Surfing: a belief in the spiritual properties of the ocean wave | Photo: Shutterstock

Whether you're metaphorically speaking or taking it extremely seriously, you might have talked about or referred to surfing as a religion. And it makes sense. Here's why.

You can't compare religions. They are what they are; they represent what they represent.

But if there's one thing that all the major religious groups - Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism - have in common is faith.

Faith guides belief, and when that happens, rationality is put aside. That's precisely what takes place in our brains when we surf.

It's rare not to feel that there isn't something sacred whenever we ride a perfect wave, peeling across a glassy ocean and being touched by yellow sun rays.

Surfing has its sanctified place - the ocean. For surfers, the sea is the place where one commemorates the miracle of life.

Surfers have reverence for the sea. Those who dare to defy its ethereal power will, sooner or later, pay for their sin with injuries or death.

Surfing also gives a special meaning to our lives. And that is so true that many wave riders opted to live their entire lives around surfing.

Surfing: the religion that speaks to Mother Nature | Photo: Shutterstock

Faith in Mother Nature

Surfers believe in the power of Mother Nature, a non-living, non-human entity that creates and destroys, offers, and takes away.

Whenever we see surfing and riding waves as a spiritual ritual, we consider it a religion.

If we say, "I have faith in surfing because it guides me in the right direction through life," we are somehow being religious.

Interestingly, almost every religion has a deep connection to its birthplace, people, and culture, and surfing fits in perfectly with that concept.

It has Polynesian origins; it was the sport of royalty and was practiced as a spiritual pastime.

The structure of belief is a complex web of moral, psychological, and spiritual substance, and surfers always believe there's always a wave to be ridden.

They are convinced that they will search and find a secret spot that nobody had previously surfed, where perfection, solitude, and inner peace will be achieved.

Surfing empowers people and saves lives.

It helps us put everything around us into perspective and teaches us the values of respect, gratitude, and harmony with nature.

What about deities? Who is surfing's ultimate god? Nature is the surfers' god. And the wave is the holy spirit that comes and goes eternally.

Surfing: A Natural Religion

Whatever definition of religion you encounter or prefer, you will always find similarities with the act of surfing - to surf is to recognize a bit of ourselves in a natural wave.

But what are the main characteristics of a religion? Is there parallelism between worship and the act of walking on water? Let's see:

  1. A religion includes belief in the supernatural or faith in another reality beyond human existence;
  2. A religion differentiates the sacred and profane;
  3. A religion encourages and embraces rituals of faith and devotion;
  4. A religion promotes moral or ethical principles that guide its followers;
  5. A religion ignites human emotional feelings;
  6. A religion provides ways to communicate or connect with the unknown;
  7. A religion provides a collection of sacred stories and commandments;
  8. A religion promises inner peace and harmony in life to its followers despite the unpredictability of the real world;
  9. A religion indicates the path to a better existence in the real world and promotes the imagery of life after death;
  10. A religion propagates itself through the recruitment of new members;

If you replace the word "religion" mentioned above with the word "surfing," you'll notice that the sentence keeps making sense.

Why? It couldn't be simpler. Surfing is a personal, individual, and intimate experience with nature.

The surfer's temple is the Church of the Open Sky, a near-endless place of worship where everyone is welcome and where each one of us seeks an answer to the fundamental questions of existence.

The meditative moments we enjoy while waiting for a wave connect us with what we are as individuals but also with what we expect or hope to be.

That's why surfing is such an introspective experience.

It questions our own identity and transports us into more or less spiritual states, depending on how much faith we put in it.

The religion of stoke is what you make of it.

Enjoy it, live it, embrace it, and remember to, as a devoted priest, spread the aloha spirit in every break you surf.

Words by Luís MP | Founder of

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