KEY WEST |
Muscles and tattoos; men on motorcycles roaring through winding roads: Can a world champion surfer and ninja black belt named Bear lead them to Jesus?
That’s the premise of “Long Ride Home,” an unusual reality TV series in that it airs not on Spike TV but on EWTN — yes, Mother Angelica’s network. Tattooed bikers are not exactly most people’s image of Catholicism.
And that’s just what Bear Woznick is banking on.
“We wanted to show
men that you could be a real man and still love Jesus,” he said. “The walls between men and each other and men and the Lord need to come down.”
Woznick spoke to the Florida Catholic while filming a ride from Miami to Key West that will provide the backbone for the series’ second season. His guest star, so to speak: Miami’s Cuban cigar-smoking, Harley-riding Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
“For a period of eight days, once a day, somebody was telling me, you need to ride with the
archbishop. I’m no fool,” recalled Woznick. “I know the Holy Spirit when he’s trying to hit me with a two-by-four.”
The two finally connected at the July 1-4 Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, and the ride took place a month later, Aug. 5-6. The night before their departure for Key West, Woznick taped interviews with the archbishop at one of his favorite haunts, Cuban Crafters Cigars in Little Havana.
“He’s given us a great gift by riding with us,” Woznick said, adding, “He’s tough. He’s a real biker.”
Archbishop Thomas Wenski and fellow bikers sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic along U.S. 1 on their way to the Florida Keys. Their ride will be featured in the second season of Bear Woznick's "Long Ride Home" reality series on EWTN.
Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC
Bear Woznick shows off the souvenir he received during his stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea. Archbishop Thomas Wenski's motorcycle ride to Key West will be featured in the second season of Woznick's "Long Ride Home" reality series on EWTN.
Florida’s August sun and humidity were at their peak, with temperatures in the 90s that felt like the 100s. It’s manageable if you’re moving, the riders agreed. But traffic was stop-and-go pretty much from Florida City to Marathon, and the heat from the pavement and the Harleys’ idling engines had only one way to go: up onto the riders, most of whom were wearing jeans, long
sleeves and leather jackets. To put it mildly, it felt like purgatory for about 100 miles.
Archbishop Wenski brought along two riding buddies, attorney Tom Equels and Camillus House nurse practitioner Rose Anderson. Woznick’s “motley group” consisted of his fiancée, Cindy Davis, cast members “Doc” Lance Maki and Tony Orband, guests Mike and Kym Schwarze, and his film crew: sons Shane and Joshua Woznick and videographer
From Doral to their first stop at St. Justin Martyr in Key Largo they were joined by members of the Emmaus Bikers of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who were founded in 2014 to serve God and others.
“Wherever they call us, we go. Whatever we can give back, we do it,” said Rafael Zuzolo, who along with his fellow Emmaus Biker Juan Carlos Ramirez took part in one of the taped segments.
Aside from cold refreshments and snacks, the pit stop at St. Justin provided a leafy oasis: a prayer garden where the men and the archbishop discussed the seven virtues — the theme for Long Ride Home’s second season, which will begin airing on EWTN in March 2018.
Woznick and his crew taped their first ride in October 2016. The 10-episode series finished airing this month, with reruns coming in September and December (and also available on DVD). Big Bend Country in Texas — the desert — provided the backdrop for the first season, a biblical setting for reflecting on the meaning of life, death, and faith.
Woznick himself is a “revert.” The father of three sons and a daughter, he grew up Catholic — his father is a deacon — but spent about a decade as a non-denominational Christian. He also worked for large accounting firms in “land-locked cities,” according to his online bio, “but it wasn’t until he came back to the ocean and the faith of his childhood that he found his true home.”
His reversion was spurred by his love of the Eucharist and reading of the early Church fathers, including St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine and St. Justin Martyr. “Once you do that, you’re on the slippery slope,” he said, noting that two Southern Baptist ministers who rode with him are now in the process of becoming Catholic.
Woznick lives part of the year in Cocoa Beach and the rest in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. He surfs professionally and teaches tandem surfing, is a cast member on Fox Sports 2’s (formerly Fuel TV) “Clean Break,” and even appeared
on an episode of Hawaii Five-O. He founded Deep Adventure Ministries and has authored two books, “Deep Adventure: The Way of Heroic Virtue” and “Deep in the Wave: A Surfing Guide to the Soul.”
He tells those who want to join his “pack” to spend at least one hour daily in prayer.
His show’s message to men: “Dude, stop running. Jesus is on the hunt. The Holy Spirit is coming after you. He loves you. He’s not going to let you get away with running anymore.”
So if you wanna be a “real” man, wild and free and happy, heed the advice of this tattooed biker-surfer-adventurer: “Doing God’s will is the most fulfilling and exciting and adventurous and radical thing you can do in your whole life,” Woznick said. “I don’t care who you are. Give your life to Jesus and get ready for the ride of your life.”
Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC
Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Bear Woznick and his crew ride on the Seven Mile Bridge back to Miami from Key West. The ride will be featured in the second season of Woznick's "Long Ride Home" reality series on EWTN.
Correction: The original story misidentified Cindy Davis as Bear Woznick's wife. As the article now states, she is his fiancée.