A little leaner this time, the notoriously fun Playa del Rey volleyball tournament returns to its roots on Toes Beach

By Christina Campodonico

The Gillis is a competition to see who can have the most fun Photo by Denny Smith

The Gillis is a competition to see who can have the most fun
Photo by Denny Smith

The Gillis has become known as a big party on the beach, but this year the storied volleyball tournament is downsizing and going back to its historic roots on Toes Beach in Playa del Rey, where the event was held for the first 25 of its 46 years.

“We’re coming back home,” says Gillis event organizer Dave Cressman, who originally co-founded The Gillis with his brother Steve on the shores of what was formerly Gillis Beach before moving the tourney to Toes and then to Dockweiler.

“My brother was trying to impress a girl, so he said, ‘I’m going to have a tournament and maybe she’ll be impressed,’” recalls Cressman.

It certainly impressed the public, becoming one the of the most popular events in Playa del Rey over the decades, but this year’s change of venue — and weeks earlier date — aims to make the event smaller and more intimate.

“We had to move from Dockweiler because it was getting too big, so we decided to cut it back and get back to our roots as we close down toward 50 years,” says Cressman.

The 2016 tournament keeps true to the invitational intent of the event with fewer brackets and select teams, but spectators are still welcome to the party.

“Everyone is welcome to watch,” says Cressman — and he isn’t just talking about the volleyball games.

The Gillis’ annual Showtime costume competition will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday and is a great opportunity to see players and participants dress up in fun and fantastical costumes from gnomes to astronauts.

One year a team dressed up as silent film comedians Laurel and Hardy, arriving in a 1932 Cadillac and tearing off the clothes that they were wearing to reveal 1920s style swimsuits underneath.

“After that everyone wanted to do costumes,” recalls Cressman.

Showtime is just one of many traditions that The Gillis has created and fostered over the years, so Cressman is glad to be able to continue the tourney at Toes.

“For us, it’s a legacy,” he says.

The Gillis 46 happens from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (July 24 and 23) at Toes Beach, Playa del Rey. Visit thegillis.com or  facebook.com/thegillisvolleyballtournament/ for more information.