Conference Through the Eyes of Brett Davis

Written by Brett Davis on Delta Flight 1386, August 6, 2014

Sitting here at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica about to begin the 30-hour trip home. We have just completed our 11th International Conference as well as the successful announcement of the new International Director. How was it? How do I feel? Read on.

Tuesday, July 22

The leadership arrived early and had a day or two recovering from jet-lag and had some down time surfing in 29º Celsius bath water!

Wednesday & Thursday, July 23-24

We held two days of International Leadership Team meetings, getting alignment on strategy and heart. We had training on cross-cultural sensitivity and leadership by CS Costa Rica veterans Dennis Leon and Craig Rice, which was insightful and humorous. There was much discussion about the future of CSI, the new International Director and international office. What a godly team we have. 

Friday, July 25

Our Board joined us on day three and we processed more on succession and our need for better governance globally. That same day our 'Expanded ILT', made up of key national directors and global strategy champions, joined in to discuss how we share in vision, staff and fundraising.

Saturday, July 26

With these layers of leadership aligned we held the biennial representative Council meeting and our conference room was full with 50 leaders representing 26 nations. What a joy to see complete consensus for the appointment of Roy Harley as incoming director! Our beloved chairman Marcus Judge did a great job, as he has done steering us so well through this vital appointment. I was initially feeling a bit numb, it has felt like a slow-moving train heading to this destination. I choked and a few tears shed as I talked of my love for this great CS family and also acknowledging wonder wife Gill and kids. It was so good to have my family standing by me.

There was also unanimous approval of some changes to our constitution, election of board members and approval of our strategic plan and budget. Two new fundraising initiatives were approved; a crowdfunding project for succession, particularly to send the Harley family around the world for a global visitation in 2015, and "Surf House", a unique way for homeowners in key surf destinations to donate accommodation that CSI will promote and manage bookings amongst friends of CS. So if you or your friends have holiday accommodation, or you are to take an overseas holiday, check our website first!

Sunday, July 27

With these 4 days of meetings behind us and unity secured it was time to party on for the official conference! Opening day just so happened to be the peak of a swell and overhead waves thumped out front of the palm-lined conference centre. Some helped add to the crowd on 200m lefthand rivermouth rides at Boca Barranca. What a thrill to see people from all over the world converge on the sleepy town of Esterillos Este. There was the heroic efforts of a busload of Mexicans who drove for 4 days and negotiated with suspicious border officials through 4 countries! There were 3 Norwegians glad to shed wetsuits. There was the South Africans, some of whom endured 60 hours of travel round the world in the longer direction!  There were the lone delegates from Mauritius, Fiji and Thailand. So they came on planes, buses and cars - the gathering of the CSI family.

Sunday night we were welcomed with traditional dance and a moving mixing of the sands ceremony. We then celebrated 10 year service awards for those who had exercised national or international leadership. Jon Mak, Brad Whittaker and Marcus Judge were honoured for ten years on the CSI Board. Kock and Rianne De Vries for pioneering CS Holland. Geoff Hutchison was at his first international conference after 12 years on the CSNZ Board. It is good to honour faithful service. We wrapped up the night with the public announcement of the new director and Roy and myself were interviewed. I was very moved with the standing ovation and a few more tears shed. God miraculously gave us 1 Samuel 12 and I shared four things that I had clearly sensed.

  1. Finish clean to start clean - anyone who feels they have been mistreated by me to come share this so I can make it right.
  2. Look back - consider all that God has done. The Groundswell book is testimony of this.
  3. Look forward - live dedicated holy lives as the key to future success.
  4. I'm not leaving you - just the role. My calling is not determined by my position. We all went to bed assured that God was clearly in this succession and there was great confidence in the process and the person.

Monday, July 28

The opening session by our guest Britt Merrick, joined by his son Isaiah, was a feast on 2 Timothy encouraging us all to finish well.

Some classic cultural presentations were performed by our Europe and Africa regions, including a return of Johnny Von Lycra and newcomer Mini Von Lycra that had us in tears of laughter. The MC banter of Salvador and Johnny kept us moving and laughing. Local CS mentor and Pura Vida pastor Dennis Leon shared a timeless word on disciple-making and has obviously modelled it in his open home with many adopted 'sons'.

There was inspirational worship and reports that night from the irrepressible Phil Williams and a media-rich presentation from Africa.

Tuesday, July 29

More early surfs with the nations, prayer on the beach and rice and beans combo for most meals - the true Pura Vida experience. Britt Merrick's challenge continues from God's Word, and how good is it when one can debrief with the speaking over a surf afterwards! 

The Pacific region intimidated all with a traditional haka and Australasia had the whole conference participate in an Aussie bush dance. Jodene Watling did all the women proud with a rousing call. Another late night to rolling thunderstorms, steamy rain squalls and jet-lagged bodies squashed under our meeting tent.

Wednesday, July 30

Each morning starts the same with sunny offshore winds and soon has all sweating under the meeting tent. A live iguana is released into the worship session - the culprit is nameless!? Meal times are wonderful opportunities to share stories, meet new friends and there is much laughter. Following on from another amazing session from Britt was our new director Roy Harley encouraging us before we absolutely baked on the hot black sand getting our conference photo done by the ever serving Aaron Hughes.

