Monday, November 1, 2010

More Than A Sticker

You paddled out, are in the line up, sitting on the outside because that’s where the real sets are breaking. You wait your turn for a decent wave: paddle, pop, the wave it setting up and you surf a clean conservative ride. Nice first wave, that’ll show everyone around that doesn’t know me that I know what I’m doing and I’ll get better priority now since it’s a bit crowded.

A guy that looks about your age, maybe a year or two younger and seems like an advanced beginner paddles over and says, “Nice ride, but if you keep your back arm in front of your body a bit more you’ll be in a better position to keep up your speed and trim.” Excuse me you think to yourself?! Who are you to be giving me advice? You want to further elaborate out loud, but you have your CS sticker on your board and all, so you smile and nod, say “Thanks bro,” and paddle to a different peak.

Unsolicited advice is hard to hear, hard to swallow, irritates most of us and often we can’t stop thinking about what was said by the know-it-all who said it. I know I’m guilty of being the giver of unsolicited advice on a few occasions. The many times I’ve been on the receiving end sure does remind me how unpleasant it can be. It also reminds me of Ezra 7:10 “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

Ezra was a priest and scribe and chosen by God to do some important, hard work. He was chosen in part because he was so faithful and obedient to God’s word, therefore given an important job. The revealing thing about Ezra is in 7:10 is that he applied God’s word to himself first, before preaching it to others.

Our challenge as Christians, is to be out in the line up around those who don’t know him, so that we can show love to them, and share Him. But before we can be effective in sharing, we need to apply God’s word to ourselves, pray about how He can shape us to be more like Him, and take action.

Maybe then as we grow we’ll be given more and more important tasks, be asked for surfing tips, or more importantly, the lost in the lineup will recognize us as Christians who live like Christ, love like Christ, and then ask us about relationship with Christ.

CLICK HERE to get a CS sticker and start making Ripples in your line up!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


It was strange to see the Australian guy paddle in over the reef with just the tail of his board. Floating in the shallows was the other half, the front half. On that bright Indonesian morning at Scar Reef (the name fits—trust me), double overhead Indian Ocean perfection would provide for some rides that will remain etched in the memory banks, keepsakes of a session where all the conditions came together. And this same perfection would claim its share of boards.

I watched the Aussie collect himself, now carrying a piece under each arm, a sheepish look on his face, feeling a bit like a gladiator exiting the ring bloodied…but alive. And no doubt disappointed that his board had been snapped cleanly in half, and unless he brought a back-up board, he would be a spectator for the rest of his time there, because replacement boards were being sold a full day’s journey away. Yes, two islands over to the nearest surf shop. “Have fun watching, Mate!”

He could try to piece the board together, with enough fiberglass and sun-cure resin…but have you ever ridden a snapped in half board that’s been glued back together? The weight added is prohibitive, the board will never ride the same. Even dumpster diving retro—advocates would pass on it. It’s...broken. Its fate would be either to be erected on the wall of some local restaurant, or thrown in a landfill (which means back to Oz it goes,--there are no landfills on this island).

Boards do get broken. It should not surprise us. We live in a world where tons of things break: relationships, economies, human bodies, our word. And Jesus came on the scene roughly 2000 years ago and declared “I can fix that.” In John 3:17 he said something to the effect that “I didn’t come to condemn the world, I came to save it.

There you have it: Jesus saves. But does that resonate with you or does it seem like one in a long list of religious slogans? Do visions in your head appear of TV preachers imploring you in a southern accent to pick up that phone (operators are standing by now!) and dial our counseling line so you can get “saaaaaaaahhhhyyyyeeeevvvved.”

Are you a little put off by it all? Perhaps you’ve known Christians who talked amongst themselves and use this world like some sort of holy secret handshake.

“So when did you get saved???” “Oh, I got saved on such and such a date.”

And yet, that’s the word Jesus used. But explore it’s meaning: the word he used was the Greek work “sozo” which means “to save” but also in a fuller sense “to renew, restore, to heal, to put everything back in its proper order.”

