Surf’s up! ... in Israel? “That’s what I thought when I first read the invitation,” La Jolla Shores Surfing Association member Simon Andrews said. “It’s not only possible, but has a ‘wow!’ factor you can only find there.”
A group of La Jolla surfers recently returned from a surfing excursion to Israel that they considered the pinnacle of generosity, new experiences (including night surfing) and perspective. “We were completely bowled over by their generosity,” said Lorraine Schnalenberger, president of La Jolla Shores Surfing Association, of the community in Israel — everyone from the surfers themselves all the way up to the mayor’s office.
The impetus for the trip was establishing a pen-pal program with an emerging surf community in Ashdod, Israel. “I’m thinking we’ll exchange a T-shirt, make them an honorary member, invite the surfers to join us on an outing in La Jolla if they ever come to La Jolla,” Schnalenberger said. “And then comes this invitation to visit Ashdod as guests. I said, ‘Is this for real?’ ”
The offer, which was real, was to visit the city, paying only for airfare. Accommodations, food, tours and entertainment were all taken care of. “We had to work really hard to spend our own money, let’s put it that way,” she joked.
The original invitation was for eight, but when 11 people responded, the Mayor of Ashdod’s office said to “bring them all.” Surfers from the La Jolla Shores Surf Association, the Malibu Surfing Association and the Cardiff Surf Club, in their 20s to 70s, accepted the invitation and departed for Israel on May 25, returning June 3.
La Jolla Shores Surfing Association member and trip coordinator Allan Goldstein explained that generosity was also seen in the surfers. He said most La Jollans did not bring their surfboards so the local surfers loaned theirs. “you specified what boards you like to ride and they’d donate them,” he said, “Surfers can be a little territorial with their home break but these (surfers) were absolutely not.”
While there, the La Jollans experienced the custom of night surfing. With the temperature exceeding 100 degrees during summer days, surfers in Israel were getting sun burnt as the sport gained in popularity. So surfers began bringing lights to a jetty and illuminating the beach at night. “Once you’ve done it a couple of times, it becomes the most fantastic experience; it’s so different,” Goldstein said.
With water temperatures in the high-70s at night, the La Jolla group would go out at 11 p.m. and return at 2 a.m. to a picnic and some beer. “It was like San Diego on a perfect summer day, every day,” Schnalenberger said.
As an added benefit, Goldstein said youths in Ashdod would be out surfing at night, instead of causing trouble.
With the appeal of night surfing, the Israeli community is trying to put Ashdod surfing on the map. All first-generation surfers, the Ashdod Surf Club formed when their favorite surf spots were being threatened though proposals like installing a fishing port at a popular jetty and building fences along the beach.
Within three weeks of establishment, the club had 2,000 members. They are in the process of opening a surf museum and installing signs to indicate designated surfing areas. “They have rallied their surf communities to save their beaches for surfing, just like the Shores has rallied surfers,” Schnalenberger said. “We’ve all had to rally surfers to protect our beaches, our sacred breaks and the surfing lifestyle.”
Offering advice to the burgeoning surf community, she said the la jolla group told them “how we raised money and our coalition of surf clubs in California, how we collaborate across cities, and our structure.” Though they had much to offer the Israeli community, Schnalenberger said she was most amazed by what they already had in common.
“We’re all surf fanatics, as a lifestyle, we seek out surf swells as much as we can — even juggling family and jobs — and they were also like that,” she said.
Only Goldstein had been to Israel before, and on behalf of the traveling group, he said, “Everybody loved the people, the experience, the friendship and the camaraderie. It was really an eye-opening experience for everybody."
Schnalenberger added, "I’ll consider us lifelong friends with every surfer in Ashdod.”