Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Moami was headed back to the islands. That’s what he told our men’s group last Wednesday night. Every Wednesday, about a dozen of us gather to share in the scriptures and support each other (after all, you can’t surf at nite, and some of the guys actually work during the day). Moami is one of those guys, and he stands out in our “haoli” group because he is pure-bred Hawaiian--from Kona, the Big Island. And after 6 months away, he was headed back there. And we were sad to see him go. But we understood. You see, Moami, is a waterman.

For most of his adult life, he’s been a boat captain for a big game fishing outfit. He has spent more days of life on the water than on land. He had moved his family to the mainland so he could take care of ailing in-laws, while his kids could benefit from attending schools with stronger academics. But now, he was going back to the water, going back in the water. Moami tells us he always keeps a board on the boat, in case they drop anchor at some reef pass that has surf potential. The clients can fish in the channel while he cleanses body and soul in the water. We imagine that board of his must be a tanker, because at 350 pounds, Moami won’t be riding the lastest pro tour-inspired potato chip.

Moami’s words to us: “I need to get back to the ocean. Heck, I live in it. All my growing up days I’d walk down to the beach every morning and ride some waves. Maybe surf. Maybe boogie board. Maybe body surf. Always looking for the barrel! And the rest of the day just goes good.”

Then his thoughts move from his world to ours: “You need to come out! You get one of those cheap airfares and come. We’ll set you up. We got place for you to sleep. Or if you like nice hotel, we got hook ups. We take you out on the boat. We show you the aloha.”

The aloha. A word born in Hawaii, as surfing was birthed alongside of it. A word for love. A word for giving, and even sacrifice. Moami assures us he’ll welcome us with open arms should we get off our collective tails, block out some time, and book that flight. And I believe him.

Surfing at its soul must contain ahola. Go ahead, give a stranger a set wave, and cheer him on. Or lead an out of towner to that spot that will handle the swell and wind direction. Let a friend borrow that favorite board of yours.

When you love and give and sacrifice you connect your life back to the aloha, and back to where it all started as a sport of kings. But deeper still, you connect back to a God who actually defines himself as aloha…

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. –John 4:7,8


It’s easy to express gratitude—a real spirit of thankfulness—when things are going well. Say you’re having a session where all the cards fall your way: you are consistently picking off the best waves in the set, and ripping them all the way to the sand. Because you are standing out, people are getting out—out of your way. You’ve proven yourself to be the alpha male (or female, as applicable) in the line-up. Now add to that some sunny skies, offshore winds (or slightly onshore, if you like to punt), a few dolphins frolicking out the back to add to the mood, and you’ve got yourself something to really be thankful for. You could easily make these moments fully spiritually, by bowing your head and talking to the God who masterfully created these waves, those dolphins, your mind and your body to enjoy it all and saying, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

But not every day is like that day. Say you hit your local reef/point set-up on a good double overhead swell with the tide dropping out a bit and the wind still calm, even though it’s the middle of the day. You jog on the point and time your go out well, not taking too many waves on the head. Your energy is conserved, ready to ride waves. Out in the line up, you sit and wait.

And wait. And watch. Watch as other surfers around you pick off waves and ride them cleanly. Wanting to exercise good surf ettiquete, you refrain from burning them on the shoulder. You wait. And still, no waves come your way.

You paddle north. A peak pops up to the south. You paddle into the shallows and then promptly get cleaned up by a set. You paddle out the back, and continue to miss waves that roll through and detonate cleanly on the reef. Finally in position, you paddle for a wave but pull back because it looks to close out. It doesn’t. It peels with machine-like precision to the beach instead.

So go ahead, paddle outside, bow your head, and have a conversation with the Creator: “What is going on? What sin did I commit? Why won’t you give me a break?” That could be one way to respond.

But the other? “Thank you God, for this time I can spend with you in your ocean. Thank you, as I paddle out, for the ‘awakeness’ I feel when I punch through that first wave. Thank you for a board to float me, a wetsuit to warm me, a leash to save me from the full penalty of my surfing transgressions. Thank you for the way I feel when I am in your ocean. You created it well. You do all things well. Thank you for one more day to be with you, and to surf for you.”

There’s a lot of things that can go wrong in any given surf session: dings, run-in’s with the locals, blowing the wave of the day with your friends cackling as they watch from the channel. But with thankfulness woven in, you can’t go wrong. It is always right to give thanks. It always fits.

“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”

--I Thessalonians 5:18

Monday, July 26, 2010


To be a Christian surfer means to be acquainted with God’s book, the Bible. The more you listen to God’s word, the more you soak in it, the more you discover this life that God wants to live in you and through you.

God’s word gives us many things: knowledge, wisdom, revelation and perspective. You see how God sees fit to show us the lives of some wonderfully imperfect people, who He then takes and loves and creates a ripple effect with.

Consider Ruth. It’s a four chapter book you can read in less than 30 minutes. There’s no surfing in this book, but a quick illusion to surf culture, which we’ll get to in a bit. Have you read this little story? It begins, not with Ruth, but with Naomi, a woman who's name means pleasant, but there is trouble brewing in this life. Not all is going right with her life. We discover in chapter one that she is a having a bad day.

