Former SURFER Editor/Author

But it all goes back to nature. Tom Blake was tapped into this with an equation as universal as Einstein’s E = MC2, but also as simple.

God = Nature.

Blake was a dedicated paganist, whose house of worship was “the blessed church of the Open Sky.” And that, translated into Latin, could serve as the all-encompassing slogan for what surfers experience, and why some regard surfing as a religion.

Looking at those four points from the atheists above, it’s easy to line them up with what surfers experience in the blessed church of the Open Sky:


1. Interaction with the supernatural = Surfing is super and it’s natural and at times it seems supernatural – guessing by intuition where a peak is going to break. Pulling into a tube and watching it warp and flex and hear the roar and feeling the speed. Getting spit out of a barrel you didn’t think you would make. Etc. Etc. Surfers are in a constant communication with nature and are very tuned in to what is natural and what is super.

2. A diagnosis of something essentially wrong with the human condition, and a prescription for salvation or liberation from it = What’s wrong with the human condition is we are stressed out, over or under weight, not strong, not healthy, depressed. Modern life causes all these things, and surfing is the reset button to make the body strong and the mind happy. Most humans don’t understand how much physical, emotional and intellectual stimulation we need to stay happy and healthy. Most humans don’t come close to getting it, but surfers sometimes do. When we come out of the water after two or three hours of hard paddling, danger, risk, wipeouts and achievement, we feel as good as a human can feel. That overall feeling of physical, mental and spiritual ecstasy is a feeling most religions aspire to. Surfers get it often.

3. Regular, repeated behavior (ritual) = Slam dunk. Surfing is something we just can’t get enough of, and there are many rituals that go into a daily surf: sniffing the wind, knowing the tides, checking the Internet cameras, figuring out the swell, waxing your board, paddling out through a channel, knowing a lineup, etc etc. It’s all regular, repeated, (ritual) behavior. And surfers just can’t get enough.

4. community practice = Funny how there will be a long stretch of beach with peaks breaking everywhere, but surfers will all group together in one spot. What they are getting is social interaction = a sense of community. Sometimes that community can be as hysterical as voodoo practitioners and sometimes it can be as soulful as a Baptist choir. But surfing is all about community. Worshipping the waves together.

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