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Joe Surf: Faith finds a place in surfing

May 04, 2011|By Joe Haakenson
(Courtesy Nate Harrington )

Show me a beach with a wave, and I'll show you a surf school. But not all surf schools are alike.

Most of them will teach you about paddling out, getting into a lineup, wave judgment, surf etiquette, etc., but Laguna Beach has a surf school that's different than most.

Soul Surfing School will teach you how to ride a wave while learning about Jesus Christ. Well, not at exactly the same time, but you get the point.

On its website (www.soulsurfingschool.com), Soul Surfing School describes its mission and purpose as thus:

"Kids who attend the camps will experience the thrill of surfing in a beautiful location with a focus on their relationship with Jesus. Our goal includes strengthening the walk of Christian kids who attend the camp in addition to sharing the gospel message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with non-Christians and providing an outreach ministry to surfers in and out of the water. We are committed to providing professional instruction, ensure students' safety and encourage an appreciation of the ocean. We desire to be a positive witness of our Christian faith both in the surfing industry and in the community."

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Chris and Karen Williams opened their doors to Soul Surfing School in 2004 because it made sense to them. It combines their passion for Christianity, surfing and business.

That's right, I said it. Christianity, surfing and business.

Chris Williams, who has contributed a surfing column to a sister paper, the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot, started out as a valet at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach and worked his way up in the hospitality world, becoming general manager for El Torito Grill at Fashion Island and the Beach House in Laguna.

"When Karen and I felt God's calling, the movie 'Blue Crush' had come out and there was a boon in surfing, especially with girls," Chris Williams said. "I said, 'Hey, I have a lot of background in special events and catering; let's make an impact in the surfing world. Let's combine our passion for surfing with my skills of running events.'"

Using the relationships he developed with many of the hotels' concierges, Chris Williams turned it into a successful business, partnering up with luxury hotels "from Huntington to La Jolla," including Montage and the Ritz-Carlton, providing surfing lessons to the resorts' clients.

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