PrintAll eyes of USA Beach Handball will be on Alabama’s gulf shores this weekend as the first annual American Open Beach Handball Championship (AOBHC) will be held in Gulf Shores, AL.

The tournament will be held April 24-27 and be managed by Dede Piankova, Chairperson of USA Beach Handball and a member of the local organizing committee. Admission to the matches is free to the public and will feature teams from all over the country

The first match will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, and the tournament features divisions for men, women and youth. Three playing courts will be stationed on the public beach at The Hangout, 101 E. Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL. Matches will take place all day on Friday and Saturday with the finals scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m. (CDT).

In addition to the matches, the event will also feature instructional courses on Thursday by the International Handball Federation (IHF). The IHF will offer a Beach Handball Masters Course and certification for coaches, referees and delegates.  Luiz Filipe, Chairman of the Pan Am Beach Handball Working Group, and Burak Tazcan, a member of the IHF Beach Handball Working Group, will serve as lecturers for the training. The cost for the course is $50.

Through this competition and other supporting efforts, the organizing committee members hope to promote Beach Handball to the general public and gain support for its induction into the 2016 Summer Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Organizers also announce that Mike Noble will be attending the event and be the official voice of the main court at the AOBHC. Noble is a veteran in the sport and served as the handball announcer at five Olympic Games.

In addition to Noble being in attendance, the matches will be officiated by two of the highest ranking European Beach Handball officials, Evangelos Syrepisios and Michalis Mertinian. Both referees will share their experience and techniques with their American colleagues and competitors.

During the tournament, George Bebetsos from the European Handball Federation (EHF) will serve as a member of the Competition Management Team and will offer a course on marketing Beach Handball

The City of Gulf Shores will be sponsoring the medals and trophies for all three divisions.  The city will also provide a special Gulf Shores Mayors Cup, which will be presented to the champions by the mayor.  After the event is concluded, the Mayors Cup will be displayed in city hall.

In support of the championship, Piankova has worked with local high school and middle school youth to introduce them to the sport of Beach Handball. Earlier this month, the teachers organized a tournament on grass in the Gulf Shores City Park. The event featured 10 teams in a boys division and 10 teams in a girls that division with eight to ten players on each team.

“I am personally honored that Dede Piankova has chosen Gulf Shores Middle School as a starting point to teach the new and exciting sport of Beach Handball,” said GMS coach Valerie Caldwell. “It is my goal to continue to work with Dede and to educate teachers and students on how to play the game and enjoy all the fun that Beach Handball can bring to our Baldwin County community.”

Piankova said the event was a tremendous success as youth demonstrated great interest in learning the rules of the game, basic defense, fast break strategy, substitutions and referee signals and gestures.

For more information about the tournament, visit Gulf Shores’ official website:

For more information, on the American Open Beach Handball Championship, visit:

For more information about the sport of Beach Handball, watch this video at:

To view an interview with Mark Noble, visit: