Meeting Lebanon's surfing community
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 (surfinglebanon.com) 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