Paddle-Out With St. Jack
When a beloved surfer die, their community honors them with a “memorial paddle-out,” a wet and playful gathering of the clan. Never somber, the large human circle splashes, throws flowers, and whoops and hollers, celebrating together their dear one’s passion for dancing daringly on the sea.
One of the largest ever paddle-outs took place this past Sunday off Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz to honor Jack O’Neill, the Central Coast’s grandfather and godfather of surfing, who died last month at 94. 3000 surfers, in a circle a half a mile wide, along with thousands on the shore, remembered how O’Neill created one of the first wetsuits in the 50’s and went on to innovate and promote the best line of surf products and a passion for the surfing life.
But for all his commercial success O’Neill always said he was proudest of how he used that success to start O’Neill Sea Odyssey, an amazing education program that takes 4-6th graders on a 65-foot catamaran/sea lab out of Santa Cruz Harbor for free field trips to learn marine biology, navigation and coastal ecology. Since 1996 over 100,000 kids, mostly low income, have learned not just science, but to love and care for the sea, thanks to Jack O’Neill.
I look at this picture and see Blue Theology in action, ocean stewardship and ocean spirituality bouncing and blessing a beloved ocean soul surfer. Although I have body surfed, I can’t call myself a member of this amazing surfing community. From shore I admire the courage and finesse of surfers. I deeply appreciate their support of ocean conservation, especially through the fabulous Surfrider Foundation.
Surfers don’t stay at the surf-ace. It’s not really a sport, but a way of being, an identity. Some call it a religion or at least a spiritual discipline, soul surfers. St. Jack and so many others take us on surfin’ safaris to new highs and depths. Catch a wave…..
These Wednesday Blue Theology Tide-ings celebrate ocean stewardship and spirituality, here and on Facebook. Come visit our Blue Theology Mission Station in Pacific Grove, bluetheology.com. New project: a Santa Cruz area Blue Theology Pilgrimage Retreat Day, Saturday Oct. 21. Be in touch.