OKALOOSA ISLAND — The Emerald Coast’s biggest “family reunion” descends upon The Boardwalk this week.

We’re talking about Emerald Coast Volleyball Week, of course, affectionately known by the volleyball community and locals as “Fuds.”

But this is no normal Fuds. This is the 30th anniversary edition.

Fittingly, the five-day bi-annual tournament is attracting a record turnout – 314 teams currently, more than 1,300 volleyball players and another 1,600 spectators are expected. The field is so packed that 15 teams were on the waiting list as of Tuesday.

The field includes talent from Canada, California, the Midwest and the entire Southeast, providing for an eclectic group craving community and competition.

“They’re coming from everywhere,” said tournament organizer Mike Minich, who’s been in charge since 1993. “I just met a group who came in on a red-eye from Los Angeles.

“The weather’s looking good, the beach is looking good and everybody’s ready. This is just a big group of people who are friends who get to see each other a couple of times a year.”

The fun begins Wednesday at The Boardwalk with co-ed doubles running from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. An afterparty kicks off later at 7 at The Boardwalk.

Thursday features single-gender doubles from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a Luau at Al’s Beach Club at 7 p.m. Then Friday is the King/Queen/Kid of the Beach from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., a tremendous way of meeting people considering you’re partnered with a different person each game.


Saturday and Sunday marks the main event, a four-player tournament (men, women and co-ed divisions) that will draw somewhere in the realm of 1,600 spectators for the finals on Sunday. Play begins at 9 a.m. both days and the Women’s Open Finals is at 2 p.m. Sunday and the Men’s Open Finals follows at 3.

“As far as amateur, it’s some of the best volleyball you’ll see in the region,” said Minich, who noted the field will also feature lauded profession Ed Ratlidge.

The name for the tournament is derived from Fudpucker’s, an iconic local restaurant with a location in Destin that serves as the chief sponsor of the event alongside Ramada Plaza Beach Resort.

The first tournament was in 1989 and was sponsored chiefly by Abbott Resorts. Fudpucker’s was one of the sponsors, donating beer and gumbo and even putting a team together to play. After the tournament was over, Abbott Realty asked the Fudpucker’s team if they would take it over.

The rest is history, the local eatery becoming the face of the tourney. Three decades since the tournament started, the bi-annual showcase has grown in both numbers and reputation.