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From Ave Maria to Hang Ten: Bondi Catholics drop in for dawn surf school

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Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

It’s a rare parish that has surfboards in the cupboard, alongside the vestments, thurible and hymn books. But Bondi’s a special place.

Over 25 Sydneysiders passed on the opportunity to sleep in last weekend and instead enjoyed the inaugural sunrise surf session on Saturday 9 March hosted by St Patrick and St Anne’s Bondi Catholic parishes.

With six surfboards between them—including two owned by the parish, sporting its Virgin Mary and Christ Child logo—parishioners hit the beach to watch the sun come up before enjoying breakfast and guided group surf lessons.

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Events coordinator for Bondi’s Catholic parishes and surf teacher Monica Bautista said it was the perfect opportunity to inject faith into the local beach culture.

She says the parish is full of passionate young people looking for community and relationship with God and others.

“We have an iconic beach here in Bondi, so it’s a great chance to use our local resources to evangelise,” Monica said.

“Catholics really want to meet other likeminded people through something fun and interactive.”

The idea was born with the motto Duc in Altum, Latin for “put out into the deep” from Peter’s first meeting with Jesus on the water.

“Saturday surf sessions takes two elements of this story— it’s in the water and also the idea of meeting people where they’re at,” Monica said.

“Though we can definitely evangelise in the church, it’s often hard to meet people where they’re at when they’re not at church.

“In Bondi, everyone’s out and about and wanting to do different things.

“The water is an iconic part of the community, so what better way to get together in Christ’s name than in the sun with a surf.”

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

Monica grew up surfing at Maroubra beach and from a young age loved to teach others.

When she isn’t showing people in Bondi how to catch waves, she is instead teaching kids with autism through the charity Ocean Heroes.

“It gives them an opportunity to build their confidence and grow their social skills to meet new people,” Monica said.

“It puts them out into the deep to take a risk, but also trust that they are surrounded by people who will take care of them and love them.

“It’s essentially the same with Bondi parish, which through faith helps the community recognise that Christ will take care of them and love them.”

Monica believes above all in the ministry of presence.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

“John Paul always talks about this, and I think it’s something we struggle with in this society because we are so distracted.”

“These events are an opportunity to witness the call of God through community.”

“As Catholics we are called to be out there meeting people, taking a leap of faith and trying new things.”

“The vocation of all Catholics is to live life and to do it well, making sure that everyone you come across along the way knows that they’re loved.”

Saturday surf sessions will be held every second Saturday each month at sunrise at Bondi beach.

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