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Christian Surfers International hold meeting in Hossegor

Christian surfers ride the waves, spread the word

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 30 September 2004: - - HOSSEGOR, France (AFP) - About 180 dedicated Christian surfers from some 25 countries are meeting at Hossegor near the scene of the latest round of the WTC world surfing championships, being held between Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Seignosse until October 3.

Their role, according to Brett Davis, director of Christian Surfers International (CSI), is clear: "It is a bridge between the beach and the Church." Davis, an Australian, created the movement in 1979 when he was 20. To begin with there were two members of his surfing community who went to church after riding the waves.

Then there were 10, 20, 30. The movement spread throughout Australia and then to other countries, including Japan, Brazil and Peru and the gathering in Hossegor is its sixth international conference. Now 125 groups of Christian surfers are active in 17 countries, with 400 volunteers and "thousands of people who identify with their message," Davis said.

According to Phil Williams, from England, the French coast has been chosen for this year's gathering because "the Church has to go to them (surfers) as they don't go to church. "There is a growing surfing community in France and it is an area of great weakness."

To spread its message the movement has published a "surfer's Bible", a translation of the New Testament in five languages, embellished with comic strips, pictures and testimony from professional and amateur surfers. The aim: "We seek to reach the world surfing community by sharing the good news about Jesus in word and deed".

CSI, which says it is financed exclusively by gifts, uses declarations of born-again professional surfers to bolster its message.

"This has nothing to do with me at all," said C.J. Hobgood, of the United States, world champion in 2001 and a born-again Christian, of his success. "He gave me the gift of surfing: God is my saviour: He is everything and I try to be on His path," said Hobgood, baptised in Florida last year, by phone from California.

On the international surfing circuit professionals say they have respect for their evangelical comrades, who give a rather different image from that usually associated with riders of the waves. "Everyone respects what they do," said Andy Irons of Hawaii, currently two-time world champion.

"Everyone has their own beliefs and I think everyone respects everyone on the tour. I think it's a good thing what they're doing, I think their support is a good thing."

Gibus de Soultrait of France, editor of the magazine Surf Session, compares the "reflective and slightly smug mysticism surrounding surfing in the 1970s" with this "much more militant and combative proselytising".

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