Bedouin Beach Boys? Surf’s up in the Middle East

Published November 19th, 2014 - 10:12 GMT

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Jewish surfing legend Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz died last week at age 93. The Stanford-educated physician is credited with introducing surfing to Israel and perhaps the wider Middle East, albeit in a most unusual way. He featured in the 2007 documentary film “Surfwise” which captured his eccentric life and parenting style - like raising his nine children in a 24-foot camper. Is his long life a credit to his free-thinking credo, or to the magical powers of surfing?

In 1956, Paskowitz left his medical practice and his family for a year of solo travel in Israel. An avid surfer, he brought six longboards in hopes of cobbling together an Israeli surf team. His connection to Israel was lasting. He returned several times and, in 2007, co-founded a non-profit organization called Surfing 4 Peace to support the sport in Gaza. Paskowitz hoped that cooperation in surfing could help bring about a calmer regional groove. Continue reading below »

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You need to know exactly where (and when) to go in the UAE since just a fraction of its coastline offers decent waves. Gulf surf is mainly wind-driven. Fierce gales fuel epic waves near Qatar and Iraq, which barrel down the Gulf to the UAE. Warm water temps and easy access offset unpredictable surf conditions, so it’s still worth a visit.
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Image 1 of 15:  1 / 15You need to know exactly where (and when) to go in the UAE since just a fraction of its coastline offers decent waves. Gulf surf is mainly wind-driven. Fierce gales fuel epic waves near Qatar and Iraq, which barrel down the Gulf to the UAE. Warm water temps and easy access offset unpredictable surf conditions, so it’s still worth a visit.

Enlarge
Manmade islands have botched natural wave action in the Gulf. One of the few remaining beaches in Dubai that gets waves is in the shadow of the Burj al Arab - where else can you surf so close to iconic architecture? There are also local surf schools where you can rent gear and take a lesson.
Reduce

Image 2 of 15:  2 / 15Manmade islands have botched natural wave action in the Gulf. One of the few remaining beaches in Dubai that gets waves is in the shadow of the Burj al Arab - where else can you surf so close to iconic architecture? There are also local surf schools where you can rent gear and take a lesson.

Enlarge
Way south on the Arabian Peninsula in the Dhofar region of Oman is Salalah, whose coastline is pummeled by massive swells and seasonal winds. Navigate awesome rock formations, deep valleys, cloud-tipped mountains, and natural springs to get to the challenging surf. Not for beginners!
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Image 3 of 15:  3 / 15Way south on the Arabian Peninsula in the Dhofar region of Oman is Salalah, whose coastline is pummeled by massive swells and seasonal winds. Navigate awesome rock formations, deep valleys, cloud-tipped mountains, and natural springs to get to the challenging surf. Not for beginners!

Enlarge
Coastal Oman is rimmed by rugged headlands and small, friendly fishing villages. Its water is bathtub-warm and the summer air temps - while cooler than Dubai - can hit 100 F (38 C). And count on 100% humidity. Monsoon winds enliven its surf season, but beware surfside rocks (called “the knuckles”) that often extend into the take-off.
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Image 4 of 15:  4 / 15Coastal Oman is rimmed by rugged headlands and small, friendly fishing villages. Its water is bathtub-warm and the summer air temps - while cooler than Dubai - can hit 100 F (38 C). And count on 100% humidity. Monsoon winds enliven its surf season, but beware surfside rocks (called “the knuckles”) that often extend into the take-off.

Enlarge
Surf the casbah! With great weather and extensive coastline, Morocco has perfect conditions to start a surfing safari. Choose a purpose-built surf camp for an all-inclusive surf lesson and rental package, ideal for beginners and intermediates. The tranquil village of Tamraght (about 15 km from Agadir) is loaded with them!
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Image 5 of 15:  5 / 15Surf the casbah! With great weather and extensive coastline, Morocco has perfect conditions to start a surfing safari. Choose a purpose-built surf camp for an all-inclusive surf lesson and rental package, ideal for beginners and intermediates. The tranquil village of Tamraght (about 15 km from Agadir) is loaded with them!

Enlarge
The laid-back Moroccan town of Essaouira is skirted by a sprawling beach that attracts summer wind- and kite-surfers, as well as winter surfers, and offers easy access to rentals and lessons. There’s a nearby castle that's said to have inspired Jimi Hendrix's 'Castles Made of Sand.'
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Image 6 of 15:  6 / 15The laid-back Moroccan town of Essaouira is skirted by a sprawling beach that attracts summer wind- and kite-surfers, as well as winter surfers, and offers easy access to rentals and lessons. There’s a nearby castle that's said to have inspired Jimi Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand."

Enlarge
Mention the “Holy Land,” and maybe bikinis and board wax don’t come to mind. But the Mediterranean sometimes throws up sufficient swell to warrant a second look. Doc Pasternak sure thought so! Israel produces some respectable surfers - his nine children included.
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Image 7 of 15:  7 / 15Mention the “Holy Land,” and maybe bikinis and board wax don’t come to mind. But the Mediterranean sometimes throws up sufficient swell to warrant a second look. Doc Pasternak sure thought so! Israel produces some respectable surfers - his nine children included.

Enlarge
Some say that Tel Aviv is as representative of Israel as Los Angeles is of America - and both of these inimitable towns offer prime surf experiences. Tel Aviv’s main breaks of Hilton and Topsea are in front of the Hilton hotel - so if you want to roll out of bed and paddle out direct, splurge on a room.
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Image 8 of 15:  8 / 15Some say that Tel Aviv is as representative of Israel as Los Angeles is of America - and both of these inimitable towns offer prime surf experiences. Tel Aviv’s main breaks of Hilton and Topsea are in front of the Hilton hotel - so if you want to roll out of bed and paddle out direct, splurge on a room.

Enlarge
So you’ve skied inside a Dubai shopping mall. Next on your beach-bucket-list should be surfing in a Bahraini one!  Why risk sand in your suit when you can surf 8-foot barrel waves in the “flowrider” located in this tiny island nation’s main shopping mall? (You never know when you may crave a Starbucks or Cinnabon!)
Reduce

Image 9 of 15:  9 / 15So you’ve skied inside a Dubai shopping mall. Next on your beach-bucket-list should be surfing in a Bahraini one! Why risk sand in your suit when you can surf 8-foot barrel waves in the “flowrider” located in this tiny island nation’s main shopping mall? (You never know when you may crave a Starbucks or Cinnabon!)

Enlarge
The UAE won’t be bested by Bahrain! The Wadi Adventure Park located at the base of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain features the world’s best man-made waves. The surf pool can make 3.3-meter waves every 90 seconds. Pay about $27 for a 55-minute surf session that can accommodate up to six riders. Apparently, this woman’s got a ticket to ride!
Reduce

Image 10 of 15:  10 / 15The UAE won’t be bested by Bahrain! The Wadi Adventure Park located at the base of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain features the world’s best man-made waves. The surf pool can make 3.3-meter waves every 90 seconds. Pay about $27 for a 55-minute surf session that can accommodate up to six riders. Apparently, this woman’s got a ticket to ride!

Enlarge
Gazan surfers must skip over beach litter and swim past sewage in order to catch a wave - the surrounding sea is said to be dumped daily with 80 million liters of sewage flowing from Wadi Gaza, a natural wetland in the middle of the strip. The Israeli blockade makes new surfboards a rarity.
Reduce

Image 11 of 15:  11 / 15Gazan surfers must skip over beach litter and swim past sewage in order to catch a wave - the surrounding sea is said to be dumped daily with 80 million liters of sewage flowing from Wadi Gaza, a natural wetland in the middle of the strip. The Israeli blockade makes new surfboards a rarity.

Enlarge
Even offshore you can’t escape the Arab-Israeli conflict. Surf film “Promised Land” explores the tension through the lens of surfing. Gain unique perspective through the lives of two friends from different faiths, brought together by their love of the oceans that separate them. Yes, “Doc” Paskowitz makes an appearance.
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Image 12 of 15:  12 / 15Even offshore you can’t escape the Arab-Israeli conflict. Surf film “Promised Land” explores the tension through the lens of surfing. Gain unique perspective through the lives of two friends from different faiths, brought together by their love of the oceans that separate them. Yes, “Doc” Paskowitz makes an appearance.

Enlarge
American photographer Robert Gallagher snapped three hijab-clad Muslim women from Bahrain surfing in Santa Monica, California. It’s a strong visual reminder of how our shared love of the sea can shatter cultural stereotypes.
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Image 13 of 15:  13 / 15American photographer Robert Gallagher snapped three hijab-clad Muslim women from Bahrain surfing in Santa Monica, California. It’s a strong visual reminder of how our shared love of the sea can shatter cultural stereotypes.

Enlarge
Paskowitz said, “People who surf together, can live together.” Part of Doc’s legacy is Surfing 4 Peace, a person-to-person and cross-border initiative that aims to bridge cultural and political barriers between Middle East surfers. Its projects, based on surfing and beach culture, emphasize coexistence and dialogue. Peace out, Doc.
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Image 14 of 15:  14 / 15Paskowitz said, “People who surf together, can live together.” Part of Doc’s legacy is Surfing 4 Peace, a person-to-person and cross-border initiative that aims to bridge cultural and political barriers between Middle East surfers. Its projects, based on surfing and beach culture, emphasize coexistence and dialogue. Peace out, Doc.

