It was so great to hear about the Venice Beach Games from this participant, that we decided to publish the story.  Thank you, Ryan!

The date was July 29, 2023, and on this particular Saturday in Los Angeles regional sports, the Dodgers won, Huntington Beach had the US Open of Surfing, which went until August 6, and there was a highly anticipated boxing match later that evening.

But it was a community led sporting extravaganza known as the Venice Beach Games, that was the winner of exceeding expectations, and tickling the eyes of the Olympic athletic world, with the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games swiftly edging near.

“It’s so great having our neighbors together like this. And meeting those we don’t know,” said lead Games volunteer Amy Castillo of Venice.

And so thus, putting together this blend of observations: In the midst of a sporting audience worth worldwide attention – minimally for its unbound diversity and professionalism – a common Saturday afternoon celebration of extended neighbors, including elders,devout athletes, kids lost in play, and of course the great representatives of the US Army, emerged in history making fashion. This too, allows one to imagine the scope of possibilities, for an event that fits seamlessly with the history and present of Venice, California.


While the Army booth deadlift competition, hosted by a thick and amiable group of soldiers, was a personal non-starter without rolling back the years. Chess, shade, and a front row seat to hundreds of sports activities was the winner of my sporting affection on this idyllic summer afternoon.

A small group of Japanese school aged girls sat on the shady grass next to our table, with their travel sized wooden chess kit. The adjoined tables to our rear packed with an small, engrossed audience absorbed in a much more tense competition than our own.

Surrounded by youth hula hooping their way into a good night’s sleep, courtesy of Hoopla, older kids falling in love with the new frisbee golf-like sport of Kinflow on the infield, and Venice Electric Light Parade leader Marcus Gladney across the walkway, coolly catching-up with a steady and relaxed stream of friends and fans.

In every direction, attendees lost in a keen curiosity, and counted down the in-between time before performances, demonstrations, clinics and competitions. All the while overflowing bags, pockets and strollers with complimentary swag from vendors satiated by their own causes of passion to assist.

The day’s cause: Inspiration. The young, inspired to discover and demonstrate, the advanced in years, inspired to show that they still got it, and folks like the competitors in the World Calisthenics Organizations “Battle of the Bars”, just plain ‘ol showing off. But valuably showing off the commitment they’ve invested into a personal, healthy, athletic passion. And in this case solidified a position for competitor Ari Bak (@Ari.Dynamics – IG) in the Freestyle Calisthenics World Championships hosted later this year in Dubai. The only thing more dynamic than Bak, easily was the stream of kids that climbed the winners podium all the day long.

No voice captured the sound of the day’s passion, whether on the microphone or minus amplification, as that of event founder Alex Stowell, with his wife Edizen Stowell, co-founder with Alex of Games partner Venice Paparazzi, nearby in a symbiotic dance of hosting duties.

“Let’s go!” was the phrase that rang from Stowell, that best summarized the vibrations of the day. Stowell also expressed decorous gratitude and recognition to a critically helpful District 11 Councilperson Tracie Park, and Presenting Sponsor the US Army.

Taking the day’s good works to the highest degree of value – that of service – a beach clean-up. And not just any beach clean-up, but one which included a trip (Awardee – Trashie Yoga) to Tokyo, Japan, to compete in the brilliant Spogomi World Cup, thanks to the leadership of Venice Community Clean-Ups & Venice Beach BID. With worldwide participation, impacts and qualifications of this sort, it is no wonder the Games’ leadership is being showered by the phrase “Best day ever” in the wake unfolding.


No event of this magnitude materializes without the fundamental civic cornerstones holding court. LAPD, LA Fire Department, LA Sanitation, in conjunction with the daily park hosts of Venice Beach Recreation and Parks, and LA Recreation and Parks, executed an invisible footprint throughout the uniquely active hours. “Safe” “clean” and “healthy” dotted across the social media comments of several reflective summaries. Crime mapping for the period during the Games indicated one petty non-violent theft in proximity to activities.

Certainly the wayward and unhoused residents, who share the neighborhood like any other urban neighborhood in the country, weaved about the activity, benefited as well from giveaways and more valuably the abundant recyclables. But also mostly in patient, observant dazzlement like any other local person who attended. Perhaps, and likely in some way, inspired. Searching the mind and mentions for negatives of this incomparable day felt as exhausting as the thought of those Army deadlifts.

Maybe some athletes felt their personal favorite sport was left out. Yet over 80 sports in a second d annual year compared respectably to the 7 events of the original Greek Olympic Games and the 32 sports scheduled for the Paris Olympics coming July 2024.

Indeed, nothing fared to dampen the energy of this day. The energy of Barry’s Fitness, a staple in Venice and the world, rocking out classes on the presenting stage. The energy of Sweat Yoga, peacefully projecting a whole other athletic expression of inspiration. The artful, striking,
and melodic energy of Capoeira Brasilia, or the grappling of Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Jiu Jitsu Flow, ideally near the heart of Games activity.

All framed by Venice Beach daily cornerstones of Veniceball, Venice Beach Football Club, Venice Beach Pickleball Club, the world famous Skatepark – adorned with iconic Powell Peralta signage – as the Venice Beach Breakwater, stirred the waves that started it all over a century ago. And as always, the stoical, crowning bright orange of Muscle Beach, hovered above all the activity, to anoint this Venice Beach sporting moment as it does all events held daily.

The supreme highlight, which made negativity impossible and energized the production most tangibly, was the LA 28 Olympic signage front and center, around the easternmost basketball court lining the boardwalk. All of this encompassed both open and competitive space for Paralympic athletes to hold court. Like all else on that day, was just right. The proverbial cherry on top.

“The event has definitely exceeded our expectations,” observed the attending Olympic event manager.

Post event, far prior to sunset, signs and structures disappeared at the common lightning pace of all Venice Beach park productions. With careful attention given by Games volunteers to pre-organize for the third annual two-day event, July 28-29, 2024. Two days after the opening of the Paris Olympic Games.

And so, as the excitement of the day dispersed, crowds shifted to the beach line in preparation for sunset.

Venice has a long history with the Olympics, and especially with the embracement of the newest coolest sports. From the first U.S. mainland surf exhibition in 1907, to the Teqball World Championships held months ago and broadcast on ESPN networks. Or the Venice resident laden Olympic silver medal winning water polo team of 1932, and the debut of skateboarding as an Olympic sport in 2020; which involves parental rights rooted in Venice, California.

Venice is synonymous with expression. Sports are expressions. Venice has been rooted in sport since the grand opening, swimming and diving competitions on July 4, 1905, the day it was founded.

The Roller Skating Capital of the World. Dogtown. Grl Swirl . Arnold. And home of innumerable Hollywood sports settings. All Venice flair.

And so it made all the sense in the world, that formerly Venice of America, was a deserved lead story in sports news, both locally and worldwide.

How about that new sport called Parkour? Had no idea. Kids are something else these days, per usual. And, inspiring.

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Save the dates July 27 & 28, 2024 for Venice Beach Games!

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