Friday, September 28, 2007
Organised by Christian Surfers UK, the competition started off small, attracting only 20 or so hardcore surfers. It is now one of the most popular events in the British surfing calendar. So many people entered this year that it had to be held at two venues - in Croyde, Devon, over the past weekend, and next month in Cornwall.
In a subtle and gentle way, the members of Christian Surfers spent the weekend trying to arouse the interest of the sort of people who might shun a conventional morning service or perhaps evensong; non-Christians were encouraged to enter the Jesus Surf Classic, while all were invited to use the skateboard ramp and play volleyball.
In a marquee, cosy hoodies branded with Christian Surfers logos were for sale, as were copies of the Surfer's Bible - not a guidebook on the best board wax but a version of the New Testament that included messages from top Christian surfers. Passersby were invited to have fruitcake and burgers at the barbecue. There were people on hand to talk to them about God.
In Britain, surfing resorts report bigger congregations. In Croyde and nearby Georgeham, the three churches are all thriving, thanks in part to the surfing link. A Methodist chapel in Polzeath, north Cornwall, got a boost this summer after re-branding itself the Tubestation - after the "tube" waves beloved of surfers and replacing pews with a skateboarding ramp.