By Jamie Coulson and Jeff Batt | firstname.lastname@example.org
Christian Surfers has a simple mission: Connecting surfers to Jesus.
“The people at CS are the best in the world at loving surfers,” said Dean Plumlee, national director of Christian Surfers USA. “They do a great job of looking at people and saying, ‘What do you need and how can I help with that?’ That builds relationships in the surf community. Our name is a little deceptive because even though we are called Christian Surfers, a lot of people here wouldn’t associate themselves as a Christian at all, but they are welcome because Jesus loves surfers.”
In 1984, Jerry Dow, then a police officer, had an epiphany in his living room. He realized that a lot of his co-workers and client were surfers like himself. He felt he should reach out to them and so he began surfer Bible studies, learned how to put on surfer contests and gathered a group of volunteers to share God’s love in Santa Barbara, California.
Since then, the organization has expanded dramatically. Christian Surfers is a worldwide organization with more than 20 chapters in the U.S. and others in 36 countries around the globe where the group is trying to “spread the message” or “the good news.”
Plumlee is from a town in West Virginia, about a three hour’s drive from the nearest body of water. He says the urge to get into surfing came from above, from God, a call for him to make a difference.
“In 1991, I was in college and one of the things I noticed was that people were under the false impression that God doesn’t like them,” he said. “In October of 1991, I was in a time of fasting and prayer and spending a lot of time alone with God and I felt him put a question in my heart, a really simple question of, who tells surfers that I love them? That was an odd question for me because I had never met a surfer before.”
Plumlee said he comes from a broken family plagued by alcohol abuse, violence and trouble with the law.
“The family crest for my family is a broke-down trailer. I come from a long line of really broken-down white trash. I grew up in a house where Jesus was really important because he rescued my parents from themselves.”
Plumlee and his wife helped take over the St. Augustine chapter of Christian Surfers.
“I started feeling God calling me a person to tell surfers that Jesus really loves them, that he is not against them he is for them. I began to surf next year and there were a bunch of coincidences and interesting details of how that came about. I started having surfers come into my life and began to pursue opportunities to work with surfers. I moved to the beach, I worked at a surf shop, I worked in drug-rehab and thought that would be helpful in the surfing culture because there is a much higher drug-use as a population,” he said.
Plumlee said he has studied Christianity for more than 20 years and believes that its message should be a wake-up call for us all.
“I do think it is important to spread the good news that, that God likes us and that he loves us and that he is crazy about us. It is like he has a crush on us. It is just like when I pull up to Matanzas Inlet and the waves are offshore and the tides are perfect and it is just breaking all the way through and nobody is out. I have to call my friends and tell them. It is just wrong to enjoy the waves all alone and that’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus, it’s just wrong to enjoy it all alone.”
He says Christian Surfers connects surfers to God through everything from weekly Bible studies to simply catching a wave.
“It’s kind of a mixed bag. A lot of people come to us because they want to go surfing, want some buddies to surf with. The reality is all people hang out where their friends are and that is why a lot of people come to us. Some do come though because they hit rock bottom. I can recall several occasions where people have come and said something is missing in their life and would ask if we knew and if we could tell them.”
Jacob Galura, a Flagler College student and a devoted Christian, joined the group last year and he sees the decision paying dividends to himself and his faith.
“I wanted to invest time in growing myself. I started going to Christian Surfers because of the awesome people I met out in the water. I grew up a Christian and being able to serve with others on mission trips and meet other people in the global surf community has been epic.”
The Christian Surfers organization studies the message of Christianity, but that does not exclude other religions from joining in the experience as well.
“There are a few different on-ramps into the ministry,” Plumlee said. “We have an online membership that is a dollar a week. What we have found is that there are people who want to support us and they are trying to find different avenues to do that. With that membership they get emails, information, devotionals and opportunities sent to them.”
Christian Surfer take part in community service projects around the world.
“We go on mission trips where we invite people from the local community and the purpose of the trip is to love on them,” Plumlee said. “They may be friends, or people just struggling and we just want to spend time with them and tell them that we love them because Jesus loved us first. We also send guys down to the Dominican Republic to run a surf contest. We also go to El Salvador where we help out at a local orphanage. We go on different kinds of trips and that makes it nice so anybody can go. We regularly have surf trips that go into Central America, we have team about to go to Australia and anybody is welcome to join us on those trips.”
Dustin Miller, a Flagler alumni and St. Augustine resident, is a cinematographer who works with surfers. While Miller was in college he joined Christian Surfers.
“I was really young and learning a lot,” he said. “I’m sure me today would have led way different. But honestly, I was learning how to love people and teach the Bible.”
People and the Bible “matter a whole lot in my life…” he said. “Having that experience at the age of 19 was incredible…
“Before and during CS, I was a college student trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I got married when I was 20.”
He says after college, he pursued a career in video production. He is still married and now has four children. He works as a cinematographer and says, “God is good.”
Christian Surfers, meantime, wants to continue making a difference in the lives of surfers.
“Over the next five years, part of our mission is to launch new chapters, so that more surfers can be loved on in new communities,” Plumee said. “We also want to teach more people and make them experts to serve others.”