Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson have been nearly inseparable as neighbors in Huntington Beach, Calif. since teaming up in 2013.
They can often be found playing co-ed beach volleyball with their wives. They even take their kids to the same preschool.
But when Patterson moved roughly 75 miles to Thousand Oaks for a new job recently, the 2016 AVP Men’s Team of the Year decided to end their partnership.
“It’s about a two-hour drive north, at best,” Gibb said in a phone interview. “We could have tried to make it work, but it just didn’t make sense.”
They considered breaking up even before the partnership became geographically undesirable when Patterson accepted the Beach Volleyball Director position at Sports Academy, a sports and fitness facility that he describes as a “Disneyland for athletes.”
They underwhelmed at the 2016 Olympics, finishing last in their pool after arriving in Rio as the No. 6 seed out of 24 teams. By the end of the 2016 international season, Tri Bourne and John Hyden had passed Gibb and Patterson in the standings as the second-best U.S. team, behind Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena.
“We needed something to change to ignite the fire again,” Patterson said.
The offseason after an Olympics often turns into a drama-filled frenzy as beach volleyball players search for new partners for the next quadrennial. Kerri Walsh Jennings famously approached rival April Ross at the net after the 2012 Olympic gold medal match to discuss a potential partnership.
Patterson reached out to Dalhausser, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist. Patterson revealed that he had decided to become a defensive specialist with the goal of eventually partnering with Dalhausser, a dominant blocker. Dalhausser listened, but ultimately remained with Lucena.
“Both of those guys are so rad that the thought of attempting to break them up was tough for me,” Patterson said. “But you have to try.”
Patterson also approached Tri Bourne, Theo Brunner and Ryan Doherty. Once the partnership carousel stopped spinning, Patterson aligned Brunner, Lucena’s former teammate.
“It’s like the ‘Real Housewives of Beach Volleyball,’” Patterson said. “There’s so much drama when guys are trying to find a new partner.”
Gibb will play with Taylor Crabb, who was named the 2016 AVP Defender of the Year. Gibb said that Crabb reminds him of Sean Rosenthal, his partner when he finished fifth at both the 2008 and 2012 Games.
“[Crabb] is incredibly gifted,” Gibb said. “His beach IQ is through the roof.”
Gibb and Patterson are expected to debut with their new partners on Feb. 7 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Gibb will be 44 years old during the 2020 Tokyo Games. He would become the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player of all time if he represents the U.S. in Tokyo.
“I can’t turn away from this sport as long as I think I can still win,” Gibb said. “I still feel like I can, so I am going to keep playing.”
U.S. beach volleyball teams (Partners since)
Tri Bourne/John Hyden (2013)
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (2015)
Ryan Doherty/John Mayer (2015)
Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson (New)
Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (New)
Trevor Crabb/Sean Rosenthal (New)