Simple stated. Jesus saves. Jesus heals broken things. And there are lots of things broken in this world. Things like foam and fiberglass boards, which snap like toothpicks when conditions go extreme. But go beyond things to people. People get broken. People are broken. And all our efforts of patching ourselves up won’t make us right. It won’t make us who we were intended to be.

And how do broken people get whole? Jesus must save them. In other words: renew them, restore them and make them new.

God tells us in very clear terms that this brokenness is what the bible calls sin. It’s a small word that encompasses the very broad and big categories of all that is wrong in you and me and this world. Jesus says he beat it, won over it, when he gave himself to die the death that we deserved, which was on a cross. He did not stay dead, however. He rose from the dead. Which shows us all some really vital things. First off, it shows us he is God, and not a man. Men have no mastery over death. Death gets all men in the end. But that was not true of Jesus.

It also shows us that broken stuff (and people) don’t need to stay broken anymore. Jesus offers his healing, his salvation to anyone who would say “I believe it. I trust that’s what it takes for me to be reunited with the God that made me. I’m willing to now follow Jesus, he now takes the lead, and I follow”

Jesus wants to save the souls of surfers, broken surfers like you and me.

And through us, then, Jesus wants to save the soul of surfing. If you think about it, this thing called surfing, except for in small pockets, has not been around for very long. In its short history, there’s been this celebration of the pure and beautiful act of riding waves. But also much that needs to be saved. Because much is broken.

When surf clothing companies make heroes of alcoholics and then cast these heroes aside once their contest ratings or photo appeal begin to wane, that is a broken thing. When surfers brought their wave riding to Lagundri Bay in Nias and transformed an island paradise into a drug-infested ghetto, that is broken also. It’s a broken thing when women in surfing can only get ahead if they are sexually and physically stunning. We experience the brokenness of surfing every time there’s a shouting match in the water, then a punch-out on the beach, then slashed tires and expletives written with wax on windshields. We try to justify ourselves by going green, while we burn fuel in jets to get us on our surf vacations, as we burn diesel to power the A/C in the stateroom of our boats so we can sleep comfortably, readying ourselves to ride waves on boards that are made from incredibly toxic materials. There’s something broken in that line of reasoning, that we somehow get a hall pass for our hypocrisy.

The soul of surfing? This is a soul…on the brink of destruction.

But it’s a soul that can get healed. Through Jesus. Through his followers, through those who would choose another path. Perhaps through each of the ideas shared in The Ripple Effect, your path can be different.

So go out and make some waves. Your life always means more than you think it does, when you place your life in the Master of all creation…

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Surfers are surfing better today than in any other era, by far. Ok they might not be the best all-around watermen (the invention of the surf leash closes the door on any discussion), but surfers today are capable of moves on (and mostly above) the water that we could only dream about years ago.

Those who are atop of the surfing food-chain are legitimately some of the finest athletes on the planet today, incorporating tremendous muscle reflex, balance, and bravery to execute “rodeo clowns” “passion-pops” “superman-airs” even full backflips…all in seriously meaty waves. It takes a lot to make that all happen on a constantly changing playing field, where adjustments of body and board need to be made with split second timing. These new school moves won’t be accomplished with mere chance. Practice, coaching, video analysis, and more goes into placing body and board in the right spaces at the right moments for the right reasons. It takes a lot of mastery, a lot of self-control.

Strangely, surfing seems to be about self-control in the water, but out-of-control on land.

Nothing new here. For a long time now, our surf culture has glamorized wild and narcissistic behavior that begins anytime we towel off and hit dry land. Surfers have become famous for amazing self control while riding a board, and then no self-control at all when it comes to food, drink, speech, sex, money, and more. Surf culture is not bashful about it. Instead, out-of-control living has become the preferred marketing tool of most core surf brands.

So, if you want to create a ripple effect in your group of friends, or your town, or your nation, why not long for God to develop in you self-control, both in the water and on the land?

