‘Boogie Boarding Buddha’ continues artist’s message


The “Surfing Madonna” now has a companion mosaic — one with an eastern influence.

The “Boogie Boarding Buddha” made its debut Oct. 25 to 5,000 runners and walkers participating in the Surfing Madonna 5K/10K and Moonlight Beach Fest. With his new piece, artist Mark Patterson once again drew upon religious iconography to bring attention to over-fishing, ocean acidification and other problems plaguing the seas.

“The Madonna and the Buddha are both figures we all can really admire,” Patterson said. “Putting them in the unusual position of being fully engaged with the ocean — surfing and body boarding — helps wake people up.”

Although the public got a glimpse of the mosaic, Patterson said he still needs to put finishing touches on the piece. Once completed, he has a good idea of where he’d like to place it. Still, he’s staying mum on the location for now.

Patterson did, however, confirm that he would get permission beforehand, unlike with the Madonna’s guerrilla-style installation.

In 2011, Patterson and friend Bob Nichols posed as construction workers and affixed the Madonna under a train bridge on Encinitas Boulevard. Soon after, the piece gained international acclaim. But city officials said it hadn’t gone through the proper channels and ordered its removal, leading Patterson to step forward as the artist.

Ultimately, Patterson and friends hung the piece on a Leucadia Pizzeria wall, just across the street from its original home. And while Patterson was once in hot water with the city for the Madonna, he said everything is good now.

“We don’t hold any grudges,” Patterson said. “The city just didn’t want to be taken by surprise — no one does.”

Patterson started work in early spring on the follow-up, originally an underwater scene sans religious figures. But early on, he scrapped the idea in favor of depicting the Buddha.

“My inspiration morphed,” Patterson said. “The Buddha just kept coming up as an ideal icon for our community, because of what the Buddha represents — passion and openness, which most Buddhists that I’ve run across seem to have. It’s a very interesting philosophy they live by, and a very generous one from my perspective.”

So why boogie boarding? Patterson said that sport tied into his message of “Save the Ocean,” which will be spelled out on the sides of the piece once finished.

The Buddha mosaic, like the Madonna, is 10 feet by 10 feet.

Although Patterson came in with mosaic experience under his belt, the Buddha piece was just as challenging as its predecessor because he had less than five months to get it ready for the 5K/10K.

“With the Madonna, that was nine months and there wasn’t a real timeline,” Patterson said. “But a timeline isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It makes you cut to the chase and focus.”

He hopes the mosaic continues the momentum of the Surfing Madonna Oceans project, a nonprofit that Patterson and friends started to sponsor events and raise funds for ocean-related causes.

This year’s 5K/10K and a Surfing Madonna wine label deal generated more than $103,000 for the nonprofit. That money will go to, among other causes, a program where local elementary students develop plans to prevent stormwater pollution and bolstering recycling programs at local schools.

Last year, the nonprofit donated $50,000 locally.

Bob Nichols, president of the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project and race director, along with Megan McCarthy, the nonprofit board’s treasurer and assistant race director, spent long days organizing the 5K/10K and other events. But Nichols said all that work was more than worth it in the end.

“We’re seeing all the great ways this benefits the community,” Nichols said, adding that he’s especially proud of the new Surfing Madonna Surf Camp for Special Needs Children.

“The kids get out there and just completely relax,” he said.

More Surfing Madonna 5K/10Ks are planned. Plus, Nichols and Patterson are eyeing a new “duathlon” event with stand-up paddleboarding to raise additional money locally.

Eventually, they also want to spread the ocean-centric message up the California coastline by encouraging artists in other cities to reinterpret the Surfing Madonna as they see fit. And Patterson said he might just have more murals in him over time.

“A lot of good is coming from the art,” he said.

For information about the nonprofit’s programs, visit Find race details and medal recipients at

This article has been updated since its original posting to reflect the race’s proceeds and the titles of Bob Nichols and Megan McCarthy.