It’s difficult to run a surf contest when nobody’s allowed to enter the water. But after a diesel spill three miles off the coast of Encinitas on Friday, that’s exactly what was facing the 3rd Annual Switchfoot Bro-Am Surf Contest. The Bro-Am, created by the San Diego rock band Switchfoot to benefit a local children’s charity called Care House, is one of the year’s most anticipated events. This year’s event, presented by Sun Diego, raised significant funds for Care House at a festive pre-event auction night event at the local restaurant When In Rome.
But the real fun was scheduled for Saturday. And while the surf contest had to be cancelled, in the spirit of competition, the Switchfoot boys fired up a land-locked game of dodge ball for the more than 5,000 fans who came out to see pros and bros bashing lips one way or another. And while the spirited game of Bean-Your-Bro went down, Hazmat crews mopped up flammable goop as news cameras rolled, providing undeniable evidence that our oceans could use a little more TLC. With a 4- to 6-foot southwest swell in the water, it was extra difficult to swallow the idea of not surfing. But the good music and positive vibes got everyone through the dry day at the beach just fine.
The event featured performances by several amazing San Diego surf bands, including Tom Curren, who just couldn’t get over the fact that he couldn’t surf. “I don’t really want to even get started on what’s going on in front of us,” Curren said as he jammed away for the crowd.
“That’s f—ing Tom Curren!?” screamed one enthusiastic fan. “Whoops, there’s kids around,” they quickly said. It’s okay; we feel the same way.
Following Tommy was Timmy Curran, who recently returned from a Japanese tour with Donovan Frankenreiter and put on a really eye-opening show, proving that he is actually quite the musician. O’side surfer and radio boy-toy Jason Mraz made everyone feel like cuddling under the muggy, steel-colored sky with his “geek in the pink” white-boy hip hop, and then Switchfoot stole their own show in front of a crowd of over 5,000, calling on guest appearances from members of Nickel Creek, Curren, Mraz and just about everyone else who played that afternoon.
The crew from AKA won the dodgeball tournament, if anyone cares about that. Most people seemed too focused on catching t-shirts thrown from stage and winning free boards from sponsors like Pnatrul Surf and Sector 9 to avert their gaze from the main stage. Besides, looking back towards the water meant acknowledging that nasty diesel spill. And with the fuel smell rich in the air and a toxic sheen glistening off the breaking sets, everyone was thankful for the musical distraction. Somehow, despite the waterborne disaster, the boys in Switchfoot still managed to pull off a really fun event. They earned money for Care House. They drew attention to the environmental crisis that plague our beaches all to often. And they still managed to stoke a huge crowd of surfers without anyone ever getting wet.
Later that night, the bands all reconvened at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach for a huge after party jam session where there was more spillage of a less toxic sort, but that’s another story (most of which we forget).