Papamoa’s Logan Mills will always remember the way his youth pastor phrased a question he once asked the group.
“If you took money out of the equation, how would you describe your ultimate dream when it comes to using your God-given giftings and talents to glorify Him?”
And, that’s because Logan – just 10 at the time – had already settled on his answer.
“I’d love to be able to use my surfing and skating as a means to point people to God.”
Now, more than 20 years later – as he and I sit across the table from each other – Logan has been Christian Surfers New Zealand’s national director for almost seven years.
He has no doubt that, thanks to the Lord leading him “full circle” in His timing – and using each previous season of his life – he’s now living his “God-given dream”.
“I feel so blessed to be sitting here in this role. It is absolutely a door God opened for me.”
World-wide, the Christian Surfers ministry is in more than 30 nations, and here in New Zealand there are now 18 Christian Surfer ‘missions’ – or local community groups – running nationwide.
Collectively, those groups are in contact with thousands of people through weekly, fortnightly or monthly gatherings, the heart being that every surfer – and every surfing community – has the opportunity to know and follow Jesus.
So, I sat down with Logan to hear more about the ministry and how he came to be involved, to chat about his heart for people and to hear where in the world he thinks there just might be the ‘perfect’ wave…
So Logan, how did you first get into surfing?
I grew up in Hamilton, which is obviously pretty landlocked. But every year as a family, we’d go to either Hot Water Beach in Coromandel or Whananaki – north of Whangārei – for two weeks. Whenever we were there, I’d have a go at surfing. Although I mostly grew up skating, whenever I was at the beach, I’d think to myself, “…man I want to be a pro surfer!”
Thinking about it, I probably started getting into surfing a lot more when I turned 16 – mostly because I got my driver’s licence and could road trip it to Raglan!
If we’re talking about here in New Zealand, where’s your favourite spot to hit the waves?
When there’s a good swell on the east coast, I’ll always try to make the most of it. Typically, I’d say I try to get into the water for a surf at least once a week. And, if we’re talking close to where my wife Carmen and I – and our young daughter Selah – live here in Papamoa, I’d say Matakana Island is a highlight. It’s an amazing, barrelling wave. It’s pretty advanced – depending on the conditions – but I’d say that’s my favourite.
Where’s the best place you’ve surfed so far in the world, and what places are still featuring on your bucket list ?
One I’ve surfed so far, which was absolutely amazing, was a place called Jeffreys Bay in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. The International director of Christian Surfers in South Africa – Roy Harley – lives there. Maybe every couple of years, Christian Surfers’ International directors have a chance to get together. One year, we met in South Africa, in Jeffreys Bay. It’s an amazing right hand point break – I loved getting to surf it!
When it comes to a bucket list, I’ve actually got a massive list of places on my ‘want to surf’ list to be honest. One which comes to mind is a place called Teahupoʻo in Tahiti – the site of the annual Billabong Pro Tahiti surf competition and part of the wider World Championship Tour (WCT). I wouldn’t want to surf it too big though, because it can be pretty gnarly, but there’s no doubt it’s an amazing wave.
I’ve always wanted to ask this, maybe because I’ve always liked the idea of finding my own. But, what is it that makes the perfect surfboard? Have you ever shaped – or made – one?
Wow, that’s a big one! I sure have, I’ve shaped a couple and it’s a bit of an art for sure. I’d say I’m a bit of a rookie though, so the process of making a board probably took me about a month. It’s definitely something you can’t rush. Some surfers do talk about owning a board which is their ‘magic’ board, if you will. Of course, heaps of them own more than one board too, depending on what kind of waves, or conditions, they typically surf. There’s definitely so many factors which contribute to having the ‘perfect’ board – it probably just comes down to an individual’s style, and stance, when surfing. It’s absolutely true though, one board doesn’t fit everyone!
How did you come to know Christ?
I’m blessed with an amazing, Godly heritage which goes back three generations. So, I was raised in a Christian family. This is an amazing thought too actually, but in terms of a personal relationship with Him, God has literally brought me full circle. I came to Christ when I was eight through an outreach group I saw at Hot Water Beach. During the day, they would run a range of surfing events and at night they would facilitate ministry. Years later, I remember asking my mum where I was when I gave my heart to the Lord, and she told me it was a Christian Surfers outreach! Isn’t that incredible to consider now!
