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I spent hours driving the Irish coastline looking for waves. The weather was harsh and the ocean temperamental, but it was a trip I will always remember fondly…and I didn’t even surf for the first half of it. During one of many surf checks that ultimately ended up with me drinking coffee instead of surfing, I came across the ruins of this old castle, the Irish flag waving stiff in the mild gale. It wasn’t a bad day.

Thirst

Photo:  Jeff Fennell

I’ve spent a good deal of my life exploring foreign coastlines in pursuit of waves. I feel very blessed that I can even say that, especially because I realize what a trivial pursuit it is in light of the issues that face many people today. For a number of years though, surfing and surf exploration held a high priority in my life. I gave them great significance, even subconsciously seeking some form of fulfillment in them. It’s only now that I can look back in appreciation for how blessed I was but also a little embarrassed at how foolish I was as well. 

As far as worldly pursuits go, I think surfing is a great one. It allows the participant the ability to experience nature, to be humbled, and to stay active and young. But like everything else in life, it cannot provide fulfillment and purpose. It is destined to leave you wanting more. Too many times in life I've taken a blessing and tried to find fulfillment in it. Perhaps it’s human nature to do this, to take those blessings we cherish in life and seek our satisfaction in them. It doesn’t help that our culture seems to constantly promote this mentality. Society tells us to “live our truth,” to find what makes us happy and pursue it with reckless abandon. Don’t get me wrong, happiness is a good thing. The problem is that the only happiness this world can offer is counterfeit happiness, momentary happiness. It cannot offer anything of substance, anything that will last. Every form of happiness that doesn’t have it’s source in the living, eternal, and true God will ultimately run out. For God is the only source of eternity, and so if we want lasting fulfillment, lasting happiness and joy, then it must originate in God. 

It is the man dying of thirst that knows the value of water. Society offers us soda for our thirst, and for a time we are content with it’s artificial refreshment. But soon we realize it just makes our dehydration worse. It wasn’t until I realized that even God’s blessings can’t provide ultimate fulfillment and true satisfaction. They are blessings to be sure, but only He can satisfy the thirst of my soul. This realization has allowed me to enjoy His blessings even more. Blessings like surfing are now enjoyed for what they are meant to be, instead of trying to make them what they are not.   


Rhythm

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There is rhythm to life and places. Some places it seems easier to sense than others, but most places I’ve been have a definite rhythm, or lack thereof. Having just returned from Hawaii, the contrast of rhythms between LAX and Hawaii seemed glaringly obvious.

One of my goals as of late is to stay in a proper rhythm with Jesus. I have the tendency to either rush ahead of Him in impatience or stay behind Him in apathy. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who once said something to the affect that the present moment is the only place that eternity touches time; the past is frozen and the future has not yet come so the present is where eternity and life touch. This makes sense to me, and so it makes the need to stay in rhythm with Jesus that much more apparent. While on earth Jesus was never in a rush, but He was also steadfast. He was never worried, but also never apathetic. He was the personification of righteousness, yet He was a friend of sinners. He lived in a divine rhythm, understanding that eternity and the present moment share the same place in the analogue of time. 

If I am going to live in the rhythm of Jesus I must learn to live in the present moment. Peter walked on water until his focus shifted from that present moment on the waves with Jesus to the potential uncertainty’s of what would come next. I must learn to walk in stride with the One who walks on water, not shifting my gaze but keeping it fixed on Him in this present moment. 

Wales

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Below is an article about finding surf in Wales that The Inertia published. To see the full gallery click here

Fresh Perspectives in the Old World

The white of the sheep stood out against the green of the hills as I drove the countryside toward the coast. Narrow roads meandered under shadowed tunnels created by the canopy of trees overhead. It felt odd to be looking for surf in Wales. Passing numerous inns and old ruins, it definitely wasn’t what I was used to on a surf trip. But perhaps that’s what charmed me about it.  

Wales is a small country but still boasts roughly 870 miles of coastline. Partly due to a small swell window and partly due to the proximity of more consistent surf zones in nearby Scotland and Ireland, Wales is rarely mentioned when talking surf. But it does in fact have waves. I didn’t really know what to expect when I set out for the Welsh coastline. My friend and host Mike Taylor simply told me to bring a small wave board and keep my expectations low. Not exactly the kind of advice I hoped to hear, but I appreciated his honesty. 

The topography of the Welsh coastline can vary drastically and is largely undeveloped in most parts. It is currently the only country in the world to have a continuous coastal path stretching its entire length; it’s called The Wales Coast Path. And with so much coastline undeveloped yet accessible it’s no wonder the Welsh created their own sport, Coasteering, that blends rock-hopping, shore-scrambling, swell-riding, cave-exploring and cliff jumping. But I wasn’t hoping to go Coasteering in Wales, I was hoping to surf.      

Mike has been surfing the Welsh coastline most of his life. If there is a hint of swell in the water he knows where it will be breaking best. He has spent a good portion of his life serving the people of Wales; first as a trauma nurse and now as a pastor. Having grown up in what some would call a rough area, he’s seen the best and worst people have to offer. It has made him about as genuine and down-to-earth as they come. Mike’s help proved to be invaluable in finding waves in Wales.

At first it was a familiar scenario: one spot had some swell but the winds were wrong, another was clean but lacked swell. We checked numerous spots, and drank too much tea (like their English neighbors, the Welsh enjoy their tea). As we drove Mike would give me mini history lessons about the area. Unlike the U.S., Europe is old. The countries that make it up are full of history and legend, and Wales is no different. Some of the towns date back centuries. It’s not uncommon to see ancient castles along the side of the road as you drive. It sort of makes you feel as though you were looking for waves on the set of Robin Hood. It has a way of adding a certain romance to the search that makes finding waves a little less important yet somehow more exciting.

We drove slowly over the narrow, cobblestone road. I didn’t need to ask to know that the town was probably as old as America itself. Farmers still used the stone fences that had been erected in the fields long ago, their sheep not seeming to mind the rain. The road eventually made its way along the cliff-lined shore, down a hill to a carpark fronting the ocean. We stared at an empty beach with a headland off to our left. 

“Does it ever get crowded?” I asked. 

“On weekends it can,” replied Mike.

It wasn’t this day.

I watched for a set as the rain gently washed across my face. Off in the distance the hills grew slightly darker as the storm approached. I glanced back to shore to see the carpark nearly empty. Just past that stood the ruins of an old estate overlooking the headland. I clocked back toward the horizon. As dusk approached I knew it was time to go in. But the waves were quite fun and I had the headland all to myself. I waited for one more.