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Surfer so good

A classic surf competition is making waves, writes Claire Brine

Humankind’s amazement at the natural world goes back centuries

IT’S time for thrill-seekers to take the plunge. Surfers across the UK are heading to Croyde Bay, Devon, ready to take part in the annual Jesus Surf Classic competition, which begins today (Saturday 8 September).

The two-day contest – which last year celebrated its 25th anniversary – invites male and female surfers of all ages to ride the waves under the watchful eye of a panel of judges. High scores are given to those who display the most impressive skills, and, at the end of the weekend, the surfers with the most points are each awarded a slice of the £2,000 prize money.

Organised by Christian Surfers UK, the Jesus Surf Classic is one of the longest running surfing events in the country.

Phil Williams, director of Christian Surfers UK, tells the War Cry: ‘“The Jesus” – as it’s affectionately known by those who take part – is all about serving the surfing community. Last year, we had 150 entrants and so the competition was completely full. It’s fantastic to give people an event that they know is going to be fun in the early rounds, but which also becomes more intense as it progresses.’

Surfers competing in ‘the Jesus’ are allocated about 20 minutes in the water to impress the judges. Phil explains how the contest works.

‘Every wave is judged. Members of the panel look at the whole flow of the wave, what the surfer does on it and how they use it. They’re looking at speed and flow, the surfer’s joined-up turns and their commitment. Every single wave is different.’

While ‘the Jesus’ is run by a Christian organisation, many of the surfers taking part do not profess a personal faith. They tell Phil that they find the name of the contest intriguing.

‘Some of them ask us why we run the event,’ he says. ‘When it comes to talking about Jesus, we don’t dilute it. At the end of the competition, we always hold a presentation where someone talks about their faith and shares how they became a Christian.’

For Phil and many other Christian surfers volunteering at the contest, surfing is a ‘very spiritual experience’ – and one which has everything to do with Jesus.

‘There’s an old adage that because Jesus walked on water, he was the first person to ride the surf,’ he laughs. ‘But there’s also a phrase which says: “Only a surfer knows the feeling.” And when you’re in the amazing space that is the ocean, surrounded by incredible views and wildlife, seeing beautiful sunrises and sunsets, it can be so peaceful. God’s creation is a surfer’s playground.’

Beyond surfing, humankind’s sense of amazement at the natural world goes back centuries. One Bible writer tried to express his sense of wonder at the beauty of God’s creation when he said: ‘O Lord, by your wisdom you made so many things … What about the ocean so big and wide? It is alive with creatures, large and small … All of these depend on you’ (Psalm 104:24–27 Contemporary English Version).

If we are willing to put our trust in him, we too can depend on God to help us through our deepest problems. However rough things may appear, he can enable us to cope and put us back on the crest of a wave.

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