I’d love to hear more about your family…
Sure! As I mentioned, I’m married to Carmen and our daughter – Selah – turned two last month. We’ve lived here in Papamoa for about seven years and we love it. We like to say we’re a family ‘on mission’. Carmen is a huge blessing and support to me and is heavily involved in Christian Surfers herself.
I love the story of how she and I met. One year, I took 12 months off to go and serve at a particular camp in Canada. It was actually through both of us being individually connected to that camp that we got to know each other. We weren’t actually at the camp in Canada at the same time though – but there was a reunion for people who had been there which was held at Parachute Music Festival one year. We first met there, at that reunion. Long story, short she and a whole bunch of others were planning a surf trip up the coast and invited me along.
When I knew she loved God and she surfed, I knew she was someone I was keen to get to know more!
So, are you teaching Selah to surf yet?
She already loves the ocean! She’s jumped on the front of one of my bigger boards a few times and – in the shallow water – we’ve surfed some smaller waves together.
When did your involvement with Christian Surfers New Zealand begin?
I can see God’s hand every step of the way in bringing me here. I’ve been national director for nearly seven years. Prior to this job, I’d done lots of other things – including being a builder for about eight years. I’d worked at – and helped run – surf, skate and snow camps with Scripture Union. And I know that – in His timing – God has been faithful in using all of that experience to prepare me for what I’m doing now.
I’ll always remember a moment I had as I was prayed into this role at an Easter Camp gathering Christian Surfers runs in Taranaki. I had a speech sorted, but as soon as I got up on stage, God brought to mind an experience I’d had when I was 10. Right there on that stage, I remembered my youth pastor asking our group a question – “…if you took money out of the equation, how would you describe your ultimate dream when it comes to using your God-given giftings and talents to glorify Him?” I’ve always wanted to use my surfing and my skating. It’s as though – as I stood there beginning this role – the Lord said to me, “…here’s the dream you gave to Me when you were 10.”
It’s simply amazing to me that right from giving my life to Jesus two years earlier at the Christian Surfers gathering when I was eight, to that experience on stage and everything He’s subsequently brought me into and through, God’s hand has been at work in bringing me to my current role. At Scripture Union, part of my role was to help oversee all the Christian groups in various high schools. That’s similar to what I’m doing now at a national level. My time as a builder really instilled a strong work ethic in me too. And now, here I am in my early 30s, blessed to do what I love. God knew that in His perfect timing, this is where He’d have me be. He is an amazing provider.
How did Christian Surfers get started and can you describe the heart behind it?
It began in the 1970s in Cronulla, Australia and was founded by Brett Davis. He has such a powerful story of coming to Christ as a teenager. He, of course, has always loved to surf. But, when he first gave his life to God, he initially gave it up. Simply because – more than the love of surfing – his heart was to follow Jesus. As Brett recounts, it was several years later when he began to sense the Lord telling him that surfing was actually a powerful tool God had given him in order to point people to Jesus. And so, he started surfing again. Now, Christian Surfers is in more than 30 nations around the world. Here in Zealand, we’re approaching our 40-year anniversary. Christian Surfers New Zealand was launched in 1984 by Marc Dyer. We currently have 18 local missions, or places where local Christian Surfers groups run – from as far north as Whangarei to as far south as Dunedin. We have roughly 100 local leaders nationally, each facilitating groups in which they’re reaching anywhere from 20 to about 50 people. Collectively, that’s thousands of people of all ages. It’s actually amazing to consider that scale. Of course, not everyone who surfs with us is a Christian, but that’s what we’re here for – to point people to Him.
Each of those groups, while being specific to meeting the needs of the community God has them in, simply has a heart to reach every surfer – and every surfing community – in their area with the opportunity to come to know Jesus. We have surfers of all ages, right from mums and babies, our ‘groms’, or grommets, groups through to what we call our Old Salts. In Gisborne, there’s an Old Salts group in which all of the surfers are in their 70s! As well as surfing, they get together to do things like watching surf movies! So cool. Having meals together often proves to be a really effective way of bringing everyone together, and – as you know – surfers love road trips! So, many of our groups make time for those too.
