The Coast News Group
Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman, three-time world surfing champion Tom Curren and Switchfoot guitarist Tim Foreman prepare for a dodgeball battle after an oil spill nearly ruined their plans for the annual Bro-Am surfing contest. Photo by Chris Ahrens

Waterspot: Switchfoot makes lemonade from petroleum

When the world throws lemons at you, make lemonade.   

— Anonymous

While nobody I know was pelted with citrus that day, the tradition known as the Switchfoot Bro-Am had been sent a knuckleball by nothing less than an oil tanker.

The water was oily brown and the sand to the high tide mark at Encinitas central, aka Moonlight Beach, was thick with tar. 

Our favorite playground, the Pacific Ocean, was closed until further notice. 

As most local North County residents realize, North County is an international surf destination, Switchfoot is an internationally famous band, and the Bro-Am is a community event with global implications. 

Now, the band could play, but the surfing contest was off. What to do?

Gathered above the greasy beach early that late spring morning, Switchfooters Chad Butler and brothers Tim and Jon Foreman along with World Surf Jousting Champion Justin Cote attempted to salvage what appeared to be a ruined event. 

As I recall alternate suggestions ranged from surfing on picnic benches, to everyone on hand down and having a big communal breakfast while the band strummed acoustic guitars. 

Just when all seemed lost, Cote lifted his handsome head along our spirits and uttered one word. “Dodgeball” exited his lips as if in slow motion. 

Moreover, that was how some of North County’s best surfers and musicians along with various surfing legends including three-time world surfing champion Tom Curren began pelting one another with nerf balls dangerously hurled at up to 90 mph (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating on this point).

With his jousting title in limbo, Cote readied for battle while Butler donned a war bonnet. Jon Foreman zipped up a custom-made dodgeball suit that gave him the appearance of a gorilla and nearly drowned him when he attempted bodysurfing in it. 

Tim Foreman and Tom Curren appeared more serious as they dug deep into the trunk for the dusty dodgeball jerseys they hadn’t worn since high school.

I don’t recall who the actual winners were, but when a hit to the chest by the mighty Curren rocketed out of bounds, it nearly knocked me over.

The dodgeball comp ended peacefully as the afternoon drifted into evening and everything else went as planned. Various artists including Curren and his band, Rob Machado and his band, Jason Mraz and, of course, Switchfoot played their immense hearts out. 

Generally held in early summer, The Bro-Am continues to be something that separates Encinitas from most every other beach town, and Switchfoot from nearly every other rock band. 

Try to imagine a day when over 10,000 fans gather to hear a live concert without any real problems breaking out. The kicker, as the cliché goes, is that all proceeds benefit nonprofit groups like Oceanside’s “Stand Up For Kids,” an organization that helps homeless teens. 

Check this column for updates as the Bro-Am Beach Fest and The Machado Bro Jr. hit town again in late June of this year. See you in the sand.

To learn more about the Switchfoot Bro-Am and how you can make a difference in our community, please visit: