Misty May was born in 1977 in Los Angeles to Barbara (née Grubb), a nationally ranked tennis player, and Butch May, a member of the 1968 United States men's national volleyball team. She has a half brother, Brack, who is a chef and featured on an episode of Chopped on the Food Network. Her mother's sister, Betty, is a former professional tennis player, and thus making Misty a first cousin to professional tennis player Taylor Dent. She grew up playing beach volleyball with her parents at the Santa Monica Pier, and at age 8 teamed with her father to play in her first beach volleyball tournament. She was baby-sat by Karch Kiraly. May also played soccer and tennis, as well as participating in dance. She attended primary school at Brightwood Elementary School in Monterey Park and Roosevelt Elementary School in Santa Monica.