Now before you conclude that what is being advocated here is a lot of cold showers and sleep deprivation, killing your tv and canceling your surf mag subscription, God desires that we know self control. It’s actually a marking of those who live a life in God’s life. In Galatians 5 we discover that among God’s fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

Which might make you think immediately that God has set us all up for failure: sure you can ‘be good’ for a while but then you’ll eventually blow it and begin riding the “guilt-train.”

But think again. In Galatians 5 the word self-control is translated from the Greek word enkratos which literally means “in strength.” In whose strength, you might ask? God’s strength. He’s the one who can move us from unhealthy desires that only end up hurting ourselves or hurting others around us. He’s the one who can keep us from wasting and ruining our lives. And even when we fail, he’s the one who can accept us back into His good graces and encourage us to keep moving forward.

Such a life, a God—empowered life, will make some serious waves. That God would grant us strength to live and love and also to surf, that is truly good news. And so…

“we proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his (God’s) energy which so powerfully works in me.”

--Colossians 1:28-29

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone…I want people everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing --I Timothy 2:1

“Pray for surf.” Good bumper sticker fodder, don’t you think? While leaders of government wrangle about whether we’ll have prayer in schools and national days of pray, there is no argument that praying and surfing are completely compatible. We pray for surf because we long for a good muscular groudswell to hit our shores. We know that we have really no control over whether that happens or not. Flat spells could last for days, weeks, or (gasp) months, and yet there is not a single thing you can do about it. But you can pray. And God--who arranges all the nature and science, all the stuff that results in that perfectly groomed a-frame detonating at just the right spot--will hear you.

“Pray while surf.” That happens when conditions get critical. When the crowds are thick and you decide to tempt fate by sitting inside to pick off the small wedgers and then you hear someone shout “out the back” and everyone scrambles for deep water.

As for you, you are about to take a beating. Cold water makes it worse. Sharp bottom makes it worser! But as bad as it is, as bad as that hold-down is, it’s really good for prayer. It’s a good place to cry out. It’s OK, because God evidently hears prayers that are offered to Him underwater. Ask Jonah!

“Pray for surfers.” This may be the best idea yet, because of all that is made that surrounds you in the surf, it’s these surfers who are made in the image of God, the ones who will last forever, the ones that God sent His only son into the world on a mission to rescue.

What a great way to redeem a surf session, where the waves aren’t coming to you, and the water’s cold, and the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, and you knew you should have stretched on the beach before paddling out because you are surfing like a Barney. When all this happens, the session can be saved as you scan the line-up and pray for the people you see. They may be folks or know, or you may know none at all. But they are people. And because they are, they are loved by God. And they are broken, And they have been scarred. And they’ve got questions. And they have been hurt. And they live with haunting memories as they have hurt others. And if they choose to live a life without God in this life, God will simply formalize that desire in the life after this one and they will be separated from God for an eternity.

You can pray that God blesses them and softens their heart. You can pray for their relationships to be whole. You can pray for their ears to be open. You can pray that somehow God would put into their orbit someone who follows Jesus in a way that is compelling. And you can pray that that some would be you.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about why God brought surfing into your life? From the moment you drug that board into the churning whitewash until now, God has been there. Could He care less if you surfed or is their something He had in mind as the events of your life brought you to His ocean? Well, maybe it’s because surfing will be the door that opens you up to God’s mission.

God’s mission is not a secret. Jesus spelled it out to his friends shortly before he ascended into heaven and went home. It’s there for us to read in the 28th chapter of Matthew’s gospel. The mission is to go, and make other followers of Jesus (disciples) and teach them and baptize them so that their faith becomes a public thing, known to more than just them. And just where does surfing fit into all that? In ways that are deeper than you could know.

Certainly, you can go to your local beach and get busy: serve people, love them well, earn the right to be heard, and then as best as you know how, introduce people to Jesus the Christ, who died and yet rose again, so He’s therefore still out there, very much alive…although we can’t see Him. It’s a great place to begin: be a Christian surfer in the US and express willingness to reach the surfers in the US.

