The two grew up together in the same South Bay city, playing the same sport on the same sun-splashed beaches.
Eventually, Aaron Wachtfogel and Sean Rosenthal turned the game into a career, becoming professional beach volleyball players.
But their parallel paths never crossed until this year’s Manhattan Beach Open, when the Redondo Beach natives played together for the first time.
And their inaugural duet paid off, as the two cruised through the Open and won Sunday’s men’s final with ease, beating Dana Camacho and Billy Strickland, 15-4, with several hundred fans crowded around the court’s edges.
For Rosenthal, the win is a repeat. He won last year’s Open with Jake Gibb, earning his name a traditional spot on the nearby pier.
For Wachtfogel, the win carried more meaning.
“My whole life, I’ve been trying to do this,” Wachtfogel said, adding that all of his heroes’ names are along that pier, “every one of them.”
Yet, this year’s Open almost didn’t happen. The Assn. of Volleyball Professionals recently folded, and the Open, in its 50th anniversary this year, had to be saved by city officials and others at the last minute.
On a shoestring budget, tournament officials decided to make this Open retro, doing away with stadium seating, fences, admission and even the current AVP and international rules.
Instead, they went with longer courts and a sideout scoring system