"Surfers and Cowboys"

Record-setting big wave surfer Aaron Gold, featured in the film “Surfers and Cowboys,” which screens Sunday at the Waco Hippodrome, finds faith is a way to face fear.

Surfers and rodeo cowboys seem like an odd combination until you get to the fear of it.

For a surfer, it’s trying to focus while skimming down a towering wave that can bruise or break limbs with a chance of drowning always at hand. For a rodeo cowboy, it’s trying to focus while atop a half-ton of angry, bolting animal energy that can snap bones, crush bodies or kill.

As the film “Surfers and Cowboys” shows, lessons from one sport can inform the other and champion big wave surfer Aaron Gold, 36, will visit Waco Sunday night to talk about that.

Joining him are Oklahoma bull rider Zane Cook and filmmaker/surfer Bryan Jennings, director of “Surfers and Cowboys,” at a 7 p.m. Sunday screening at the Waco Hippodrome, 724 Austin Ave.

The three form the movie’s real-life core. Cook found himself mentally and emotionally stalled in his Professional Bull Riders career and, in search of a change of pace to clear his mind, traveled to Hawaii searching for surf with other cowboys. There he met Gold, who holds the Guinness Book of World Records record for tallest wave surfed (63 feet, at Maui, Hawaii, in 2016) and Jennings, who introduced the novice surfers to the challenge of riding waves on boards.

That opened the door for an opportunity for Gold to do some rodeo riding, an interest he had dating from his California boyhood. The experience introduced him to reality. “I don’t want to be a bull rider. They’re crazy,” the surfer said from his Hawaii home, which he shares with his wife Corinne and their two, soon to be three, daughters. “You get really beat up.”

Cook’s and Gold’s shared experience about facing life-threatening challenges in the sports they love, coupled with Gold’s and Jennings’ Christian faith, proved the common ground on which “Surfers and Cowboys” was built.

“Missing the blessings God has for you because you’re too scared to step out — that’s the whole message of the film,” Gold said.

“Surfers and Cowboys” is the latest movie from Jennings’ Walking on Water production company, behind such films as “Soul Surfer” and “Beyond Sight” as well as operating surf camps.

Gold occasionally travels with the film, which he says he’s seen some 40 times, but travel is a natural part of being a big wave surfer.

Where rodeo riders work off a calendar with fixed dates and locations, big wave surfers often find themselves jetting around the world with as little as 48 hours’ notice to where weather conditions are most likely to spawn the tallest waves.

That means watching satellite images and monitoring weather forecasts for oceanic storms forming offshore, the best generators of oversized waves, Gold said. Peak surfing season for Gold generally runs from November to March, when ocean swells are highest in the Northern Hemisphere.

With the proximity of BSR Cable Park, which offers mechanically produced waves suitable for surfing, Gold pointed out Waco was an appropriate place to screen the movie.

“You guys basically have both surfers and cowboys in one small zone,” he said. “Good barbecue, shooting some guns — I’m looking forward to it.”

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor