Surfing For Peace Concert Rocks Israel

posted by / News / October 23, 2007

Kelly Slater and the S4P crew deliver a message of love straight to the heart of the darkness

“God will surf with the devil if the waves are good.” —Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz (and the S4P motto)

There is a war going on. And we’re not just talking about the one in the Middle East. In our own minds, in the news, the magazines, even on the pages of this website, a tangled border dispute is being waged over the gray wasteland that divides “news” and “entertainment.” Even from an insider’s perspective, it’s hard to know where we — as surfers — truly stand.

We know where we want to stand. But where our feet come to rest is sometimes another story.

Take for example, this news item posted on www.surfingmagazine.com (alongside with every other major surf new website) earlier this week. We called it “Kelly Slater’s Heavy Experience in Israel”, but others were less evasive: “Kelly Slater Detained After Brawl in Israel” (Melbourne Herald Sun) “Surfer Champion Seen With (supermodel) Bar Rafaeli, Detained After Paparrazi Brawl” (Associated Press). The stories were quick to drag Leonard DiCaprio into their search engines and even find a way to mention Cameron Diaz… but what was really going on went largely unmentioned.

In our little world, surf stars are news — and none is bigger news than Kelly Slater. With Slater, that news even extends outside out little circle of surf. Which is exactly why the peace-minded people at the One Voice Movement (www.onevoicemovement.org) recruited the reigning world champ to bring awareness to their petition for peace in Israel (and worldwide). Working with a group called Surfing For Peace, Slater took time away from his heated title defense to fly to Israel, spend an afternoon giving surf lessons to both Jewish and Arab children, participate in a {{{300}}} person ceremonial paddle-out and then play a concert along with various other Israeli musicians for an audience of 3,000 beach-stoked, peace-stoked, middle-east surfers.

After a long night of celebrating the success of the event, Slater was spotted exiting a hotel with Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli and was implicated in a minor scuffle with paparazzi photographers. According to news stories, Slater was detained by Israeli authorities for questioning, then quickly released.

So, guess which story grabbed international headlines: “eight-time world champ plays concert in Israeli for peace” OR “supermodel photo scuffle”?

This is the problem. And it’s not Slater’s problem for frolicking with supermodels or getting pissed at out-of-line paparazzi, it’s our fault for gravitating to the wrong headlines, for informing the media that we prefer popcorn to vegetables. And the media’s fault for serving the popcorn with a smile.

What really happened at the Surfing For Peace concert is something that should be remembered well. Eighty-six year old surf legend, Doc Paskowitz — the man who first gave surfing to Israel, and who’s written a wonderful book called “Surfing and Health” — stood on a stage in Tel Aviv, Israel in front of 3,000 surf-stoked fans and made a speech that will not soon be forgotten. “If we can surf together,” said Doc, “we can live together.”

Despite the stage, the lights, the audience and sense of celebration, he’s standing in the midst of a war zone, he’s recently delivered a supply of surfboards to the conflict-ravaged Gaza Strip, and he’s flanked by some of the most influential surfers in the world, including Makua Rothman and Kelly Slater, to deliver his message. Doc’s message is a message of love, and all these people are assembled to help him deliver it. To deliver it themselves, if need be.

“The first step is to help the surfers of Gaza,” says Surfing For Peace representative and longtime Tel Aviv surfer Arthur Rashkovan, who helped organize the event with One Voice. “To share the pure joy of surfing with them, meet some of the guys and make friends with them. The next step will be bringing them to Tel Aviv and surfing together with them. And maybe behind all this I have the motive of someday surfing in Gaza — wouldn’t you want to? We all just want to surf. No one wants war. A friend of mine just moved here from New York to teach surfing there…so this is really happening. This is the first way in which people from across these border have come together in a manner that is totally peaceful and friendly.”

The symbolic paddle-out for peace was attended by nearly 300 surfers, both Jew and Arab, and friendships were made and intentions of peace voiced out there in the Church of Blue {{{Sky}}}. And the surf lessons from Kelly Slater, well, even if the waves stay flat for the next few months (which they very well may), the children who participated in that day are sure to remain stoked.

For the concert, local artist Malca Baya warmed up the audience, then the Surfing for Peace house band, led by Doc’s son David Paskowitz took the stage to massive applause. When Makua Rothman came out on ukulele, the crowd went crazy. And when Slater came out on guitar, things almost went out of control. Makua rocked a solo version of “Together”; and Slater delivered a beautiful cover of “When I’m In Trouble” that captivated the entire audience. Surfboards were raffled away (from the same four shapers who recently donated boards to the surfers of Gaza). And the evening ended on a note of giving, togetherness and peace.

Whatever happened after that, it really shouldn’t matter. But if you must know how ugly it really is, it was actually the supermodel’s mother (who is also her PR agent) who tipped the paparazzi off to Slater’s whereabouts. It was a paparazzi scooter almost running Kelly down that started the so-called “incident”. And it was all of us who gravitated to the wrong elements of what happened over there in Israel.

It’s frustrating to see a message of love twisted into the gossip of sex — especially one so tempered by care, effort and intention. But if we cannot learn from our mistakes, then surely we are doomed.

And we’re not doomed.

[Special thanks to Arthur Rashkovan, the Paskowitz family, One Voice, Surfing For Peace and all the artists and workers who donated their hard work and time on this forward-thinking event.]

Sign the One Voice Movement petition for peace at: www.onevoicemovement.org/wps/portal

Check out footage from the concert at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uACV20cudEg

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