Eyes on the waves, Gaza surfers keep their boards close at hand

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GAZA, July 20 (Reuters) – Standing at his watchtower, Gaza rescuer Mohammad Abu Ghanim keeps an eye out for signs of rising waves.

“When I feel the winds blowing out the west at the end of my shift, I know the waves will be high the next day,” he said. “I’m gearing up, friends and cousins ​​and we’re getting it, and we’re enjoying the nice high waves.”

With Gaza’s land borders tightly controlled by Israeli and Egyptian neighbors, the seaside is a valuable resource for people looking to relax and escape daily stress.

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“When we go surfing, we feel freedom and peace, we feel our hearts relieved,” Abu Ghanim said.

While Gaza’s small surf scene is a world away from famous beaches in California, Australia or South Africa, it’s been hooked since 2007, when Israeli surfer Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz brought 15 boards surfing in Gaza after seeing a film of two Palestinians training on a makeshift board.

A few years later, American surfer Matthew Olsen helped deliver another 30 boards and helped train more surfers, though an attempt to establish a surf club failed after opposition from Gaza’s leaders within of Hamas.

“I feel wonderful that the surfboards are still in use,” Olsen told Reuters.

Obtaining boards and other equipment such as wetsuits is made difficult by Israeli restrictions aimed at limiting the import of anything that could be used for military purposes, although an army spokeswoman Israeli said that there should be no problem bringing purely sports equipment.

As for Abu Ghanim, he knows that the Mediterranean waves are capricious and he is ready to rush out to sea with his friends, even at night, when the time is right.

“We are still on hold,” said Abu Ghanim’s cousin, Mohammad, 24.

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Written by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Alex Richardson

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