Tim thought that he had everything he needed – a surfboard, a cool Kombi Van, parties and girls. But the veneer of this lifestyle was stripped away so he could see what was needed for life to become a real adventure.
The adventure begins!
We set out from St Malo, France after a quick trip across the channel in the hydrofoil. The kombi van we were in was just our means of a cheap 1000 km one way petrol shared taxi as the driver and his girlfriend were to continue on to Northern Africa to surf Moroccan waves. I was turning 19 and to be part of a real life surfing adventure through Europe was an amazing experience for me.
Parties, girls, surf and surfers
On arriving at Biarritz we found the local campsite at a place called La Barre near the famous hangout of Les Sables Les D’or. This was a café complex filled with the coolest of international surfers and other adventurous young people. We pitched our tent alongside likeminded others from places like South Africa, California and England. We had come to find a team of eight adventurous surfer mates that were on fire with our surfer lifestyle. When the surf was down we would explore and shop together in the daytime for French cheese, bread and wine. At night we partied on with the local girls. We caught some amazing waves and one time we even train tripped over to San Sebastian in Spain for a few days to experience some wild parties.
The surf was up!
One night we were all sitting around our campfire on the hill of Le Bar when we began to hear the sounds of distant explosions like loud pops or claps. This sound was produced by the release of air when the top of a large wave peals over and drops. This was the Atlantic swell (and a great one) that we had been expecting for three weeks. I excitingly motioned to the guys that we would surf at dawn and so I chose to go to bed early. When I awoke, I shook a few legs and realised that the others had stayed up and drank too much beer the night before. So I grabbed my wetsuit and surfboard and ran down the street towards the beach alone. As I peered over the sand dune I could see a great site for any surfer; perfectly shaped, large glassy waves with lines way out to sea. I put on my wetsuit quickly and entered the water without caution.
Looking for the perfect wave
As I paddled hard straight out to sea, the waves were mounting up like small buildings and I paddled vertically over giant swells. I was in a time period that surfers call a ‘lull’, which is the calm period between sets of waves. This was a lengthy lull but even at this time the waves would have been 5 metres on the face. I managed to get to where I thought was the safe spot, which was on the outside of the sand reef. I took a break to watch how the waves were breaking behind me and to consider my next move. Because the surf was huge, I had to see if I had the courage to catch one of these monsters.
Fear and panic – the wave approaches
After about ten minutes I was looking out to sea for the next set to appear when something strange began to happen. (By this time, I was around 300 metres from the beach.) I noticed that the sea horizon seemed to be moving! As I continued to watch this area of ocean (possibly 1.6 kilometres wide) the water began to rise higher and higher and I began to feel a desperate panic rise inside me. Steaming towards me was a monstrous wave, which evoked in my mind the words “tidal wave”! I was stunned to see how the wave kept rising and rising. I have often described it as if you were sitting at the sideline of a large football stadium watching the whole field turn up vertical on its side! I remember the chilling fear, and as the fear returns momentarily it brings me into a place of trouble and tears. It is a vivid moment that I don’t enjoy recalling.
The monster attacks!
A wild panic set in as the wave thundered towards me. Thoughts ran through my mind. “Should I try and paddle to the beach?” I was too far out and there was no chance I could make it. “Should I try and paddle straight at it?” “That would be crazy!” I thought. I decided that the only thing was to stay where I was, aim my board towards the beach and hold on! I watched the wave peak up to its highest and the top section came exploding down about 50 metres in front of me. The white water was also a massive towering wall, an explosive loud roaring lion speeding towards me. I started to call out to God to save me and just before the collision I let out a scream from deep within me – “JEEEESSSSUUUUSS! HELLLPPP MEEEEE.” Fear engulfed me. As a surfer I understood waves and I knew that there was no hope for me and in a few moments of time I was surely going to die! The impact of the great wall of white water was explosive. My board just disappeared and I didn’t even feel the leg rope attached to my leg snap. My body was stretched from limb to limb under the water and I was thrown like a rag doll in every way.
An awesome, eternal peace
Suddenly everything went perfectly still and became bright white. My fear instantly disappeared turning into a total peace and I was surrounded by an awesome love that simply consumed every part of me. There was stillness and this awesome whiteness of light was all around me, everywhere. I had no sense of a physical body. It was just this incredible, beautiful, timeless place, a place that I would never want to leave. There was a perfect peace and love like someone was holding me in their arms.
Then I opened my eyes and found myself high up on a wet sand dune probably 5 metres above the elevation of the tide level and maybe 60 metres up from the water’s edge. I had no pain and my lungs contained no water. I looked up the beach, away from Biarritz, to my surfboard that was about 100 metres northwards and also high up on the beach. There was no one to be seen, as it was still early in the morning. I was stunned by what had happened and simply just left it at good luck that I was not hurt! I waited a while then I walked home to the camp.
