Who is CS? Pt. 2: Hannah van Veen
For the next part in our “Who is Christian Surfers?” series we thought we’d move from the international perspective right down to the local level, where we find hundreds of amazing volunteers leaders involved in local chapters across 38 nations.
One of those phenomenal human beings is a well-travelled 24-year-old who maintains multiple jobs, including as a painter, barista and juice-maker, all whilst leading an epic crew of teenage girls who adventure around Southern California, hitting the waves, snow and asphalt, sharing the love of Jesus with them along the way.
Hannah van Veen is one of those rare people whose mere presence brings a smile to your face. An endlessly optimistic soul, her faith shines strong no matter her surroundings, and to top it off she charges hard in the ocean and on land across multiple extreme sport disciplines.
Christian Surfers: We're pretty confident that anyone who’s ever met you would agree that you’re one of the frothiest surfers they’ve ever met. When did you first learn to surf and has that stoke level always been as high as it is now?
Hannah van Veen: I first learned to surf by standing up on a boogie board. I'm not sure how old I was, but I was little enough to froth out on riding knee-high waves till my lips turned purple. Stoke level has yet to decrease and I hope it never will.
You’ve managed to surf in many desirable destinations all over the world, what have been some of your best surfing highlights along the way?
There are too many! I have been so blessed to have been able to surf with so many amazing people all over the world.
What originally sparked your desire to travel?
What originally sparked my desire to travel was traveling as a kid. My parents took us everywhere, driving from Canada through the States all the way to Costa Rica, all while constantly feeding my brother and I stories of their adventures all over the world.
Growing up in Southern California, especially in North San Diego County where you’re based, beach life seems intertwined into everyday life. In the same way church culture seems to be almost as heavily intertwined with surfing as do the less desirable traits that many people often associate with surfers. How did you first come to know Jesus and has it been hard to maintain your faith in a culture so split between the world and the church?
I grew up always knowing there was a God! My faith grew from seeing Him move in the people around me. I remember wanting that fire for life that I saw in people I looked up to who were following God wholeheartedly. I can't pinpoint one moment that I gave my life to the Lord because I feel like it’s a never-ending relationship where I have to constantly lay down my desires for God’s plan in my life.
Southern California is great, but also can be the land of lukewarm faith and I see myself fall into it! When I travel there is a constant reliance on God for His provision and safety. This relationship of always relying on God keeps my faith strong.
How did you first connect with Christian Surfers?
I first connected with Christian Surfers on a solo trip I took to Australia when i was 19. I was working for people for places to stay and food, hopping from surf spot to surf spot when I heard about CS at Goodlife Church on the Sunshine Coast. I sent out a message to the head of Christian Surfers Girls and Jessi Muir was gracious enough to let a dirty random California girl stay at her house! I loved the sense of family in the CS community and had a huge desire to see it grow in the US.
You've managed to attend National Gatherings in the US and Australia and the International Gathering in France. What has your experience of the international CS community been like and how has it shaped your life?
At every gathering I feel so honored to meet all the people who come! Everyone has their own story and it is so encouraging to hear how God is working all over the world.
You’re currently leading a group of grommet girls locally, what are some of the challenges you deal with in that role and what are some of the highlights?
The biggest challenge in pouring into the groms is time. It’s too easy to overwork and spread myself too thin, where I don't make room to just be there.
Some of the highlights are seeing these girls pouring into their own communities. It’s crazy the ripple effect these girls have to the people around them. It’s such a privilege to see God moving in their lives!
How does sharing your life with the grommets impact your own faith?
Sharing my faith with the groms keeps me accountable. I know that if im not seeking after God that I will have nothing to pour into them.
What does Christian Surfers mean to you?
Christian Surfers to me is a crazy family that loves the Lord and surfing!
We know there’s no typical week in the life of Hannah Van Veen, so describe for us what this current week involves?
Just finished painting a house, surfing at sunset, going to karoke tonight with the people I work with at a Japanese restaurant. I Also have to finish painting a surfboard while planning a fundraising concert/art night with the groms and I also happen to be heading to Mexico with the CS Carlsbad crew!
And because we know the multiple jobs help feed into the next trip, what’s next on the horizon for you?
As of now the big trip is taking the groms to Thailand. I was there last year and was so stoked seeing how much God’s blessing was upon Christian Happy Home Chiang Rai! Coming back my friend and I had a huge desire to take the groms on a journey where they would be able to use surfing as a tool and not just a hobby. The plan so far is to take nine of the groms to the Happy Home, then take some of the older kids from the orphanage there to the beach at Khao Lak, where Matt Blauer and his family are located with CS Thailand, and put on a surf camp for the kids there.