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October 16, 2012

Interfaith Worshipers Celebrate Sea, Surf

by Mike O'Sullivan

A recent interfaith worship service on a California beach an hour south of Los Angeles celebrated the ocean and the state's surfing culture.  Christians, Muslims, Jews and others in attendance believe the ocean teaches lessons about life and faith.

Each morning at Huntington Beach, which calls itself Surf City, the surfers are out early to catch the waves.

It is a passion and a lifestyle, said veteran surfer Tom Morey, who invented a modified surfboard called the boogie board.

“Surfing for me is creation's most succinct metaphor, best metaphor, for how to live your life. Surf your life,” said Morey.

Hang 10

These surfers say their goal is to catch a wave and ride it. Once a year, an interfaith service called the "Blessing of the Waves" draws surfers and others to talk about their love of the ocean.

A Muslim leads an Islamic prayer. A synagogue member blows the Jewish ram's horn called the shofar.

Zoroastrian Maneck Bhujwala reads a prayer in the ancient Avestan language.

“So we actually have prayers for all the major elements of nature, including the water,” said Bhujwala.

Heaven on Earth

A choir of immigrants from the island nation of Tonga and other local artists provide music.

Two Catholic priests also presided over the service. Both are avid surfers who are at home on this beachfront. After the service, both went in for a swim.  

Father Christian Mondor, 87-years old, was helped onto a surfboard and caught a small breaking wave. He was happy to get in the water.

“It takes a lot of skill, but it is a wonderful feeling when you are moving with the ocean, especially when you get to stand up and ride them [waves] wherever you want. Just to be in the water is such an invigorating experience. It is great to be back, all wet again,” said Mondor.

There is much to be thankful for, said Dean Torrence, who was half of the 1960s pop duo Jan and Dean. They helped to popularize surf music with songs like Surf City.

“The sand, the ocean, the blue sky, the weather. I mean, what could be better? I am very, very, very blessed to be here in a place that we call Surf City,” said Torrence.

Those who gathered here say for those of any faith, this beachfront setting is inspirational.