Every wave has a life and a death. They are born of winds, gravity, and earthquakes, and live a life of travel until that fateful day when a reef, point, or sandbar is met and their lives expire in one final crashing breath. As in any system, energy is not lost. When caught, their life is transferred to the surfers who ride them. In that moment the surfer becomes one with the wave. This drama of life is played out differently each time. It ends in a previously unforeseen liquid reward or tragedy: a graceful glide, exhilarating tube ride, or horrific wipeout. When all goes well, surfers experience incredible bursts of euphoria, happiness, and excitement called stoke.

The word stoke isn’t limited to the surfing world. A patient could say, “Caitlin, my cancer disappeared miraculously. I’m stoked!” A golfer could say: “Mary, I got a hole in one today. I was so stoked. I still am.”

Etymologically stoke comes from the Dutch word stoken and the Middle Dutch word stuken, meaning to push. In the English language we traditionally use the word stoke when we poke or stir up something, like a fire, or give fuel to something. It also means to feed abundantly.

So storms stoke swells and swells stoke surfers. Once stoked, surfers continually seek to experience the feeling of being propelled by something so powerful. Stoke has many forms. It can also come from remembering and observing perfect waves. They beckon every aspiring surfer and leave people who don’t surf in awe too. As a surfer, I am drawn to the cycle of surfing, one of many life forces that sustain me.

Most of all, God stokes me.

I love and believe in the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

As much as I know and believe waves are lifted up, broken, and poured out for us all over our globe every day because of nature, so too do I believe the Eucharist—the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus—is lifted up, broken, and poured out for us all over the world every day because of the priesthood that Christ founded during the Last Supper.

John O’Brien
Surfer Dreams