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'I had to serve my Father in Heaven first'

NAMBOUR, Australia — Bob Cooper of the Nambour Ward, Nambour Australia Stake, recently was presented with an unusual missionary opportunity when The American Surfer's Journal magazine chose to recognize his legendary surfing career in a 37-page feature article.

Bob Cooper was surfing Noosa Heads, Australia, area in 1965. Brother Cooper is a pioneer member in Australia.
Bob Cooper was surfing Noosa Heads, Australia, area in 1965. Brother Cooper is a pioneer member in Australia.

"They wanted the surfing story; I wanted to tell a much more important story. In the end they compromised," said Brother Cooper. His religion and values are a prominent feature in the article and there are numerous mentions of the Church, his beliefs and practices, as well as a quote from Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy.

Brother Cooper was raised on the beaches of California and was one of the first to adopt the new sport of surfing in the late 1940s. By the late 1950s, he was one of the world's more famous surfers and was traveling the globe as a star in a series of surfing adventure films.

It was on his second filming tour of Australia that Brother Cooper met his future wife, Wils, on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. After a few more years living in various countries, the couple finally settled back on the east coast of Australia and helped establish the Coffs Harbour Branch in 1969.

"I realized if wanted this person for eternity," Brother Cooper said, "I would have to live the things I believed."

Bob Cooper
Bob Cooper Photo: Photo by Christopher Cooper

So he stopped competing in surfing competitions on a professional level, as the finals were held on Sundays. "I thought there were be a compromise between my sport, business and the Church because of my commitment to the Sabbath," he said. "This was not the case. By doing my best to live the commandments, I found I had all the blessings I ever wanted. . . . I could have become a professional surfer. But I wanted the blessings that were there."

Brother Cooper began making surf boards, eventually owning the biggest surf shop in Australia. He has had countless surfing articles written about him and his religion. "The Lord will give you what you want if you serve Him first, and if you are worthy of it. There is nothing plainer and simpler in the example of my life. What I wanted for myself was not important. I had to realize that I had to serve my Father in Heaven first."

The Coopers were early-day pioneers of the Church in this area and Brother Cooper served as a leader here for almost 30 years before retirement. He currently serves as a high councilor.

"I can go back to surfing and it's great, but it doesn't give me the satisfaction that I get out of doing what I'm doing now. You know, wife, family and kids — eternal concepts. Knowing where I came from, what I'm doing here, where I'm going, what the purpose of this existence is and dedicating my life to it. And the more effort I put into it, the more rewards come back."

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