Eugénie Baccot

Documentary Photographer

The Movement of Christian Surfers: for the passion of the waves and Christ

Runners, bodybuilders and skaters are not the only ones to find themselves with their hair flapping in the breeze on the beaches of California. Surfboards in hand, Christian surfers don their typical Hawaiian printed shirts and sunglasses. It’s six in the morning. Rob Shearer, is the first to arrive to Zuma beach just a few waves down from Malibu. Just like his red covered bible, his surfboard is never far from his site. A professor of mathematics and religion at the Christian university Pepperdine he’s here waiting for his first students of the day. The beach is about to become the “chapel of surf.” Sitting in the sand against a breath-taking backdrop, students listen as their professor preaches about god, faith and of course, surfing. Their attendance counts for their grades. This is not a particularly unusual scene in California where the Christian surfer movement, which began in Australia in the 1970s, is enjoying a rapidly growing popularity. Today it has spread to more than thirty five countries. It boasts millions of followers. The Surfer’s Bible has sold more than 75,000 copies.

Water, H2O and its three elements, forms the Holy Trinity. It was the trinity of the 21st Century according to Father Christian Mondor, 89, who died in 2018. Known simply in the community as the "surfer priest", the man who loved to hide his cane behind his board, was responsible for creating the annual “blessing of the waves“ ceremony where more than a thousand people gathered in celebration. Sick and tired of hearing the excuse "Sorry reverend, I couldn't come to church, the waves were just too good," Christian Mondor quickly understood that the beach could also unify his faithful.

(trans. of text by) Anne-Laure Pineau // freelance journalist //