Valentine’s Day was a perfect day for a romantic stroll along Oceanside Pier. Sunshine had finally brushed the winter’s biggest (and only) storm eastward, the crisp, clean air smacked of spring and dozens of happy couples walked in lockstep, whispering vows of love and devotion.

The feel-good pheromones must have been working overtime. Because 30 feet below the wandering lovebirds, in the small-but-rippable wedges on the south side of the pier, the opposing forces of freesurfing and competition united in perfect harmony. Called the Red Bull 5X (or “RB Five-By”), five well-known pros — Shane and Gavin Beschen, Brad Gerlach, Mike Todd and Brian Conley went wave-for-wave over a span of {{{90}}} minutes. No bull horns, no tents, not even any judges. Just five top surfers blasting and bashing for lunch money. “The vibe was great,” said Shane Beschen, event winner and outspoken proponent of alternative competition. “It’d be the ideal vibe for all contests. We were just trying to push our surfing instead of trying to win.”

The brainchild of former pro and decorated amateur Mike DeNicola, the RB 5X was created with the small-screen in mind. “I’ve always been unsatisfied with the way surf competitions played out on TV,” says DeNicola. “I’ve just never felt surfers are given the chance to perform at their highest levels in those limited heat structures.”

So, instead of adding more rules, DeNicola created a format that can be explained on a 3 x 5 index card. Five surfers agree on a specific location, ante up five bucks and go out and push their performance levels as filmers capture the action from all angles. Then, over a catered lunch of grilled salmon and. . .you guessed it, Red Bull, the “competitors” watch the video and judge each other on five different categories: airs, turns, combos, creativity and overall dominance. The surfer with the most points wins 25 big ones (along with his $1000 appearance stipend) and the praise of his peers.