Has anyone ever seemed so relieved as Todd Rogers after winning the 2006 AVP Santa Barbara Open beach volleyball tournament in the middle of May?

Within moments of clinching the championship, the normally stoic Rogers had jumped into the arms of his 6-foot, 9-inch partner, new Santa Barbara resident Phil Dalhausser, kissed his wife and cradled his daughter, Hannah, all the while beaming like a kid on Christmas morning.

No wonder. Rogers – a Santa Barbara native who starred at San Marcos High School and at UCSB, where he later coached – had finished second in four previous attempts at the title here, including a heartbreaking first time when he and longtime partner Dax Holdren, a fellow local, couldn’t close the door after coming within one point of victory.

“I raised my batting average from zero to .200. Yeah, absolutely, a big weight is lifted,” Rogers said a few minutes after clinching. “It’s mind-boggling. It’s indescribable. If it was my first time in the finals, it would have been awesome, but after being the bridesmaid, it’s good to be the bride.”

If, as Rogers suggested, beach volleyball is a “marriage with your partner,” then Rogers has surely find a worthy mate in Dalhausser, the so-called “Thin Beast” who patrolled the net with authority, blocking hit after hit like King Kong swatting down airplanes atop the Empire State Building. Meanwhile, Rogers scooped up a whole lot of balls that somehow got by Dalhausser, frequently converting them into points.

The twosome, a new team that came together this year in anticipation of the Olympics, also captured the previous tournament in Tempe, Arizona, “but I didn’t think we were on the same wave length then; now it feels like we know each other,” says Rogers.

Both spent Friday evening of the tournament at beach volleyball coach-trainer (and budding filmmaker) Jorge Richardson’s annual AVP party in his rented guesthouse in the hills of Montecito. The pair mingled among guests, including Art Couvillon, author of the massive “Sand of Time” beach volleyball tomes that chronicle every professional tournament in the sport’s history. No telling whether the gourmet wines and catered buffet dinner aided in the victory, but it sure did the rest of us good.

While the victory was sweet nectar for Rogers-Dalhausser, the tournament was less enjoyable for another local hero, beach volleyball legend Karch Kiraly. The three-time gold medalist (two indoors) and record holder for most beach victories (146), and who now plays with former Santa Ynez star Larry Witt, finished a disappointing ninth, losing in the first round to a team that had to qualify to get in the main draw.

The 45-year-old Kiraly, who has entered each season for the last decade thinking it might be his last, cut a sad figure as he lingered in the players box for several minutes after the other players and fans had drifted away.

“I’m disappointed abut this match, but I’m not too discouraged about the team,” says Kiraly, who starred at Santa Barbara High School and learned the beach game at East Beach. “I think we showed some glimpses of playing really well. But even if we didn’t, I don’t think I’d quit in the middle of a season.”

If anyone enjoyed the tournament more than Rogers, that would have been Hans Stolfus, the 29-year-old rookie from San Diego playing his first full season on the tour. He was paired with Hermosa Beach’s Aaron Wachtfogel, who is familiar to local fans after he won the AVP Next tournament here in 2004 and played the first half of the 2005 season with Santa Barbara’s Jeff Minc. Stolfus has an infectious smile and upbeat personality that comes through in the witty column “Groveler’s Report” he writes for the beach volleyball monthly DiG.

“Here’s the bottom line: I’m not one of those trust fund kids,” he wrote in his debut column. “My career might be why I’m so skinny. Top Ramen doesn’t seem to be cutting it.”

Any doubts about the financial hardships he’s suffered to play on the tour were erased by Stolfus’s comments the moment he clinched a third place finish and at least a $6,000 paycheck: “I can pay off my credit card,” he exclaimed as he fell to the sand in joy.

Now that’s love of the sport.

The Price is Right

Concert promoters and ticket agencies have been quivering ever since StubHub.com and other online organizations got into the business of dealing in the secondary ticket market, where buyers and sellers meet outside the reach of the normal channels of distribution. But that’s for tickets that were already sold.

Now StubHub.com is taking things a giant step further, putting an entire show up for online auction. The test case for the new business plan is right here in Santa Barbara, with a June 14 at the Lobero starring INXS, the Australian band that used an “American Idol” reality show format to replace its deceased lead singer two years ago.

You can’t get a ticket at the box office; every single one of the 650 seats will be sold via auction only on the site, with opening bids at $1.

Some seats in the back have already been bought for the base price, reports Sean Pate, StubHub.com’s director of public relations. The average price of the 200 already sold is north of $50, with some VIP seats – which include a meet-and-greet with the band and a CD signed by the artists – fetching more than $500 each. New auctions go up every day, and seats should still be available the day of the show, says Pate.

The dreaded word “scalping” comes to mind when event tickets are the subject, but Pate suggests it’s really just American capitalism at its finest.

“It’s dynamic pricing, the market sets its own price,” says Pate. “It can go up and down every day, just like a stock market. This lets the fans have access to any seat in the house, and decide what they’re willing to pay. The price rises and falls with demand.”

Whatever the terminology the new format is making waves in the music industry. Ticketmaster itself recently started using auctions for the most desired seats at concerts and other events.

“We’re a tipping point for the entire ticketing market,” says Pate. “If this proves successful and is positive for the fans, who knows where it can go? Will it work at a ten-thousand seat venue? It sounds crazy, but it might.”

Hard to say, but I sure wouldn’t want to find out that the guy sitting next to me paid half or less than I did.

Get It For a Song

Budding songwriters, and other aspiring auteurs of music have several chances to immerse themselves in the business of song-crafting over long weekends this month. First it’s the Durango Songwriters Expo, which comes east for the third consecutive year, at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton June 1-3. The daytime workshops encompass several genres and formats, and various aspects of the business, and then there’s showcases each night (some slots are still open) where you can share your output and basically audition for the movers and shakers of the music world.

This year’s guests include Michelle Branch; Dan Wilson, lead singer and songwriter of Semisonic (“Closing Time”); Tony Scalzo of Fastball (“The Way”) and perennial Expo-ites Al Anderson (the former NRBQ guitarist who is now a thriving Nashville songwriter); and Barry DeVorzon, Montecito’s songsmith (“Nadia’s Tune”) who is also in demand in Nashville.

It all culminates on Saturday night with a blow-out acoustic concert that’s open to the public and features most of the name-act talent in attendance. Details are online at www.durango-songwriters-expo.com.

Two weeks later, former Santa Barbara singer-songwriter Penny Nichols returns to the area for her annual western excursion with partner David Roth and frequent collaborator Sloan Wainwright (yes, of that Wainwright family; Loudon is her brother, Rufus her nephew). In conjunction with the trio’s appearance at the Song Tree Concert series on June 17, Nichols – who has performed and recorded with Jimmy Buffett and Arlo Guthrie – will conduct a harmony-singing workshop in the afternoon. For details and tickets call Tom at 403-2369.

The following week, Nichols conducts her annual Summersongs West Music Camp at Arroyo Grande, a weeklong retreat for songwriters featuring classes in songwriting, guitar, singing, harmony, stage craft, concerts and song circles. Roth, Wainwright, Mary McCaslin, Wendy Waldman and Montecito’s own Kenny Edwards are among the instructors. Details online at www.summersongs.com. Or call 845-246-0223.