The First ASP Chaplain: An Interview With Abe Andrews
Between the photographers, judges, writers, and surfers, the World Tour (WT) feels something like a traveling circus when it sets up shop across the world 10 times a year. And although we’re familiar with the rank and file that make the World Tour spin, we have to admit we did a double take when we met Australia’s Abe Andrews, the World Tour’s chaplain. At 25 years old, without question, Abe has one of the most unique jobs in surfing. Needless to say, we had a few questions for him.
Does the ASP fund your position, or do you follow the Tour on a separate budget?
The position is an initiative of the ASP International Board, but is importantly delivered as a gift to the ASP. Other elite sports have a similar structure. I’m there for the surfers and the wider ASP family out of service to them—not for personal gain or employment. It’s a hard way to live, as I cover my own costs, but this also helps me better relate to the surfers. By traveling with them, I get first-hand knowledge of how hard it can be on the road.
How many events do you go to a year?
Last year I went to all of them, but this year I’m skipping France and Brazil to spend time with my wife.
The WT isn’t necessarily regarded as the tamest of organizations. Do you ever find yourself at odds with some of the surfers?
Being a chaplain is about being present and listening. I don’t give my opinion unless asked—I’m not the moral police, rather my approach is to get to know people and let them know that I care about them. Win or lose, I treat everyone the same.
On the flipside, how often do you find yourself connecting with the athletes on Tour?
I have a constant relationship with most of the surfers. I only become utilized if there is an immediate need. Sometimes it’s an injury or a relationship problem. But most of the time I’m helping surfers by caddying for them or supporting their family.
Has there been a moment in your career with the WT that you felt was impactful?
I don’t see it as a career—I see it as a calling. But I guess the biggest thing for my wife and I was when we were at last year’s Mundaka event. Our hired campervan was parked on the main road in Mundaka while we were at the contest, and the van was broken into and all our luggage was stolen. My wife was rattled and we were left with nothing but the clothes we were wearing. I was trying to stay positive, but then the exhaust fell off the van and the gas cooker stopped working. It started doing my head in. We were two days in to the contest, which had been moved to Sopelana, and the surf was rubbish. It was raining, my only clothes were soaked and I was thinking, “What am I doing here?”
The ASP heard about our misfortune and gave us one of their rooms in town. Then the surfers caught wind of everything and a bunch of them invited us over for dinner at their hotels. We went over and they gave me a bunch of clothes and their partners gave my wife some clothes as well. It was the biggest blessing.
Has anyone on Tour had any issues with there being a chaplain? And along that line, are there other denominations represented on Tour?
In the early days there were a few concerns raised, which is very natural. We spent time with key surfers reps, like Phil MacDonald and Mick Fanning, to ensure the service was designed in a way that would not be seen as aggressive or negative. In addition, a clear role description and code of ethics for the chaplain were established.
Denominational and other faith issues were considered, but essentially we agreed that the World Tour chaplain’s role was to be a support for all of the surfers. My role is not to be the expert on all matters, but rather be a good reference point and assist in directing people with key issues to other suitably trained professionals, if that’s what’s required.
Part of your job probably includes providing guidance for those just entering the ranks. I’m curious to hear what you would say to a young rookie.
To remember surfing is a small part of the big picture. And if they want to make a career out of surfing, then they need to take their wins like they take their losses, which should help them keep an even keel. And lastly, never take anything for granted and always count your blessings.