Randy Angel

Hermosa Beach hosts annual CBVA Hall of Fame event

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Professional beach volleyball players comprise a unique group. Switching partners – even in mid-season – is commonplace but the athletes consider themselves a family within a sport that has become a major part of their lives.

For the second consecutive year, a “family reunion” of beach volleyball players will take place in Hermosa Beach where many greats of the game will reunite to swap stories – many of which should not be told in mixed company.

Janice Harrer goes all out during her most successful season in 1990 that included a championship at the Hermosa Beach Open with partner Jackie Silva.

After a successful fund raiser last year, this year’s event will once again honor past and new members of the California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame  located at the Hermosa Beach Community Center Museum beginning at 6 p.m. Friday.

The event costs $10 and includes a social hour with music, food, beverages, a photo display and video of last year’s festivities along with a volleyball highlight video and roll call of Hall of Famers. A post-event party will be held at Waterman’s Grill in Hermosa Beach.

Tickets are available at Spyder Surf and Boccatto’s Grocery in Hermosa Beach or online at http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e6j0zbk6d0d6922e&llr=rnz7mkcab.

“We’re excited to have this gathering become an annual event,” said Richard Koenig, President of the Hermosa Beach Historical Society. “It’s a viewing of what will become the one-and-only Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame location when we have our Grand Opening in Spring 2013.”

Koenig added that donation opportunities are still available for donors to have their  names listed on the Founder’s plaque which will adorn the CBVA Hall of Fame.

The 1st Annual Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame Golf Tournament will be held at Los Verdes in Palos Verdes earlier in the day where FOX Sports broadcaster Chris “Geeter “McGee will be calling up foursomes to the 1st tee before driving the course — filming, interviewing and capturing the highlights of the event.

Jim Arico will emcee the induction of the Class of 2012 that consists of Hermosa Beach native Scott Ayakatubby, Janice Opalinski-Harrer and Adam Johnson.

Beach volleyball legends and Hall of Fame members Greg Lee (1997) and Mike O’Hara (1992) will also be honored.

The CBVA began the Hall of Fame in 1992 but it wasn’t until last year when the Hermosa Beach Historical Society agreed to supply space where beach volleyball fans past, present and future could view artifacts of the sport that celebrates the beach lifestyle.

CBVA President Chris Brown expects another great turnout of players including some who could not make the event in 2011 such as Karch Kiraly (Class of 2007), Larry Rundle (1997) and Dennis Hare (2006).

“The majority of Hall of Famers is coming back,” Brown said. “We couldn’t be happier than to be partners with the Hermosa Beach Historical Society. We have tons of memorabilia and most of the things are new so it will be different than last year. This Hall of Fame is really a good shot in the arm for the sport when it needs it most. We hope to ride this wave to bigger and better events.”

Prior to last year’s event, the CBVA had no formal acknowledgement of its Hall of Fame members so it plans to honor past inductees during its annual event in Hermosa Beach. Honored this year will be charter member Mike O’Hara and Greg Lee who was inducted in 1997.

Scott Ayakatubby

Ayakatubby began playing beach volleyball at the age of six, following in the footsteps of his uncle Matt Gage and copying the style of beach volleyball legend Jim Menges, both of whom were inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1994.

Ayakatubby was named MVP at Mira Costa High School before completing his first full season as a professional beach volleyball player in 1983. He won 19 championships during his career that concluded at the 2009 Manhattan Beach Open when he and original partner Brent Frohoff reunited. Frohoff will be presenting his long-time friend during the induction ceremony.

Hermosa Beach native Scott Ayakatubby will be inducted into the CBVA Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame in his home town on Friday. Photo by Frank Goroszko

“Being from Hermosa Beach, Scott is a natural for the Hall of Fame,” Brown stated. “I’m sure his 16th Street crew will be there to honor him.”

Brown said it was fitting that Kiraly would be in attendance. Ayakatubby enjoyed his best season in 1995 when he and Kiraly won eight tournaments on the AVP tour.

Janice Opalinski-Harrer

Harrer won 25 pro titles from 1983- 2002, many with Hall of Fame members Linda Chisolm, Kathy Gregory and Jackie Silva and in 1990, was selected Best Defensive Player in the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association (WPVA).

