The Coast News Group
Surf jousting was a big hit, as always, at last weekend’s Switchfoot Bro-Am. File photo

Ams or pros — all are bros

Wandering the sand last weekend, I was struck not by the presence of something so much as I was its absence.

I saw no trash, no smoking, nobody drunk or disorderly, and not a single teen wearing what I have come to assume is the obligatory “I’m so bored” frown.

On the plus side there were cobalt blue skies, warm bodies and decent surf, things most of us spoiled people who call North County home consider a birthright.

Right then an announcer’s voice snapped me out of it to remind me that I was at Moonlight Beach for the annual Switchfoot Bro-Am, which by 9 a.m. was beginning to look like a post-COVID group hug.

All the local young rippers made their moves, turning hard and boosting airs. Then came North County’s favorite son, Rob Machado, who, well into his 40s, matched and surpassed every turn with a style not witnessed since Gerry Lopez ruled the Pipeline. (BTW, what did you think of the Lopez movie at La Paloma?)

Chad Butler, Tim Foreman and Jon Forman of the sponsoring band, Switchfoot, all made strong showings on the 2- to 4-foot waves. Arguably, they rank as the best surfers ever to make their livings as professional musicians.

But that’s just what you’d expect from a band named after a surfing maneuver meaning to ride left foot or right foot forward. That leads to the tricky part of the event, where each surfer is scored riding switchfoot on at least one wave. If you think that’s easily accomplished on a board under 6 feet long, you haven’t tried it.

There was a time when a surfer could make a reputation on how they rode switchfoot. The original Mr. Pipeline, Butch Van Artsdalen, the second Mr. Pipeline, Jock Sutherland, and our own Dale Dobson were all masters of this maneuver.

The food was good, the music was outstanding and the vibe was heavenly to the point where one observer was overheard saying, “This is life as it should be.” I couldn’t agree more.

In fact, it was everything the “Flower Power” generation promised while inviting people of all ages, keeping clothes on and the drugs absent, or at least hidden from the kids.

An event favorite, surf jousting, where Nerf weapons are assembled and two surfers ride the same wave, battling it out until only one of them is left standing, was a big hit, as always.

Yes, I am the godfather of surf jousting, an idea that occurred to me while speaking with former North County standout-turned Hawaiian charger Andrew Logreco a dozen or so years ago.

As much as I would like to, however, I can’t take all the credit — at least half of it goes to Butler, the Switchfoot drummer, who built the first helmets, forged the swords and the maces, and made up the rules, which are simple — do whatever you can short of injuring an opponent to knock them off their surfboard.

I know some of you want to know who won the contest, but to me that was never the point, any more than it was to see who could surf the best in 20 minutes. There you have my official excuse for bailing on the final and finding a nice patch of sand to watch and hear Switchfoot move their hometown like only they can.

Depending on who you talk to, COVID-19 is either over or just taking a break. Either way, this seemed like a great way to welcome the world back to a place of sanity and great joy where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the waves are not crowded all day.