do with our lives where it doesn’t seem like we’re going to work. We brainstormed back and forth,” he says referring to Cheng, his childhood family friend.
Barry liked sports as a kid and played soccer, basketball, rugby and volleyball while attending high school at Lord Byng in Vancouver. After high school he drifted from job to job.
“I was a man of many jobs,” says Law. “I worked for Air Care, Canadian Tire, a call centre, I’m a licensed hair stylist, and I still cut hair for my friends. I didn’t know what to do with my life so I had a lot of different jobs just kind of saving up, almost subconsciously preparing that I would do something big with my money someday.”
During that time Barry continued playing volleyball socially in local rec leagues. Jeff took notice. He said, ‘how’s volleyball? You play volleyball a lot. You’re always out playing volleyball’. Barry said, “It’s fun, you get to meet new people, hang out with your buddies, and then you go eat afterwards.”
Volleyball in the eighties and nineties in North America enjoyed an enormous popularity surge after the success of the US men’s and women’s Olympic teams in 1992 when beach volleyball was a demonstration sport. In 1996, beach volleyball debuted as an Oympic sport in Atlanta and Canadians John Child and Mark Heese beat out Americans Sinjin Smith and Carl Henkel for the bronze medal. Beach volleyball, with its intense athleticism, beautiful bodies in bikinis, and chill, beach bum aesthetic, began surpassing its less sexy indoor counterpart.
Says Law, “Jeff started asking me ‘what’s beach volleyball like?’ And I said, ‘well I play a lot of indoor but let’s get out there and check it out and play some grass, play some beach. Let’s see how fun it is.’”
The pair soon discovered the challenges facing beach volleyball players in the Pacific Northwest.
“We said man it rains so much in this city, we can’t play beach volleyball in the rain. We go to the beaches and it’s always really busy when there’s sunlight- which is a month or so, maybe two.”