Two siblings. Two sports. Two piers. Two Hall of Famers.
A look back at the South Bay legacy of the Brothers Frohoff.
WRITTEN & PHOTOGRAPHED BY KAT MONK
A ping-pong ball was being fired back and forth across the table at a family barbecue. While everyone was eating hamburgers and hot dogs, an adult son and his mother were waging a battle extraordinaire at the table. With match point going back and forth between both sides, it was anyone’s game.
While playing their hearts out, no one was going to concede for a moment until that final ball went flying and mom lost 31–33. This was Diane Frohoff and her son, 52-year-old Chris Frohoff, with Chris’ dad, Doug Frohoff, watching on the sidelines. Chris—a typically shy guy—very proudly smiled, and his arms flew up in the air to claim the win.
Back in the 1960s, Diane Bell and Doug Frohoff met at Marine Street playing beach volleyball while attending Aviation High School. They became engaged very young, married and had two sons: Brent and Chris. They would raise their boys on the beach doing what they loved—surfing and playing volleyball.
“If we were in the same sport, I don’t think we would have been as close as brothers. It’s not like we were trying to get to the same place in the same sport.”
Athleticism was in their genes. “Doug was a great baseball player, a great volleyball player. He liked golf. He was very versatile,” shares Diane. “He would do anything sports-wise, and he was good at it.”
Diane was a pretty great athlete herself—winning the coveted Seawright tourney (four-man beach volleyball) five times throughout the years. And Diane’s father, Fernando Lee Bell, played professional baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates and then, after the Vietnam War, went on to be a professional golfer.
In addition to athletics, the family loved the outdoors. According to Diane, “It was easier to pack up the kids and go to the beach all day than keep the house clean, so we would just hang out on the beach all day.” Umbrellas and sunscreen were not commonplace back in those days, and the boys’ lips and noses always tended to be burned and cracked. The Frohoffs even continued their beach lifestyle on family vacations by camping in such places as Jalama or San Miguel.
Competition is the way the Frohoffs roll, and ping-pong was a competitive release since the boys were groms. Sometimes games would be so competitive between the parents that Doug would put a paddle in the garage door after losing to Diane.
While the boys were young, Brent was very protective of Chris. Living on Gould Terrace—a fairly busy street in Hermosa Beach—Brent was in charge of making sure that Chris was safe. But as preteens their relationship became a little more combative, as happens with brothers who are close in age.
“When we were kids, we would fight all the time. He would beat up on me,” says Chris. “I would make him mad, and he would beat up on me some more.”
High school welcomed a new relationship for the two brothers as Brent hung with the “bros” and Chris hung with the “surf rats.” Different sports and different friends helped their relationship grow.
“If we were in the same sport, I don’t think we would have been as close as brothers,” says Chris. “It’s not like we were trying to get to the same place in the same sport.”
“When we were kids and Chris learned to surf, it was all over. He couldn’t get enough. The ocean was in his veins,” says Brent. “Watching him before his amateur career—before he was a polished surfer—he would try radical maneuvers and never make them. I would say to myself, ‘Why are you trying those moves? You keep falling; that can’t be fun.’ But he knew what he was doing because in a short amount of time he was pulling off those moves.”
Chris has many accolades but one noteworthy achievement is the NSSA Nationals where he competed in the youth and men’s divisions. Tragically, that same weekend his girlfriend, Erica Reynolds, was killed in a car crash on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Most people would have chosen not to compete. But for Chris, surfing has always been an escape. He dominated and won both titles and to this day is possibly the only one to have held both titles at the same time.
After graduating Mira Costa High School in 1983, Chris signed sponsorship deals with Gotcha and O’Neill. His career was launched, and he went on to travel the world and compete internationally for the next 10 years.
Chris Brown—a childhood friend and master of ceremonies at Chris Frohoff’s recent induction into to the Surfer’s Walk of Fame—states, “As a kid our entire surf community got behind Chris. It was so awesome to see a kid from Hermosa go out and beat the world’s best.”
“He grew up to be such a solid surfer,” adds Brent. “He surfed with power, style and grace. He was humble and gracious to his peers and fans.”
At approximately the same time, Brent was starting his volleyball collegiate career as an outside hitter. Brent played indoor at San Diego State, Loyola Marymount and then professionally in Japan. He then hit the beach and teamed up with Scott Ayakatubby.
“Brent Frohoff was an amazing competitor who was very smooth in all areas of his game,” says Dane Selznick, a volleyball legend himself. “Great hands, a jump serve that was consistently potent and very good at keeping his cool on the court.”
“I can’t forget Frohoff/Kiraly beating Smith/Stoklos at the Manhattan Beach Open,” remembers Chris. “That was the icing on the cake for me. I sat front row and watched every single play. Even watched him take a Stokie 100-mile-an-hour ball to the gonads and get dropped, but he got up from that and beat those guys. He was a Manhattan Open champion. I was and am really proud of him.”
Over the course of a 20-year career Brent won 19 major tournaments. Playing beach volleyball during the height of the sport’s popularity, sponsorships were the bread-and-butter for beach volleyball athletes. But Brent still won almost $1 million in contest winnings—no easy feat. Brent’s jump serve is still talked about to this day.
Chris and Brent—flush from their careers—bought a condo and lived together in South Redondo. They were best friends, supporting each other at events, cheering each other on and quite simply enjoying an amazing life.
“Both Chris and Brent possessed a quiet coolness that drew fans to them,” says Chris Brown. “For South Bay locals, they were OUR guys going out and competing against the world’s best.”
Brent, married with four children, is now a real estate agent in Orange County and started his own volleyball club. Chris, married with one daughter, is a Los Angeles County Lifeguard and a LA County Paramedic and shapes boards on his off time.
Not many brothers can achieve what they have achieved, and most definitely this comes from their competitive genes. Inducted into the South Bay’s respective Halls of Fame, they each have a plaque on opposing piers. With too many achievements to list here, the Frohoff name is now recognizable on both coasts to anyone who knows anything about surfing or beach volleyball.
Look out for the next generation of Frohoffs too, as Brent’s sons are both surfers and Chris’ daughter just started playing beach volleyball at Tulane University on an athletic scholarship. Frohoff forever.