Two more volleyball legends spiked spots on the sport’s all-time honor roll on Saturday, Nov. 16, as the California Beach Volleyball Association Hall of Fame welcomed new members Jennifer Kessy and Todd Rogers, at the Hermosa Beach Community Center.
The CBVA also honored Tom Chamales, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, and 92-year old Bob Van Wagner, famed for his photography of the fledgling beach volleyball scene as far back as the early 1970s.
“I thought about it a lot. My first thought was that I was really old,” laughed Kessy, who teamed up with April Ross to win 26 tournaments. “I did not realize that hall of fame inductees were my age … but they are.”
“Truly, it means a lot,” said Kessy, who snagged a silver medal with Ross at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, losing only to international and Southern California coastal superstars Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. “It is something that I get to share with daughter and my son.”
“It was a dream come true,” said Rogers, who earned more than $2 million with partner Phil Dalhausser, winning 42 tournaments and a gold medal in Beijing.. “Everyone wants to be a pro athlete and I got to be a pro athlete on the beach.”
“Being inducted tonight is a nice complement to what I accomplished,” said Rogers, who coached Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s womens team to a national championship this year. “But it is really a way for me to honor all those people who helped me long the way.”
“I was very shocked when I heard I was going to be honored,” said Chamales, who started playing on the beaches of Santa Monica in the early 1970s and was a popular player on the sport’s early tour. “I thought to myself about it and it made me smile and feel very proud.”
Injuries cut Chamales’ career short, but he still has fond memories. “When I was playing beach volleyball it was the best time of my life,” he said. “I was so healthy and happy. The camaraderie of the players was the thing I enjoyed the most.”
Photographer and videographer Van Wagner helped capture and preserve pivotal early moments from the sport. He was not able to attend the event because of health concerns.
Also on hand was Sinjin Smith, one of the key figures in the sport, for whom the fete provided time to catch up with old friends.
“It’s awesome to come back tonight and see some of the guys that are older than me,” said Smith with a wry smile, “but now I’m one of the old guys.”
Smith said the evening helped create a bridge between the sport’s fledgling days and its current success, calling it “a great opportunity for the young guys to see some of the players that came before them and appreciate what they did for the sport of beach volleyball.”
All the attendees share a genuine love for the game, he said.
“Volleyball has been my whole life I started playing it as a little kid,” he said. “When I got to the tour there was no prize money — I played it because I loved it. It just so happened that money and TV came in while I was playing.”