Surfing in Gaza

Here’s a BBC story about surfing in Gaza, titled Gazan Surfers Brave the Sewage–ick.

The waves can be bad though.

The sea around Gaza is heavily polluted with at least 60 million litres of raw and partially treated sewage being pumped into it every day.

“We have to choose the days carefully when we surf,” says Mr Abu Jayab, “and some parts of the beaches are cleaner than others.”

Most of the surfers are young men in their twenties and thirties.

Mr Caberetti says a lot of them are unemployed and have time on their hands.

The United Nations say unemployment is more than 40% in Gaza.

The inspiration for the surf club came from overseas, thousands of kilometres away in California.

Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz is a surfing legend.

The 89-year-old has been surfing for more than 70 years and still surfs today.

Several years ago he read an article in the Los Angeles Times newspaper about a couple of men surfing in Gaza.

“I saw the picture of the two Arabs in the newspaper and they had one lousy beat-up board between them,” he said in an interview with the BBC near his home in southern California. “And I said this simply won’t do.”

Gaza has been under a tightened Israeli and Egyptian blockade for almost three years, with only limited humanitarian aid allowed in.

Israel says this is necessary to stop weapons being smuggled into Palestinian militants and to pressure the Islamic movement Hamas which controls the territory and refuses to renounce violence or recognise Israel.

But the blockade means it has been very difficult to get surfboards into Gaza.

Mr Paskowitz, who is Jewish himself, decided to personally hand deliver 15 new boards to Gaza in 2007.

But when he arrived at the Erez border crossing, the main Israeli checkpoint into Gaza, he was told by Israeli security officers he was not allowed to pass and the Gaza surfers were not permitted to cross the border to collect the boards.

“I said to the Israeli soldier ‘I came half way around the world, 12,000 miles, to deliver these boards. Would you let an old Jew fail?'”, says Mr Paskowitz.

“I said to the guy, these guys are 50ft away. Are you going to let them come through here and get these boards?”

Mr Paskowitz describes how he leant over and kissed the Israeli border guard before the soldier eventually allowed the Palestinian surfers to come and collect the boards.

Here’s another, somewhat longer story on the topic from Der Spiegel online.

Israeli settlers surfed in Gaza before the military occupation ended in 2005. But the sport was slower to take hold among Palestinians. The first Palestinian surfer in Gaza is considered to be Salah Abu Khamil, now a dignified-looking man in his forties with short salted hair and a wrestler’s build. He made his first board from a wooden plank in about 1983. “He was working in Israel, and he saw surfing on Israeli TV,” Mohamed said, translating. “But he started here, in Gaza. He painted his homemade board, and used knives for fins.”

Gaza Surf Relief web site here.

Gaza Surf Club bilingual web site here.

Surfing for Peace website here.

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