We were several hours into a long trip to a remote surf town of a couple hundred people, hidden in the interior of Panama. Of course we had boards and wax, but our quest was not focused on waves. We were on a mission to bring the surf gold of its day to riders ready to receive it.
In the early days of the internet, we were amazed that we no longer had to call a surf report that was recorded on an answering machine to find out the forecast. Even though things were changing, there were no instant edits yet: waves, maneuvers, and sessions of renown were not able to be uploaded for all to see. The surf movie we were touring was as entrenched as the vehicle that delivered the magic of far away places, waves that made you drool, and the loco antics of a culture not yet in search of comments and likes.
Momentum, The Search, Woodshed Films, Billabong, Quicksilver and many other movie makers provided the inspiration for the surf community, and new releases generated excitement like a solid swell arriving. Lines formed around blocks and shirts and stickers were thrown to groms and adults alike. Watching as a group somehow had a buzz that made you feel like you were a part of something bigger and cooler. Hooting and cheering at made barrels and landed airs was accepted and encouraged as if the audience had a role in the outcome of the clip. It was a special time to be a surfer and a vibrant era for surf culture.
As we set up our projector in the block church, we prayed that not only a film would be enjoyed, but a message would be understood. The movie was the Walking on Water film The Outsiders, and a few of their young staff had come down to share the adventure of a movie premiere in a town that still didn’t even have dependable electricity. My team and I prayed that the sleepy surf town would wake up to a message that was more than surf. Here we were about to dim the lights, chase out the stray dogs, and start the show.
The Hobgood brothers, Timmy Curran, Matt Beacham, Jesse Hines, Noah Snyder, and more surfed as good as ever in the film and presented the message that a Christ follower is an outsider to the world but a beloved son or daughter to the King. It was a hot, sticky night and the little church was so full that many stood outside and peered through the bars on the windows. We stuck to the protocol of giving out shirts, stickers, and wax at the end but we also freely offered something very different than most surf movie premieres: a message of lasting hope. Many in the crowd responded to the call to be an outsider and we were full of joy in the raw pursuit of Jesus in such a contextually rich way.
The Lord met our pursuit and passion for Him in that little town and encouraged all of us that night that following Jesus was always designed to be an adventurous path. Since that summer night in Panama, surf culture has changed and the surf movie we projected has been largely replaced by 20 second clips of shredding or kook slamming. Despite the shifts and trends, the quest to present Jesus to culture in a relevant way remains and the action sports world continues to connect to faith through thrill and an understanding that life was always meant to be fully lived.
"I came so everyone would have life, and have it fully." John 10:10