Kevin Cody

Hall of Fame inductees Rogers, Kessy pay tribute to mentors

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Hall of Fame inductee Todd Rogers expresses appreciation for his beach volleyball mentors, including San Marcos High School coach John Lee and former AVP commissioner Leonard Armato. Photos by Kevin Cody

by Kevin Cody

In the summer of 1930, Paul “Pablo” Johnson grew tired of waiting for 12 players to show up for a six on six beach volleyball game at the Santa Monica Beach Club. So, he proposed to the four who had shown up that they play two on two. That game

An onscreen tribute to Johnson as the founding father of beach volleyball opened the California Beach Volleyball Association 2019 Hall of Fame ceremonies Saturday evening at the Hermosa Beach Community Center.

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The tribute set the theme for what emcee Jim Arico describes each year as a “gathering of the tribe.” It’s doubtful any other professional sports awards ceremony pays as much respect to the sport’s lineage.

Hall of Fame Inductee Jen Kessy, with daughter Aila, recalls being inspired by woman Olympians who preceded her, including Barbra Fontana and Holly McPeak.

Beijing Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers, one of the evening’s two Hall of Fame inductees, recalled his San Marcos High School volleyball coach John Lee “firing us up with stories about Chamales.” Tom Chamales, a dominant beach volleyball player in the early 1970s, was honored Saturday night as one of the sport’s legends. Chamales, Arico claimed, once hit the ball so hard into the sand that it stuck there. Another time, during the 1974 Manhattan Open, which he won with fellow Hall of Fame inductee Ron Van Hagen, Chamalas drove the ball so hard into the sand that it bounced over the Manhattan pier.

Rogers also paid tribute to fellow Santa Barbara and the evening’s other honorary legend, photographer Bob Van Wagner.

“Bob photographed me when I played my first beach volleyball tournament at 14, and he was there when I played my final beach volleyball tournament in 2016,” Rogers said. Van Wagner began photographing and reffing beach volleyball in the early 1970s.

Rogers’ knowledge of the game earned him the nickname “Professor.” Upon his retirement, he began passing on his knowledge as coach of the Cal Poly beach volleyball team. The year prior to his arrival, the school finished 12-11. The year after his arrival, Cal Poly won the NCAA Championship.

London Olympics silver medalist Jennifer Kessy, the evening’s other Hall of Fame inductee, recalled being “recruited off the blacktop in 8th grade” by a South Coast Volleyball Club coach in San Juan Capistrano, and being inspired by players such as Karch Kiraly and Adam Johnson. Kiraly won beach volleyball’s first Olympic gold medal with Kent Steffes at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Kessy now coaches her Olympic silver medalist partner April Ross and Ross’ teammate Alex Klineman in their quest for gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Also honored at the CBVA Hall of Fame inductions were the 2019 Junior Cal Cup Winners: 18U Boys – Jack Walmer, Benjamin Coordt; 16U Boys – Nolan Naess, Booker Frith. 14U Boys – Jason Walmer, Sean Kelly. 12U Boys – Simon Capps, Thatcher Fahlbusch. 18U Girls – Olivia Bakos, Kate Reilly. 16U Girls – Kelly Belardi, Savannah Standage. 14U Girls – Katherine Morley, Erin Inskeep. 12U Girls – Summer Siuppik, Ivanna Riviera.

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