But why stop there? Because around the world there are places that surfers are uniquely equipped to go and share the good news at. Take all the nations around the Indian Ocean, for example: the Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Amaden Islands off India, and of course, the greatest surfing playground on earth: Indonesia. But keep looking at that map, because waves in that ocean also make it up to places like Yemen and Somalia a—a sure bet for warm water, empty line-ups and danger. More on the danger part in a minute.

What’s the common thread to all these surf-rich locales? Few Jesus followers live there. In fact, for the most part, none at all. These nations contain a good chunk of the two billion people on this earth that have never heard the Good News about Jesus. For these people, there’s no church in their community, no bible in their language that they read, no Jesus film that they can watch, no Christian friend to ask questions of, no bookstore that would contain any materials to help them if they wanted to explore who Jesus is.

Most Christian workers will never get there. In fact, 75% of the entire global missions force goes to countries that have had the Good News for, in many cases, hundreds of years.

But you might get there. You are a surfer, and surfers fit in these places. You could actually go to one of these places and serve amongst new friends and pray for them and talk about your life, and better their world by contributing to their economy. It all starts with a plan: start saving some money and some vacation time. Choose one of these far flung destinations where surfers are welcome, because they are not generally held in suspicion as being a “missionary” (considered a bad word in these places) or “CIA” (not good, either). Is it as safe as the English speaking destinations like Hawaii and Puerto Rico? No. It’s not safe.

Stuff happens. Sometimes bad things happen. But what is more terrifying than having something bad happen is to have nothing happen at all.

Modern society, of course, has perfected the art of having nothing happen at all. There is nothing particularly wrong with this except that for vast numbers of Christians in the US, life has become staggeringly easy. And with that, truly unfulfilling. Our lifestyle goals often revolve around eliminating as many unforeseen events as possible, and as appealing as that seems initially, it’s a death sentence to your soul.

This then is the backdrop to where adventure (think mission) comes in. The word comes from the latin adventura meaning “what must happen.” So you see, an adventure is a situation where the outcomes are not under your control. It’s up to God, in other words.

God must love adventure, because he’s very straight up about “what must happen.” Jesus said, here’s what must happen:

“and this gospel will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)

Presently we stand at a place in history where there are roughly 6000 nations (or people groups) that are still waiting for good news. In 10% of those groups, no one has even attempted…yet. And you can bet that many of these groups have gorgeous waves peeling along their beaches and reefs. What other details do you really need? May you be lead into God’s greatest adventure!

Special note: to get started in traveling to an unreached people group in order to surf and bring the Gospel, CSUS recommends highly Shema Tours, who exist to take surfers like you…into the danger zone. Take a step toward mission by contacting them through their website,

Monday, September 13, 2010


If a non-surfing friend or family member were to decide to join us in the line up one day, after a couple of hours they may indentify a real deficiency in a core skill that humans really should master: we aren’t very good communicators.

Think about a bunch of guys and gals bobbing in the line-up, scanning the horizon for peaks to pop up, and not a single word gets uttered. It’s like we’re a bunch of surf monks, we’ve taken a vow of silence. Oh, sure, there’s a few chatterboxes running off at the mouth. But that behavior seems to be frowned upon. What’s the deal? This is not a library, it’s a surf spot! But for most, nothing is said.

I wonder how it got that way. Our surfing forefathers tell tales of how it used to be, where cars would pull over if they saw boards on the roof, just to meet and talk and compare stories and notes on spots, swells, and various conditions. I suppose as a core group of surfers swell to throngs of ocean-going wave seekers, other people in the line-up are seen as threats, foes, all competing for the same precious limited resource: waves.

So there’s no talking allowed in the line-up, it seems. And when we do break the silence, it’s usually about protecting territory: “Got it!” “hey, going right!” “I’ve never seen you out here.” “Did you have to bring every person you’ve ever met out here today?”

I mean, how dysfunctional are we? Imagine what a psychologist would think of our behavior if it was viewed collectively. Hmm, let’s see: subject rarely ever talks, even in close proximity to others around him for extended periods of time. And when subject does speak, the words project hostility and defensiveness. Would this make a good dad, or a good child or a good spouse? Why would we then think it makes for good surfing?

