Manhattan Beach has long been the pro athletes ghetto of Los Angeles. For Lakers and Kings it's close to their El Segundo training facility and their buddies. For Dodgers like Nomar Garciparra (and wife Mia Hamm) and itinerant pros like Maria Sharapova, Michelle Kwan and Holly McPeak, it's close to LAX and offers the beach strand and views that athletes prefer. One of the lesser-known attractions has also been the impressive slope at Sand Dune Park, on Bell Avenue in the city's Sand Section, where many athletes and coaches like to work out. In today's Los Angeles Times, sports writer Jerry Crowe totes up some of the names who frequent the killer hill of sand.
In recent weeks, for instance, a visitor to the dune might have encountered Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Andrew Bynum of the Lakers or former UCLA defensive back Kirk Alexander, a phenomenally fit personal trainer who spends so much time there that he is known as "King of the Dune."
Kobe Bryant has trained at Sand Dune Park, as have several of his Lakers teammates, past and present. Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics, Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs and any number of NHL players, USC and UCLA football players, volleyball players, boxers, fighters, sprinters and WNBA players also have taken on the dune, sharing the sand with a steady stream of weekend warriors....
"If you can master it, you're ready for anything," said Alexander, whose client roster has included Polamalu and former Lakers forward Cedric Ceballos. "You tend to be faster, fitter."
In the early 1990s, when Loyola Marymount's basketball teams ran tirelessly up and down the floor while setting numerous NCAA scoring records, coach Paul Westhead brought them to Sand Dune Park for early-season training.
"It's a serious endurance game," personal trainer Joe Charles said of the dune, which is about 100 yards long, 50 yards wide and steeped at about a 45-degree angle. "Most people, when they get up there that first time, they're like, 'Oh … my … God!' and they hesitate about doing it again. You'll find that a lot of your professional athletes conquer it and then want to come back and conquer it again and again because it's challenging — very, very challenging."