Over the years, the Playa del Rey tradition started by brothers Steve & David Cressman has picked up steam, from 17 in 1971 to more than 800 participants this year.

Over the years, the Playa del Rey tradition started by brothers Steve & David Cressman has picked up steam, from 17 in 1971 to more than 800 participants this year.

Replete in all of its costumed glory, the volleyball-centric spectacle known as “The Gillis” returns to celebrate the era from which The Beach Boys, “Gidget,” Hawaiian shirts, “The Many Loves of Dobey Gilles,” and other signifiers of surf culture emerged.
The 43rd Annual Gillis Beach Invitational Volleyball Tournament will be held at Dockweiler State Beach, located at the south end of Playa del Rey, from 8 a.m. until dark Saturday and Sunday, August 10 and 11.
What began in 1971 with local Playa del Rey residents Steve and David Cressman – graduates of St. Bernard and Westchester high schools, respectively – has grown to epic proportions over the decades.
Gillis Beach Invitational gleans its name from the one-block-long Gillis Street, which ended at the beach. In the summer, many of the local high schoolers would congregate at this one volleyball court, mastering the body surf and volleyball, said David Cressman.
So in 1971, the Cressman boys decided to form an annual tournament and invited just over a dozen teams to play on one court. As the years passed, the tournament became a heavily anticipated yearly Playa del Rey tradition, escalating from the original 17 teams who participated that first year to the more than 800 players scheduled to compete this month, Cressman said.
Part of the Gillis Invitational’s evolution and allure involves cosplay. One year, players Pat Turley and Dik Johnson arrived dressed as Laurel and Hardy, showing up on the bike path in a vintage Cadillac with a driver. They performed a skit for the crowd, and Cressman said this became the performance that changed the event forever, as more and more participants began to don colorful costumes ever since.
Last year, the Los Angeles City Council honored the Gillis with a plaque and a proclamation naming Aug. 10 “Day of The Gillis.”
Along with the costumes, the Gillis has become known for its skits and the coveted “G-Rating” handed out to winners of various brackets, Cressman said.
Locals Denny Smith and Alan Vallarine are scheduled to return and tie the Cressman brothers for attending all 43 tournaments.
The tournament is an invitational event so teams are limited to invitees only. However, spectators are invited to partake in the proceedings.
Information, TheGillis.com.

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