Riding the Wave of Spirituality: Part II

Surfing-to-spiritual

In the last installment, we talked about the HuffPost piece about surfing as a religion.  Check out the full piece here.  While many pro athletes count God and religion among the reasons for the success, few consider the craft itself their religion.  This idea is much more prevalent in the world of surfing and today we’ll get into why.

Closeness to the Sea

Scientists agree that the first life on the planet Earth, and perhaps the universe originated in the depths of the sea. Whether you believe a perfect combination of chemicals and heat gave rise to single celled organisms or that the first creatures had life breathed into them by a divine creator, it’s hard to argue that Earth’s first living things came from the sea.  Surfers, who spend much of their time alone with the ocean, report feeling a connection to their primordial ancestors.  What better way to feel a closeness to your origins than to immerse yourself in the cauldron that gave birth a chain of life that eventually led to your existence.

Emerging from the Womb

Besides being close to the origins of life, surfers also describe the physical feeling of being wrapped in the curl of a wave as akin to returning to the womb. The metaphor extends to the emergence from the wave which acts as the “rebirth.”

Compatibility with Religion

Not all surfers consider surfing their actual religion but rather an extension of a more traditional faith.  The Huffington Post mentions a man aptly named Father Christian Mondor who is considered something of a folk hero in the California community.  Mondor never mounted a surfboard until he was in his seventies and continues to ride the legendary California waves well into his 80s.  A devout Catholic, Mondor doesn’t consider surfing a religion, but he does consider it a conduit to the divine creator to whom he has dedicated his life.

Not only is water a symbol of God and rebirth (think John the Baptist), but the sheer scope of the mighty Pacific ocean reminds Mondor of the power of God and the majesty of his creation.

These are just a few reasons that surfing is more than a sport for many.  Are there any surfers out there?  Do you surf for thrills, spirituality, or both?

Definitely check out the full Huffington Post piece for a more in depth look at surfing as a way to touch another power.

Riding the Wave of Spirituality: Part I

Surfing Spiritually

Many pro surfers think of surfing as not just a sport but a religion.

When someone is so dedicated to their craft, people often refer to it as their religion.  Similar expressions like “he’s married to his job” or “it’s not a job, it’s a way of life” get thrown the way of the ultra dedicated.  Sometimes these are often meant as jabs at those who truly commit themselves to an art or an area of expertise.  But are they accurate?

Many organized sects have a very strict definition of what constitutes religion, while those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious, leave a little more room for interpretation. In almost all definitions of religion or spirituality, there is a common element of otherworldliness or a connection with something more than physical.  So how can a craft or art be religious or spiritual?

In the same way that those who practice meditation or yoga use the extreme levels of concentration to transcend their physical forms, artists and athletes report being able to do the same if the conditions are right.

A recent article on the Huffington Post Religion Blog discusses one of these crafts specifically: surfing.  Expert surfers are so committed to their sport that they sometimes view it as the only religion they need.  The HuffPost piece quotes multiple pro surfers who find more than just thrills when it comes to hanging ten.  So what is it about surfing in particular that causes enthusiasts to view it as a way of connecting with their spiritual side?

It’s almost become a cliche for professional athletes to thank God after a big win. NFL teams engage in team prayers before big games, and it’s difficult to get through a Super Bowl MVP speech without a point to the sky.  So while religion and sports often cross paths, it’s not as often that you hear professional baseball, football, or basketball players say the sport is their religion. That’s what makes surfing special.