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Summer Friendships A Tale of Two Surfers Pro Surfer CJ Hobgood & To Write Love on Her Arms Founder Jamie Tworkowski

Ice cream cone breaks, pool parties, and surf sessions are just some of the ways we can enjoy the summer with our friends. But if we aren’t careful, free time could potentially turn into watching endless hours of television or being lazy. Summer can be a great opportunity to build new friendships or even start up a new project that God is calling us to. Professional surfer CJ Hobgood and Founder of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), Jamie Tworkowski, became friends in high school through mutual friends and a love for surfing. While the two are now in completely different fields, they still continue to support each other and their endeavors.

TWLOHA started when Jamie used his gift of storytelling to share the story of Renee Yohe who was struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and suicidal thoughts. He wrote about her story and sold T-shirts to help cover the cost of her treatment. He posted the story, “To Write Love on Her Arms,” on Myspace. He never intended for it to spark the non-profit TWLOHA would become. But the messages were flooding in of people who wanted to be free from addiction, depression and self-injury.

To date, TWOLHA has answered 180,000 messages to people in 100 countries. It has donated $1.5million to treatment and recovery and granted funding to 73 unique organizations and counseling practices and in 2014, it donated 3,624 National Suicide Prevention Week packets.

CJ Hobgood reflects on his friendship with Jamie and why he thinks having TWLOHA as one of his sponsors is a dream come true.

“What means the most to me is watching TWLOHA grow. I was there when Jamie wrote the story, when he made his first shirt. I was there through all the communication and to see where it is now is fun for me to watch. The sacrifice he puts into TWLOHA, and what he does can be so draining because he gives and gives, and gives. I can help him charge back up. It’s been tough, but I can understand- and a lot of times I can understand without even speaking any words. We find comfort in each other because we both know where each other is at; we are in the same place in our lives. 

We used to talk about if I could pick a sponsor I’d want to rock TWLOHA and that would be great because it would be different. It wouldn’t be a job to promote it; it would be what I would believe in and want to be a part of…it would be a dream. Our friendship is effortless and we are just there for each other when we need to be.”

After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’ Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.” 1 Samuel 20:41-42

The surf community is notorious for constant partying and alcohol and drugs being widely accepted. CJ opens up on how hard it is to find friends with solid characters and how he uses TWLOHA as a platform.

“That lifestyle is a reality and we definitely deal with it in surfing. It’s a very real thing that I do think needs to be addressed. The [partying] behavior is almost encouraged, and there aren’t any ramifications for the behavior. There isn’t drug testing like in other sports. I think the surf community needs a wake-up call. I don’t think we’re there yet as an industry, but if by TWLOHA being part of the tour, f that can bring some truth, then I think that’s a great start.”

Summer can be a great opportunity to invest our free time in projects and ministries God is calling us to. It can also mean a time to invest in our friendships and relationships. And sometimes we can be a catalyst and support the endeavors of our friends. We hope that you use this summer for God’s glory!

Risen Reflection

What message are you representing? You may not be a sponsored professional athlete, but each day we have the opportunity to choose whom and what we will represent. We do this through our words and actions. Christ wants us to be a witness for Him.

Reach out to a friend and ask them how they are doing. Grab coffee, go for a walk, and ask them how you can pray for them. Take time to listen. Often times, people are hurting and struggling and don’t feel like anyone cares or that they have someone who will listen to them. God wants to use you to help others be set free. If you or a friend is struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts or self-injury, do not hesitate, seek professional help, this can be a professional counselor, pastor at church or treatment facility.

Be an encourager! Do your friends have ministries or projects that you can support through your time, talent and treasure? Pray and ask God how you can invest in them. Volunteer and serve alongside them. Ask them for their prayer requests.

Choose wisely! We become what we behold. The friends that we choose have a great affect on us. While it is important for us to reach out to others, God wants us to have a positive influence on them and be an example for Him. Take time and ask God to show you if your friends are having a negative influence on you and your example for Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make changes in your character and integrity.

To read our entire interview with CJ Hobgood click here.

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