Perhaps the only thing stranger than the setting in which Sean Rosenthal chose to conduct a deep introspection on his life as a professional beach volleyball player was the day, a Tuesday.

It was June 14, 2016, five days shy of his 36th birthday, and Rosenthal’s weekend in Porec, Croatia was over.

In twelve years and 94 previous events on the FIVB Tour, not only had Rosenthal never lost in a qualifier – he had never even been in one. Yet there he was, on a Tuesday afternoon, booted after the second round at the hands of Austria’s Tobias Winter and Lorenz Petutschnig. He wasn’t entirely sure what to do – this was after all, quite an unfamiliar experience for the man who had, just two years earlier, alongside Phil Dalhausser, won more tournaments than anyone in the world, and two years before that, with Jake Gibb, finished the year ranked No. 1 in points.

He wondered if he should keep going, if he should continue to travel the world and play this game that he had played in such a breathtaking manner that he had earned the nickname Superman.

So he did what he always did: He called Gibb, and then he texted his good friend Tyler Hildebrand. Though their conversations varied, the theme was the same. Said Gibb: “We just had to remind him how great he is.”

Rosenthal still had greatness in him. It just took a then-27-year-old from Honolulu to draw it back out.

When the 2016 AVP season ended on September 4, and Olympics no longer bound partners together, the off-season shuffle was almost immediate. Casey Patterson moved to Thousand Oaks, roughly 80 miles and two hours from Gibb, which effectively put an end to that partnership. The dominoes fell from there.

Read the rest of the feature in this month’s edition of DiG Magazine!