California Adventure: Day 5 – It’s Not Goodbye Forever

It was my last day in California and to say I didn’t want to go home would be an understatement.

I was dead set against it.

But time goes on. So eventually the inevitable would happen – I would be on a plane the following morning heading east.

My only regret is that I spent most of my last day thinking, “I wish I didn’t have to go home tomorrow.” and “I wish I could stay.” instead of enjoying my rapidly decreasing time.

If I had to pick my favorite part of that day, I would say it was the evening. Things become quieter, more serene. Everything seems to slow down.

That evening I walked down to the beach one last time. I dug my feet into the cool sand while listening to the steady breathing of the ocean. The waves barreled toward the shore as the light from the setting sun appeared to make the surface glisten. And I thought, not for the first time, that I could very easily live here.

Sunset on Moonlight Beach III turned my attention to the sky. It was on fire. Brilliant colors of gold and orange stretched out over the ocean. It was different from an East Coast sunset where the sky turns to cooler hues of orange and red, but is also blue and pink and purple. Both are magnificent in their own way.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, the ocean called to me. I longed to touch it one last time. It was cooler then I thought it would be, but still not as cold as East Coast water, so I walked in up to my knees. The waves came toward me. They were just as big as they had been the last few days, but I didn’t give it a second thought. They broke against my body, splashing up and leaving their mark on my clothes. Once again, I thought, “I could easily live here.”

I’ve heard people say that they’ve left their heart in San Francisco, but I’m pretty sure I left mine in Encinitas. I’ve always loved the ocean, so it was no surprise that I spent most of my free time in the water, or standing on the edge where land meets sea. But what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with the city itself.

I didn’t expect to meet so many kind and amazing people, some of whom I now call friends.

I didn’t expect to step outside of my comfort zone on more then one occasion.

No. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it all – the people, the music, the town. San Diego is amazing. Encinitas is beautiful.

And I will be back.

It’s not goodbye forever.

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California Adventure: Day 4 (Part 2) – The Switchfoot Bro-Am (Concert)

The sun was hot.

The crowd was many.

The music was loud.

We were all packed in like sardines, but that’s what happens when thousands of people gather on a single beach. And we were all there for the same reason – the Switchfoot Bro-Am.

It was late afternoon when Switchfoot took the stage. (Four bands had gone before them – Brynn Elliott, Colony House, Needtobreathe and Drew Holcomb – but that didn’t drain people’s energy). The crowd erupted with cheers, hands flying up in the air. As the music rang out from the speakers, I could feel it spider through the sand and vibrate through my body. I could even envision each tiny grain bouncing along to the beat.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that to be one of the best feelings. I love when I can literally feel the music, when the bass thumps through my body and the kick drum feels as though it matches my heartbeat.

Not only that, but the guys are very entertaining.

Switchfoot at the Switchfoot Bro-AmTim does his infamous, yet signature, hair flip while playing the bass.

Chad makes faces like I’ve never seen. (But no one makes faces like a drummer.)

Drew, Dr. Ew, the master of tones, rocks out on his guitar.

Jerome hangs in the back, rarely coming to the front, but produces beautiful melodies on the keys.

And Jon, the bands frontman, is very expressive. Facial expressions, hands, running back and forth across the stage; he does it all. He also turns into a bit of a kleptomaniac – hats, sunglasses, cameras. Of course he always returns the items. (He borrowed my camera once upon and time and at this show he decided to take my friend’s hat and wear it for a minute or two.)

Always entertaining.Switchfoot at the Switchfoot Bro-Am

From my place in the crowd, I could tell they really feel the music that they’re playing. They believe in the songs they’re singing. But it’s always been that way.

As beach balls flew through the air, I sang along, watching Tim climb onto Chad’s drums. I began to smile because I knew he was going to jump. Within moments, Tim was flying through the air, bass in hand, only to land safely on his feet.

