Sunday, November 22, 2009

Notorious Snowboarder #1: Dr. Frederick Lenz, III – Snowboarder, Author and Cult Leader

This guy’s story is so bonkers it just didn't fit into our other categories so this is a first article in a new segment we hope we will see a lot more of - Notorious Snowboarders
Notorious Snowboarder #1: Dr. Frederick Lenz, III – Snowboarder, Author and Cult Leader
In the late 90s Frederick Lens wrote a couple of best selling books that were a strange mix of new-age religion and snowboarding. Lenz, who considered himself to be a “World-class snowboarder”, based his novels on his experiences of snowboarding in the HimalayasLet’s take a look at the book the critics describe as:

"Poorly researched crud."  - The Denver Post

"Terrifically dull and stupefying," and "Aside from failing on every level, there is nothing remarkable about this novel, except that it was published."  - The Santa Fe Sun

Surfing the Himalayas: A Spiritual Adventure - Published December 15, 1996 
The reviews on Amazon are a little bit more favourable and give a quick description of the story...
This book is awesome!!! "Charged with energy, humor, and insight, this is the engaging story of a young American snowboarder who travels to the Himalayas seeking the ultimate high - but surfs into an experience more transcendent than he could have ever imaged. In an accident of karmic destiny, the young man plows into a Tantric Buddhist monk named Master Fwap who takes him on as a spiritual apprentice. Using snowboarding as a path to enlightenment, the charming and learned Master Fwap shows how, by freeing the mind and challenging the soul, one can master any mountain - and master himself."

Master Fwap. Am I the only one who finds that funny? Apparently not

He followed that book with a second equally welcomed by the critics
“Lenz achieved notoriety with his first book, Surfing the Himalayas (Warner, 1995); this second instalment to a planned trilogy slogs through much of the same territory. This time, as his alter ego snowboards in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, in addition to (Zen) Master Fwap, Lenz has added a character called Nadia, a Danish sex partner and short-term soul mate. (Lenz's puerile fantasies result in some of the funniest sex scenes ever contrived.)” - Janet N. Ross, Library Journal

Snowboarding to Nirvana - Published January 15, 1998 
Using the power of Google Books I managed to read a few pages from this novel. Here is my favourite section which is dripping in innuendo…
“Just as I was about to mount my snowboard, I heard a strong male voice call out my name form behind me. My stomach knotted. Reflexively, I swivelled around on the heels of my snowboarding boots to see who was there.”
“After an exhilarating ride down the mountain on my snowboard, I reached the bottom of the slope where – much to my surprise – I found Master Fwap waiting for me. He had a huge grin on his face!”
I bet he did.

Notice that only two books of the trilogy have been released. This is because, as we will see later, Lenz suffered a rather premature bout of death before he could finish the task.

The interesting thing about his books is that there is also another book which is not quite so positive about Frederick Lenz available on Amazon.

Take Me for a Ride: Coming of Age in a Destructive Cult

Yup Frederick Lenz was not just a snowboarder; he was also a cult leader. This is an expose of what went on inside Lenz’s organisation written by a former follower Mark Laxer. Although better received by critics it did not become a best seller like Lenz’s books.

Dr. Frederick Lenz, III, also known as Atmananda, Rama and Zen Master Rama was a snowboarder, author and also a software designer, businessman, record producer and cult leader.

He first proclaimed himself a holy man in 1980, when he incorporated himself as "Dr. Frederick P. Lenz, High Priest, the First Diocese of California of the Church of Atlantis". Later his religious beliefs morphed into a blend of Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, Vedanta, and Mysticism which he called "American Buddhism". At the height of his teachings in 1988 he was estimated to have between 400 and 1,000 followers.
He claimed to be one of only twelve truly enlightened people on Earth. Another of the enlightened twelve was his dog Vayu.

He was rumoured to have been able to perform miracles including; the ability to heal people by touching them, being able to control the weather, to be able to pass through alternate dimensions, levitation, teleportation, projecting light from his hands, and to be able to transform into an old, bearded Asian man.