You know you're having a bad day when you live in the period of the Judges and you think you can beat this terrible famine by moving 80 miles east.

And in doing so, you move into the land of your nation's enemies. And your spouse dies. And your sons are named "Sickly" and "Puny" (Im not kiddinglook it up)--they die too. Its a sad, sad story. Could you blame her if she cried out Where is God? Where is God in all of this?

As she wipes her tears, Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem, her home town. She does so with one daughter in law, Ruth, who says I will be with you, come what may. As they make their way west and roll back into town, her old friends see her and can scarcely believe what they see. Naomi is visibly different. Wrinkled. Old looking. Beaten down. They ask Can this be Naomi? Her reply: Dont call me Naomi, but Mara! She says this because mara is the Hebrew word for bitter.

Perhaps you've been there. You have lived some years. You've seen tragedy.

Amidst this dark backdrop, we get to know Ruth. She is humble, hard working, and faithful. You have people in your life like that, don't you? Do you notice them?

Boaz Notices. Boaz is a man who looks at what is true and beautiful. So who is a Boaz in your life, someone who saw and noted something?

Moving on, Ruth gleans in a field Boaz owns and when Naomi hears the news, she moves a step away from mara, to hope! Hope can be defined this way: "the confident expectation that God will take care of the future."

Its clear that Boaz notices Ruth, but here's what you need to know. Boaz is an honorable man. Kind and generous, he cares for her protection, and makes sure she gets extra gleanings.

Keep in mind that He is an honorable man when you get to Chapter 3, where things might seems a little steamy! Hes celebrating the barley harvest. Theres much food and drink at these celebrations. All partied out, he sleeps at the grain pile and awakens to a surprise: Ruth with a marriage proposal.

Boaz continues to fullfill all righteousness. He goes to the elders at the city gate.

He offers the redemption of Ruth to the closer relative, who refuses. And then here comes our only allusion to a surfers life: A sandal is exchanged to seal the transaction. Dont know if it was a Sanuk, a Reef or a Cobian. Just know that it was a sandal and just know we had to work this surfing angle in somehow!

And wedding bells begin to ring! And at the ceremony, the wedding gifts are the best kind: spoken blessings. The elders say to Boaz words of life and hope.

And then nine months later, a child is born: Obed. We come to find out he will be the father of Jesse, who will be the father of David. At the end of the story little Obed sits on Naomi's lap. Perhaps at that moment she thinks of those hard years in Moab, beginning with the death of her husband, then her two sons, and then the disgraceful return to Bethlehem. And all those memories are somehow erased within a matter of moments.

So whats the point? Why the story? What does God want us to know? Well, on the surface, He wants us to know how the geneology of Israels greatest king plays out.

But look deeper. The message of God is clear, though the drama is simple: its a story of small people who face all the events of life. Making bad choices. Burying husbands, and even children. Having to start over again. Working hard. Behaving with honor. Risking in relationships. And then...falling in love. And having a baby.

The message of Ruth: You were meant to ripple. And your life always means more than you think it does!

And if you care to believe that, you are now well prepared to have your story intersect with the story of God. Now, you are prepared to make some waves.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Ripple Effect: Jesus-Centered Surfing

Christian surfers. Does it describe your basic beach person who throws in a church service on the side, and perhaps a prayer before entering the water, or maybe displaying a “fish” symbol on that microbus or trusty pick-up?

At CSUS, we believe there’s more to it than that (though none of those things are wrong). It’s just that surfing begs for a deeper and greater spiritual expression. Such an expression takes us beyond that next wave to what is true and beautiful with regards to God’s natural, external world: full of offshore days, golden sunsets, and the raw power of storm driven swells. And also what is true and beautiful with regard to our internal world, the world of our soul.

The great hope and focus of CSUS is a message of Good News: God loves us, and he can be known. All that is broken in our lives and in this world can be redeemed. We can escape the small stories of our selfish pursuits and hard-hearted pride, and get caught up in the big story of what God is doing… here, right now.

God is drawing Christian surfers everywhere to live Jesus-centered lives, and in doing so, having a transformational effect on everyone in line up. This is not dependent on each surfer’s skill--the ability to throw in new-school moves with old-school flow. It’s more about how we connect with Jesus in and around the water. Christian surfers who truly seek to integrate their faith into their surfing are the ones who will cause a “ripple effect.”

You’ve seen the ripple effect at work, havn’t you? Go ahead, throw a big rock in a pond, and watch as waves,--real waves--are created. It’s simply a small-scale version of how our Creator God brews storms from distant places, that in time approach our shores. From one storm, impact is felt on countless shores. You are never really sure where its influence will end.

And so it is with us: surfers who are called out by God to make waves,--not because our speech is confrontational (though at times it need be) but because our lives are compelling. Just as Jesus said they should be: like salt that flavors a meal, like a torch that lights a pathway.

In the weeks to come, you’ll be exposed to some practices that, should you trust God to embrace them, promise to link soul (your inner life) to your surfing.