Enlarge
So grab your sunscreen and your passport, and think outside the surfing box. The Middle East is not just sand dunes and desert. Although you can “surf” them too!
Reduce

Image 15 of 15:  15 / 15So grab your sunscreen and your passport, and think outside the surfing box. The Middle East is not just sand dunes and desert. Although you can “surf” them too!

Enlarge

1

You need to know exactly where (and when) to go in the UAE since just a fraction of its coastline offers decent waves. Gulf surf is mainly wind-driven. Fierce gales fuel epic waves near Qatar and Iraq, which barrel down the Gulf to the UAE. Warm water temps and easy access offset unpredictable surf conditions, so it’s still worth a visit.

Image 1 of 15You need to know exactly where (and when) to go in the UAE since just a fraction of its coastline offers decent waves. Gulf surf is mainly wind-driven. Fierce gales fuel epic waves near Qatar and Iraq, which barrel down the Gulf to the UAE. Warm water temps and easy access offset unpredictable surf conditions, so it’s still worth a visit.

2

Manmade islands have botched natural wave action in the Gulf. One of the few remaining beaches in Dubai that gets waves is in the shadow of the Burj al Arab - where else can you surf so close to iconic architecture? There are also local surf schools where you can rent gear and take a lesson.

Image 2 of 15Manmade islands have botched natural wave action in the Gulf. One of the few remaining beaches in Dubai that gets waves is in the shadow of the Burj al Arab - where else can you surf so close to iconic architecture? There are also local surf schools where you can rent gear and take a lesson.

3

Way south on the Arabian Peninsula in the Dhofar region of Oman is Salalah, whose coastline is pummeled by massive swells and seasonal winds. Navigate awesome rock formations, deep valleys, cloud-tipped mountains, and natural springs to get to the challenging surf. Not for beginners!

Image 3 of 15Way south on the Arabian Peninsula in the Dhofar region of Oman is Salalah, whose coastline is pummeled by massive swells and seasonal winds. Navigate awesome rock formations, deep valleys, cloud-tipped mountains, and natural springs to get to the challenging surf. Not for beginners!

4

Coastal Oman is rimmed by rugged headlands and small, friendly fishing villages. Its water is bathtub-warm and the summer air temps - while cooler than Dubai - can hit 100 F (38 C). And count on 100% humidity. Monsoon winds enliven its surf season, but beware surfside rocks (called “the knuckles”) that often extend into the take-off.

Image 4 of 15Coastal Oman is rimmed by rugged headlands and small, friendly fishing villages. Its water is bathtub-warm and the summer air temps - while cooler than Dubai - can hit 100 F (38 C). And count on 100% humidity. Monsoon winds enliven its surf season, but beware surfside rocks (called “the knuckles”) that often extend into the take-off.

5

Surf the casbah! With great weather and extensive coastline, Morocco has perfect conditions to start a surfing safari. Choose a purpose-built surf camp for an all-inclusive surf lesson and rental package, ideal for beginners and intermediates. The tranquil village of Tamraght (about 15 km from Agadir) is loaded with them!

Image 5 of 15Surf the casbah! With great weather and extensive coastline, Morocco has perfect conditions to start a surfing safari. Choose a purpose-built surf camp for an all-inclusive surf lesson and rental package, ideal for beginners and intermediates. The tranquil village of Tamraght (about 15 km from Agadir) is loaded with them!

6

The laid-back Moroccan town of Essaouira is skirted by a sprawling beach that attracts summer wind- and kite-surfers, as well as winter surfers, and offers easy access to rentals and lessons. There’s a nearby castle that's said to have inspired Jimi Hendrix's 'Castles Made of Sand.'

Image 6 of 15The laid-back Moroccan town of Essaouira is skirted by a sprawling beach that attracts summer wind- and kite-surfers, as well as winter surfers, and offers easy access to rentals and lessons. There’s a nearby castle that's said to have inspired Jimi Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand."

7

Mention the “Holy Land,” and maybe bikinis and board wax don’t come to mind. But the Mediterranean sometimes throws up sufficient swell to warrant a second look. Doc Pasternak sure thought so! Israel produces some respectable surfers - his nine children included.

Image 7 of 15Mention the “Holy Land,” and maybe bikinis and board wax don’t come to mind. But the Mediterranean sometimes throws up sufficient swell to warrant a second look. Doc Pasternak sure thought so! Israel produces some respectable surfers - his nine children included.

8

Some say that Tel Aviv is as representative of Israel as Los Angeles is of America - and both of these inimitable towns offer prime surf experiences. Tel Aviv’s main breaks of Hilton and Topsea are in front of the Hilton hotel - so if you want to roll out of bed and paddle out direct, splurge on a room.

Image 8 of 15Some say that Tel Aviv is as representative of Israel as Los Angeles is of America - and both of these inimitable towns offer prime surf experiences. Tel Aviv’s main breaks of Hilton and Topsea are in front of the Hilton hotel - so if you want to roll out of bed and paddle out direct, splurge on a room.