The music and cheering continued as Jon followed his younger brother’s example. (Yes, Tim and Jon are brothers). He stepped up on Chad’s drums and launched himself into the air. Luckily he also landed on his feet. But he wasn’t finished. He made his way across the stage and stood in front of the crowd. Switchfoot at the Switchfoot Bro-AmTurning his back to us, he began bending backwards, back arching, still belting out the notes into his microphone. Hands rose to support him, lifting him off his feet and carrying him through the crowd. He was surfing through the crowd on a wave of hands, slowly riding further and further out before being brought back to the stage.

When the show ended the notes still filled my head.

My heart was still singing.

I didn’t even care that I was suffering from mild sunburn (despite the constant use of sunscreen).

It was all worth it. And I can’t wait to do it all over again.

If you would like to see more photos from the Switchfoot Bro-Am, you can do so by going here.

California Adventure: Day 4 (Part 1) – The Switchfoot Bro-Am (Surfing)

The day started early. 5:30am. I’m not sure if it was my excitement and anticipation of the day ahead or if I was still on East Coast time. I guess the reason isn’t important. I was down on the beach and ready for a day of surfing and music by 9am. So all was well.

Live music wasn’t scheduled to start until noon, but there was plenty of surfing to entertain me until then. I made my way through the crowd that had already started to gather and down to where the surfing events were taking place. There were a few different contest scheduled throughout the day, including the Rob Machado Junior Surf Competition. These kids put me to shame. Of course they probably have been surfing since they could walk, but still…I was impressed.

SIt was a pretty cool concept – hanging out on the beach with a bunch of people while we all watched a sport we enjoyed – surfing.

There were tons of photographers and at least one or two news crews.

This is a big even. It’s a big deal. And it’s grown over the years, the knowledge of the event even reaching different countries.

For me, as a photographer (and lover of music, surfing and the ocean), it was an extremely big deal. I had dreamed about attending this event since the first year it was held – 10 years ago. And even though I wasn’t working the event, I was still “working” it with my trusted sidekick – my camera.

So we were all watching the surfing competitions. The waves and current still looked rough and after speaking to a couple of people who had been out there my thoughts were confirmed. I enjoyed watching every minute of it. I was mesmerized by these guys. I’m S7well aware they’ve been doing this for a while and put in a lot of practice, but they made it look so simple. It seemed to come to them as easy as breathing. Natural. I was busy studying their movements every time they readied to catch a wave. That’s part of how I learn, by watching others. And when I wasn’t watching the surfers, I was roaming around the beach taking pictures. I ended up with a lot of candid shots, but those are some of the pictures I like best. The candid. The in-the-moment. I love those shots. There’s something truly special about them.

S11Later on, in the early afternoon, there was the Surf Jousting Competition. This was something that I had been waiting to see. A handful of people grab boards and this thing that resembles and giant Q-tip before heading out into the ocean. It’s all about having fun, but the point is to knock the other surfers off their boards.

There are no surf leashes on these boards, so the waves would push them to the shore. Once, Chad, Switchfoot’s drummer, had to retrieve his board. It was stopped by these two young boys. The one stayed and handed him the stick that looked like a giant Q-tip as well as the surfboard. I’m not sure how the following events came about, S15but I’m glad I was there to see it. Next thing I know he’s holding the board with one hand and the boy’s arm with the other, helping him stand on the surfboard. They waited until a small wave was coming toward the shore and Chad helped the young boy ride his first wave.

His face lit up. And I could feel myself smiling too.

It was such a great and kind thing to do.

But that’s Chad.

And I think he made that boy’s day.

If you would like to see more photos from the Switchfoot Bro-Am surfing, you can do so by going here.

The Wonderlands: Six Shadows

The second installment of Jon Foreman’s The Wonderlands was released on July 17th. This group of six songs came in the form of an EP entitled Shadows. If you missed my writeup of the first EP in this project, Sunlight, you can read about it here. As a quick recap, each song corresponds to a different hour of the day. In the end, the entire project will cover all 24 hours.

Shadows continues the progression of time throughout the day and accounts for the hours of 5pm – 10pm. These songs are meant to encompass the evening hours – when the light is fading, the shadows are lengthening and darkness is coming.

