Donald Sun grew up playing volleyball, so when the opportunity arose to purchase the then-bankrupt Assn. of Volleyball Professionals tour in 2007, the Newport Beach resident who was an Orange County All-Star outside hitter at University High dived at the chance.
Sun, 38 and his AVP staff, headquartered in Costa Mesa, held an event in Santa Barbara in 2007 and relaunched the tour with seven events in 2013, capped by this weekend's AVP Championships near the Huntington Beach Pier.
He saw down with the Daily Pilot at the Huntington Beach event to provide insight on the tour and his experiences as the AVP owner.
•Question: Has the first full AVP season been what you expected?
•Answer: I expected a certain level, but I think it exceeded my expectations, really. I was surprised at how many people value the AVP brand and how many people come out and support it.
•Q: Are there plans to expand next year?
•A: We're not going to go crazy, but we're going to expand it in an organic manner. We have seven tournaments this year, and maybe we'll go to eight next year. One of the keys for us is, we don't want to go to different places every year, because you don't really grow the roots, so going to certain locations year-in and year-out builds the sense of community that it will take to make each event bigger and better over the years.
•Q: How did you fall in love with volleyball?
•A: I grew up playing volleyball in Irvine. I played at University High and in the summer, I played on the beach or next to the sand court next to my house. I played in the Orange County All-Star Match in 1993. It was fun.
•Q: You seem to keep a low profile; what's it like being the corporate face of the AVP?
•A: I like a low profile. I'm not the most comfortable with [the spotlight] by any means. I don't like to be in front of the camera and I don't like getting interviewed or anything like that. But I understand it's something that I have to do to promote the brand.
•Q: In terms of sustainability, what will you do that previous AVP owners have not done?
•A: I think it comes down to being fiscally responsible and growing organically. I think one of the main reasons why the previous iterations didn't work out was because their schedule didn't have continuity and they were just chasing where the money was [for tournament sites]. If you get the community and the city behind you, then they are more willing to put dollars [into it] or give other contributions that it takes to build an event.
•Q: How important is the Olympic cycle to the AVP?
•A: It's very important, because a lot of Olympic athletes are competing out here. This is the training ground for the Olympics. If there was not a domestic tour, they would have to fly more to play internationally. It costs more and its not as advantageous to their own regimens.
•Q: Do you have a favorite tour stop this year?
•A: Huntington Beach, because this is the home town.
•Q: What is your best memory as a beach volleyball fan?
•A: My best memory is not really of the event itself, it's driving there in the morning. As a fan, you get up early in the morning. I remember going to Seal Beach and San Diego and waking up at 6 in the morning. You just pile into a car with some friends and listen to some tunes and you are just excited for the day. And by the end, you are totally sun-burned, but you are loving live, because you saw your heroes.