The Coast News Group
Attendees at the 30th anniversary Luau & Legends Surfing Invitational on Aug. 27 included “Wave Killer” Allen Sarlo, from left, world champion Tom Carroll, board maker Steve Walden, surf filmmaker Ira Opper, world champion Peter Townend, world champion Shaun Tomson and actor Gregory Harrison. Photo by Chris Ahrens

Surfing for a cause

It’s been 30 years since I sat at that table at Scripps Institute. I had been invited there because I was the editor of a surfing magazine and spent my weekends as a surf contest announcer. This this was no ordinary surfing contest, but a surf contest on a mission.

There I sat, the world’s most average surfer, pinching my bum upon realizing I was in the company of surf legends — former Women’s World Surfing Champion Debbie Melville Beacham, surfboard shaper to the stars Rusty Preisendorfer, Mexican surf legend Ignacio Felix, Tyler Callaway, and event co-founders John Otterson, Fred Borrelli and Sam Armstrong.

If I have left anyone off that impressive list, I apologize and know that 30 years can affect memory.

It was Armstrong who ignited the spark that led to a fundraiser — the Luau & Legends of Surfing Invitational — that would ditch formal attire (especially shoes) associated with raising cash for good causes.

Sunday, Aug. 27, marked 30 years since that first event. Most from that aforementioned group again gathered at Scripps Pier in the hopes of smacking down cancer.

While the concept of bringing teams together under corporate sponsorship to compete on longboards has not changed significantly over the years, the lineup has.

Absent was the great Hawaiian surfing champion Rell Sunn, who lost her hard-fought battle to cancer. Others who were missed this time around were surfing champion Joyce Hoffman, second Mister Pipeline Jock Sutherland, legendary Hawaiian Rabbit Kekai (RIP) and Skip Frye.

Filling their jerseys were former world champions: Australians Tom Carroll and Peter Townend, and Shaun Tomson, South African born and raised. Also in the competition were Malibu “Wave Killer” Allen Sarlo, mega charger and Floridian Damien Hobgood, Hawaiian big-wave pioneers Buzzy Kerbox and Darrick Doerner, and California big-wave equivalents Jojo Roper and Jon Roseman.

The talent ran thick in the water, and even the event judges —which included Townend, Carroll, Pipeline Underground star Joe Roper, Huntington’s Mike Downey and former Surfer Magazine publisher Jim Kempton — have countless checks in the win column.

Pardon me for not paying attention to what team won. To be honest, I never cared. For me, this is not about winning, since, as corny as it sounds, everyone in attendance is a winner.

I did look seaward long enough to note that the ever-humble Dane Perlee once again racked up points like a deaf, dumb, and blind pinball wizard on a board of his own making. Congratulations to him and everyone else as the beach was clean of all inorganic discards.

After 30 years, I once again sat at table with some of surfing’s most influential players. Digesting wild-caught salmon and organic grilled veggies along with Carroll, Townend, Tomson, Beacham and Lynn Boyer, and possibly the world’s greatest surf artist, Rick Rietveld, whose event painting sold for $17,000, an amount that might someday find two zeros attached to it, I reached under the table to pinch my ever-expanding bum.

Of course, this is all inconsequential in comparison to Armstrong’s concept raising $10 million donated to cancer research. I am extremely glad of that, but still a bit giddy over sitting with some of the most influential surfers in the world.

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