Being part of the cool crowd
The swell of the ocean had subsided but it was still biggish surf by any surfer’s estimation. I was out in the water one morning and said “bonjour” to a face I had recognised from our camping ground. He was a young Frenchman who had pitched tent with his mates nearby to us. Although I could not speak his language, and he could not speak much English, I understood him enough to realise he was inviting me back to his tent to share a joint of marijuana together! That afternoon the French surfers invited me over and they offered me a joint which I accepted as I wanted to appear ‘cool’. I realised that they were already quite stoned. As I begun to smoke the atmosphere inside the tent began to change. They began to laugh in a strange cackling manner that made me feel so uncomfortable that I had to politely leave.
Experiencing the sensation of hell
A few moments later I was sitting back at my tent and Pete (one of my friends) handed me a plate of baked beans. I began to waver, dropped the plate and began to scream. What was going on inside of me was extremely horrible. If I had experienced something of God a few days before when the wave struck me then this was definitely the opposite. I entered a spiritual place where things were totally out of control. This was a place of absolute fear with unrecognisable monster type beings attacking my soul. It was a place of absolute terror. I snapped out of the experience when I heard the sound of a loud thunderbolt. Pete said later that they had to hold me down and put pillows over me as I was having a screaming fit. (Over the years as I have researched this experience, I conclude that what I was given was ‘Angel Dust’. Angel Dust was another name for the PCP (phencyclidine) usually known as a hallucinogen drug that is especially dangerous when taken in large doses.) I have also learnt people don’t usually suddenly snap out of such a trip. I now realise that God had His hand on me and He was not going to let me go!
Incredible things began to happen!
I walked to the beach feeling pretty much bedazzled by these experiences. I sat on the sand dune and looked out to sea. I closed my eyes and I saw clear pictures of what I can only describe as people filled with love and joy fade into my mind then out again. These people all seemed extremely happy and filled with a joy that I was yet to discover. I had a very strong feeling that I should immediately return to Australia. From this point onwards a series of incredible things happened. I needed money to get out of France and the local surf shop offered me the exact amount that I needed in exchange for my surfboard! I needed money for the air ticket to return to Australia. When taxation office gave me my return it was equivalent to the exact amount for the airfare! As I arrived in Brisbane at 5 am I looked out the window of the plane and I was met with an instant feeling of inner peace.
Girls and more girls … money … parties …
During the next 18 months, I experienced worldly pleasures including girls, and parties in my rent free home. I became a good fighter through attending Tae Kwon Do and I worked in the then biggest surf shop in the world. I had a cool Kombi Van. I even had an awesome full-length windscreen visor sticker that read “Les Sable Les Dor”! I had plenty of money and was “mister cool” with all my friends. Taking marijuana was still part of my life and I enjoyed frequenting the nightclubs. I had everything in life I thought I ultimately needed.
My mates thought I had everything!
Nevertheless, after 18 months of the so-called ‘good life’ I knew I had not found what I was looking for. I knew in my heart that there must be more to life than this. I reasoned that “if this is all there is to a ‘successful’ life then what is the point!” My mates could not believe that I could entertain such thoughts as in their eyes I had it all together and was everything they themselves were aspiring to be. But the ‘things’ I possessed and my present lifestyle were not enough to bring me the peace, love and joy I longed for. I knew that I needed to seek the truth and do it with all my heart.
Hungering for truth
During this 18-month period I had truly been opened to many areas of interest including mind power techniques (including books written by Bruce Lee), the study of body language interpretation, Eastern Meditation (including the use of it within Martial Arts) and other theories and ‘secrets’ such as the survival of ancient cave dwelling Inca / Peruvian civilisations. Although I searched and searched, I could not find that missing piece of the puzzle of my life. I could not find truth nor meaning in my life even though I hungered to find it.
A time of change
Overnight it seemed that everything was stripped from me and everything fell to pieces. I lost my short-term memory and therefore my job, my beautiful girlfriend attempted suicide. I lost the house, my money was gone and my beloved kombi blew up! These things were simply taken away and things were out of my control. I was unemployed and I felt totally alone. I moved in with my best mate Gary and his brother Glen in a city apartment and my girlfriend would visit on the weekend. Glen had a girlfriend named Savannah and ultimately she became friends with my girlfriend Karen. The two girls began to go away together to the North Coast (Queensland, Australia) to visit Savannah’s sister who was married to a surfer who was also a Pastor of a church. During this same period I began to buy a surfing newspaper entitled ‘Line-Up’. It was a normal newspaper for surfers with one exception. The Christian Surfers association had rented a small section in each addition where they wrote creative little surfing stories that related to parables that Jesus taught. These little stories had a powerfully effect on me but I would not tell anyone.