God has something to say about this. In Proverbs 25:11, God says “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word aptly spoken.” In this one little verse, God is letting us know how words can come at just he right time and build up and heal.

So do you want to make a ripple? Begin your surf session asking God to give you words for the people that you’ll be with out there in the surf. Who knows all the fears, heartaches, wrong choices, and regrets that define the course of the real lives of surfers, the one’s you’ll sit next to, waiting for waves? Start with the small things, like a simple greeting, complimenting a nice ride, or asking about the shape they are riding. Maybe you think that’s small talk. But maybe it will ripple into something greater, opening the door to matters of the heart.

Words are never neutral. They will bring either a positive or negative charge. They can either draw a person toward God’s good news, or push them further back into their own small story of personal fulfillment. And as you are willing to let God speak through you, maybe you’ll have a new set of criteria for measuring the enjoyment of a surf session. It’s now not just about the waves you rode, but the conversations you’ve had. And may those small ripples move outward to result in a groundswell of changed lives.

Friday, September 10, 2010


“Stewardship” is a word that is seldom used is surfing. For sure, you hear more things like “Dude!” “Stoked!” “Retro, bro!” Stewardship? Actually a key word for Jesus-centered surfing.

It’s starts with this big old world, and all it’s oceans and beaches and reefs, plus all the critters that live in and around these places. Plus everything that grows--the plant life and all that. If you know Jesus, then you know the one who made it all! And long ago, it was in a perfect, newly created, uncorrupted state. Not a single cig butt stuck in the sand. Not a single plastic water bottle bobbing around in the rip. That’s how it all started. You can read about it in the very first page of your Bible: Genesis chapter 1.

In Genesis, we find how the earth was created, and everything else for that matter. It was all “toth” (that’s the Hebrew word for “good”). And God meant for it to stay that way. So He created humans, folks like you and me, who didn’t have a lot of clutter in their lives—no bills to pay, no toilets to clean, no clocks to punch. They were freed up to do one thing especially well for this world: they were to take care of it.

Oh, by the way, these humans had a very clear idea that this earth was not created by people, so there were no rights of ownership that people can claim. They were stewards—these first people—which meant they were entrusted with something that was not there’s to take care of it. All of it. Consider these words:

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” –Genesis 1:26

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” --Genesis 2:15

God’s calling to his children now are the same as his calling to Adam, that first human: Rule well! Take care of this place!

So how are we doing with that? It’s clear to see that we were made to rule this earth, and we’ve seen how when we rule poorly, everything and most everyone suffers. Look at the long line of bad rulers we’ve had in history. Sad to say, bad rulers seem to out-live and out-fox good rulers by a wide margin. Bad rulers are really bad stewards (though they would never stoop so low as to consider themselves a steward, they are instead convinced that they own it all). Their impact on this place is devastating and immeasurable. Bad leaders really suck!

Stewards on the other hand, know that they have been given a gift, a trust. For surf stewards, it means we receive with gratitude our local beaches, reefs, and pointbreaks with all it’s surrounding natural wonders. Waves roll in for us to enjoy, but it’s no lock those that come after us will have the same experience.

I wonder, as you’ve prayed, has God whispered into your ears some words like those of Genesis 1:26 and 2:15: rule well. Take care of this place. And then you can act. And you can blend action into just about every surf session by simply picking up your own trash, and picking up somebody else’s too.

Imagine if that became part of our surf routine, as common as roughing up your wax with a comb and stretching a bit before you paddle out. It’s a little thing that might lead to big things: beaches and line ups free of junk today which in time leads to a cleaner ocean bringing life and health to animals and economies and nations. That’s the ripple effect. Start with something small and watch it grow.

Christian surfers make environmental stewardship an act of worship. Not because we worship the earth but because we worship the earth-maker. And all this world is made by Him. It all belongs to Him. We’re just his friends (Jesus said as much in John 15:15) who take care of his things. Now that we know this, we should be, above all people, be taking the lead. And doing it well.