Riding the Waves


Charles White


Living near the water is amazing. You wake up in the morning amidst the sounds of the seagulls and waves crashing on the beach.  You are greeted each morning by a warm rich sunrise against a clear blue sky. On cloudy days, you are often greeted by the awesome power of nature in the form of wind and rain. When you leave land and become a part of the sea, whether by boat or on a surfboard, you are never the same again. When you return, you know that you are a part of something larger than yourself; something even larger than this world can contain. When you are out there, you can really sense the presence of The Almighty. Born out of this experience is the music of Switchfoot. 


Originally from San Diego, Jon Foreman, vocalist and guitarist for the group, grew up on the beaches of California. Consequently, surfing has had a huge impact on his life. In fact, along with Bono of U2, CS Lewis and his Dad, Jon counts many pro surfers as his role models.  It seemed only natural that when Jon and his friends left the ocean to create a band, they would take something along with them.


From their experience as surfers, the name Switchfoot was born. In life, as in surfing, “being Switchfoot is about putting a different foot forward.” Jon explains that their music is born out of the honesty that they found growing up on their surfboards. “I feel like music is a huge aspect of my life. It is a big part of who I am. The biggest joys and the most meaningful events are things that have been a little more esoteric, such as thinking about eternity at the sunset. I don’t know if being around the ocean has fostered that, but I’ve always had a desire for something beyond what this life can afford.”


Over the last seven years, the members of Switchfoot have lived their dream of making music and have struggled against those that would place their music in “boxes” such as Christian, Rock or Alternative. “For us, it’s all about the songs.” Foreman explains. “That is where the passion begins. We want to make sure these songs are played in places that they need to be heard. We grew up playing in bars, churches and coffee shops as well as on campuses of universities. Wherever people wanted us to play, we played.”


“I feel that our songs are much more universal. We spend half of our time trying to get out of boxes and make sure that our songs don’t get boxed up. I never fully understood the genre classification. I side with Les Paul[the famous guitarist] and his idea that music is either good or bad. Our every effort is to fit into the good camp.”


Their newest album, Beautiful Letdown, continues Switchfoot’s commitment to approaching music honestly. “For me, these songs are like diary entries,” Jon states. “I’m just talking about what I’m learning at that point in time. These are very honest songs.”


“Music is something that can affect you on many different levels. It is the type of thing that has many different roles in our lives. On the one hand, I hope that our music is being used as a part of a fabric of enjoyment.” On the other hand, Jon realizes that it’s always amazing when people really take their songs to heart.


As the title suggests, The Beautiful Letdown, is about the collision of life’s forces. “The Beautiful Letdown is about real life: the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s an honest attempt to reflect on the great and terrible aspects of being human, the tension of existence. In fact, the very lowest moments in our lives are when we stand toe to toe with the truth about ourselves and our world. The way I see it, hope means nothing at all if hope doesn’t reach to the core of our need. The Beautiful Letdown is where meaning and hope invade our greatest and worst moments. The Beautiful Letdown is where we live, who we are and where the future begins.”


From their surfing experience, it seems as if Jon and the rest of his crew have learned a valuable lesson that is reflected in their music. This lesson is that life is a quagmire filled with hope and dispair. What leads us out of the quagmire is not our own efforts, but our faith in someone greater than ourselves. That someone is God.