Pro beach volleyball player Mark Burik has traveled the world competing and coaching, but on Sunday, the 28-year-old Olympic hopeful was back on familiar sand, playing in the Bethpage FCU Summer Breeze tournament in Long Beach.
“This is the beach where I learned on,” said Burik, who grew up in Glendale, Queens, and spent summers at his family’s home in Breezy Point. “These are the guys who really taught me ... ”
And often beat him as well.
On Sunday, Burik returned the favor.
He and his partner, Shane Donohue, 27, of Freehold, New Jersey, defeated Brooklyn’s Michael Salak, 38, and West Hempstead’s Greg Hunter, 28, to win the men’s division.
Burik said he and Salak have a longtime friendly rivalry.
“I love winning,” Burik said. “I’m trying to go to the Olympics in 2020, so this is like a minimum requirement, winning matches like this.”
In addition to bragging rights, Burik and Donohue will split $1,500 for winning the division.
East End Volleyball, the Hampton Bays organization that sponsored the two-day tournament, doled out $5,000 in cash prizes to the top-performing teams, including the team that won the women’s division on Saturday, Island Park native Dana Fiume and North Woodmere’s Hilary Pavels.
This year’s tournament attracted teams from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida and Canada. And while the heavy hitters battled on the beach, about 60 youth athletes also played the game on courts set up nearby. They competed for smaller prizes and free entries into the Volley America Juniors National Championships, which will take place on Aug. 10 in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.
This is the first year East End Volleyball held the junior component of the tournament.
Salak, a teacher who also coaches volleyball on the high school and college levels, said, “Right now, the local level is not as strong as it used to be.”
But he was optimistic that youth programs like the one taking place in Long Beach would help change that.
“Everybody likes to watch this, this is the fun volleyball,” Hunter said of the men’s finals game, which drew a crowd of spectators watching from the beach and boardwalk above.
“But,” he added, pointing to the youth games taking place, “That’s the really big deal.”