OKALOOSA ISLAND – The Emerald Coast’s biggest “family reunion” descends upon The Boardwalk this week.

We’re talking about Emerald Coast Volleyball Week, of course, affectionately known by the volleyball community and locals as “Fuds.”

The five-day bi-annual tournament will attract 301 teams, more than 1,200 volleyball players and another 1,500-plus spectators. That includes talent from Canada, California, the Midwest and the entire Southeast, providing for an eclectic group craving community and competition.

“It’s another great year, a close-knit group coming from all over,” said tournament organizer Mike Minich, who’s been in charge since 1993. “It’s really more like a volleyball family reunion of people who mostly don’t see each other the whole year until now. Some people move away, but they always seem to return for this tournament.”

The fun begins Wednesday at The Boardwalk with co-ed doubles running from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. An afterparty kicks off later at 7 at The Boardwalk.

Thursday features single-gender doubles from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a Luau at Al’s Beach Club at 7 p.m. Then Friday is the King/Queen/Kid of the Beach from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., a tremendous way of meeting people considering you’re partnered with a different person each game.

Saturday and Sunday marks the main event, a four-player tournament (men, women and co-ed divisions) that will draw somewhere in the realm of 1,500 spectators for the finals on Sunday. Play begins at 9 a.m. both days and the Women’s Open Finals is at 2 p.m. Sunday and the Men’s Open Finals follows at 3.

“It’s some of the best volleyball you’ll see in the region,” Minich said. “The beach looks great right now and the teams filled up two weeks ago. For two weeks we’ve had 301 teams.”

The name for the tournament is derived from Fudpucker’s, an iconic local restaurant with a location in Destin that serves as the chief sponsor of the event alongside Ramada Plaza Beach Resort.

The first tournament was in 1989 and was sponsored chiefly by Abbott Resorts. Fudpucker’s was one of the sponsors, donating beer and gumbo and even putting a team together to play. After the tournament was over, Abbott Realty asked the Fudpucker’s team if they would take it over.

The rest is history, the local eatery becoming the face of the tourney. Nearly three decades since the tournament started, the bi-annual showcase has grown in both numbers and reputation.

“The biggest reason why we brought this here is to make up for the shoulder season because, as you can see, spring break has been over for a few weeks and it’s a dead weekend,” Minich said. “But this tournament brings people and business in from all over. It’s really great for the area.”