MANHATTAN BEACH ( — Thousands of volleyball fans are getting ready for the serve, dig and spike at the 55th annual Manhattan Beach Open, which began Thursday in the South Bay.

The long-running tournament is considered by many to be the premiere event for the sport.

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“This is kind of like the Olympics of beach volleyball that we have here in the states,” AVP Director Jeff Conover said. “It’s one of the tournaments that you absolutely have to play in and definitely want to win.

The Manhattan Beach Open began in 1960 and grew dramatically since then. The four-day tournament, which is free to the public, is expected to draw 20,000 to 50,000 people and several volleyball stars, including nine current Olympians.

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“When I heard about this tournament, like, three years ago, I started watching it,” young volleyball fan Kyle Marshall said. “It’s a big deal for me because I love meeting the pros and I love getting their autographs.”

With all the extra people in town for the tournament, local hotels and restaurants like Manhattan Pizzeria see a huge spike in business.

“It’s one of our busiest weekends of the year,” said Bobby Eskowitz of Manhattan Pizzeria. “We have a line that goes from here, all the way to the corner.”

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The winners of this year’s tournament will have their names permanently placed on the Manhattan Beach Pier, alongside Kerry Walsh Jennings and Casey Jennings, the first husband-and-wife duo to win in the same year.