Layne Beaubien’s detour takes him from Coronado to the U.S. Water Polo Hall of Fame
Layne Beaubien grew up in Coronado, attended Coronado High and, at 46, runs the Coronado-based insurance business that has been in his family for 50 years.
Life, however, has not been a linear progression, a straight path from point A to point B, and Friday afternoon at an Irvine hotel is proof of that. There, the 6-foot-6 defender will be inducted into the American Water Polo Hall of Fame, a testament to life’s detours through professional clubs in Hungary, Greece, France and Brazil, international tournaments on the five continents, Summer Olympics in Athens, Beijing and London. , a silver medal in 2008.
“You dedicate a lot of your life to sport and you have these decades-long relationships with play and travel and then it’s off,” says Beaubien, who is part of a five-person initiation class. in 2022 which was announced in May and includes former UC San Diego men’s coach Russ Hafferkamp. “It’s been lovely over the past two months with people reaching out and reconnecting with the community.
“I realized how much North Star water polo has been in my life for so long. It brought back a lot of those memories.
Beaubien was CIF Player of the Year in 1993 for Randy Burgess’ water polo dynasty at Coronado High, then started on an NCAA championship team at Stanford as a rookie.
But he was never one to accept the logical sequence of life, and he left Stanford (and an athletic scholarship) after his sophomore year to experience the world and rediscover himself. “My father, he said, wanted to wring my neck.
Instead, he worked for a law firm for three months to save money, then bought a one-way plane ticket to Amsterdam and criss-crossed Europe and North Africa for months. months, eventually hitchhiking through Turkey.
The next stop was Nicaragua for a job in microcredit. It lasted six weeks, and he was on the move again. He was in Honduras when Stanford coach Dante Dettamanti convinced him to return to school and sports.
Beaubien was the final cup for the 2000 Olympic team, then played in the next three Summer Games and six World Championships. He also won three Pan American Games titles and became the first American to play professionally in Hungary, where water polo is the national sport.
He didn’t get rich—European leagues paid a modest salary plus an apartment and a car—and he often stopped in New York en route to visit his classmates at Stanford, who were getting rich. Doctors, lawyers, businessmen. Some are billionaires.
He admits it: the thought crossed his mind as they passed each other.
“As you get older, you start to see what you’re sacrificing,” Beaubien says. “In your early twenties, it’s not that bad. But in your late twenties, early thirties, you think, “Wow, I’m giving up a lot to keep going here.” You don’t play a sport where you retire and you won’t have to work. And a lot of us have gone to great schools and have good connections and could potentially work and earn a lot more money.
“But there’s something about chasing that medal at the Olympics and making the USA team and representing your country. Once you’re there, it’s hard to give up. And if you have the chance to go back, you do everything you can to do it again.
He played in Greece for five years and immersed himself in the culture, learned the language, understood the jokes. He won club championships on three continents and finished second in the World Water Polo League. The 4th of July child also earned the elusive Olympic medal which remains the only U.S. men’s podium since 1988.
The end finally came at age 36 after the 2012 Olympics.
He had a relatively soft landing with the family business, Crown Island Insurance. Even then, it wasn’t an easy transition from the pool to the office. This is never the case.
It’s a topic covered in “The Weight of Gold,” a 2020 HBO documentary narrated by swimmer Michael Phelps that examines the mental health issues faced by Olympic athletes, especially after the Games, especially in the low profile sports. There’s the physical component of not having the daily endorphin rush of intense exercise and fiery competition. There is the mental side of suddenly losing your identity for life.
“It’s tough, there’s no doubt about it,” said Beaubien. “It’s definitely a real thing that top athletes go through when they’re done, especially Olympic athletes who aren’t the privileged few where you can take your image into the next stage of your life. You don’t not pursue the same goals.
“It took me a while to adjust to life in the real world. You’re doing this ‘normal job’ that doesn’t seem as interesting as your old life. All those people who were helping you as an athlete , they’re all gone. You don’t have a schedule anymore. The structure just disappeared. It can be difficult, that’s for sure.
Beaubien was a sporadic coach for a few years but gradually separated from his past life. He became the principal owner of Crown Island Insurance in 2019. He opened a cafe in Pacific Beach and renovated the Salty Frog, a Navy SEAL dive bar and a music venue in Imperial Beach. He went years without getting in the water, running and cycling instead. He talks about playing basketball again, his original sport at Coronado High.
Regrets for the journey from point A to point B?
“No regrets,” he said, “absolutely no regrets.”
His most memorable match was the 2008 Olympic semi-final against Serbia, a 10-5 victory in which he scored twice.
“There are so many things that have to go well for a team to be successful at the Olympics,” said Beaubien, who becomes the team’s sixth player to be inducted into the American Water Polo Hall of Fame. “You are talking about two weeks every four years to reach this marker. Everyone has to be on the same wavelength, everyone has to play well, you have to have a bit of luck, you have to have that special chemistry. When you succeed, I can’t imagine anything more beautiful to do. We had that.
His most memorable experience came nine years earlier at KSI SE in Budapest, Hungary, as the only American in the league.
“The international language of sport is very real,” says Beaubien. “None of these guys spoke English. There was one guy in my team who could even understand English at all. The coach didn’t understand anything. By the time I left, I had a full relationship and deep with all the guys on the team. It was only because of the water polo. I couldn’t have had a basic conversation with any of them.
“It was such an eye-opening, rich and beautiful thing.”
A billion dollars can’t buy that.