Luau & Legends of Surfing Invitational returns to La Jolla for 30th year

Guy Takayama rides a small wave during the 2021 Luau & Legends of Surfing Invitational.
Guy Takayama rides a small wave during the 2021 Luau & Legends of Surfing Invitational.
(Luau & Legends of Surfing Invitational)

Surfing luminaries and representatives of local research companies will gather Sunday, Aug. 27, at Scripps Pier beach.


The team behind the annual Luau & Legends of Surfing Invitational has a lot to celebrate this weekend.

The event, which brings together surf teams made up of a “surfing legend” and four representatives of local research companies who surf, will mark its 30th year on Sunday, Aug. 27. It has raised more than $10 million for cancer research in that time.

A sponsor party will kick off the festivities at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Scripps Seaside Forum at La Jolla’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The Surfing Invitational and luau will follow the next day at Scripps Pier beach and the Seaside Forum, beginning at 7 a.m.

Money raised will benefit UC San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center, event founder Sam Armstrong said.

Armstrong continues to be most proud of the event’s unique nature and its sustainability for three decades.

“There is no event like it anywhere in the world,” he said. “You bring together some of the world’s best surfers with some of the most prominent scientists in the world. We’ve had Nobel Prize winners, National Academy of Science members. Scientists that are changing the world in terms of cancer research come to this event.

“We couldn’t do it anywhere else in the world. Other places have great science, but they aren’t places where people go to surf. Others have great surfing but not great science. So it’s the only place where we can do this.”

Past surf legends who have participated include Fernando Aguerre, president of the International Surfing Association; pro surfer Rob Machado; Kathy Zuckerman, the real-life inspiration for the fictional character Gidget; and more.

Scientists who have been involved and honored with the Rell Sun award (given to those who have made significant contributions in the fight against cancer) “are people who are literally changing the world” with their research, Armstrong said.

This year’s recipient is John Reed, executive vice president of pharmaceuticals, research and development for Johnson & Johnson. Reed has a mission to “focus the best research and development teams in the world at the intersection of unmet medical need and innovation to change the trajectory of human health,” according to the Luau & Legends committee. “John encourages a culture that is fast-paced and open to reimagining how lifesaving medicines and vaccines are discovered, developed and delivered.”

Given commitments of hundreds of thousands of dollars from local organizations and other opportunities to give more money, Armstrong said he thinks this year’s event could raise more than $1 million.

Guests attend last year's Luau & Legends of Surfing Invitational.
Guests attend last year’s Luau & Legends of Surfing Invitational.
(Vincent Andrunas)

The 2020 Luau & Legends was virtual and in 2021 it featured only the Surfing Invitational because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2022 event was scaled down.

“We’re back to full force,” Armstrong said. “It’s the real deal this year.”

Armstrong said he is “very proud of the fact that so many people have put in so much time and effort to make this thing what it is, from the legends, the volunteers and [UC San Diego].”

He hopes to make it a multimillion-dollar fundraiser every year and said he intends to bring in “the next generation of leadership” to help “make this event even better in the future.”

Tickets to the Saturday sponsor party are $250. The luau lunch on Sunday is $450. The cost to attend both is $600. To learn more, visit ◆