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March 3: Surfing for Peace

Lawrence Bush
March 2, 2017
Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, a Stanford-trained physician who gave up medicine to become a full-time surfer and spent twenty-five years living in camper vans with his wife and as many as nine children, was born in Galveston, Texas on this date in 1921. Paskowitz became a doctor in 1946, served in the Navy, then quit his practice to sojourn in Israel in 1956. After entering his third marriage, he began family life on the road and founded a famous surfing school on the beach in San Onofre. Other sources of income included stints in hospital emergency rooms. “Portrayed in early newspaper features as surfing’s answer to the singing Von Trapp family,” writes Steve Chawkins in the Los Angeles Times, “the Paskowitzs’ eight boys and one girl were for the most part home-schooled in the camper by Doc and his wife, Juliette.” Their authoritarian father was no easy-going patriarch and imposed many demands and restrictions on his kids while “shielding” them from society’s unsavory influences. “A devout Jew,” Chawkins continues, Paskowitz “belonged to no synagogue but prayed daily and celebrated Friday night Shabbat wherever the family happened to camp. He is credited with pioneering surfing in Israel, where he lived in the mid-1950s; in 2007, he delivered boards to Palestinian surfers” in Gaza. Paskowitz lived to 93. His life and his eccentricities were portrayed in the 2007 documentary, Surfwise, which you can see excerpts from below. To see Paskowitz speaking about surfing and spirit in the months before his death, look below that. “I’m not some kind of avant-garde, radical intellectual. I just wanted my kids around me, surfing with me — and education be damned!” --Doc Paskowitz

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.