Although Harrer grew up in south Orange County attending Dana Hills High School, she spent many hours on the sands of South Bay beaches where she was coached by Pat Zartman. Zartman and his wife Sharkie (Class of 1993) will serve as presenters for Harrer’s induction.

”I’m very flattered to be selected and feel Hermosa Beach is a fitting place for the Hall of Fame,” Harrer said. “I have many fond memories of playing and training in the South Bay. I feel so privileged to play for so many years and this is a wonderful way to cap off a 15-year career.”

Although Harrer won most of her titles domestically, it was a tournament in Tokyo, Japan, that she considers the fondest memory during her successful career.

It came in the summer of 1990 when she and partner Lisa Stand defeated future Hall of Famer Nina Matthies and Elaine Roque in the championship match of the Salem Fresh Tokyo Open. The duo was playing the tournament in tribute to Judy Bellomo, a fellow player who died earlier in the year at the age of 23 after a rare genetic reaction to anesthesia during a routine operation for thyroid cancer.

“Lisa and I were not favored in the tournament and Lisa had eaten something bad and was going to the port-a-potties every fifteen minutes,” Harrer recalled. “But we fought with all our heart. We were playing in downtown Tokyo and under lights for the first time. After we won and were standing on the podium, we were given mink coats and they put pearls around our necks. The tournament also had the leading prize money.”

Harrer and Strand split the $16,000 winner’s share of the purse.

Now living in central Oregon, Harrer has found a way to continue playing the game she loves.

“My husband brought the beach to me and built a sand court in our yard,” Harrer said.

Adam Johnson

Laguna Beach native Adam Johnson is one of the winningest players on the pro beach volleyball circuit earning more than $1,654,000 and capturing 44 tournament titles.

Johnson won 16 championships with partner Karch Kiraly reaching the semifinals 39 times in 62 tournaments. Johnson won the King of the Beach crown in 1994 to break Kiraly’s streak of three consecutive titles.

A three-time All-American at USC, Johnson was a member of the U.S. National Team before focusing on the beach game where he was named the AVP’s Most Improved Player in 1991, Best Defensive Player in 1993, 1997 and given the association’s Special Achievement Award in 1998.

Johnson runs the Adam Johnson Volleyball Club in Austin, TX, and regrets not being able to attend Friday’s ceremony due to a prior commitment.

“I’m very honored, yet sad that I won’t be able to attend the event,” Johnson said. “I was fortunate to have played with 10 Hall of Famers and there are many others I would like to meet. To be in the same sentence as these guys is very special.”

Johnson is excited to see the level of talent rise in the state of Texas and is expanding his club to include a beach volleyball academy.

“There are huge benefits of playing both beach and indoor volleyball,” Johnson explained. “Players must learn the entire game when playing on the sand.”

Mike O’Hara

Mike “The Jumping Jack” O’Hara began playing beach volleyball in the early 1950s and utilized his 6’4” frame to promote the technique of the block at the net.

A member of two UCLA All-American Championship volleyball teams in 1953-43, O’Hara won his first “Open” beach volleyball tournament with Don McMahon in 1954. He eventually teamed with Mike Bright in 1960, a partnership that won 12 titles including the first five Manhattan Beach Open tournaments (1960-64).

O’Hara’s last appearance in a final came in 1966, when he did it twice. He finished in second place at the 1966 Manhattan Beach Open with Bright and at the Rosecrans Open with Pete Hogan. O’Hara’s beach volleyball career included a total of 21 championship victories

Greg Lee

Greg Lee teamed with Jim Menges in the mid 1970s and was the dominate team of that era. From 1973-1982, the duo won 25 out of 30 tournaments including a record 13 straight tournament championships, never finishing out of the top three.

Lee competed in 62 “Open” tournaments reaching the finals 39 times. He was inducted into the CBVA Hall of Fame in 1997.

Lee also played guard at UCLA under the legendary John Wooden. Lee was a teammate of the Bill Walton-led team that won two consecutive NCAA Basketball Championships and a record 88 straight games.

For more information about the CBVA Hall of Fame Grand Opening, contact Chris Brown, chris@campsurf.com or Kevin Cleary, kpcleary@yahoo.com.

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