There may have been a cyclone passing through, but that didn't dampen the spirits of competitors at the provincial beach volleyball champs at Mount Maunganui.

"We've got teams from all over the country, from Otago to Northland competing in Under-15s, Under-17s and Under-19s," said Tim Cleaver of Volleyball New Zealand.

This year a new category was added to the event, to encourage people to stay in the sport for longer.

"We've added a tertiary grade to the tournament structure this year," Cleaver said. "We had four or five tertiary institutes represented.

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"We've added that so there's another avenue for people to keep playing beach volleyball after they finish school. It's a hugely popular sport at school and we see a big drop off in sport and that's one of the big aims at the moment is to keep people active for longer."

"No clothing requirement in terms of what they're wearing other than that they are matching". Photo / Gavin Ogden.

For those taking the sport seriously, there are global opportunities.

"From the tertiary champs we'll be looking to select a team to attend the world university champs," Cleaver said. "And then from the provincial champs and the under-19 teams a New Zealand team will be selected to go to the Asian champs, and if they do well they are then on to world champs."

Beach volleyball often makes the headlines not for the action on the court, but for what competitors are wearing, but Cleaver insists it's the athletes' choice.

"There's no clothing requirement in terms of what they're wearing other than that they are matching. Playing gear is what the athletes are most comfortable in. Swimmers wear togs not because they're told to wear togs, but because that's the most appropriate thing to wear when you're swimming. And that's the same with beach volleyball."

And organisers say the attire, or lack of it, is not one of the sport's main selling points.

"Beach volleyball's a great action sport," Cleaver said. "We think that the athleticism on court is what makes the sport attractive to watch."

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