The afternoon was a community service opportunity with life-sized crosses, with garbage bins attached, set up at all the key local beaches. The CS logo was spray painted on all bins and for the first time local council will be able to remove beach trash.

There was great cultural expression and reports by North America with a moving testimony by Israel from mexico, saved from drugs, drinking and a broken marriage. In typical form the South Americans could barely contain themselves and many testimonies were shared over their rather extended 20 minutes!

Thursday, July 31

We break into strategy groups following Britt's session so people can dive into more discussion and training. From chaplaincy to short-term missions to disciple-making communities we had engaging conversations.

So stoked to release the Spanish version of the Groundswell book available online, English online now as well.

We saw the CSI world map repopulated with coloured dots, reflecting our global reach. I shared my last director's report and that felt strange. We announced the location of 2016 conference to be Australia, a lot of stoked cheering followed!

We honoured another amazing succession from Cal Fisher to Dustin Miller for North America and we had never seen a 65-year-old grom so stoked to receive a gift of a new SUP. Go Cal, we love you!

Then it was given over to worship, communion and prayer for one other. With lightning and thunder as our backdrop it was a very precious time seeing spontaneous prayer for one another covering an hour. Truly sacred ground.

Friday, August 1

With people leaving all over the place it was a chaotic time. We had a short final session with Britt then we honoured our amazing Costa Rica team led by Damien and Ernesto. Cheers for the Monterey Del Mar hotel staff who were so stretched by us without breaking. A final wrap up by Roy Harley encouraged us to 'give up' (our lives and monitored to Jesus) 'change direction' (and be doers of the words we received) and 'go surfing' (we need to be constantly going to our lost surf communities).

So ended another conference. 220 stoked family returned to 26 nations committed to surfing for Jesus - that is Pura Vida. Our theme verse John 10:10 'The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life in all it's fullness." 

See you in Australia in 2016!

Spanish Translation

Though most of the conference was filled with English speakers on stage, the majority of delegates at the conference were actually Spanish speakers. To save from all kinds of people having to whisper translations throughout the tent the Costa Rica utilised a great system of live broadcasting translation through radio transmitters (which is why you see an inordinate amount of people in the crowd wearing headphones in photos from the sessions!)

By all accounts the system worked well and there was an awesome team working hard to make sure each session was translated well. There should be many more photos including everyone involved, but we do want to say a massive thanks to each of the translators!


As a closer to the final evening Cal Fisher led us in a time of communion. Again with succession as a theme it was encouraged that elder leaders, especially those coming up to a time of succession, serve the younger leaders communion. Cal and Coral Fisher shared with Dustin and Emily Miller, Brett and Gill Davis shared with Roy and Sharon Harley, etc.

It was a very special time with many intimate prayer sessions occurring all throughout the grounds of the hotel. Worship was extended long into the night as people continued to pray, worship and fellowship together. It was a beautiful thing.

Cal Fisher

As a bonus for the evening, the national leaders of CS North America had prepared and brought along an amazing surprise thank you to Cal Fisher, who had been their Regional Coordinator for many years and played a huge part in making this conference happen.

The custom stand-up paddle board with inscription was almost too much for Cal to handle! The photos show a little of the excitement, but it was something real special to witness Cal's surprise and the gratefulness of each of the leaders alongside him.

Succession has clearly been a large theme over all of conference, with the international director role taking centre stage, but it's been awesome to see a very successful transition from Cal to Dustin Miller and the great care with which both handled the process.

We are so stoked to have had Cal and his wife Coral so involved in Christian Surfers for so long and we look forward to seeing them continue to serve in their local chapter in Florida.

International Director's Report

The final evening of conference was reserved for the final International Director's Report from Brett Davis. You can listen to or download this above.

Along with his report, Brett and incoming International Director Roy Harley announced the location of the 2016 International Conference, which will be in...


CS Australia National Director Steve Bailey and Australasia Regional Coordinator Ric Ho and his wife welcomed us to attend for adventure and excitement in the land down under!

The final section of the report involved the tradition of placing dots on the map. Brett has been carrying around a gigantic world map for the last 10 years, as a visual representation of where Christian Surfers exists and seeks to exist around the world.

There has been three colours of dots in the past to represent this - red dots for areas we know have surf but no Christian Surfers presence, orange dots to represent areas where there is a Christian Surfers representative but no official group and green dots to represent where there is an active Christian Surfers mission.

This year a fourth colour, blue, was added to represent where Christian Surfers exists as a national movement - an organisation with multiple local missions and leadership dedicated to seeing their country's surfing communities reached with the love of Jesus.

Each of the National Directors and Regional Coordinators place the dots on the map representing their areas.

Day Five: Strategy Day

We tried something a little different for the fifth day of conference. Rather than have a second main session and elective in the afternoon we planned the whole day based on our key strategies and split into groups based on these strategies for two sessions of training and dialogue around these defining elements of our ministry.

Cal Fisher and Dennis Leon led discussion on how to grow a ministry into a movement, Ric Ho on Short-Term Missions, Johnny Hillman on Leadership Training, Steve Bligh on Chaplaincy, Phil Williams on Service, Roy Harley on Disciple-Making Communities and Dustin Miller on National Movements, while Brett Davis held an introduction to the international movement.