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The runner-up prize at the 28th annual Luau & Legends of Surfing Invitational. Photo by Chris Ahrens
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Waterspot: Surfing for a cause

It’s been 28 years since I was called to be the MC of the Luau & Legends of Surfing Invitational.

In that time, I have witnessed the history of surfing played out on the waves and the sands near Scripps Pier in La Jolla.

The surfers who have attended over the years include: Bruce Brown, Greg Noll, Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy, Kathy “Gidget” Konher,  Kelly Slater, Rabbit Kekai, Margo Godfrey Oberg, Joyce Hoffman, Linda Benson, Debbie Melville Beacham, Damian Hobgood, Robert August, Wingnut, Joel Tudor, Rob Machado, Rell Sunn,  Jericho Poplar, Donald Takayama, David Nuuhiwa, Gerry Lopez, Skip Frye and Dale Velzy.

The above legends represent the mere tip of an iceberg that runs deep enough to incorporate the history of modern surfing.

From the aforementioned names have come three major motion pictures: “Gidget,” “The Endless Summer” and “Big Wednesday.” There are five world champions in the group: Joel Tudor, Margo Oberg, Debbie Beacham, Joyce Hoffman, Peter Townend and Kelly Slater.

We have seen a king of Pipeline, a king of noseriding, a Queen of Makaha, several big-wave pioneers, some board-making giants and a broad group of legends never seen together in any other part of the world all in cell camera range.

That’s the draw. The result of this draw, however, is even more impressive as over $10 million have been raised in the fight against cancer.

Aug. 15, 2021, was once again a combination of joyful celebration and somber reflection, termed, “Surfing for a Cure.” 

While the primary cure can be frightening and painful, the long-term cure — surfing, is nearly always pure joy.

It’s never easy getting surfers together for a cause, regardless of how noble. Add the ongoing challenge of C-19 and you have an even greater challenge.

With that in mind, some alterations were made to the schedule, like bringing lunch to the sand, rather than us trekking up the stairs and cuddling up beneath the big tent as we have in years past.

There was a conspicuous absence of the original legends like Skip Frye, Mickey Munoz and Gidget, who are in a high-risk category, and stayed home or surfed in relative seclusion.

The good news is that their absence brought new legends to the fore and I met Jericho Poplar’s daughter Raquel “Rocky” Poplar, who not only surfed brilliantly but showed skills on the mic leading many to have her replace me as the voice of the event.

Dane Perlee’s exhibition on his Osprey Surfboards coupled a new design with new blood, and Damian Hobgood (have you seen the documentary, “Two if By Sea,” featuring Damo and his twin brother CJ?) lit up the judge’s scorecards with the power turns he’s known for.

The man who brought surfing to the Olympics, Fernando Aguerre, lit up the crowd with his metaphor of ”Keep paddling no matter how impossible it seems to make it to the outside break.”

I paid little attention to who won because that was never really the point of the day. Now, I know how corny and insincere this sounds, but honestly everyone in attendance is a true winner.

My reward is the knowledge that my fellow surfers care as much about each wave they ride as they do the plight of those who are suffering. Here’s wishing love and blessings on each of you.

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