Published in  
Volume 2
February 22, 2023

03 - Shaping The Future

I found skateboarding, or should I say skateboarding found me sometime around fourth grade. I had just moved into a quadplex on the sketchy side of town and watching from my bedroom window, I was introduced to the coolest kids I had seen up until that point in my life. They were taking turns skating a flat bar in the middle of the road and it didn’t take long to convince my parents to buy me a board so I could join them.

I was brand new to skating but watching all of the older guys land their crazy bag of tricks left me dreaming that one day I would be as good as they were. The more I hung with them I began to build that “little kid on the block” relationship. Slowly they started to give me tips and let me in on their secrets for how they landed certain tricks. That time with these older guys gave me a foundation to grow in the sport and continue building community. Those relationships played a great part in leading me here to Southwest Florida to serve with Ride Nature through the internship program. Like those guys who poured into my life nearly 12 years ago, I find myself back in the shoes of a student as I am being taught and shaped on how to share my faith and make disciples using the very thing I have grown to love: skateboarding.

As I was given the opportunity to travel to Huacho, Peru I experienced the beauty of South America for the first time. It wasn’t at all what I thought it would be like. I expected lush jungles, sunshine, and lots of trees. To my surprise, it turns out the coast of Peru is kind of the opposite; a desert filled with dirt mountains, rocky beaches, and overcast skies. There was a new, refreshing beauty I experienced by it being different than I had anticipated. Regardless, we weren’t there for the landscape and views. We were there to visit Ride Nature ministry partners; more specifically, we were there to meet Stanley, Junior, and Harold. Like myself, they were being taught how to lead effectively and well using action sports as the tool to do so. In some ways, they were wearing the same shoes as me but just in a different colorway. We were all being shaped into leaders–individuals who shared the same love for action sports, but even more so, the Gospel.

Our goal was to encourage these three young guys and to serve alongside them while hosting several outreach events, but also, without them knowing, a main objective for us was to bring and bless them with brand-new surfboards. All three of these guys were pretty new to surfing. They all loved to skate but had the desire to learn to surf as well. They didn’t own their own surfboards so learning to surf while always having to borrow a board made it pretty hard to progress. We had been in touch with three different surf shapers all from different locations, but all excited about the idea of getting to shape a board for a future leader, especially for someone who would never be able to afford to buy their own board, let alone a brand new custom shaped board made just for them. These boards were designed for more than catching waves. They were built to be a tool for ministry with their impact going far beyond just surfing.

Before leaving for Peru, we met with the shapers to pick up the boards and I was able to check out their shops as they walked me through the process of all the energy and time that goes into making a board. These guys sacrificed countless hours putting in work and focusing on the smallest of details to make sure these boards would work for their specific purpose. Each of the three boards was designed and shaped specifically for one of the guys they would be given to.

From the size of the board to the shape and design, so much thought was put into each of these pieces of art.

It was awesome for me to see how delicate the boards were as well as how much their shapers really cared about the outcome. I started to realize that this really was exactly what our mentors were doing with us. You may have heard before that discipleship is spelled T.I.M.E. Time. When you spend time pouring into something and you really focus on the process as much as the outcome, odds are you will get a great finished product. This is the same with us as people just like the boards that were shaped–both will fulfill their purpose. My time at Ride Nature–and the time being invested into me while I’m here–is preparing me to use the tools I’ve been equipped with; both my skateboard and my faith in Christ. I’m being shaped to fulfill my purpose in sharing the Gospel, and in turn, shaping the “little kids on the block” that will go behind me.

While we were in Huacho I was able to speak with these three young guys about what it takes to lead by example; how Jesus not only told us what to do, but He showed us how to do it. While I shared, I blindfolded someone and did my best to guide their steps throughout the room just by telling them what to do, hoping they wouldn’t bump into anything. A harder task than you might actually think. Ultimately, there were cases of miscommunication, language barriers, and without being able to see, it made it hard for me to guide them. After bumping into a bunch of things we tried it again a second time but this time they put their hands on my shoulders. As I walked them through the room, we avoided all of the obstacles without tripping over anything. Since I could see where I was going, all they had to do was trust me as I led them.

Getting to experience these guys receiving the surfboards we brought was truly life-changing. The excitement from such a simple gift was so evident but after sharing the intentionality behind that gift is what brought them all to tears. The thought that beyond the gift of the board, was a shaper–an individual that they had never even met–believing in them so much that they would sacrifice not just money but their time as well to help shape the future of their lives.

I left Peru knowing that now it was my turn. While I’ve had so many people invest in my life, I get to begin paying it forward to others. Our goal at Ride Nature isn’t only to introduce people to Jesus but to show them what life looks like when we follow Him as well. This is exactly what is happening both here in Southwest Florida through the internship program and all around the world with leaders like Craig in Peru who are investing in the next generation. Just as a surfboard can’t meet the waves until it’s shaped, the same is true for us.

Just like a shaper, investing in the lives of others takes time, energy, and attention to detail, but in the end, what a blessing it is to be part of shaping the future.