Luau & Longboard event set

Roger Tsien

Back for its 19th year, the Luau & Longboard Invitational is more than a surfing competition.

Though the surfing attracts many wave-riding legends, the event, more importantly, is all about increasing cancer awareness and raising money for research.

Since it began in 1993, the Luau & Longboard Invitational has raised more than $5 million.

“The contest is on the beach and it’s free to everyone,” event co-chair Kylor Schlaht said. “It’s a great opportunity to see legends surfing and take in the amazing coastline in La Jolla and really get a fulfilling experience.”

If you want to check out the surfing, you better get there early as the competition begins at 7 a.m. on Aug. 19 at the Scripps Pier.

“The contest is still in the same location, but what we’re doing is relocating the tent area closer to the beach so that the event-goers can overlook the contest site,” Schlaht said.

It really connects the two events a lot more than the the previous 
two years.

The luau will get started on the bluffs overlooking the competition site at noon.

One of the highlights each year for the Luau & Longboard Invitational is handing out the Rell Sunn Award, which is given to someone who battles cancer with unselfishness, compassion and true aloha spirit.

This year’s award winner is Roger Tsien, a Nobel laureate and a professor of pharmacology, chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego.

The award was established in memory of Sunn, a Hawaiian surfer and longtime Luau & Longboard Invitational supporter who lost her battle with breast cancer in 1998. Each year, the event volunteer committee selects an honoree they feel has displayed a strong will, unselfishness and compassion in the battle against cancer.

Roger Tsien

“Dr. Tsien’s work is an important element in the battle against cancer,” said Kylor Schlaht, 2012 event co-chair. “In addition to what he does in his lab, biomedical researchers worldwide utilize the multicolored fluorescent proteins he helped develop, and for which he won the Nobel Prize, to track the inner workings of cells 
and help shed light on how cells 

Tsien has worked to develop a novel way to image and possibly even 
deliver specially targeted drugs to 
cancer tumors.

“My motivation to help develop new, more effective cancer treatments comes from my knowledge of the 
limitations of current therapies,” said Tsien, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008. “I’ve also always wanted to do something clinically relevant in my career, if possible, and cancer is the ultimate challenge.”

Tsien will receive the award during the Luau portion of the event, which begins at approximately 11:30 a.m. and goes until 3 p.m. The Longboard Invitational kicks off at 7 a.m. on the beach near the Scripps Pier in La Jolla. Teams of four will be paired with a longboard surf legend to compete in the surfing contest. The competition will be followed by the luau with music from the Professors, Polynesian dancers, and live and silent auctions featuring one-of-a-kind surfboards, memorabilia and trips.

“The Luau and Longboard Invitational is an exceptional event which illustrates, year after year, the incredible support from the local community and businesses for our research,” said Scott Lippman, MD, director of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. “Generous donations to the event support our mission to translate promising scientific discoveries into new and better options for the care of our patients. With each day, we move one step closer to finding cures for cancer.”

For the fifth year in a row, Pfizer is the title sponsor of the unique fundraiser. As part of its sponsorship, the biopharmaceutical company will support its own team of surfing scientists, as well as the Thrivers Team, which is made up of surfers who have successfully fought cancer.

“We are proud to support and participate in the Luau and Longboard Invitational again this year,” said Robert Abraham, senior vice president and chief scientific officer of the Oncology Research Unit at Pfizer Inc. “This event helps raise awareness of the innovative research into the causes and treatments for cancer conducted by researchers at facilities like UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and Pfizer.”

The surfing competition is free for viewing; a ticket to the luau fundraiser is $150. For more information about sponsorship opportunities, team entries, tickets and event activities, call (858) 246-1230, or visit the event website at More information on the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center can be found at

— Phil Dailey contributed to this report