History of the Israeli surfing scene
It all begun at the time of the "Kadesh operation" back in the 50's when a young
doctor from California named Dorian Paskowitz came to Israel.
He had a dream - to create an Israeli surfing team which would
represent Israel in the world championships.
He brought with him 6 Longboards, which were partly made from Balsa wood, each
with drawings depicting the Israeli flag, a "Star of David" with blue lines on either
He started cruising the coast in the hope of finding someone who would
take responsibility for the project. Eventually he came to "Frishman"
beach in Tel Aviv, where he bumped into local lifeguard Shamai "Topsi"
Kanzapolski. He told Topsi about his idea.
Nir Almog relates: "It was love at first sight, my father decided
to take on the project and be responsible for getting it started.
At that time the lifeguards only caught waves with the "Hasake"
(a flat wide board that had been designed for near shore fishing by Arabs
and later adopted as a vehicle for the lifeguards...)
Dorian gave them lessons and slowly the locals who hung out by
the lifeguard station started to surf.
At that time the waves on Tel Aviv's beaches were very high and
used to break right on the beach (curved like a real beach break) - the reason for this
was that the beach was open shore with no piers and the golden sand that came
drifting up from the river Nile helped to shape the sea floor. To enter the water and go
surfing then was thought of as pure madness and extremely courageous. The waves
broke in sections, the first being a beach break, the second break was 500m away.
Shamai "Topsi" Kanzapolski - Israeli Surf father.
Nir Almog continues: "My father, who loved the sea, decided that I
too, his first son, should learn to surf. He took me and put me
on the board's nose with him, while the surf was up. He instructed me to stand
up, I did so, and that was the moment I caught the surf bug...
After a while I became a partner of Shaul the lifeguard who worked
with my dad at the same beach tower, he was the best surfer at
that time and he used to take me out to the second break where we surfed
the huge waves that to me looked gigantic, maybe because I was so tiny...
We used to rip the waves all the way to the beach. The technique of the longboard
was to walk by crossing legs to the nose of the board and to balance ourselves on one
leg, a manoeuvre that was called "Hang 5" while balancing with two legs was called
After a few years the local gang gained experience in surfing but no surf team had
been established for representing Israel overseas...
Dorian returned to Israel and brought more boards with him that were distributed to
the local surfers.
Topsi's storehouse at "Frishman" beach.
Nir adds: "During the 60's a giant storm erupted which caused the storehouse to be
flooded resulting in the surfboards being damaged and broken. After this disaster my
father took one of the surfboards and tried to fix it, he cut it down to 1.80m in size
and so the first short board in Israel was born. I was the first one here to have surfed
on a short board.
Surfers at Tel Avivs "Frishman" beach.during the 60's
The same surfers kept on surfing but no progress was made until 1970. They were
joined by surfers from all over the country, a few who brought with them surfboards
Eilam Bale and Ofer Zaramaty, the first Israelis mentioned in "Surfer magazine".
The Frishman gang - Engel, Roni, Micha, Rami, Hezi, Ofer & Havana.
At the beginning of the 70's, a young paratroop officer called Yair told Topsi that the
army uses a plastic foam called polioritan , and that a company in Haifa produces it
for the army. The plastic foam is similar to the materials used for making surfboards.
Yair came up with the idea to start producing boards locally with this material.
Topsi contacted the company and ordered the material. Topsi and Nir started
to shape boards, of course, the beginning was hard, with quite a few blocks of foam
going to waste. After trying for a while they succeeded in shaping blocks that looked
And so began a small industry of surfboard production. Most of the boards were used
for hiring and a new generation of surfers entered the local Israeli surf scene.
Topsi ran a small factory at his new storehouse at the "Hilton" beach and
between renting "Hasakes" he shaped surfboards for the local kids.
Tel Aviv's "Hilton" beach back in the 70's.
Orian topsea point 1978
More surfers at "Hilton" beach.
Surfers at "Hilton", in the background Topsi's "Hasake".
Ofer Zaramati relates: "David Paskowits gave us a few new
tips, up until then we used to surf in a simple style - catching
the wave in a straight line - from the peak to the shore, as with
the "Hasake". David taught us some new tricks which today are the basics
for every surfer - "off the lip" and "cutback".
At that time Dorian's Caravan was found in "Ari" Storage Warehouse and in it we
discovered a gallon of polyester and a flexible wooden board with 4 rubber wheels –
this was the first skateboard in Israel. Nobody knew what to do with it or how - except
Yoni Bale - Eilam's younger brother. He was the first who dared to ride down
Frishman Street which was downhill. Shortly afterwards Topsi ordered a "Gordon &
Smith" skateboard and the gang which included, Ofer Zaramaty, Gali Ziner and Shai
Raz became an attraction for the local youth in the beach area.
Later they become the Instruction team in the "youth city" complex at the
summer holiday fair for kids who took their first steps on a skateboard..
Ofer Zaramati riding downhill standing on his hands.
Ofer Zaramaty continues : "The polyiaster gallon was something new for us,
I remember that the first time we fixed my surfboard we did so in the middle of our
living room, we used cigarette filters instead of foam and
plasteline to frame the cast. Who had heard about foam then?".
Nir says : "At that time I joined the army, after 4 years I got released
and decided to study fiberglass, I worked at a speed
boat factory in Herzliya for 3 years. Every day after work I spent my time
trying to shape surfboards and I gained experience. After 3 years I quit my job and
started my own surfboard factory. I must mention that I was using local materials
and this was the reason that my boards did not look as good as those from overseas.
The foam absorbed water making it much heavier, therefore the quality of the boards
was nothing to write home about. I started a business in 1977 in the basement of my
mothers apartment which was called "Almog Surfboards".
At the same time a lifeguard at the "Country Club" beach by the name of "Musa", a
childhood friend of mine, also started producing surfboards. He brought materials
from overseas. I approached him with an offer of opening up a business together and
to become partners to which he replied "Not this year, I've invested a lot of money,
maybe next year"
From that moment the "rivalry" between Hilton's Almog surfboards and
Country beach's Musa surfboards began...