(FloridaToday.com) - Come Monday, hundreds of teens from across the Space Coast and the nation will converge on the Cocoa Beach surf as part of a ministry that teaches principles from the Bible alongside a long board.
"It's the largest surf camp of its kind in the world," said the Rev. Keith Capizzi of Club Zion Community Church of Cocoa Beach, whose congregation is known for presenting the gospel against a backdrop of the city's beach and surfing culture.
"In the past we've had people from as far away as Alaska, Russia, Puerto Rico … the inspiration for all of this is to give kids a positive start for their summer and to put a different perspective on things, all with fun, fellowship where they can just enjoy each other's company."
The free, four-day Surf Camp begins Monday with the gathering of youth for prayers and devotions at Club Zion. The iconic, steepled church sits just a few yards from a sandy beach known for its modest waves.
Cocoa Beach firefighters will also be on site to provide mandatory training on water safety for those participating. Cocoa Beach police officers will monitor traffic in and around the busy residential streets that lead to the beach-based camp. The Christ-themed camp began 16 years ago with a few teens and teachers who gathered for surfing lessons and prayer.
Capizzi said that the camp has already filled its 300 slots this year. The chaperoned youth will train on either their own boards, boards loaned specifically for the camp or outright donations, organizers said.
There will food, Bible studies and Christian bands each night before the youth are sent home.
"There will just be globs of kids with 150 volunteers watching them," said Belinda Burton, one of the coordinators of the event. "It's really good fellowship, because there is not much to do for Christians in the area."
The youth will also have a chance to get surfing lessons from professionals, but most importantly, says Capizzi, camp organizers hope to touch hundreds of youth with a new way of seeing their young lives.
A professional surf competition and awards ceremony will close out the event on Thursday.
Several area businesses, from Ron Jon's to McDonald's, are sponsoring the camp also, Capizzi said.
"It's just amazing how it all comes together. I've had tons of testimonies from parents that say their kids have changed after attending our camp. So God is working through the surf camp," Capizzi said.
"This gives them a godly perspective on life, showing them how to be grateful, thankful, considerate, obedient to their parents. It is all about God, all about Jesus."
Contact Gallop at 321-242-3642, Twitter.com/jdgallop or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Club Zion Surf Camp begins June 9. There are 300 youth participating and 150 church volunteers assisting. 321-799-4340.