Austrians spreading beach volleyball cheer at Fort Lauderdale Major
Eighty Austrians were in the stands on the outer courts ready to cheer on their national heroes, Clemens Doppler and Alex Horst. But win or lose, behind or ahead, they were ready to let loose. Nonstop.
Fort Lauderdale, USA, March 2, 2018 - What could anyone on the beach possibly learn from a group of rowdy fans singing “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” in the midday South Florida sun?
First, you know you’re attending a Beach Major Series tournament. Second, you know they are Austrians. And they’re in the United States once a year to spread the gospel on what it means to cheer for beach volleyball.
This week, it’s the third Beach Majors event in Fort Lauderdale and Americans, or anyone else from outside of Austria, are getting an education in how a sleepy little town in Austria became the self-proclaimed Capital of Beach Volleyball.
On Friday, a group of about 80 Austrians were in the stands on the outer courts ready to cheer on their national heroes, Clemens Doppler and Alex Horst. But win or lose, behind or ahead, they were ready to let loose. Nonstop.
And they appreciate the acceptance of the rest of the fans around them.
“They like us, we come with the lederhosen, all the same t-shirts, we make a party and three years ago we taught the Americans how to (cheer) and they like us,” said Juergen Rainer of Steuerberg, just north of Klagenfurt. “Every place we go they are friendly to us. We tell them we come from Austria to watch beach volleyball and they are excited and they say ‘You come from Austria, 10,000 kilometers away, for beach volleyball?’ They don’t believe it.”
They believe it when they see it. As they did for 18 years in Klagenfurt, they knew all the moves, all the songs, and don’t stop singing even when the volume of the music goes down. And it warms their heart when other fans join them. They hold up individual letters to spell out cheers and slogans, even using attention-grabbing emojis.
Fort Lauderdale has become an annual pilgrimage to escape the Austrian winter, at least for a week. They plan ahead for the next as best they can as soon as they arrive home.
“Yes we plan but we don’t know the dates,” Rainer said. “It’s hard to plan but three months before, we see the date, then everybody goes to their boss and plans their vacation. In Austria there were (summer) holidays and we had the women and children and it was a pretty cool vacation for the family and they also like beach volleyball. But now they must stay in school so we come alone. It’s not great for us.”
Where did Austria, of all countries, develop a love for the sport previously only matched by the United States and Brazil?
“From Hannes Jagerhofer because he made it in Klagenfurt,” Rainer said of the Beach Majors CEO. “There are 10,000 people in centre court and over 100,000 for the week, it was in the magazines and television and it grew and grew and now we are very sad that Klagenfurt stopped.”
That’s another story, but the influence of Klagenfurt is now growing more prominent throughout the world. One crazy song and dance at a time.