The basic skills of beach volleyball are the same as for volleyball, and the flow of play follows similar lines: one team serves, the other tries to win the rally - or 'side-out' - with a pattern of dig, set, spike within the requisite three touches.
Having only two players on a team leads to differences in offence and defense. There is more shot variety (with half-speed, finesse and placement shots); blockers take more risks (deciding where to block and when to pull off the net or back-pedal to play defense); there is greater mobility in the backcourt (players are not so bound by 'positional' convention - they are free to move to all areas of the court); and players need to be adept in all the basic skills.
On the beach, there is no such thing as 'calling subs' if you're having a bad day. And there are no court-side coaches - players decide tactics during time-outs.
Righty or Lefty?
The entire 64sq m of sand is shared by only two players, so teams tend to divide the court evenly and specialise in playing left or right. This gives greater consistency in receiving serve and shot selection. It's also easier to spike a ball that hasn't passed across the line of your body, which is why left-handers like to play right side and vice versa.
Frontcourt or Backcourt?
One player will often take care of all the frontcourt blocking, while the better defender keeps to the backcourt making digs.
Ways and means
All players at the elite level carry a 'bag of tricks' to help get them through every game. Teams that come out and simply blast away at every ball soon find themselves worn out in the sand and the heat, and quickly outsmarted by more experienced players. This is why you'll see such a wide range of shots. Disguised shots, off-speed spikes, 'going on two' (hitting the second shot over), cut-shots, pokies, chops, rainbows, loops, jousts - all are part of the beach volleyballer's offensive repertoire. As for defence: pulling, holding, faking, chasing, diving, juking … the list goes on. These terms are explained under 'talk the talk'.