Surfers Bible stories
Testimonies from CJ Hobgood, Kyle Maligro, Eric Arakawa...
CJ Hobgood has not attained the whole world, but something that many surfers would find equally satisfying--he won the 2001 ASP World Championship at age 22. It was a meteoric rise to this after just three years on the tour. While completely stoked on his achievement, CJ is also concentrated on spiritual fulfilment as reflected in this his favourite bible verse " For what shall if profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.” Mark 8:36
Clifton James Hobgood was born in Satellite Beach, Florida on July 6, 1979. While the surf there is often small and inconsistent, both CJ and his brother Damien were inspired by the success of former World Champion, Kelly Slater. The competitive drive brought on by siblings, helped to shape both Hobgoods into solid surfers and strong competitors. Even as groms they had a strong win to loss ratio. As a kid CJ never thought about anything but surfing, and his entire focus was on getting better, and riding as many waves as possible.
The culmination of his natural ability and disciplined approach led to the ultimate prize in surfing, a World Championship, something that he describes as "One of the most incredible feelings I've ever had." Just last year CJ had another incredible experience, one that anyone can attain. "I accepted Jesus Christ last year at Calvary Chapel in Melbourne. I find that when I know His will is being done in my life, satisfaction is guaranteed”.
When interviewed about why he thanked God as the first person acknowledged in his world title CJ said “He pretty much is my life, and I try to be on his path. He has given me everything that I have, this has nothing to do with me at all. I’m stoked to be able to thank Jesus Christ for everything. I’m able to enjoy all I have so much more because of that.” While his heroes had always been surfers, CJ now looks up to Jesus Christ, and hopes to be more like Him as reflected in another of CJ’s favourite verses. "What manner of man is this that even the winds and the sea obey him! Mathew 8: 27
At 22 years old, surfing's newest champion isn't that far beyond grommethood, but he has some advice to those coming up, "Love what you do and it will take care of you. Trust in the Lord.”
I was born in Oahu, Hawaii. My Mom & Grandparents loved the beach they’d take me along with them all the time. I got my first Bodyboard when I was 8 or so and haven’t stopped riding one since. I started competing in high school and from there joined a Christian Bodyboarding team called “Kauai Classic”. After high school I turned pro and competed on the national and later the world tour. Pro surfing has been a big challenge, but I wouldn’t choose it any other way. I’ve met so many awesome people around the world and it’s certainly brought me closer to Christ…not to mention all the killer surf spots I’ve been to. A very important thing for you to know is that ‘bodyboarding’ was my God, key word ‘was’ until I met Jesus Christ! The roles switched from there.
Being a Christian has made all of this more enjoyable. If it weren’t for Jesus Christ I’d be really alone right now… I grew up in a broken home, was totally lost as a kid. I got into smoking pot as a young kid and than started doing cocaine as well. I used to smoke crack and drink alcohol all the time. I was living life to please only myself. I was blind to the things God had for me. I had a big void in my life that I tried to fill with everything but Jesus. A youth pastor who surfed told me about Jesus in a way I could understand and relate to. I became a real Christian in 1987.
After this my life slowly changed. God showed me my life and my bodyboarding is to be lived for His glory rather than mine. I could see life clearly; I had identity in Him. I could go on and on about the awesome work of the Lord in my life but let me just say:” For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”. (Phil 1:21 Pg 421) Now I’m living life as a Christian surfer not a surfer Christian; Christ needs to be first.
I’ve got something really important to tell you. I’ve been able to surf around the world, I’ve won many contests, been on the covers of magazines, been paid for 11 years to bodyboard, yet all of this is nothing compared to having Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour and growing in him daily. He fulfills life! So don’t let anything take the place of God in your life. It’s all about Jesus.
Shapers are the unseen craftsmen behind a surfers performance. Eric Arakawa is currently gun shaper for Hawaiian Island Creations and one of the world’s most famous shapers. He also helped invent the `Nose Guard’ for surfboards.
Surfers Bible: Tell us about your living as a surfboard shaper?
Eric: Been making boards since I was 14 years old as I couldn't afford to buy new ones! I just ate, slept and dreamt of surfing, it was my whole life. Probably a shaping highlight was Derek Ho winning the world title on my boards.
Surfers Bible: You have the ideal surfing pedigree - Hawaiian, living at Wiamea Bay, respected shaper. What does surfing mean to you?
Eric: Funny, I was once asked, “What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned through surfing?”. My response was “I think the most important thing that I’ve learned about surfing is that surfing is not the most important thing”. That is it. Surfing is not the most important thing, it’s not the end. Surfing is now a means to an end. I use surfing as a way to fulfil my purpose in Jesus Christ, as a tool that I use to serve God. Apart from that, surfing leaves you empty, wanting more.
Surfers Bible: You’re obviously a Christian, what’s been your journey as a surfer coming to a Christian faith?
Eric: I personally had everything I needed, I did well at family, school, friends and surfing. When I was 15 I got invited to a church by a friend who was so persistent, I gave in and said `I’ll come on the one condition that you never ask me to go to church again.’
Surfers Bible: Just to get him off your back, why the reluctance?
Eric: I had this image of a Christian as pious, stern and reserved and I’d have to be very careful how I walked, acted, even how I dressed. I went to church that first Sunday morning and all my preconceived ideas of Christianity just went out the window, they really loved me!
Surfers Bible: Why would you hang out with these Christians when you already had all you needed?
Eric: It was a different kind of fun, I noticed that they had something that I didn’t have. I’m a real analytical person, I have to understand the whole process before I commit to anything. I remember just sitting down one day and just assessing my life ”Why am I even here?” “What’s the whole purpose of my existence?” My life purpose thus far was to be born, be busy, grow old and die. That seemed so empty, completely empty.
Surfers Bible: Sounds depressing, and yet so common? What happened then?
Eric: I was challenged by a friend `Eric, have you ever asked Jesus Christ into your heart?’ and I said ‘No’ and he said “Would you like to?”. I can’t explain it, I had been wrestling to understand all this. I said ‘Yes’. He shared with me a few simple truths about my life, my sin and my need for God’s solution in Jesus. My eyes were opened. I asked Jesus Christ into my heart. I remember opening my eyes and realising that I got it! That’s it! It felt like drinking a glass of water after thirsting in a desert for so many years.
Surfers Bible: What is your favourite bible passage and why?
Eric: Philippians 1:21 “But for me to live is Christ and to die is gain”
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