Beach volleyball most likely originated in 1915 on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, at the Outrigger Canoe Club. In 1920, new jetties in Santa Monica, California created a large sandy area for public enjoyment, planting the seed for beach volleyball development in that region. People soon began playing recreational games on the beach and in private beach clubs. Eleven such beach clubs appeared in the Santa Monica area, beginning in late 1922. The first inter-club competitions were staged in 1924. Most of these early beach volleyball matches were played with teams of at least six players per side, much like indoor volleyball. The concept of the modern two-man beach volleyball game is credited to Paul "Pablo" Johnson of the Santa Monica Athletic Club (1930).
Beach volleyball grew in popularity in the US in the 1930s and the sport also began to appear in Europe during this time. By the 1940s, tournaments were being played on the beaches of Santa Monica for trophies. In 1948 the first tournament to offer a prize was held in Los Angeles, California. The first professional tournament was the Olympia World Championship, in 1976, at the Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades, California. In 1989, the first FIVB-sanctioned international circuit, called the World Series was organized. The FIVB and its continental confederations began organizing worldwide professional tournaments and laid the groundwork for the sport's Olympic debut in 1996. The first FIVB World Championships and World Tour were held the following year.