9

So you’ve skied inside a Dubai shopping mall. Next on your beach-bucket-list should be surfing in a Bahraini one!  Why risk sand in your suit when you can surf 8-foot barrel waves in the “flowrider” located in this tiny island nation’s main shopping mall? (You never know when you may crave a Starbucks or Cinnabon!)

Image 9 of 15So you’ve skied inside a Dubai shopping mall. Next on your beach-bucket-list should be surfing in a Bahraini one! Why risk sand in your suit when you can surf 8-foot barrel waves in the “flowrider” located in this tiny island nation’s main shopping mall? (You never know when you may crave a Starbucks or Cinnabon!)

10

The UAE won’t be bested by Bahrain! The Wadi Adventure Park located at the base of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain features the world’s best man-made waves. The surf pool can make 3.3-meter waves every 90 seconds. Pay about $27 for a 55-minute surf session that can accommodate up to six riders. Apparently, this woman’s got a ticket to ride!

Image 10 of 15The UAE won’t be bested by Bahrain! The Wadi Adventure Park located at the base of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain features the world’s best man-made waves. The surf pool can make 3.3-meter waves every 90 seconds. Pay about $27 for a 55-minute surf session that can accommodate up to six riders. Apparently, this woman’s got a ticket to ride!

11

Gazan surfers must skip over beach litter and swim past sewage in order to catch a wave - the surrounding sea is said to be dumped daily with 80 million liters of sewage flowing from Wadi Gaza, a natural wetland in the middle of the strip. The Israeli blockade makes new surfboards a rarity.

Image 11 of 15Gazan surfers must skip over beach litter and swim past sewage in order to catch a wave - the surrounding sea is said to be dumped daily with 80 million liters of sewage flowing from Wadi Gaza, a natural wetland in the middle of the strip. The Israeli blockade makes new surfboards a rarity.

12

Even offshore you can’t escape the Arab-Israeli conflict. Surf film “Promised Land” explores the tension through the lens of surfing. Gain unique perspective through the lives of two friends from different faiths, brought together by their love of the oceans that separate them. Yes, “Doc” Paskowitz makes an appearance.

Image 12 of 15Even offshore you can’t escape the Arab-Israeli conflict. Surf film “Promised Land” explores the tension through the lens of surfing. Gain unique perspective through the lives of two friends from different faiths, brought together by their love of the oceans that separate them. Yes, “Doc” Paskowitz makes an appearance.

13

American photographer Robert Gallagher snapped three hijab-clad Muslim women from Bahrain surfing in Santa Monica, California. It’s a strong visual reminder of how our shared love of the sea can shatter cultural stereotypes.

Image 13 of 15American photographer Robert Gallagher snapped three hijab-clad Muslim women from Bahrain surfing in Santa Monica, California. It’s a strong visual reminder of how our shared love of the sea can shatter cultural stereotypes.

14

Paskowitz said, “People who surf together, can live together.” Part of Doc’s legacy is Surfing 4 Peace, a person-to-person and cross-border initiative that aims to bridge cultural and political barriers between Middle East surfers. Its projects, based on surfing and beach culture, emphasize coexistence and dialogue. Peace out, Doc.

Image 14 of 15Paskowitz said, “People who surf together, can live together.” Part of Doc’s legacy is Surfing 4 Peace, a person-to-person and cross-border initiative that aims to bridge cultural and political barriers between Middle East surfers. Its projects, based on surfing and beach culture, emphasize coexistence and dialogue. Peace out, Doc.

15

So grab your sunscreen and your passport, and think outside the surfing box. The Middle East is not just sand dunes and desert. Although you can “surf” them too!

Image 15 of 15So grab your sunscreen and your passport, and think outside the surfing box. The Middle East is not just sand dunes and desert. Although you can “surf” them too!

Reduce

Coastal Arabs had been playing in the waves for centuries. As early as the 8th Century, fishermen had developed a flat, wide boat-board hybrid called a “hasake” for angling close to shore. It was later adopted as a life-saving vessel for modern lifeguards, which evolved into stand-up paddleboarding - now the dominant surf sport in the calm waters of the Red Sea and the Gulf.

Rabid surfers persist in exploring for surfing sweet spots, with astonishing discoveries of barrels and breaks in the most unlikely Middle East places. Californian surfer Stephen Nussbaum travelled here in 2007, and blogged about his adventure at “Castles Made of Sand.” Sure, the surf was fun, but the cultural awakening? Priceless.

Surfing demands complete harmonization with nature. Surfers know that a shared love of the sport can similarly forge bonds with disparate peoples. There is no room for distraction when riding a wave.  Everything is in the moment. The payoff is joy. That’s a strategy worth trying on many levels. Come on Middle East, surf’s up!

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