Written by: Shannon Marie
New Jersey native Ryan Doherty welcomed a new AVP Tour stop to Atlantic City this weekend for the DO AC Pro Beach Volleyball Invitation. The beach volleyball 3X champion travels the world for top level competition, but it has a deeper meaning to compete in his home state on the Jersey Shore, especially post-Hurricane Sandy. At a soaring 7’1” in height, Doherty makes blocking look much too easy.
The tallest player on the AVP Tour even nicknamed “Avatar” for his larger-than-life stature, this humble giant is a local legend, and hundreds of fans showed up in Atlantic City to cheer on their idol who made it all the way to the Semi-finals on Sunday.
The Surf Channel had the opportunity to talk to Doherty at the DO AC Pro about how the recent addition to the beach volleyball circuit could help a coastal community in times of reconstruction and economic distress, in this exclusive interview.
Name: Ryan Doherty, nickname “Avatar”
Birthdate: Feb. 2, 1984
Hometown: Toms River, New Jersey
Resides: Ventura, Calif.
Height: 7’ 1″
College: Notre Dame
The Surf Channel: How do you feel about the AVP Tour finally stopping in Atlantic City?
Ryan Doherty: It’s really exciting to have the DO AC Pro in New Jersey. I am from Toms River not too far from here, so my family will be able to come watch us play. And it is always fun with a home crowd.
What does it mean to New Jersey residents to have a new tourist attraction here?
Doherty: It’s a great opportunity for tourism, especially after Superstorm Sandy which heavily effected the Jersey coast. Just up the street from Atlantic City is Seaside Heights, which was completely destroyed by the hurricane. That roller coaster that everyone saw on the news was a memorable spot for my family. My mom worked on that boardwalk her entire life to support our family, and now it’s gone. It is pretty wild and was a really tough time for everyone, so it’s important to keep rebuilding. This AVP Tour stop will help and is a good step forward.
Are there still buildings under sand, and how do you even begin to rebuild?
Doherty: Atlantic City was very lucky and wasn’t too effected, but there are still many towns struggling even a year after. Superstorm Sandy did a number on us… as the surf community knows.
How can surfers help the East Coast communities that are still struggling?
Doherty: Donating to the Red Cross is very effective, and probably helped the most to support us. The best thing someone on the Pacific Coast of California could do, for example, is come out here and surf Jersey waves. Just coming to visit will help the economy.
Sports other than volleyball?
Doherty: I was an All-American baseball player for Notre Dame in 2002 before being signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a relief pitcher. I pitched for three seasons in the Diamondbacks’ farm system.
And you were the first 7-footer in the history of minor-league baseball… That’s pretty cool. How did you get into volleyball?
Doherty: I moved to South Carolina where my roommate and I started playing sand volleyball. I became hooked on the sport and moved to Huntington Beach, California. There, I was on the beach 5-6 days a week and started helping with blocking drills for the pros, and eventually Casey Patterson contacted me and the rest is history.
You had a breakout year in 2012. You and Casey Patterson took fifth at Cincinnati, earning a spot in the Championships at Santa Barbara. Who are you playing with now?
Doherty: For the 2013 season, I’m partnering with long-time AVP competitor and Olympic Gold Medalist Todd Rogers.
How could the surf and volleyball industries support each other?
Doherty: I think that both the surf industry and the volleyball community have an engrained love and respect for our beaches and oceans, and one of the best things we can do for one another is try to protect our playgrounds.
CJ Macias is a great beach volleyball player that, along with his father, has removed over a ton of garbage from our oceans by going out on his longboard with a net and properly disposing of any waste he collected. And even though that may not be an option for everybody – since my 7-foot frame can barely stand up on a paddleboard – supporting organizations like the Surfrider Foundation will ensure we can all enjoy our beaches and breaks for years to come.