In praise of our surf

This Sunday, members of the faith community will gather in Huntington Beach for their annual tribute to God and the ocean.

And although it may not figure prominently in the day's program, a birthday celebration will be on hand as well.

In July 1963, Jan and Dean topped the Billboard singles chart with "Surf City," a song Jan Berry co-wrote with the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Nearly three decades later, at Dean Torrence's urging, Huntington Beach adopted "Surf City" as its official nickname — even if, demographically, the city may fall short of the song's promise of "two girls for every boy."

This year's Blessing of the Waves, which will take place Sunday morning at Pier Plaza, comes as the surf-rock classic hits the half-century mark. So it's fitting that Torrence will be among the event's featured speakers, giving a presentation officially titled "The Ocean as a Source of Music, Style & Mood."

"It's 50 years almost to the month that this culture of 'Surf City USA' was really born, and it's kind of nice to have him featured in the program," said Dave Garofalo, a former mayor of Huntington Beach and one of the organizers of this year's event.

Torrence, who could not be reached for comment, will be among three speakers who address different aspects of the ocean. Surfer Rick "Rockin' Fig" Fignetti will discuss the ocean's recreational benefits, while Father Christian Mondor of Sts. Simon & Jude Catholic Church in Huntington Beach will provide a spiritual and environmental angle.

The blessing, of course, is diverse in other ways. Since its founding five years ago, it has brought together representatives from different faith groups in the community. Sunday's schedule includes remarks from Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Zoroastrian — an ancient Iranian religion — speakers, among others. And members of all political persuasions are welcome too: Garofalo has invited more than a dozen former mayors to join the festivities.

"If you look at the people at the beach, there are people from all walks of life," he said.

For the past five years, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has organized the event, but this year, the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council took the reins. (The diocese remains a participant.) Maneck Bhujwala, the council's president and a member of the Zoroastrian community, noted that protecting the environment is a common theme among religions.

"We hope that events like this will kind of create more appreciation and less fear of the unknown among the people when they find more common things between different faith groups," he said. "We hope to bring all the faith communities closer together."

The Surf City Strummers, led by Shirley Orlando, are slated to provide music at the blessing. After the speeches, participants will gather for a photo before a concluding paddle-out in the ocean.

If You Go

What: Blessing of the Waves

Where: Pier Plaza, Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach

When: 9 a.m. Sunday

Cost: Free


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