These people had something I wanted
One day I was invited to the North Coast for the day to surf and to hang out with the girls. We stopped at Savannah’s sister’s house and a young lady rushed out to meet us in the driveway. She did not know we were coming. The first words she said to us were “God just told me that three people were going to arrive this morning and He wants me to tell them about Jesus”. Immediately I decided that she was probably a crackpot and went in for a coffee with the others. She was very enthusiastic and couldn’t stop telling us about how the Holy Spirit would help her when she was out in the waves surfing and that the Holy Spirit would teach her things. Later, I met Savannah’s brother-in-law and he seemed like a cool guy. He did not say much about God but he spent some quality time with me showing me surfing photos and we talked about the local waves. There was something different, special and real about these people – something shining. Something that I didn’t have and I knew that I wanted it. Soon after this, both Karen and Savannah became Christians and they would invite me to church but I would decline saying that it was just another ‘trip’ people go on. There was no way in the world that I would ever become a Christian and that was final!
Changes in our lives
Changes started happening in me when I began to see changes in them. I saw Karen transform into an innocent and pure-hearted young lady (and I knew Karen!). I remember thinking “this type of change just does not happen to a girl like Karen!” I started to sneak into church and hide up in the balcony week after week and my friends never knew. One day the pastor turned, looked up at me in the balcony and spoke his entire message directly to me. It was as if the pastor was Jesus Himself and he knew everything about the deepest unknown secrets of my heart .This was too much for me to ignore! I later got hold of a Good News bible and read it from cover to cover. The incredible thing was that for the first time, every word came alive to me and the stories and lessons remained with me. I knew changes were taking place inside me but I still did not want to be known as a Christian! I knew that from my reading of the bible and the Christian Surfers’ parables that the commitment would have to be everything for always and forever.
Turning from my old ways and giving my heart away
One Friday night Glen, Gary and I decided that we would go out on the town. We would be loose and have an evening with ‘no holds barred’ and we achieved our objective! We started off with a meal at a popular social hangout, started drinking, taxied to numerous clubs, picking up girls as we went, dancing, a bit of fighting, smashing glasses on neon signs and running from bouncers belly laughing as we went. We had a great ‘boys night out’ and were still pumped up the next day. When we arose from sleep later that afternoon Gary turned to me from his bed, which was next to mine and said, “Hey are you awake? In all the years of our raging and nights out that was the greatest night we have ever had out Tim.” In reply I said these words. “Yes Gary it was but I have made up my mind on something. That is the last time for me. Today I am going to become a Christian.” Gary replied with some words that I would not repeat. When he was not around I knelt down next to my bed and gave my heart fully to Jesus.
God is powerful … full of love and grace
I began to go along to the Church Karen and Savannah were attending. Two weeks later I was asked if I wanted to be baptised in water along with them. I told the Youth Pastor that I had just read about Jesus being baptised and if it was something that I needed to do I would do it also. That night something awesome happened, something very special took place. When I was under the water being baptised, in that split second of time, I had the same experience again that had taken place in Biarritz, France over 18 months earlier – the experience of the light, the love and that awesome eternal revelation. As I came up out of the water I began to speak in a new language, the language of the Holy Spirit that I previously knew nothing about. After this I was drained of energy, I was shaking and I could not speak normally for literally hours after. Jesus had set me free; free to be who I was meant to be and free to experience a new world and a new adventure. It was the start of a full and amazing new life. Since this time, I have seen God at work and I know that He has all power and authority to change circumstances. I am totally convinced that without Jesus I would not be alive today. “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways, they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. “Because he loves me” says the Lord “I will rescue him, I will protect him for he acknowledges my name, he will call on me and I will answer him, I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him, with long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation” (Psalm 91:11-12, 14-15).
“God is light, in him there is no darkness” (1 John 1:5).
Looking back …
Looking back on my experiences I realise that ‘our disappointments are often God’s appointments’. I see that God used my experiences (both good and bad) to bring about a change in my heart. This allowed me to come to know Jesus. Having a right relationship with Him allows me to experience His great love from me day after day and to look forward to Heaven.
Life is adventure!
Please consider Jesus as only through knowing Him will you live life to the full.
Currently Tim is producing Christian television shows and documentaries in Australia that focus on life changing stories of how Jesus impacts lives. (April 2004)
Christian surfer organizations can be found at Christian Surfers Australia and Christian Surfers International
“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”
The Reason (music video)