Out in the lineup, the local surfers kept telling us how lucky we were. Before we arrived, it had been dead flat for two weeks. And now, the day of our departure, the forecast was for at least another week of flatness. We’d been here two weeks and seen four solid storms. But that wasn’t the only luck we’d had in Israel.
Somehow our patchwork group clicked like old cohorts. Somehow we ended up connected to the two most dialed-in surfers in the country (thanks Adi and Arthur). Somehow the sun burst through just when we needed it. Somehow we always found parking. Somehow we wandered into the best restaurants ever. Somehow all the driving near accidents remained near misses. Somehow double rainbows were pouring into our car and random cab rides ended up playing our special “happy song.” Somehow it all just came together. The riskiest surf trip ever turned into the best one any of us ever had. Fun waves. Amazing culture. Great food. Cool locals. Sweet accommodations. Could we bet that lucky? Or is Israel just like that? Looking back on our initial preconceptions and trepidations, it’s hard to imagine how much our outlook on this country has changed. From being some scary place we heard about on the news next to the word “bombing” to being a heart-touching history lesson in humanity, religion and the global community of surfers.
We met up with local kingpin Arthur Rashkovan, a former Israel Surfing Association director, Adrenaline Magazine editor and all-around surf-connected guy. Arthur is one of Israel’s most stoked surfers, and he was happy to ditch work for his American guests. Right away he showed us a documentary on his country’s first surfer, Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz: a Texas-born, California-grown, Hawaiian-souled, surf-every-day doctor who visited Israel in 1956 and decided he ought to bring along his surfboard. Local lifeguards took to it like flies to honey, so Doc eventually sent a quiver of five boards over and Israel’s first local, Shamai “Topsy” Catspolsky, drove around and gave them out to the most deserving watermen. Israel was hooked.
One thing Doc said really rang true to everything we’d been thinking about over here so far: “I love God,” he said, “but I hate religion.” Then again, he also said he wanted to be eaten by a shark, so…well, Doc’s definitely one of the most unique individuals you could ever meet. Eighty-six-years old and still surfing every day, he must be doing something right. Before I left he told me to send Israel his aloha, but when I got there, Israel already knew that. Paskowitz is their Kahanamoku.
Later Arthur showed us a documentary on the history of Israel’s surfing, and we warmed at the familiar scenes of beach-party explosions, the call to travel and local surfers banding together to thwart the building of jetties and other environmental concerns. Then he took us to Israel’s best (and most crowded) spot, Backdoor, where we learned all about good vibes and bad drop-ins from the frothing crowd of stoked locals. We even managed to get barreled (Alek got barreled by another surfer’s board, too).
In the parking lot, everyone wanted to chat us up. Feel our boards. Check our shots. Talk travel and waves. Israeli’s can’t rely on their own waves, so the most hardcore guys head off to Costa Rica, Maldives and Bali every chance they get. More than anything, you could just sense how surf-stoked all these guys were. They knew exactly the last time a US magazine had come to do a story on their country (Surfing Mag, 1983 — well, Ted Grambeau came three years ago, but it was dead flat the whole time), and they said, “Thank you. Thank you for coming back.”