Australian surfers ride the waves to church

Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:15am EST
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Reverend Steve Bligh was once a competitive surfer but these days he combines riding the waves with competing for souls at the Surfers Church in Sydney.

At the end of 2007, the former Anglican minister resigned from his position in a leafy Sydney suburb to return to the ocean and minister to his flock on the waves of Maroubra Beach.

"It's really unstructured, we don't have a physical building. We meet on Sunday mornings and teach the men, women and children of our congregation how to surf, then afterwards we have brunch," Bligh told Reuters in an interview.

"But I want us to talk God talk as part of our conversations when we are out there on the waves," said Bligh.

There are four Christian surfing churches in Australia and about 12 worldwide, including professional Christian surfers around the world, such as American C.J. Hobgood who is ranked 5th in the world and his brother Damian ranked 24th. There is also a Surfer's Bible, which comes with a waterproof zip-pocket.

Maroubra beach gained international fame in 2007 with the release of a documentary on its tough surf gang, called the "Bra Boys," which was narrated by Hollywood star Russell Crowe and told a tale of murder, police confrontations and gang solidarity.

The prime motivation for Bligh to start his Surfers' Church was witnessing deaths, dysfunctional families and one or two wrecked lives. Believing the established church way was not working at Maroubra, he set his own up on the waves.

Bligh also adopted the "My Brother's Keeper" motto of the "Bra Boys," which is tattooed on gang members.   Continued...