Not since "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
have two more unlikely activities been combined into one book title. Surfing
Rabbi? If that sounds like an oxymoron to you, then you really should
read this book. It's the totally honest personal story of a 1960's Malibu
beach rat whose love of surf and sand eventually became a spiritual quest
to delve more deeply into the power of his own Jewish roots. Today, he
is both a Hasidic rabbi and avid surfer, demonstrating that to be a "religious
Jew" does not have to mean withdrawing from the modern world.
I read this book on a cold, snowy, Minnesota Sabbath afternoon, which
is about as far away from the ocean as a person can get. I knew nothing
about surfing when I opened the book, but soon found myself completely
caught up in the story. Here was a man so devoted to surfing, that he
drove through a war zone just to get to the beach. Foolhardy or adventurous?
I had to find out!
Rabbi Shifrin writes in a clear, personal style, so that even a landlubber
like me can easily picture the beaches and surfer culture that he describes.
Not that every scene comes out of "Endless Summer." Shifrin's
first attempt to catch a wave at Malibu was a dangerous disaster that
knocked his fantasies down to earth -- but also spurred him on to master
this most challenging of sports. He became an expert surfer, lifeguard,
and triathelete, so totally focused on riding the waves that he had
little time for anything else in his life. Still, something was missing.
The quest to fill that void eventually led him back to his Jewish roots
and on to rabbinic ordination, where he learned that Judaism, like the
ocean, is deep beyond imagining.
Today, Shifrin uses surfing as a form of youth outreach, and is known
worldwide as "The Surfing Rabbi." His life, in the words of
surf film producer Ira Opper, is about "riding the energy of the
universe." Gentiles and Jews alike will find inspiration in this