The legacy of Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz continues to radiate positivity nearly four years after his passing. The man credited with introducing the sport of surfing to Israel in the 1950s was also instrumental in supporting the burgeoning surf scene in Gaza.
In July 2007, the L.A. Times published an article that profiled a handful of Palestinians seeking refuge in the surf from the prevailing conflict that existed (and still does) like a shadow over Gaza.
“We go to the beach to forget about the suffering,” Mohammed Juda, then 20, told the L.A. Times.
That was all Doc needed to read to spur him to act. As Tel Aviv native Artur Rashkovan, a good family friend of the Paskowitzes and current director of Surfing for Peace, puts it, Doc proceeded to give him a call explaining they needed to get as many surfboards as they could manage across the Israeli border into Gaza. Stat. Artur knew better than to protest.
That August, Doc and his son David arrived at the border with a truck full of surfboards. After two hours of bickering, Doc persuaded officials to let he and David pass – no small feat given the elevated level of violence at the time. Doc reportedly told the officer, “I came 12,500 miles from Hawaii to give away these boards. The guys who need them are standing 50 meters from here, and you’re trying to stop me. How can you do that to a fellow Jew?” And like that, Surfing For Peace was born.
What began as a simple concept – to bring surfboards to people who don’t have access to them – has since morphed into a handful of simple concepts. During the final years of Doc’s life, he and Artur organized a benefit concert featuring Makua Rothman and Kelly Slater and generated global support for the surf community of Gaza.
Recently, Surfing for Peace has even begun to host surf trips with participants from a multiplicity of countries – the idea being that through the shared experience of surfing people can recognize they’re not so different.
Having lived in Israel all his life, Artur understands the complexities of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and is realistic about Surfing for Peace’s goals. “People ask me, ‘What? So you think you’re gonna make peace now?’ And I tell them, ‘No, but at least now I have a few friends on the other side,'” he says.