We eagerly anticipate the Switchfoot Bro-Am Beach Fest every year, the chill event that combines music, surf, community and produces endless smiles.
Everyone will be grinning at this weekend’s 14th annual shindig at Encinitas’ Moonlight Beach. With North County’s Switchfoot rocking the sand, Cardiff’s Rob Machado shredding the waves and everyone from groms to long boarders splashing about, what’s not to like?
It’s a tradition like no other — in our neck of the woods — and it should draw close to 15,000 people on Saturday. For many it will be a sun-splashed day to remember. We hope it is, while everyone doesn’t forget Sam Day.
Day was just another plucky teenager in the waves a few years back, with countless people having his back as he settled into the water. Day suffered from cancer, but that insidious disease couldn’t eclipse his love of surfing.
Day lived in the Pacific Northwest, but he got hooked up with the Junior Seau Foundation. Those people steered Day toward the Challenged Athletes Foundation and its involvement with the Switchfoot Bro-Am.
What happened next was special after Day made the trek south, a beneficiary of area charity organizations lending a hand.
With the help of CAF’s Alana Nichols, a three-time member of U.S. Paralympic teams, and other volunteers, Day shared a wave with the iconic Machado.
“That just took him to another level, riding with Rob,’’ Nichols said. “It was like Sam’s energy just caught fire and he was just so stoked.’’
Day lost his fight with cancer but he did so with dignity and a zest for life others would be wise to emulate. His impact was such that an impressive paddle-out in La Jolla marked his passing, with many North County surfers riding with Day one last time.
The appreciation of surfing, and the moment, is a prevalent vibe when the CAF athletes aid young adaptive surfers. For the third year they’ll conduct a two-day CAF surf camp in Del Mar before the weekend. Then a handful of adaptive surfers will compete in Saturday’s main event, with Nichols, the first lady of adaptive surfing, providing the commentary.
“The water is such a perfect medium for the kids to just to get out in and enjoy it,’’ said Nichols, a North County resident and the only American woman to win gold medals in the winter and summer Paralympics.
“There is something universal about the ocean that once you are in it, it doesn’t matter what kind of ability you do or don’t have.’’
The Junior Seau Foundation provides many of the youngsters and the CAF contributes the equipment, encouragement and adults keeping a close eye on everything. It’s debatable which ones with wet trunks — the kids or volunteers — have more fun.
“Yeah, right,’’ Nichols said. “It’s awe-inspiring to the parents and really to everyone that is watching.
“We have some kids that are single-leg amputees and others that are sitting up on the board. It’s a big deal for these kids to get to surf.’’
It was memorable when Sam Day dunked his worries wrestling a swell with Machado. Day died in 2016, but his moment with the surfing legend prevails.
Be cool and toast Day sometime during the weekend mashup of water waves, sounds waves and everything in between. And do so with a smile, one that rivals the grin Day carried when carving a wave with his bro, Rob Machado.
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him @jparis_sports
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports