Founded in Australia more than 30 years ago, Christian Surfers has grown to an international movement operating in 17 countries around the world. DAVID ADAMS speaks with Brett Davis, the organisation's international director, about Christian Surfers new Surfers Bible and their ongoing mission to "link the beach and the church"...

Brett Davis

PICTURE: Jony Wellings


Brett Davis , 49, is the international director of Christian Surfers. 

Family? Married to Gillian with three kids aged 17, 15 and 11.

Place of residence? Coledale, Wollongong North, New South Wales.

Favorite Bible verse? John 10:10  - "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." No `loser’ for following Christ! 

What sort of board do you use? 6’4” thruster shortboard.

Favorite surf break? Voodoo Reef, Cronulla, or G-land, Java, Indonesia.

Best wave you've ever caught? At G-land back in 1983 when there was just 16 of us living in tree houses on the beach and tigers in the bush. The ultimate boys' adventure.

Christian Surfers has launched a new edition of it's Surfers Bible. Why is there is a need for a Surfers Bible and how does the new edition differ from the existing Surfers Bible?
"We recognise that surfers are their own unique subculture, and a very strong and popular one. We wanted to provide God's word to that culture in a relevant way that broke some stereotypes and felt like it belonged to to them. The new version contains new testimonies and a surf DVD of a `faith in action’ trip we did with some of the surfers in the Bible doing aid work in Sumatra. We reckon is looks better as well and sadly people do judge a book by its cover." 

It contains surfers' testimonies. Is there one particular testimony which has really impacted you?
"I think Bethany Hamilton’s story of recovering from her shark attack (Bethany had her arm bitten off) as a young teen and how God has grown her into one of the world's best know surfers, and Christian surfer, is amazing. It inspires me to know that despite what may happen in life, with Christ at the helm, there can be purposes achieved I would have never imagined. Interestingly, we have another shark attack victim Shannon Ainslie, and he was hit by two great whites and only has a small scar on his little finger!"

Christian Surfers, aka CS, was founded in Australia in 1977. How did that come about?
"There was a group of us who were recent Christians mainly from unchurched backgrounds. We were struggling with our newfound identity as Christians and also as surfers, so we decided to start a group called `Christian Surfers’. So it was just a bunch of teenagers meeting around my mums dining room table. It initially started as a fellowship group, but quickly grew into a mission. I love how God is the God of small beginnings."

Why did you make the decision to take Christian Surfers international? 

"Surfing is truly an international tribe and surfers (are) globally-minded...What basketball player dreams of playing ball in another nation? But surfers have this global awareness because of the waves. They also will travel cheap, sleep anywhere, eat anything, fit in with the locals, all great missionary material. Surfing is growing in so many places where the church is declining and provides inroads into unreached communities. So it really had to happen." 

How many countries does CS operate in these days and how does the way in which Christian Surfers operate differ from one country to the next?
"We are 170 missions in 17 nations, three of which are cross-cultural mission plants. Whilst our cultures do radically differ, the surfing culture itself is more an international one. What connects with a surfer in Japan is the same as one in Peru or Indonesia. Essentially, we create a community of surfers into which we share our faith using a program of surf camps, contests, meetings, etcetera. Of course in some countries that do not have any Christian foundation, like Japan and Indonesia, we have to move more slowly and carefully."

What's essentially the mission of CS today?
As it has always been: being a Christian presence and witness to the world surfing community. We link the beach and the church. What has grown is that we are more an international movement and expanding to whole new levels we never imagined possible, like developing chaplaincy to the world pro surfing circuit." 

Who is involved with Christian Surfers - is there a particular demographic that you focus on?
"We typically are involved with male teens and young adults, this happens to reflect the demographic of surfing. However, where we differ from other surfing clubs is how inclusive we are. It is unheard of to have shortboarders, longboarders, bodyboarders, men and women, experienced and advanced surfers all in one group."

Surfers Bible NT Cover 000

NEW LOOK BIBLE: Three new editions of the Surfers Bible were recently launched in Manly - a New Testament, complete Bible and a Gospel of Mark. Each of the Bibles comes with testimonies of well-known Christian surfers and two of the new versions also come with a DVD featuring a surfing documentary shot in Nias, an island off Indonesia. The original Surfers Bible was released 2002 in association with the Bible Society and since then more than 75,000 copies have been distributed.

How did you personally come to be involved with Christian Surfers?
"I was led to Christ at 17 by the first Christian I ever met who was also a surfer. I thought you couldn’t be a Christian and a surfer! The breakthrough for me came in surrendering my surfing to God when I was 18 and we started Christian Surfers right away. It was like God said 'OK, you can have your surfing but remember who owns this and whose glory it’s gonna be for'. I was then the founding leader of the Australian national movement at age 23, then the international one at age 40. It's now been 22 years of full time ministry with CS, amazing journey." 

Christian Surfers International has recently appointed Brad Whittaker as your first international chaplain coordinator. How is CS involved in chaplaincy?
"We negotiated with the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) via a Christian contact on the board of directors that like other sports, surfing could also have a chaplain. We mobiles suitable Christian surfers to be available as chaplains at key events and have a vision for expanding this all the way to a local level. The ASP trust us to identify, qualify and support their chaplains, which is a great vote of trust and confidence built up over many years." 

You recently said that "some people have commented that Christian Surfers is an oxymoron like ‘smart bomb’ or ‘military intelligence’ because they think that Christians and surfers live opposite lifestyles". What sort of tension is there between Christianity and the secular surfing culture in countries like Australia?
"Yeah, I still get odd looks when I talk about Christian Surfers with many people. Funnily enough, it isn’t other surfers who think we are weird, we have been around for such a long time (and) they have accepted us as surfers, even if odd ones. Certainly the selfish lifestyle as well as the various vices of sex, drugs (and) alcohol are rife and in such contrast to the life Jesus wants us to follow. However, many people are aware of the negative aspects of surfing and welcome the CS alternative...especially the parents!" 

You've also recently commented that surfer's have a "really strong connection with nature and the waves" and that CS wants to "introduce them to the wave creator - the God of the Bible". Do you think the fact that many surfers seem to have an affinity for nature make them more open to the Gospel?
"I have rarely met any atheist surfers, so at least there is a common appreciation for creation. I think Jesus is a radical fringe type of guy that a lot of surfers' identify with, and He did walk on water! However, there is a Gospel clash with the concept of surrendering ones life to Christ. But if the surfer will, they are already used to revolving their lifestyle around the thing they worship so replacing Christ for surf is a good parallel."

What do you see as the greatest challenge for CS at the moment?
"Always getting solid leadership in place. Mobilising a volunteer team of surfers is like herding cats. You would think we would have people lining up to get involved, but it is a big thing for a surfer, even a christian one, to surrender their surfing in service of Christ and others."