Really, at its core – the purpose of our gathering is about creating memories and having fun, while at the same time intentionally – and authentically – sharing Jesus. There’s connection, community, discipleship and opportunities to surf.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
It’s honestly the ultimate job – I love it. I have such a heart for surfers and I love the surfing community. How can you go past getting the opportunity to surf and share Jesus? It’s an honour to get to regularly catch up with all our missions leaders around New Zealand too. Here in Papamoa, I help support the local Christian Surfers group. I get such a kick out of seeing guys and girls find – and get connected to – a community they love. And then, ultimately, coming to know Jesus. Around our nation, we hear so many stories of young kids and teenagers – and others of all ages who surf with us – coming to know God. It’s unreal. With that, there’s also the awesome opportunity to journey with them, discipling them for the long run.
Actually, on the note of discipleship, what’s CSALT?
CSALT – Christian Surfers Advanced Leadership Training – is a new discipleship and internship programme for up and coming Christian Surfers leaders. It’s designed so young surfers can develop their leadership skills, grow in their faith and serve practically on the ground in existing surfing communities. Each CSALT module runs twice a year for five months. It’s typically for school leavers between the ages of 17-24 who are perhaps considering university, or a trade. It’s been running for about two years now, so it’s still relatively new. But, it’s something we’re loving seeing grow – and we’re keen that it keeps doing so. In its two years to date, nearly 20 people have gone through the programme, and I love seeing them all now plugged into their local communities and serving God. Simply put, seeing them flourish and coming to know Jesus in a personal way is so rewarding.
I’ve also heard about other gatherings that Christian Surfers runs, like Easter Camp and the Jesus Classic. Can you tell me about them?
Easter Camp is in Taranaki at Ōakura. We encourage all our local missions to try and bring their crews, so we’d typically have between 200 and 300 surfers from all over New Zealand there. Our focus is a family-orientated gathering, with outreach at its heart. There are opportunities to explore the coast, and during the day we run both skate and surf competitions. In the evenings we come together for some corporate worship and guest speakers. It’s neat to think Easter Camp has now been running for about 25 years!
When it comes to the Jesus Classic, we see that as an outreach too – the majority of surfers who come along aren’t Christians. The ultimate goal competitor wise would be to have every top surfer there, and we try to secure some good funding in order to have an awesome prize pool. The prize-giving ceremony is often the context in which we’re able to share Jesus. Looking back over the years, we’ve been so blessed as we’ve prayed that God would provide some amazing waves – because that draws the competitors. Last year’s Classic was in Wellington, and some of the locals told us that, throughout the course of the event, we had some of the best waves they’d seen there in about a decade!
A clear thread coming through our chat is the desire that Christian Surfers’ ministry would, ultimately, point people to Jesus. How would you encourage readers when it comes to the importance of having people in our own lives who do that?
Great question. It’s actually a conversation I regularly have with our Christian Surfers leaders too – because everyone, no matter who they are, needs accountability in their lives. I call as many of our leaders as regularly as possible, and I’m always interested in hearing what mentors they have in place.
In a personal sense too, I have two key influences in my life at the moment – and I’m praying that God would provide a third. One is Brett Davis, who I mentioned earlier. Although he’s based in Australia, we’re intentional about jumping on Skype once a month. I chat with my other mentor once a month on Skype too. I’m also part of a men’s group at my local church. I see that as really important, because we do become like those we hang out with. My encouragement for readers is, just like I’m prayerfully doing at the moment, be intentional about finding people who can journey with you and keep you accountable.
What’s your advice in terms of living a life which displays an authentic example of what it is to be a Christian?
One question I’ve perhaps been wrestling with a little bit recently is that, at times, as Christians we may find that all our friends and connections are Believers. That’s not a bad thing, of course – it’s awesome to have Chrisitans as the majority of our friends. But, I suppose my question is, can you think of people in your life who you’re rubbing shoulders – and doing life – with who don’t yet know Christ? Because, in those interactions we’re called to be a Godly influence.
I’ve heard it said that in our walks with the Lord, He gives us spheres of influence. You’re naturally going to have people in that ‘sphere’ which you can perhaps reach because God has put them there for that purpose. Obviously, one of the things I love and am passionate about is surfing. So, a question that’s always in the back of my mind is, “…who else will reach the surfers?”. I’m fortunate obviously that I’m in a position where my passion is also my job. Regardless though – even if God hadn’t provided my role as national director – surfers are a group of people I can help reach for God, because that’s one of the communities He’s placed me in. Maybe you’re a mountain biker or a skydiver. If you are, then your question is, “…who else will reach the mountain bikers and skydivers?” My encouragement is to ask what’s in your hand, and where’s your God-given sphere of influence? Then, how can you reach those people? I think that’s probably the easy way to be authentic, because it becomes an outflow of operating where God’s already called you to be.
