I was fighting for identity, admits former agro surfer
Abandoned at birth by his mother, Andrew Carruthers struggled for years to understand where he had come from – and neither his loving adoptive parents nor his surfing prowess could answer his inner need.
"The older couple who adopted me as a baby gave me two things that have defined me," Andrew says.
The first gift was a love of surfing that began at four years of age when his adoptive dad first pushed him onto a wave. The second gift was the knowledge they had chosen him, and thus he says, "I felt special and wanted."
Despite this secure foundation, Andrew began to aggressively seek recognition in surfing.
"I was a motivated and competitive Gold Coast grommet," Andrew confesses, "raising trouble and wreaking havoc wherever I went.
"The desire to be the best surfer was how I set about defining myself."
Up to age 15, Andrew was focused on pushing others aside, before he heard the Bible's message that God was inviting people to be part of His spiritual family.
"During religious education in high school, I heard the message of Ephesians chapter 1, that God was in the business of adopting people into His heavenly family, regardless of their past or what they could do or had done.
"I realised that no matter what my past, even if I was wanted by some and abandoned by others, God wanted and loved me. I could come to Him and, despite my past, my future could be different."
In high school, Andrew chose to surrender his life to the Lord Jesus Christ and soon became involved in a Christian Surfers group on the Gold Coast.
"As the two strongest threads in my life – being a Christian and a surfer – were intertwined I began to see my other friends in the surf through new eyes.
"They were no longer obstacles who took waves I wanted to ride, but people desperately in need of Jesus.
"With my new identity in Jesus and a changed heart, competition seemed less important and in fact the agro and pride that rose up within me in the competitive arena, I now saw as undesirable."
At age 19, Andrew joined the Royal Australian Air Force to learn a trade. However, eight years of working on F111 fuel tanks led to heart operations, headaches and ongoing problems from over exposure to solvents and, eventually, a medical discharge.
Believing this was God's way of directing him back to Christian Surfers, he ended up as Asia Pacific co-ordinator before launching a church for surfers on the Sunshine Coast called SALT.
"Today, I am involved in the role of Chaplain to the ASP World Longboard Tour," Andrew shares. "This is a voluntary position funded by donation and my surf photography work."
It was also these roles that gave Andrew the idea of making a surfing documentary called Flux, designed as a means of unobtrusively sharing the reality of Jesus Christ to a broader surf culture.
Set in Raglan, New Zealand, the movie follows a group of surfers of varied backgrounds, aged 12 to 60, as they share a house, waves, conversation over coffee, and a common desire to live lives of faith and truth. Flux has been shown on Christian television and used to share the gospel with the surf culture around the world.
Andrew adds, "Together we studied the 'I Am' statements of Jesus found in John's Gospel. We were seeking to discover afresh just who Jesus said He was, as well as unity with one another, creation and God, the value of the individual and community, and the beauty of solace and creation."
Looking back on his life, Andrew firmly believes that his life is evidence that God is in the business of restoring broken lives. I have devoted most of my adult life to sharing the message of restoration, hope and belonging that only comes through knowing Jesus with the surfing culture.
"I have come to understand that God has amazing plans even for people who were born as inconvenient, unwanted and discarded; abandoned by the world but adopted by God," he says.
"Through surf chaplaincy I now help surf athletes understand that fulfilment doesn't come through the titles that you do or don't win. It is not what you do that defines you but who you are.
"Ultimately who you are is defined by who gives you worth and God ascribes to each of us the greatest worth; the cost of being brought into His family by the death of His Son Jesus. There is no greater love or worth than that.
"If we surrender ourselves to God," Andrew concludes, "He can use our passions and talents to transport His message to people who otherwise may not hear it." •
Andrew writes weekly messages designed for the surf culture. These messages, his photography and FLUX the movie are available at www.narrowpathmedia.com.au