Surfing for Peace in Gaza Strip

Catching some waves helps build friendships in Gaza.

ByABC News
July 31, 2009, 8:50 AM

JERUSALEM, July 31, 2009 — -- Think of Gaza these days and images of war and suffering probably spring to mind. The last thing you would think of is surfing.

But don't tell that to the 20 members of the Gaza Surfing Union who despite the political troubles and ongoing economic hardships in this conflict ravaged strip of land, have fallen in love with surfing.

"When I surf I feel free, and you don't often feel free in Gaza" said 29 year old Mohamed Abu Jayyeb.

One of the group's founding members, he earns his living as a life guard on Gaza's teeming beaches. His salary is paid for by the Islamic organization Hamas.

Their favorite surfing spot is next to Gaza City's main fishing harbor where the rough stone of the harbor wall helps to channel the Mediterranean surf into rolling waves.

Abu Jayyeb and his friend Mohamed Abu Hassira started surfing 15 years ago. They were forced to share a single damaged board. Their plight reached the attention of the media and then a story about them appeared in an Israeli paper. That was when things started to change.

"For years we surfed using a broken board. That shows you how much we love this thing. We want to be professional, but we have nothing," said Abu Hassira.

Dorian Paskowitz, an 88-year-old Jewish American doctor and himself a surfing legend, read the article on vacation in Tel Aviv and decided to help.

"All of a sudden I see in the paper a picture of two guys with one old board. There are surfers in Gaza, but no boards," he said.

Paskowitz has had a life long passion for surfing and helped introduce the sport to Israel back in the 1950's.