Messenger of Light
With his tremendous gift for story-telling, volleyball journalist Travis Mewhirter is growing the game he loves – and playing it pretty well too.
By Katie Spieler
It was a stormy night – the tide was strong, the waves turbulent, the water below 60 degrees. But when I turned to Travis Mewhirter and asked him if we were jumping, I could see through the darkness that infamous smile and I knew he was all in. We were standing on the Hermosa Beach pier, staring at the swirling water below. I was definitely contemplating the safety of our monthly jump. But once I heard that Travis laugh and saw that look, I knew we were going in.
Pretty normal. Just a boy from the Midwest leading the charge on jumping off piers in Southern California after already going in the ocean three times that day in between his two beach volleyball practices. Oh yeah, and he skipped out on the post-jump spa nightcap since he still had to write a few articles. A day in the life of volleyball journalist and playing pro Travis Mewhirter is a full one. He forges his own path that lights up the world.
Travis has a special way of making people feel safe and comfortable. There is a warmth about him that is palpable. I’m a first-hand witness of this with him as my pier jump partner, but also watching his impact on other people special to me. He was the only person that my late boyfriend Eric Zaun would act the exact same around as if we were alone together. If it was me, Travis and Eric, I got the same Eric as when it was just me and him. That was my favorite Eric. Such a sweet side that I so cherished getting to witness. Travis granted me way more sweet-boy Eric time since we all spent many hours together during the Garage Mahal era. I always thought about how special that meant Travis was –– that ability to make people so comfortable in their own skin. I think that is what makes him such a talented journalist; people want to talk to him because of how he approaches any subject. He creates a safe zone where nobody is judged. He invests in really understanding the person being interviewed in a way you can feel is authentic.
I was thinking of how much happiness Travis brings to the world and, specifically, the volleyball community –– and it’s a little overwhelming. A specialty of his is shining light on individual athletes and making the world fall in love with them through his endearing words. It is about time – I think long overdue – that the light is deflected back on the incredible human, athlete, writer, podcaster that is Travis Mewhirter. If I could name a single person who is “growing the game” in the best imaginable way, it would hands down be Travis. He has captured the personalities that make this community unique, showcased the lifestyle that is so different in comparison to other pro sports, honored lost loved ones with a written legacy to always be remembered, brought awareness to adversity and issues important to sport, and he never fails to leave a reader smiling. How do we grow beach volleyball and get more spectators, sponsors for the tour? My answer would be to follow the lead of Travis and watch him revolutionize our sport. There’s no secret recipe better than sharing the genuine story of a product that doesn’t need much boasting. Well, actually there is … having Travis make that story come alive with his powerful words. Some writers write for other writers. Others write for readers. Travis writes about a sport he loves from his heart.
Who else can have you both crying and laughing for over an hour listening to a podcast? Who but Travis could capture Eric Zaun’s seltzer obsession and unique humor on audio for over an hour? Travis wrote an article that distracted my tear ducts for a moment to laugh out loud at Eric’s tirade of Jeremy Casebeer’s environmental consciousness. A tribute article to Eric that I had feared reading instead saved me from a sleepless and dark moment in the middle of the night. It made me laugh, smile, cry, but mostly remember that there was light.
Katie Spieler played both beach and indoor college volleyball at the University of Hawaii. She has played on the AVP Tour since 2014 and has a career-best finish of third (Austin, 2018, with Karissa Cook). Spieler played the last four events of 2019 with Delaney Knudsen, who was recently married to Travis Mewhirter. The Spieler-Knudsen partnership produced a seventh place at the AVP Manhattan Beach Open.