Jeremy Casebeer stays busy while the AVP Tour remains idle
A long timeout is no day at the beach for Jeremy Casebeer, the globetrotting volleyball star from Santa Barbara High’s Class of 2007.
This week’s New York City Open, the beach tournament in which he made his leap into the AVP elite in 2016, was postponed two months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A new date hasn’t been set.
Hermosa Beach, where he now makes his home, is next up on the AVP’s pro beach calendar. Its July 24-26 run, however, is also in doubt because of the coronavirus.
The situation has left the 6-foot-5 Casebeer and his wife — Brazilian beach volleyball star Maria Clara Salgado — a bit antsy.
“Offseason doesn’t exist for my wife Maria and I,” he said. “We are fortunate to be the only people in the world able to compete on both the AVP and Brasilian pro tour, training and competing from the beginning of January through mid-December.”
Casebeer’s rise in beach volleyball, which reached lofty heights when he placed second at the 2016 New York City Open with partner Sean Rosenthal, led to his first AVP championship last year. Next Tuesday will mark the anniversary of his triumph with partner Chaim Schalk at the Seattle Open, an event that the AVP has been forced to scratch from this year’s schedule.
Being stuck in idle goes against the grain of a sand player such as Casebeer, who has trained and competed in such far-off venues as Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan and Turkey.
“It’s beneficial no matter what you’re doing, whether you’re in sports or business or in something creative, to travel as much as you can and meet as many people as you can,” Casebeer said. “I’m a big believer in that there is no one right way to do anything.
“Everyone is different, everyone has different approaches, and you can always pick and choose different parts from people’s styles and try to find what’s best for you.”
That point was driven home the last five years during training sessions on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, his wife’s hometown. Jeremy, Maria and their 3-year-old son, Joaquim, live in Brazil for part of the year.
“Come September, I go back to Rio and live and train there full time, get to compete against the best Brazilian players,” Casebeer said. “There you could have anywhere from two, three, four, five people helping you out — four athletes — so the tempo and the pace is just out of this world.
“Being able to do it year-round, I never really got out of shape.”
He grew up playing soccer but switched to his father’s sport upon entering Santa Barbara High. Chris Casebeer, who passed away at age 70 in 2017, played on a UCSB indoor team that won the USVBA Collegiate Championship of 1969 — just one year before the NCAA began sponsoring a national championship for men’s volleyball.
His dad’s Gaucho teammates included future Hall of Fame coaches Dave Shoji and Jon Lee.
Jeremy played varsity volleyball for coach Chad Arneson’s Dons as a freshman and had them in the CIF-Southern Section Division II finals by his senior year of 2007. He trained all the while at East Beach, winning a gold medal in the Under-18 division at the 2006 AAU Beach Olympics in Manhattan Beach.
It was enough for legendary coach Al Scates to recruit him to UCLA, selling him on the school’s “dominance in athletics and prestige.”
Casebeer served as the Bruins’ primary passer and kills leader during his senior year of 2012, but he also excelled in the classroom. He earned a degree in political science and environmental studies while making the honor roll five times as well as the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s All-Academic Team.
He returned to his alma mater earlier this year to earn a certificate in sustainability and serve as a volunteer assistant for its women’s beach volleyball team.
“He is a consummate learner who is passionate about improving himself and helping those around him,” UCLA head coach Stein Metzger said.
Casebeer’s passions include the environment, an interest which was stirred in the classrooms of Santa Barbara High.
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time in nature camping and hiking but didn’t understand or become concerned with climate change until high school,” Casebeer explained. “My environmental science teacher, Jose Caballero, had a special gift connecting with students and explaining climate change in a relatable way.”
That included a field trip to Santa Cruz Island to plant endemic species.
“Seeing first-hand the difference between the pristine ecosystems of Santa Cruz Island and those of urban California, I began to understand humans’ impact on the environment,” he said.
Casebeer, who is nicknamed “The Lorax” after the environmentally crusading character from a Dr. Seuss book, has put some muscle behind that moniker. He partnered with The Surfrider Foundation last year to organize the first-ever beach cleanups at AVP tournaments.
He followed that up last month by joining the team at EcoAthletes, an organization dedicated to speaking out about climate change.
“We will not avoid climate catastrophes solely through the work of hardcore environmentalists,” Casebeer said. “We need to bring people together from all walks of life, collectively reimagine what is possible, and take action together.
“Sports does this like nothing else.”
Now, if he could just get back to playing them ….