Lee LeGrande was a top professional beach volleyball player before shifting his focus to family, real estate, and a life of quality and purpose. He grew up in the Manoa Valley of Oahu, skateboarding to school barefoot, in Birdwells. He graduated with an MBA from Pepperdine University. He lives in LA’s South Bay with his wife, Lindsey, and his two sons, Liam (3), and Lenox (1). His spike? Still as vicious as ever.
Top-ranked beach volleyball player—that must been a hell of a good time.
Yeah, you know, I can’t think of a better job when you’re 22, just out of college. I started domestically on the AVP then traveled the world. Some buddies and I went to South Africa for six months on the off-season and played on their tour. Went to Australia for four months and played on their tour. Went to Brazil and played on their tour. You know, you’re not going to kill it and retire off it but you’re sure going to be rich in lifestyle.
And growing up in Hawaii must have been pretty cool as well.
I grew up in Honolulu. Really didn’t know any different until I went to college at Pepperdine in Malibu, which seemed like it would be trading one beach town for another but was actually very different. I’m glad I stuck it out there. We won a national title in ‘92—that’s when I realized I could really do something with this volleyball thing. Had no idea I’d be on the AVP and winning tournaments and playing with all the guys I looked up to for years. I’m real blessed.
What about all that competitive drive—that must still be there, right?
I almost have to manage it, ‘cause I am competitive. More than competition, it’s a work ethic you learn. So I try to focus on the work ethic, and over time that solves my competitive drive to produce. Seems like when I’m putting in my time daily and focusing on the workload it just all goes together.
I was a competitive surfer, and I learned a strong foundation of discipline and focus at a time when I could have been tortured by adolescence.
My path was different. My parents were hippies. My mom surfed, my dad surfed, my sisters surfed. So we spent a lot of time at the beach. It was just so easy and free and fun. I was a soccer player, and then I had this growth spurt as a freshman. I got too tall, they stuck me at goalie, I kind of was over it. I moved on. My mom worked in the athletic department at Punahou—I was going to Punahou—and she said, ‘You should try out for volleyball.’ So I didn’t start volleyball until I was 16, and I just got hyper-focused on it. I just dedicated myself to it. People like doing things that they’re good at, and I just kept getting better and better. At a time in your life when there’s just so much uncertainty it was nice to have something that really grounded me.
Typical day in your life?
I’m pretty patterned. I’ve got two kids. It’s the funniest thing; if I sleep in, they get up early. I don’t know if they can smell me or what. Liam, my three year old, starts screaming for Daddy really early. But I like to get out of the house early and go to the office and do my thing before anyone else is around. When I do that the kids sleep in more. Then I go back in and check in with the kids. If the surf’s not good I’ll take Liam to school. Or I’ll surf early after a couple hours in the office. Then it’s just meeting clients, taking clients out, doing the real estate thing. And then I try to mix in some volleyball. It just depends on what time of year it is. Summertime it’s in full swing. I’ve got a bunch of buddies who play pro sports that are all back in town and they all want to play, so we get into early mornings or late evenings—that’s been a real blast, watching these guys transform into beach kids, whether they’re NBA guys or whatever. It’s hard not to fall in love with the beach lifestyle.
Where do you play?
I like to keep it local—wherever my golf cart will go. We’ll play in Manhattan or Hermosa, depending on the crew.
You hoping your kids will take up sports at a high level?
Yeah. I think with athletics it’s just a nice way to test your confidence. You know, you’ve really got to believe in yourself in high-level athletics. I think that translates into any kind of business you do, just confidence that you’re putting in the time. I want my kids to do what they naturally want to do, but I saw what sports did for me. Got me into a school, got a good education, and then got to travel the world and got to learn about myself. And then that all translates into business. You might start the business world five or ten years later than your buddies but you’ve got a story that goes with it, you’ve got memories that will last a lifetime. And you’re hanging out on a Friday night with one kid asleep, one in the bath, wife’s making dinner—and you know what’s going on out there at the bars and the party scene and you’re like been there, done that. There’s no place I’d rather be than at home with the family.
The Dazzling Blue is a series of short pieces about things we do in boardshorts. It is written by Jamie Brisick. A Fulbright scholar and a lifelong surfer, Brisick has written several books about surf culture, including Have Board Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and SnowandBecoming Westerly. He lives in NYC and rides a 5'10" Channel Islands Pod.