HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA — DJ Klasnic laughs through the friendly jabs.
“You guys always make fun of me for being the oldest college player,” says the 28-year-old Serbian who, yes, is still in college, studying computer science and competing for the Westcliff University men’s beach volleyball team. It was quite a steal for Westcliff coach Fernando Sabla when Klasnic moved from Florida to California. A roster typically filled with indoor converts and beach rookies now had a bona fide professional anchoring its court one. Not that Klasnic landed at Westcliff because it was necessarily his dream to do so. It was mostly on the whim of Klasnic’s girlfriend, Marine Kinna, who had committed to finish her own career at LMU, in Santa Monica.
Then, as he was living it, he realized it was one of his many dreams after all.
“She asked if I wanted to come to California. I’ve never thought about it. This is new and risky but it’s a great thing for my career,” Klasnic recalled on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “Things were great with Marine and I was ready for the risk, a new adventure.”
It was one of a number of right-place-at-the-right-time moments for Klasnic. The only reason he was in Florida to meet Kinna in the first place? Years prior, the Serbian women’s team was practicing in Florida and asked if he might want to come train. Sounded good enough to him. He told his parents he was making the move from Serbia to Florida. Their response? A mix of confusion and bemused curiosity.
Klasnic didn’t even know where in Florida he was going.
“It’ll be good for my career,” he told them, still without any idea what city he’d eventually land in, “and I’m going.”
That decision touched off a string of events Klasnic can only shrug and describe as luck, ignoring, in an endearing sense, the fact that luck tends to find those who put themselves in position to be found by it. Few would consider moving from Serbia to an unknown city in Florida, to train for a career that does not exist in Serbia, simply because they were invited to do so. Yet Klasnic, fueled by both ambition and naivete, did exactly that.
It’s an unusual aspiration, for a Serbian to become a world-class professional beach volleyball player. Before Klasnic turned professional, a Serbian team had never won an FIVB medal. Only a pair of brothers, Nemanja…