The Ultimate Wave
Bryan Jennings wasn't any different from many other surfers who grew up on the California coast—on the beach and hitting the waves by day, partying and getting laid at night. He occasionally attended church "for all the wrong reasons, namely free pizza and pretty girls," but when he met Jesus at age 18, his life turned around in a hurry. He cleaned up his act and his game, and was soon surfing professionally. But what he enjoyed most was telling people about his faith and riding the Ultimate Wave.
At age 20, while attending Point Loma Nazarene University, Jennings hosted a Christian surfing camp and called it Walking On Water (WOW). Ten kids showed up. Now, 15 years later, WOW is an internationally known ministry. Its summer camps have reached thousands, and its mission trips and outreach events take the Good News to surfers around the world.
Today, WOW is best known for its films, which combine surfing footage with music and powerful testimonies to reach a global audience. Jennings, 36, estimates that three million people have seen the movies, and says thousands have come to Christ as a result of the ministry.
Question & Answer
Where did the idea for Walking On Water begin?
My first year as a believer (at 18), I was in the Lord and in the world, trying to live both ways. My best friend said I couldn't keep living the way I used to; no one had discipled me, and at first, I didn't understand. Finally, I realized I had to step it up, and I did. When I started having some success [as a pro surfer], kids were looking up to me, and I wanted to do something with that and with my faith. So I organized the first camp, and we've been going ever since.
What prompted you to start making surfing movies?
Typical surfing movies show a famous pro surfer at a party, drinking with some girl and basically saying, "This is the life. You get to surf around the world and party." I got tired of seeing all these worldly surfing movies, and said, "Let's make one that glorifies the Lord." One guy wrote us a check to fund it (Follow the Leader, 1996), and we were off.
Your next movie is going to be about surfing in Israel?
Yes. It's called Promised Land. There are 20,000 surfers in Israel, and the purpose of the film is for Christians and the church to better understand Israel as God's chosen people, and how we as believers are grafted into God's family. And, of course, we hope that Jews will come to know Jesus as Messiah.
What's the most challenging part of running the ministry?
Fundraising, operations, and staff management. I just had a vision for sharing the gospel, starting with surfers. The business and administrative stuff isn't my gift. I try to get those things done so I can go out and do what I'm passionate about. More than ever, kids need Jesus. They need to see real people who love the Lord, and I'm thankful God has allowed us to be part of the answer.
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Previous "Who's Next" sections featured L. L. Barkat, Robert Gelinas, Nicole Baker Fulgham, Gideon Strauss, W. David O. Taylor, Crystal Renaud, Eve Nunez, Adam Taylor, Matthew Lee Anderson, Margaret Feinberg, and Jonathan Merritt.