“Ghost Machine” kicks off the EP with a beautiful, yet haunting, opening. One of the questions I found myself asking during my initial listening was, “Who is the she?” Is it a woman? Is it a ghost? Is it a past memory haunting the mind? I’ll leave it up to you. However, if the lyrics are listened to carefully, they translate the idea of technology verses the human mind. “Ghost Machine” is short for the saying “ghost in the machine.” This is an interesting topic that has made its way into more then one of Jon’s songs. Personally, I love how these deeps questions are presented through music. And while this isn’t my favorite song on the EP, it comes pretty close (not that I like choosing favorites anyway) and the haunting sing-song melody will lock this tune into your head.

The second track is “My Coffin.” I absolutely love the opening of this song, but also enjoy good instrumentals, so I might be a bit bias. Melodically, I find this song easy to listen to, as I feel like I can close my eyes and float along with the notes. The message I take away from this song is one that I find beautiful, even though it’s about death. We never truly know where we go once we die, no matter what we believe. This song asks that very question while dealing with the the age old thoughts of death before life and life after death. In the end, listening to the lyrics, the key is the hope of resurrection. This is the light, the purest form of life that prevails over the darkness.

“Fake Your Own Death” is, well, about death. But it’s also about a lot more then just dying. I think the idea and lyrics behind the song are brilliant. Oddly enough death is part of life. We seem to fear death, but once death had occurred what is there to fear? Or maybe we are afraid of living? It’s strange to think about faking your own death, but once you do there’s a fullness to life. There’s nothing left to be afraid of and, therefore, we can fully live. We only have one life and we shouldn’t be afraid to live it. So once death is behind us maybe we can truly live and maybe even come alive for the first time. (Also, the middle instrumental section is beautiful.)

The next track is called “Good For Me,” which has a bit of a darker sound and a great bass rhythm. The truth is that our choices aren’t always black and white (although it would be easier if they were) so it’s hard to say if all the choices we make are good for us. Our choices define us, shape us as people, but no one can tell us if they are good or bad. Ultimately, we are the only ones who can decide. I’ve listened to Jon’s music for years and I find this track unlike anything that he’s released in his career so far. And I mean that in a good way.

“Your Love Is Enough” is simply a beautiful song. From the lyrics to the graceful melody, this is an uplifting tune and a true winner in my book. After all the thoughts about death and all the questions of life it’s nice to hear a song like this, ones who message is simple – your love, Jesus’ love, is enough. “You’re my harbor in this lonely storm,” rings out in the chorus. So during the storms of life, the difficult times, He is always there and the place we run to for safety. It’s a beautiful song that warms my heart with every listen.

The last track is “Siren’s Song.” After a couple listens this is probably my favorite song on the Shadows EP. (Although it is hard to choose since I enjoyed it in its entirety and each song had something special about it.) This song uses the ocean as a metaphor for sirens. Much like these mythological creatures he can’t resist the call of the ocean. He wants it. He needs it. And it’s there to greet him with open arms. And for someone who loves the ocean as much as I do, this song will capture your heart. I know it has mine.

Overall, Shadows is an honest, beautiful work of art with lovely instrumentals that carries you through from beginning to end. The difference from Sunlight can be heard, as the sun is setting and shadows are appearing and stretching across the land, although, Jon’s knack for writing never dwindled. The lyrics are still superb. This is Shadows.

The next installment of The Wonderlands is entitled Darkness. I’m interested to hear what the hours of dark sound like, but for now I shall live in the land of Sunlight and Shadows. Won’t you please come join me?

If this post peaked your interest of the Shadows EP feel free to listen to the two sample songs below. Also, if you wish to visit my post about the Sunlight EP there are two sample songs there as well.

California Adventure: Day 3 – Exploring La Jolla

Even though I was having a wonderful time in Encinitas, I knew there were other places I wanted to check out.

Too many places.

I wanted to do and see almost everything. Simply impossible for a five day California venture. So I decided to ask some friends before I left the East Coast what one must see/do while out there. A majority said La Jolla. Both for the view and the shopping.

So I set aside one day for La Jolla.

And I’m so glad I did. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

I’ll be honest. The first thing to hit isn’t the beauty of the place, but the smell. It smells like fish, or something resembling it. It’s only the seals that enjoy sunning themselves on the rocks by the cove. You get used to it. Eventually. (And don’t let it deter you from visiting. It shouldn’t. I only thought it fair that I put out a warning).

