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Mike Dodd, a world championship beach volleyball player, was holding a clinic earlier this summer on the courts at Manhattan Beach, Calif. When he passed out 40 Redsand volleyballs, everything on the beach came to a halt.
The reaction pleased Steve Timmons, who designed and markets the Redsand ball. "It was an overcast day," he says, "but it looked like it had rained radioactive bowling balls." The volleyballs are an eye-grabbing yellow, and more than one player has been heard to suggest that someone "unplug it."
Unlike the old red, white and blue ABA basketball or the short-lived fluorescent orange baseball, the Redsand is a ball whose dye has come. It is, as the beach clinic proved, a show-stopper. Timmons understands that being seen is everything on the beach—witness bikinis, Hawaiian shirts and even wet suits, which have gone from black to pastels.
Timmons, 27, has a head for getting people's attention. First off, he stands 6'5". Second, he has a shock of red hair worn in a Grace Jones-style flattop. As a star on the U.S. men's volleyball team, Timmons is known as a "terminal" player: When he hits or blocks a ball, the point is usually over. Timmons is also remembered for his MVP performance in the U.S. team's gold medal win over Brazil in the 1984 Olympics, after which he joyously leaped onto the referee's stand.
Eleven weeks after winning his Olympic medal, Timmons tore the patellar tendon in his right knee during a match in South Korea. The injury made him acutely aware of the fragility of his athletic career, so he decided to do something to secure his financial future.
"Players on the beach always complained that their balls popped," Timmons says. "And after a few months a white ball would turn gray and you couldn't see it against the sand and sky."
Timmons thought the beach volleyball community was ready for a durable, optic-yellow ball. (Two foreign firms have begun making colored volleyballs, but they're only for indoor use.) He found a willing manufacturer in South Korea and needed only a name and a logo. The name Redsand combines Timmons's nickname and the ball's intended destination. The Redsand logo is a stylized likeness of Timmons's profile, complete with sunglasses and flattop.
The balls sell for $45 each and come with a 180-day warranty. They can be ordered by writing to Redsand, 716 Niantic Court, San Diego, Calif. 92109 or by calling (619) 488-4443. Timmons has been able to fill his ball orders, but he cannot keep up with the demand for the Redsand T-shirts and tanktops ($12 each).
Why has the clothing done so well? Because, as Timmons well knows, on the beach, being seen is everything.