The wall near the Huntington Beach Pier isn’t so much a wall as it is a mildly large ledge. Though to an 8-year-old Sara Hughes, a mildly large ledge may as well have been The Great Wall itself.
So there she’d sit, three or four days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., hopping on the wall between games of her own and runs to Jamba Juice. From her perch she’d watch. Namely, she’d watch Misty May and Kerri Walsh, a team that was considered likely to win a gold medal in the 2004 Olympic Games after a year on the AVP Tour in which they went 39-0 and won all eight tournaments. It was the first time anybody had gone undefeated on a beach volleyball tour of any kind.
So little Sara would watch, studying their movements, watching them compete, dreaming of becoming them.
Fifteen years later, little girls now dream of becoming Sara Hughes. In her first full season as a professional, in 2017, a parent would pull her aside, tell her that her daughter had a poster of Hughes hanging on her wall, that she has aspirations to become the next Sara.
“I was like ‘No way is that actually happening,’” Hughes said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.
Yet it is. Already, Hughes has won an AVP tournament, five months younger than when May won her first professional event on the FIVB. Already, Hughes is sponsored by the biggest names in volleyball – Mikasa, Oakley, K-Tape.
Already, Hughes is sponsored by the biggest name in sports: Nike.
“My agent, the first time we sat down, asked me what’s my favorite clothing, what’s my favorite apparel, and I said ‘Nike. Always Nike.’ So that in itself is really a dream come true for me to call myself a Nike athlete,” she said, alongside names such as LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Alex Morgan and others of that ilk.