Class of 2016Active: 1970 - 1979
6 Open Victories
The 1970s. Bell bottoms. Disco music. Eight track tapes. Hall of fame inductee Freddy Zuelich was perhaps the quintessential player of that unique decade, competing in his first Open tournament in 1971 and his last in 1979. With his flowing hair and the occasional puka shell necklace, he certainly looked the part. Sometimes a player and an era were meant to be together.
The 1970s was the decade before beach volleyball exploded professionally. Open players, like Zuelich, drove up and down California competing from San Diego to Santa Cruz, not for money, but for six packs of beer, bragging rights and, of course, for the post-tournament parties. To play in that era, you had to work a day job and be truly dedicated to the inherent joy of the competition. Freddy was among the most dedicated.
He is perhaps best known for his first Open victory in 1973, which just happened to be at a beach called Manhattan. In one of the great upsets in Manhattan Open history, Zuelich and his partner Bobby Jackson, knocked off the legendary Matt Gage and even more legendary Ron Von Hagen. It immediately cemented Zuelich’s place in the sport and, of course, on the pier. In 1974, Fred won the World Indoor Beach Volleyball Championships, believed to be the first-ever professional event. Fred would go on to win tournaments with Tom Chamales and several with Dennis Hare, and over his career racked up more than 40 Top 5 finishes.
Fred was undersized compared to today’s players, but in the era before blocking over and the short court, he used his impeccable ball control and precise offensive technique to wear competition down.
He was invited to Australia with a group of U.S. beach volleyball players to promote the sport down under and would win two of the first professional tournaments held in Australia. Fred was also a four-time winner of the Manhattan Beach Six-Man as well as one of the best mixed-doubles players of his era, authoring the chapter on mixed doubles for the renowned book, The Art of Beach Volleyball.
After his Open career ended, Fred would go on to win 10 career Master Division titles. He was also a long-time instructor, teaching the next generation how to both play and love the sport of beach volleyball.
After retiring from the beach, Zuelich has pursued a successful real estate career, indulged his passion for golf, and held court many evenings at his beloved Fonz’s restaurant.
Fred Zuelich: A 70s icon and now a hall of famer.