Winter’s a Beach

After two sub-zero plunges into the fun world of polar vortexes, you can practically read the minds of desperate passersby around Columbus—I need to get to a beach. Now.

And this time of year, that typically requires booking a flight, and spending money, and time off work, and other inconvenient things that mostly leave people on their couches watching reruns of Pacific Blue and just wishing. Until now.

Opened in September 2013, the new Ultimate Beach Center is now in full swing for locals, who will find the Hilliard location a bit more accessible than San Diego or South Beach. Facility owner Steven Hinds founded it as a place he could run junior beach volleyball leagues for more than 120 teams he directs through Zenith Volleyball Academy, as well as another 120 or so teams from the Junior Olympic facility, Ultimate Sports Center.

“My selfish need was to have a place that I could grow juniors’ beach volleyball,” he said. “In order for us to grow the sport, we need to have some prime time place to be able to practice our kids four months out of the year, from April through August.”

During the spring and summer months, the bars with beach volleyball courts are filled with adult beer leagues, leaving the juniors out in the cold, metaphorically. But when the weather chills, the juniors head to the indoor hard courts, and the beer leagues disappear, leaving the adults out in the cold, both literally and metaphorically. Or more than likely, on their couches.

“Our Ultimate Beach Center really caters to the adults,” Hinds added. “Beach volleyball is the fastest-growing sport right now … so we thought that it would be the right time.”

From August through April, Ultimate Beach Center becomes a haven for those seeking refuge from the cold to continue the beach volleyball season indefinitely. UBC has four volleyball courts and hosts teams of doubles, triples, quads and sixes in male, female and coed leagues in both recreational and competitive formats. The center has already had success drawing the summer crowds to a new season, filling up its Thursday night league to the max of 40 teams, with most other nights at 25 or more.

And though they can’t claim fun in the sun in the truest sense with that pesky roof overhead, the rest of the experience is spot-on, with constant 80-degree temperatures, 12 inches of sand on the surface, popular music blasting over the courtside speakers and even a fully stocked bar with 10 plasma TVs. For those just looking for one night of volleyball fun, Fridays are reserved for casual matches, when $7 gets you in the door for pickup games and half-priced beers all night.

Hinds uses the manmade beach environment to host other sports, like beach soccer, volley tennis—resembling fast-paced badminton on a beach volleyball court—and a California sport called Over the Line, a three-on-three sand variation of softball. There are also sand fitness classes through some of UBC’s partners, like The Spot Athletics, which does low-impact sand conditioning for its athletes and training for its MMA fighters and wrestlers, as well as a boot camp-style class through another organization.

Whichever activity brings you in, it’s just nice to forget the deep freeze for a while. It might not be Newport Beach, but it’s a hell of a lot better than your couch.

For more information about Ultimate Beach Center, visit Hinds is also looking for independent fitness instructors who would like to hold morning and midday boot camp-style and training classes in the sand.