Online editor Helen Russell hones her ball skills on a weekend in the West Country

Being blessed with neither the stature nor the hand-eye coordination of a natural sportswoman, I'm nervous about learning beach volleyball. Will I be any good? Will it hurt? And how do I get the Baywatch theme tune out of my head when I'm playing?

Description: Beach Volleyball In Devon

Beach Volleyball In Devon

This Olympics sport started in Santa Monica, but I'm learning it in the California of the West Country - Croyde Bay in north Devon. Joined by three girlfriends, I've arranged a weekend at Ocean Point, a collection of relaxed apartments overlooking Saunton Sands.

Description: Croyde Bay, North Devon

Croyde Bay, North Devon

Our instructor is former GB player Denise Austin who coaches everyone from beginners to budding internationals. She starts us off with the basics: digging (passing the ball), setting (serving it) and spiking (smashing it into your opponents' court). To move more easily in the sand, we're advised to go barefoot and scuttle from side to side. `Like a crab?' I ask. `Exactly,' says Denise.

Getting the ball over the net is the next challenge. Denise tells us to hold our arms straight ahead and nudge the ball upwards with a shrug. When she does this, it looks easy and makes no sound. When I do it, there's a loud `thwack' and I'm in agony. After a few more shrugs, however, I get it. Volleyball eureka!

We're soon throwing ourselves into the air like old pros. My team loses the match at the end, but it doesn't matter. There's a real sense of achievement at having used muscles that have lain untroubled for years.

Beside the seaside: Ocean Point on the north Devon coast

After a shower we're revived but famished. Croyde offers upmarket pub grub (ostrich burgers or venison steak, anyone?) and we down a few glasses of Pinot Grigio before bed. The next day is spent reminiscing about our sporting glory while eating ice cream on the beach. Would we play it again? You bet.

Top tip Get your technique right to avoid injury (but pack arnica cream just in case).

Learn more At,,

Book now Denise Austin ( offers coaching to groups and individuals year-round, from $53 an hour. Farm & Cottage Holidays ( has properties near Croyde. A week at Ocean Point in June, sleeping four, costs from $1,333.

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