According to BYU-Hawaii surfers, their shared love for surfing brings them closer together. They shared how it strengthens their faith, builds friendships, and offers a thrill beyond compare despite the dangers that accompany the sport.
“I used to surf all the time back home,” said Jashon Waters, a freshman from New Zealand studying psychology. “Here, it’s just a big playground, a lot of opportunity, and big waves. When I was in the MTC, I flirted with the idea that feeling the spirit is much like catching a wave. The feelings of joy and your heart.”
Nick Gruen, a senior from California studying interdisciplinary studies, said, “I had the opportunity to be on the surf team in high school and take Surf [physical education] in the mornings. Imagine that? A class for school that required you to surf. It’s nice to get out there and feel completely removed from everything else going on.
“I can just focus on what’s around me and have a good worry-free time. I think God’s talent with what he’s created for us really shows when I’m out there in the water. It’s such a beautiful place to be.”
Paul Davis, a junior from California studying business management, expressed surfing has been a great activity to do with his friends and has increased his faith. Davis said, “I know God created these beaches with barrels and good waves in mind. If I were to relate it to the gospel, I would just say it’s a testament to the beautiful creation of the earth. Nothing could compare to riding a barrel and catching that vision. It’s a carefree environment where my friends and I can just have fun and be stoked for each other. It’s a non-competitive sport, so I just enjoy being out in the water.”
Waters, despite being busy with other responsibilities, commented he tries to “go as much as [he] can. I don’t have a car here, so I can’t drive, but when I go, my friends go. Often times when friends enjoy surfing together, they enjoy each other’s company. It’s good to have something to bond with and connect over.
“It’s exciting to catch a wave. It feels great. I’m confident that I’ll keep coming back to it for the rest of my life. I love the thrill of a challenge as well. There’s always something you can learn and improve on when you’re surfing. Every time you get in the water, most of the time you have something on your mind that you’re working on. Otherwise, you’re just out there having fun.”
Gruen said if there is something you really enjoy, you make time for it. “I go at least four times a week. It always feels great to get in the ocean and get a little work out. I try to plan out my day and stick to the schedule I’ve made. Of course, there are days where I have too much going on and I need to decide to do the other work I have over surf. Luckily, the sun rises a lot earlier than any class or work I have, so I take that opportunity to go early.
“When there’s waves and homework to be done, I find myself often choosing the waves,” said Waters. “It’s like curving on a longboard, but you’re on water. Surfing is unique in that way. It’s almost the closest thing to walking on water. It’s the sensation. It’s amazing.”
According to Gruen, regardless of your perceived skill with the waves, “the ocean is no joke. It shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ve been an ocean marine safety lifeguard for five years now, and I need to mention that people can and do get seriously hurt and killed. The ocean can be extremely violent, especially here in Hawaii.
“So please, be safe and know and understand surf culture and your ability to surf before thinking of paddling out. Remember: If in doubt, don’t go out,” Gruen added.
Waters said he has to worry about another danger, his epilepsy. Waters said, “There are different types of epilepsy. I have seizures that make me go unconscious. My muscles convulse, and I have no control over my body. When I become conscious again, I don’t remember anything. I’m fortunate that it is a minor case of epilepsy and that it’s relatively controllable through medication and proper sleep management. I generally don’t go out surfing if I had a rough night and not well rested.”
Waters smiled and shared, “I just have to be extra careful. If I have a seizure in the water, the chances of me surviving are quite slim. Don’t give up on what you love. If it makes you happy, don’t give up on it.”