Photo: Robertsson
Photo: Robertsson

Blessed be the Surfers?

Argentine priests mix soul-saving business with pleasure

I've gone on record suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the surfing and spirituality connection is at least a tad overblown, but it's possible I've been wrong this whole time and that these two incredibly-named priests in Argentina have been right.

Fathers Santiago Arriola and Pablo Etchepareborda (it doesn't seem quite possible, but I think I've spelled that right) have started a little church of the holy surf down on the lovely beaches of Argentina. Their congregation meets specifically near Mar del Plata, which, according to a quick Google image search, is packed with fun surf setups.

Starting back in 2016, the pair's thriving little surf ministry has been blessing surfboards, waves, the ocean and surfers themselves. They've held events called "Aloha Encounters," charming-sounding meetups in which surfers, some not even necessarily walking the Catholic faith, get together to surf in whatever manner they see fit--no board judgment allowed--to be rejuvenated in the sea and the surfing community.

"For surfers, surfing has a vital meaning, a meaning that transcends the mere sport itself," Arriola said in an interview with a Catholic news agency. "For many, it's a time to get reinvigorated, to relax and get away from the frantic pace of daily life, to be with nature and have a kind of religious experience. So it seemed to us a beautiful opportunity to make this vital meaning of surfing more explicit, and to do it in a community setting."

Is he wrong? His version of spirituality sounds a whole lot like welcome relaxation spiked with a bit of aimless fun to me, but maybe that's just splitting hairs.

Either way, Father Arriola offers a beautiful description of a life buoyed by the surf. It might even be enough to tempt me, a surfer who usually thumbs his nose at perceived surf-spirituality connection, to swing by an Aloha Encounter if I'm ever in Mar del Plata and give the Fathers a chance to change my mind.

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