Henry Bergman 

Class of 2001
Active: 1965 - 1973
15 Open Victories

 

Henry Bergmann was the most popular beach volleyball player of the late 1960s and early 70s. He rarely spoke or displayed emotion on the court, but his murderous spikes revealed his intensity. Unrivaled power distinguished him from the rest, and his passing, setting and defense were classic in their form and consistency. His spiking had a charisma all its own, and crowds would follow him from court to court, thrilling to each of his explosive hits.

A soft spoken graduate of Santa Barbara High in 1962, "Hammering Hank" let his crushing spikes, his fluidity of movement and his dedication to the game do his talking. From his left side position he would turn the ball back down the line with a powerful snap that put the strength of his entire back and some of his soul into the hit. Getting in front of his line hit was a dangerous move. Successfully digging Henry was a rare thrill that could only be fully enjoyed when the arms quit stinging.

Henry teamed with Larry Rundle in the late 60s to confront Ron Lang and Ron Von Hagen, producing a quality of beach volleyball that is often considered the sport's all time best. They traded victories throughout the summer of 1968, but a win for Rundle / Bergmann at the '68 Manhattan Open in the half-light of evening over Lang and Von Hagen was a classic for the ages. "You had to see Henry play," recalls Rundle, "he was capable of some superhuman feats."

Von Hagen and Bergmann, later teamed up to win seven of eleven tournaments in a stretch from 1970 through '71. "Henry was a special player," says Von Hagen. "I always judged a player on how well he could hit the off set, maybe four or five feet off the net. Henry could side-out just as easily with that set as he could with the perfect set."

Bergmann has a court at East Beach in Santa Barbara, where he won four opens, named after him. It commemorates, not just his 15 tournament victories in a career that extended from 1965 to 1973, but a purity of commitment, and a talent that awed all of the Southern California beach subculture. Certainly there is no one today who has become the folk hero that Henry Bergmann became.

written by:: Jon Lee