As a high-school student in the late '90s, event cofounder Olivia Ormos and her friends remember attending their first Volleypalooza, Ocean Drive's version of the sporting event. "I played ball and loved the sport," she says. "I was like 17 at the time, and it was just fun to watch the models play. But then I went to college and grew up, and eventually Ocean Drive sold the magazine, and the event went with it."
After college, Ormos returned to Miami, and when she discovered that Volleypalooza was no more, she was inspired to bring back the fashionable event. "We gave it a new name and some love," she says. "We really wanted to see if we could revive it."
Ormos and her team pulled off the inaugural Model Beach Volleyball in 2010 after just a few months of planning. It took place at Nikki Beach and drew more than 1,000 spectators throughout the weekend. "We started with just six sponsors at the time and literally threw it together in a month's time," she says. "It was intimate and fun."
Now in its seventh year, the event, now called LeSutra's Model Beach Volleyball Tournament, has grown to include more than 300 models from 13 agencies and about 15,000 spectators. Proceeds raised from the event benefit the DJ Irie Foundation.
"When we moved back to Eighth and Ocean Drive in 2012, that's where our footprint really grew," the organizer says. The new space was able to accommodate more people, thus bringing in more sponsors.
The two-day event has grown to the point where Ormos gets approached by agencies begging to participate. She has added a few other agencies but says most are returning from previous years. Top agencies competing this year include Next, CGM, Elite, Ford, MC2, Mega, Front Oceans, Runways, and Wilhelmina. About 20 models make up each team, and the coed battle consists of a bracket-style competition where teams compete in a round-robin format. In years past, Wilhelmina and Runways have been consist frontrunners. The winning team will get an all-expense-paid service trip to Haiti, where the models will help the community.
"Coincidentally, a lot of the models happen to be volleyball players," Ormos explains. "Everyone who participates takes it really seriously too. They're probably out there right now practicing for the big day. Some modeling agencies even have tryouts for their teams. Whoever wins definitely gets bragging rights among all the agencies."
Can't make it out to the event? Don't worry — watch it live on Snapchat's global story or listen to one of three iHeartRadio stations broadcasting the hotly anticipated tournament. "Between the radio partnership and Snapchat, we're expecting a big boost in attendance," Ormos boasts.
She hopes to expand the tournament to other cities around the world and turn it into a sort of tour. "That's our big goal right now. We've gotten requests from Barcelona, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. I want to grow it into a worldwide tour and work with agencies all over the world."
Until then, the game remains exclusive to Miami Beach. "There's something to be said about 300 models in the same place at the same time when the rest of the country is wearing coats and shoveling snow off cars," Ormos says. "Miami is the place to be."
LeSutra's Model Beach Volleyball Tournament
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, February 20, and Sunday, February 21, at Lummus Park, Eighth Street and Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Admission is free. Visit eventbrite.com.