Father Donald Calloway has seen the world both as a surfer and as a Catholic priest. Before converting, Calloway, who has a Grateful Dead tattoo on his back, lived a different life as a teenager—fooling around, partying, doing jail time, and getting deported from Japan after a stint running drugs for the Japanese mafia.
GT: How often do you surf?
DONALD CALLOWAY: Seven to 10 days a month. I travel constantly, and the cool thing is that I get to surf all over the world now. I’ll be in Florida tomorrow, and just this morning I was surfing in Blacks down in San Diego. I always try to get speaking gigs where I can also go surfing. So, I get to go to islands all over.
What kind of boards do you use?
I’m a shortboarder. I’m not into longboarding yet. I’ll wait till I get old. I usually don’t travel with my boards unless I need to, because the baggage fees are crazy. I have friends everywhere, and people know that I surf. So, somebody in the parish will have a board with my dimensions.
What will you be talking about in Santa Cruz?
I’ll be telling my conversion story. So, it’s called ‘No Turning Back.’ It’s basically from the days I was into drugs and chasing girls all around. And I went into rehabs and got kicked out of a foreign country—that kind of stuff—and how it came about that everything in my life changed.
Do you think about spiritual things while you surf?
Yes and no. To me, surfing is mystical in and of itself. And there’s something about it. I don’t even like to call it a sport, but it is a sport. It’s a living experience because you’re on something that’s alive. And it’s never repeated the same … You’re coming as close to a miraculous thing as you can by walking on water. You’re doing something we normally can’t do. You’re standing above water, and you’re playing with it. The ultimate goal is to get barreled. When there’s a huge barrel, you’re totally encompassed by water, and you’re not wet.
Calloway will speak at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at the Shrine of St. Joseph, 544 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. For more information, visit fathercalloway.com.