chapter  12
22 Pages

Sea spirituality, surfing and aquatic nature religion

Water is an important physical and conceptual resource in religion, which should be unsurprising, for only air is more critical to life. Water may be perceived as sacred or de led and, whether pristine or polluted, the places where it is accessed are o en considered sacred. Pilgrimages to such places, and practices undertaken there, are o en religiously meaningful and sometimes obligatory. Water is a powerful substance that can and has been used in di erent ways by people trying to make meaning of their experiences (Rudhardt 2005). It can be a source of wisdom or mysterious, cathartic power; or conversely, a force in opposition to divine purposes and in need of subjugation (ibid.; see also Tvedt and Oestigaard 2006). Yet despite the o en central role of water in religious life, there has been little scholarly attention to the sea in religious perception and practice, even though today over half of the world’s population lives within 200 kilometres of the sea and two-thirds within 400 kilometres. is volume represents an e ort to rectify this inattention as it asks: what does the sea, and water more generally, have to do with spirituality? e short answer is that sea-spirituality is an important, global, form of nature religion; speci cally, one that I consider to be a form of ‘aquatic nature religion’.1