Overlooking La JollaStanding in front of the ocean, looking out at the rolling waves and blue water is peaceful. Magical. And the rhythmic breathing of the sea adds to the whole experience. I think I could’ve stood there forever, or at least for a very long time.

There’s a path that stretches a good distance of the ocean. It’s above the water and rocks, which are heavily populated by seals. By taking a different path that led to the rocks, I was able to stand by the seals as they sunned themselves. They seem to be so desensitized to humans that they simply lay there. Sometimes their eyes were shut, but some were staring, looking with their big, brown eyes. They were adorable and I felt a sense of wonder that these creatures could be sharing the same rock with me. However, a word of caution. They will let you know if you’re to close by barking. This happened to a man and his wife who were down on the rocks with me. The seals may be desensitized, but they are still wild animals, so please respect there space.

Walking around on the rocks felt like being on a completely different world. I could see the ocean stretching for miles. Endless blue. The waves rolled in and exploded on the jagged rocks, tossing white sea foam into the air. It was beautiful.

Above the ocean, rocks and paths was the town. The streets were lined with restaurants and shops. I had to explore the stores and I ended up purchasing some pretty cool finds. As far as food goes, well, I had some of the best Tiramisu at this little restaurant. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the place. Sorry.

La Jolla ChurchAfter a little shopping and some lunch, I simply walked around. Sometimes that’s how little gems of places are found. Unexpectedly. And that’s how I came across a beautiful church and a one of a kind jewelry store.

My only regret on this trip was time. I wish I had more of it.

La Jolla is breath taking. If you’re ever in California and looking for something to do, I suggest a day in La Jolla. It has a little something for everyone, including children. I loved it and I hope you love it too. Also, if you have been there let me know what you thought of it. I’d be interested in hearing about your experience.

If you would like to see more photos from La Jolla you can view them here.

California Adventure: Day 2 – Surfing The Wide Open Ocean

It was humbling to be tossed around by the sea.

At a certain point it reminded me a lot about life. It reminded me that you can’t always fight against the current. Sometimes you have to work with it. And balance is key.

DSC00568So the ocean waves swallowed me a few times. They knocked me around and pushed me down, but I always stood back up. Even when they smashed me into the sand and my leg bent in a way it’s not meant to, I was still ready to run back out there and catch another wave. Although, I ended up with a slight limp because lets face it, your leg is only suppose to bend certain ways.

Oddly enough, this reminded me a bit about life too. Sometimes it tries to breaks you. It tests you, constantly, to see how strong you are and how you will handle certain situations.

Luckily I didn’t hear anything snap or pop. It wasn’t broken. I could tell right away it was a muscle strain or something muscle related, but I wasn’t worried. The guy I was with was a lot more worried about it then I was, especially once he saw I was bleeding. It was barely any blood. Really.

“Oh, you’re bleeding!” he said.

We were standing on the beach after my spill into the water to examine my knee. Apparently he was EMT certified and insisted that I come with him. I looked down and saw blood mixed with saltwater as it ran down my ankle. During my fall the surf leash had somehow slid down and cut me. And when I say “cut” I mean dug into my ankle.

“Huh, look at that,” I said.

“Do you want to clean it up?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, thinking the saltwater would clean it good enough. “A shark won’t come after me, will it?”

“No. You’d have to go way out there.”

What I said was meant to be a joke, something to lighten the mood, but I think he was being serious and his answer was a little unsettling.

In the end I let him clean it and put a bandage on. Although, the bandage came off with the force of the first wave.

Apparently there was a swell that came in during the week and was suppose to last all weekend. So we were venturing out into high waves and a strong current. The waves were also breaking close together. There was a lot of pull too. On minute you would be one place and the next you would be half way down the beach. (An exaggeration, I’m sure, but things were pretty rough out there).

Anyway, enough about my leg bending at strange angles and my nasty ankle gash (which if anyone is curious now has a nice looking scab on it and greatly itches). But would any other surfers out there like to share a story of any of their injuries? I’d be interesting in hearing. I always love a good story.