He told his followers that he "wielded the power to create and demolish the universe" and that "those criticizing him would invariably get hit by a car or contract cancer."  
Lenz agreed with the basic idea of ‘The Force’ from the Star Wars films, and described people who disagreed with him as having "fallen to the Dark Side."  According to Mark Laxer, Lenz told him that "Star Wars creator George Lucas was wrong to portray Yoda as being gay." I must have missed that Star Wars spin-off.

He recommended the use of music to assist in meditation, especially the Zazen, a group whose records he produced. During the life of the band, Zazen churned out 21 albums.  This is their single ‘What is Dancing?’ from the album ‘Techno Zen Master’. 
Much of his teachings, focused around the computer industry and a large majority of his students worked in software development.  In 1994 he formed four software companies with his students. By 1997, he was recommending that his students found Internet companies, which led to the founding of, a softcore website on which his female students posed nude.
He told his male students that they should abstain from sex, while at the same time using his position as a spiritual teacher to coerce female students into having sex with him.  By 1986 Lenz said he "needed to sleep with two or three women at a time". An individual, he maintained, had too little "energy" to stimulate him. Anny Eastwood told reporters that Rama emerged from his bathroom nude except for a towel, demanding sex and carrying a handgun.

Lenz died on April 12, 1998 at the age of 48 leaving an $18 million fortune, including several Lear jets, mansions and luxury cars. He drowned at his estate in Old Field, New York after overdosing on 80–150 Valium tablets. With him at the time of his death was 33-year-old model and devoted follower Brinn Lacey who, according the police report, was covered with bruises. Three dogs owned by Lenz were also found at the scene, drugged with phenobarbital. According to Psychology Today, police found his body dressed in a suit and tie, with a dog collar around his neck.


If you want to read some more about Frederick Lenz why not try these sites written by people who still believe…
Frederick Lenz Foundation. The official foundation site distributing his financial legacy. If you have a spiritual project that needs funding, or a soft-core porn website to build, why not tap these guys up for money.
Rama Master of Enlightenment.  Brilliant website where most of the lovely images that appear in this article are to be found in their natural environment. Like this one for example...
Himalaya. Includes reviews of his books plus an interview where he talks about snowboarding

Or for a more realistic approach you can try these sites written by folks that don’t believe…
Ex-Cult. Has a lot of detail about the cult and Frederick Lenz

Related articles…

For more cult shenanigans try… Illicit's guide to Famous Snowboarding Mormons 

Snowboarding Celebrity No. 9: Adam Yauch (aka MCA). Also combines Buddhism and snowboarding in the Himalayas but with more followers and less suicide. 

Accidental Hero No.1 - Marco Siffredi. Proved that snowboarding in the Himalayas can be very dangerous.  


  1. I can't believe you can write this. I am no longer a student of Ramasm -- I am a devotee of another great teacher, but I studied with him for 10 years, he was a personal friend, I spent a great deal of time in his personal company.... so please don't waste your time, with negative pursuits, Rama has passed... so what does it matter to you now... go and get a life... whatever makes you happy... instead of focusing on what other people are doing...
    just some friendly advice....

  2. I was a student of Rama around 1984 where we met in a theater in the L.A. area. At that time I found his teachings valuable. We went on trips to power spots, etc. Since, I have read many of the things written and am disappointed. In some of the research on the internet I found another student who I knew very well and contacted him. He had stayed as a student for many years, moved to the east coast with Rama and was very close to Rama. He told me a few stories of how things had changed and I was shocked. I want to believe Rama was once on the right path and strayed because of power and money, but another part of me thinks he was just a very smart individual who figured out a way to use innocent, good people to accrue wealth. He could have been a great teacher, but if he were, he wouldn't have been corrupted. He wouldn't have had valium or whatever in his possesion, and he wouldn't have killed himself.

  3. Fred Lenz / "Rama" climbed a mountain but it was downhill from there...sadly, power, or rather the abuse of power, is a slippery slope and he ended up hurting himself and those around him badly. Perhaps next time he should try snow shoes?

    P.S. I'm the guy who wrote the book (Take Me For A Ride) about this #1 illicit snowboarder (and have since wrote another book, called The Monkey Bible).


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