In the South Bay the sport of beach volleyball looms as large as football in the south or baseball on the eastern seaboard. From the famed Manhattan Beach Open to the many battles on deep sands of Hermosa Beach the sport has left an indelible mark and contributed much to the communities that have wholly embraced the sport.
For a sport filled with so much history, the community found a fitting way to give something in return in the form of a home for the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame. By bestowing a place to enshrine the game’s history with a permanent setting for the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame, Hermosa Beach has now ensured that the legends of the game and their lofty contributions will be forever immortalized.
Although a hall of fame was founded in 1992, there was no brick-and-mortar location until the California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) and many dedicated volunteers put in countless hours building a display and raising funds for an exhibit at the Hermosa Beach Historical Museum.
On Nov. 18 all of that work was put on display for the public at a kick-off party sponsored by the Hermosa Beach Historical Society, Hermosa Arts Foundation, and the CBVA. The event was held to honor not only the hall but several of the games greatest players to ever step between the lines.
The game’s history was illustriously illuminated in the form of photographs from previous eras, alongside various memorabilia and vintage tournament flyers. The displays were wonderful but it was the actual presence of the living legends that really put a jolt of energy into the night.
As history was celebrated, it was all too appropriate that Ron Von Hagen would be honored. Nicknamed "The Legend" in homage to his jaw-dropping 62 Open victories and his chiseled physique, Von Hagen is considered by many to be the greatest beach volleyball player ever.
Von Hagen won 62 of 100 career tournaments, a beach volleyball record for 10 years. Within those 62 victories, Von Hagen added five Manhattan Beach Open titles to his haul.
1994 Hall of Fame inductee Jim Menges spoke to the crowd about Von Hagen’s incredible career.
"Ron Von Hagen taught me how to win," said Menges. "The way he and [partner] Ron Lang approached the game, the way they did it, taught us how to play.
"Von Hagen’s theory was you got better by playing the game," Menges continued. "He would play eight or nine games a day and it became like a competition every day. Ron was playing 300 days a year and he was in the best shape of anybody."
Menges was happy to sum up Von Hagen’s passion and dedication to beach volleyball.
"The thing I admire most about Ron is his passion for the sport. He wasn’t making any money but he cared so much about beach volleyball, about how good he could become and he just knew how great it felt to win."
Two of Von Hagen’s former partners, Ron Lang and Gene Selznick, were also honored as well as women’s pioneer Miki McFadden
To say Lang and Von Hagen’s partnership was a success would be a gross understatement of the duo’s dominance. The team captured 28 Open titles, with 15 of those victories coming between 1966 and ’68.
Before Von Hagen, Lang partnered with Selznick, winning 20 Open titles as a pair. Between 1957 and 1970 Lang won more than 50 Opens.
Another former great, Chris Marlowe spoke of Lang’s well-noted hitting, stamina, physical skill and unwavering confidence.
"[Lang] was a player that was never tortured by doubt," said Marlowe of Lang’s mental toughness that set him apart from other players.
Lang is the only player to be inducted into the both the indoor and beach volleyball hall of fame.
When speaking of Selznick, one of the better ways to describable the affable athlete is as a premier ambassador for the sport. In addition to being one of the most talented volleyball players ever, Selznick was also an innovator and entertainer, introducing NBA star Wilt Chamberlain to the beach game and rubbing elbows with Marilyn Monroe and John Kennedy.
Collecting over 38 Open victories in his career, at the height of his playing days Selznick was virtually unbeatable.
Women’s pioneer Miki McFadden was an early example for future generations. In a dominant streak that included 14 Open victories in just 15 attempts, McFadden defined the possibilities for the women’s game.
1993 Hall of Fame inductee Sharkey Zartman described McFadden as ahead of her time. "She was tall, lean, powerful, and a great hitter," said Zartman.
2011 Hall of Fame Inductees included Olympic Bronze Medalist Holly McPeak, long-time AVP standout Brian Lewis, John Hanley and beach volleyball historian Arthur Couvillion.
Originally published in February 2012