Surfboards Delivered to Gaza Strip — Kelly Slater scheduled to headline "Surfing for Peace" Concert in Israel
When musician and music promoter David Paskowitz (one of nine surfing Paskowitz children) first suggested the idea of a Hawaii-based music concert celebrating hoale artists to his father Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz — the 86-year-old, lifelong surfer/physician who in 1956 introduced the sport to Israel — he had no idea what he was getting into. Doc, about to fly to the holy land himself, suggested putting on the concert in Israel. When David forwarded this idea to his friend and fellow musician (oh, and eight time world champ) Kelly Slater, Slates said that he'd already been working on something similar and that maybe they could put their plans together with some of their musician/surfer friends like Ben Harper, Eddie Vedder and Jack Johnson.
So, David made plans to head to Israel to look into organizing the event — and that's when things really got interesting. He called Doc to tell him he was coming and Dorian says, "You need to get as many surfboards together as you can and get them over here."
Doc had just read an article in the LA Times about a pair of young surfers on the Gaza Strip. www.gazasurfrelief.com/LATIMES.html "We've got to get hooked up with these surfers in Gaza," says Dorian. Meanwhile, he's already got local surfer Arthur Rashkovan on the case in Tel Aviv, scrounging up 14 surfboards and a pile of rashguards, leashes and wax from the four local shapers in Israel: Inter Surf, Ultra Wave, Hani Surfboards and Section Surfboards. But now they faced the real problem — getting the boards into Gaza.
"We ended up connecting with an amazing group," explains Roshkovan, "The people at One Voice International not only had everything ready to go for our concert idea, they also had offices in Gaza and were able to help us set up getting the boards across the border. They even found the surfers from the article for us and arranged a meeting at the border."
Even with all this help, getting into Gaza is no easy task, especially at fortress-like Erez crossing. "We used every wily wit that any Jew could muster," Doc joked to the LA Times, poking fun at the old stereotype.
David, explains it a bit differently: "He really is a pain in the ass," David says of his tenacious father. "That's the first time I've ever seen his lines work like that. I mean, there's maybe a half-dozen people in the world who are able to cross that border, and here he's able to get across with a dozen boards and meet with the local surfers waiting on the other side. By the time our meeting was over, we were crying and hugging and saying to ourselves, 'OK, two down, two million to go.'"
"When I touched those boards," said Abu Hassan, a 28-year-old Gaza City lifeguard, "I felt a joy I cannot describe."
The situation clearly touched everyone involved, shedding light on the fact that even in a ravaged region like Gaza, where 2 million displace Palestinians live on a stretch of coast some 20 miles long and 3 miles wide, life goes on. Even there, surfing still represents an act of freedom and personal expression.
"When we surf, we think about surfing," Islam Assar, 17, told the LA Times. "We don’t think about the situation."
"We go to the beach to forget about the suffering,” said 20-year-old Gaza surfer Mohammed Juda.
“When I'm surfing," explains 34-year-old Gaza-surf legend Mohammed Jayab, "I feel like I’m flying.”
"Having lived in the Tel Aviv bubble my whole life," says Israeli surfer/activist Rashkovan, "I suddenly realized that we could actually change this situation. If we take things into our own hands, away from the politicians, the real solution will come from the people. And what better place to start than with surfing? When we go out there, we're just surfers — no identity, no nationality, no religion. I'm only thinking about the waves I ride, and they guys in Gaza are probably riding the same swell. I hope that I can surf there with them someday."
Following the gift of surfboards, Rashkovan explains that his phone has been ringing non-stop — LA Times, New York Times, CBS, CNN, ABC, Al Jeezera — and the flood of interest has set the "Surfing for Peace" concert into full effect. With "Surfing for Peace" co-founder Kelly Slater and David Paskowitz, along with a handful of surfing Israeli bands, already committed to play, they're working hard to convince fellow surfer/musician/activists like Ben Harper, Eddie Vedder, Jack Johnson, Perry Farrell and Rage Against the Machine's Zach De La Rocha to join in (come on guys, it's for PEACE!). While the line-up remains tentative, the concert is set to go down on October 18th, with a live webcast and an associated million-man petition for peace. Go to www.OneMillionVoices.org to sign the petition and find out more, and stay tuned to www.SurfingMagazine.com for more updates and news about the show.
[Special thanks to all the shapers who donated equipment and boards for the surfers of Gaza, and to the people at Once Voice International for making it all happen.]