So, injuries aside, I went back out there and had a blast. Besides, it was just a little flesh wound and I wasn’t going to let it stop me.

I’ve always loved the ocean, but surfing took this deep affection to the next level. To me, surfing provides a connection to the ocean like no other. You have to work with the waves and the current. You have to be able to read the ocean in order to catch the good waves. You have to know how to read the ocean…period. You have to be willing to understand the unpredictability of the ocean and nature itself.

The feeling of catching a wave is almost indescribable. Being pushed by a force that is so much greater them me (and lets face it, could kill me) is actually wonderful. Riding those waves is freeing, in a way. It’s the feeling of being in the water, of the wind, the smell of and taste of saltwater.

And I loved every minute of it.

I simply love the ocean.

California Adventure: Day 1 – It’s Only the Beginning

3am.

Why so early?

Because I wanted to watch the sun rise.

No. That was simply a perk of the whole thing.

I was up at 3am because I had one of those early-morning-before-the-sun-is-even-up flights. But my plane was destined for California, so I couldn’t complain that much. I slept on the first plane, but was wide awake during the connecting flight. It was my first time to California, to the West Coast, so I was excited and wanted to see everything as we were coming in for a landing. Of course, once we actually touched down in California, I was a much happier person. (I’m not a huge fan of flying).

The hotel I stayed at wasn’t in downtown San Diego. I didn’t want to stay in downtown Eanyway. My heart belongs to the ocean and if I was flying all those miles, you bet I was staying by the water. So the hotel was about 25 minutes up the coast in a town called Encinitas. It was a beautiful drive and an even more beautiful town. I fell in love with it on the first day. Anyway, my room had a beachfront view that was perfect. At least for me. The rooms were a good size – complete with a private bathroom, microwave, refrigerator, and small stove/oven. It wasn’t lavish, but I didn’t need lavish. What I needed was to be in close proximity to the beach with a view of it at all times. And that’s exactly what this place gave me.

At this point I was exhausted. I know I gained three hours, but it felt like I had been awake for an eternity. Especially being up since 3am. And I had a party/benefit to go to that night.

So be it.

I actually squeezed in a nap after lunch and I was so thankful I had a chance to do so. It’s amazing how even one hour can be so refreshing.

That evening I put on my summer dress, hopped in a taxi and went off to a one million dollar home where the Swichfoot Bro-Am Auction Night was being held. (I’ll talk more about the Bro-Am Foundation in a different post).

There were two types of auctions; a silent auction and a live auction. There were so many great things to choose from and all the money went toward helping the children of San Diego. (Again, I have a whole post dedicated to the Bro-Am Foundation). And what could be better then knowing you’re helping kid? There were surfboards and backpacks and skateboards, concert tickets, a variety of music gear/accessories and so much more. While people were circling the silent auction items there was also the opportunity to sample some food and delicious deserts. (I’m pretty sure I had one to many cookies that night, but the snicker doodles were wonderful).

When the silent auction end, everyone gather for the live auction where Drew, Switchfoot’s guitarist, played the role of MC. Lets just say that he was hilarious and should think of moonlighting as a comedian. And after a few bidding wars, I’m happy to say that the foundation raised a lot money that night. (They raised about $20,000 on one prize alone.)

To close out the event, Switchfoot preformed and it was pretty phenomenal, as always. The band fed off the crowds energy and the vice verses.

The set list for the night included the following songs:
Dare You to Move
Saltwater Heart
Meant to Live
The World You Want
Hello Hurricane
Love Alone Is Worth the Fight
When We Come Alive
Stand By Me (cover)

AN19Of course Jon made his way through the crowd during “When We Come Alive” and the guys sang “Hello Hurricane” campfire style around one microphone. And they brought it into the crowd, which was great.

The whole event was a wonderful whirlwind. I met so many nice people, some of who I now have the privilege of calling friends. The food was delicious (especially those cookies). The guys were lovely to talk to, as always, (like old friends). I was able to photograph the show (which was as awesome an experience as the show itself).

And the whole time I kept thinking, “This is only the beginning.”