As I prepared for our chat, it was so cool to consider how many surfers have either been, or still are, involved with Christian Surfers who have since gone on to achieve great things in the sport. Bethany Hamilton is one. Can you think of some New Zealand examples?
Yes lots! One example which comes to mind is Larry Fisher in Raglan. Larry came to know Jesus at a Jesus Classic competition. Now, he runs the Raglan Surf Academy, which has a lot to do with Raglan Area School. When I think of awesome, positive influences on the up and comers of the Kiwi surfing scene, he’s undoubtedly one. In fact, I’d say pretty much any good surfer in New Zealand wants to go over to Raglan to go through the academy. It’s therefore amazing to think that so many of our top surfers in New Zealand have all been influenced by that environment, which – at its heart – is to invest in students.
Recently too, the Junior World Surfing Games were held at California’s Huntington Beach. When I looked at the roster of competitor’s names, all but one were surfers who – somewhere around the world – have somehow been connected with Christian Surfers over the years. That’s pretty awesome.
Where are we likely to find you during the ‘perfect’ day off?
Would you be surprised if I said you’d most likely find me in the waves? When we get the chance to go on family holidays, we regularly hit up surf spots. We like to snowboard too. If I was to describe our ideal family holidays, I’d say we’re a family of ‘active relaxers’.
How do new ‘missions’ or Christian Surfers groups typically start and how do people go about getting involved?
Typically, people hear about us through word of mouth, or through a connection with one of our missions or groups. In lots of cases, our Christian Surfers leaders are surfers themselves, with a heart to reaching people for Jesus in the parts of the country they live in.
If people do have that heart, and want to reach out, we are happy to meet with them to chat about what that might look like. More than just starting new groups, our heart is always that God would provide the right people who can lead new missions. A recent example is the relatively new Christian Surfers group which started in Dunedin about four years ago. Yes, Dunedin! It’s cold, but there’s some stunning spots to surf. We were praying for quite a while that God would provide some awesome leaders down there who wanted to serve in that way. We knew of quite a few surfers who were going to Dunedin to – in many cases – study and who were looking for a way to get connected to, firstly, other like-minded Christians they could do life with, and – secondly – who loved to surf. It seemed like we were praying about that area of need for ages. But then, almost all of a sudden it seemed, God provided an answer. On one of my trips down there I went and met some amazing, Godly people who now facilitate the local mission there.
Now, when we hear of any of our surfers heading down to Dunedin to work or study, we’re able to point them in the direction of that group so they can connect with others who love Jesus, surf and, ultimately, journey together encouraging each other in Christ.
What’s on your heart as you consider the future of Christian Surfers?
Of the 18 areas we currently operate in, 15 of those are in the North Island, three in the South Island. As I said, the southernmost point is currently Dunedin. So, there’s lots of scope down south. Also, north of Whangarei is an area in which – at the moment – we don’t have any local missions or groups. Although, we have facilitated CSALT programmes up there before. All of those things are prayers we’re committing to the Lord regarding how, where and when we grow. Our prayer is that – in His timing – if that’s what He’d have us do, He’d provide the right people as leaders in those regions.
Any final thoughts?
As we wrap up, I honestly feel blessed to be in the position I’m in – serving God with my passion for – and love of – board sports and, particularly, surfing. I guess my final encouragement, as I mentioned earlier, is to prayerfully consider what it is that God’s placed in your hands, which you can use to glorify Him. Take some time to consider what He’s equipped you with in order to be that authentic representation of God to those around you in your community. Use what you love – the passions God has given you – for Him. They’re a great starting point for building bridges with others. There’s a sphere of influence God has given each of us, and He’s placed people in your life for a reason. In your life, pray that He would show you who those people are, and then, how He’d have you reach them.
– To get in touch with Christian Surfers New Zealand, visit www.christiansurfers.org.nz
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By Jeremy Smith
About the author
Jeremy Smith is editor of, and one of the writers for, Authentic Magazine.
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