Surf the border

For some, surfing is rather an attitude to life, a whole way of living, than a mere sport or leisure activity. Living and experiencing the scenery at the beach in a place like Tel Aviv, this becomes more than understandable. With the beach right in front of the city, dozens, sometimes hundreds of surfers occupy the beaches and the water. With regard to borderland, the actual area where this happens is of interest. The surfers mainly use the zone where the protected beach-bays open up to the sea, literally swaying between the safe urban space and the open sea.

surf the border - borderzone map

Source: Google Earth; assembled: borderlandlevant – The beach-bays as borderzone

Repeatedly paddling towards the open sea, waiting for the right wave, then jumping on the board and letting the wave bring you back to the city is an interesting movement pattern. It is like operating from a safe haven, constantly seeking the unknown, the “elsewhere”, only to being brought back by both nature and the own desire for a safe ground.

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© borderlandlevant – Sunset at Gordon Beach, Tel Aviv

As many surfers consider their sport as the most important thing in life, the sport itself seems to know no borders. Surfriding is international and people who practice it quickly get talking to their fellows, irrespective of their origin, nationality, or any other attribution. Hence, it was just a matter of time that surfing entered the Arab-Israeli conflict. With Gaza city only a couple of miles further down the Mediterranean coast, another city is blessed with the sea just at its doorstep. Facing the most wonderful sunsets, both cities have their beaches towards the west, but not both populations have the freedom to enjoy this situation in the same manner.

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© borderlandlevant – Gordon Beach, Tel Aviv, with Jaffa in the background

Back in 2007, Dorian Paskowitz, a Jewish „surfing guru“ form Hawaii, decided to donate 12 surfboards to surfers in Gaza in order for them to enjoy the beauty of their beaches as much as their Tel Aviv-Jaffa peers do. Together with Arthur Rashkovan and Kelly Slater, Doran and his son David in the same year founded Surfers 4 Peace, an organisation aiming to “bridge cultural and political barriers between surfers in the Middle East”. While this harmless donation seems to have passed the Israeli blockage easily, another such initiative needed considerably more patience to actually reach their goal. Coming up with always new justifications, Israeli authorities denied the delivery of surfboards into the Gaza Strip, organised by the Explore Corps, for two years until 2010. One starts to wonder why it´d be a threat to Israel to allow surfboards into the Gaza Strip.

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© borderlandlevant – Hilton South Beach, Tel Aviv

Maybe it is again related to the border. While it wouldn´t be a wonder if the one or the other surfer from Gaza actually used the board to escape the situation in her or his city, for Tel Aviv´s surfers, riding the waves is a popular way of using the border-zone as an exciting playground.

All rights reserved: Sigi Atteneder, 2013