Meet­ing Le­banon's surf­ing com­mu­nity

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS - Sabina Llewellyn-davies

Malek Daou has been surf­ing since 1994. He founded Ba­troun Wa­ter Sports ( Ba­troun Wa­ter Sports) in 2006 to fol­low his pas­sion for rid­ing the waves, and has been coach­ing as­pir­ing surfers since, along the north­ern shores of his home­town of Ba­troun. Though surf­ing has been around Le­banon since the ‘60s, back then there were just a hand­ful of guys who surfed in Jiyeh, but over the past decade, surf cul­ture has re­ally picked up. And for such a small coun­try Le­banon has a var­ied coastal land­scape, of­fer­ing surfers di­verse surf spots and waves.

Ac­cord­ing to Ali Elamine, who founded Surf Le­banon (surf­in­gle­ in 2012 in Jiyeh and is also an In­ter­na­tional Surf­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (ISA) cer­ti­fied in­struc­tor, it’s a great fac­tor for surfers look­ing for new waves to con­quer. Each spot along the coun­try’s coast­line has its day when the con­di­tions for surf­ing and the waves come to­gether har­mo­niously. “The most con­sis­tent spot is Mustafa's A Frame in Jiyeh and it can hold some size. [Surf­ing spots] Tos and Nate Dawg's Reef are also fun and can dish out beat­ings when they turn on,” Elamine says.

Ask any Le­banese surfer about rid­ing the waves and they’ll tell you it’s like noth­ing else in the world. Qui­etly build­ing in pop­u­lar­ity over the last few decades, Le­banese surf cul­ture now has firm roots up and down the coun­try’s coast­line

An ar­chi­tect by trade, an­other Ba­troun­na­tive, Roger Ragi, first started surf­ing in 1994, al­most by ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. “I was wind­surf­ing in Ba­troun when sud­denly the wind dropped, but the waves were still too big to stop the ses­sion. I re­moved the sail from my fun­board [a wind­surf­ing board for wave style] and went back in,” he says. “I was try­ing to catch the waves by pad­dling like I re­mem­bered in the movies. I ended up slid­ing, lay­ing on the board, but nev­er­the­less, I can say I had the feel­ing of the surf.” Back when he first started there weren’t many surfers

around, so he did his re­search, from how to pad­dle for a wave to learn­ing the best way to take off. Over the years he’s seen a thriv­ing surf­ing com­mu­nity evolve in Le­banon. “I no­ticed that I wasn't the only surfer in town. There were a few from the south, and some who come from abroad. The surf­ing com­mu­nity in­creased and we can now count around 200 surfers who share Le­banon's waves.”

Le­banon of­fers surf­ing all year round, though the best months to catch the surf are dur­ing the win­ter sea­son, from Novem­ber un­til March. Any­one can learn, as long as you are con­fi­dent enough to swim in the sea and deal with the waves. And, the feel­ing is hard to match, as Daou at­tests, “the feel­ing of be­ing in na­ture, in the wa­ter, it’s so peace­ful, like med­i­ta­tion.”

Maybe the best thing about this sport is the con­stant chal­lenges it can of­fer. “It’s not like any other sport. You have to pad­dle out against the wave then wait for the right one and catch it,” says Elamine. “Once you catch it you feel so good be­cause you had to work hard for it. The re­ward out­weighs all the work.” For Ragi, surf­ing teaches valu­able skills and of­fers an es­cape from day-to-day life. “Surf­ing of­fers lessons in the school of life. It teaches you how to be pa­tient, achieve goals, break the lim­its, stand up af­ter fall­ing and to never give up be­cause there is al­ways an­other wave,” he says. “It has been so inspiring, so out-of-the-box. It’s a dis­con­nec­tion.

Surf­ing of­fers lessons in the school of life... It has been inspiring

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Samer Abi Saab

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