Palestinian youngsters catch waves in Gaza Strip
By Saud Abu Ramadan
Gaza, Sep 18 (EFE).- Young Palestinians in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip turn to surfing as an escape from their stressful daily reality.
With their old and rickety boards, they spend hours surfing, taking advantage of the long sunshine hours, high temperatures and the Mediterranean waves.
The sport has burst onto the scene over the last five years.
Some of the youngsters who take to the swell regularly dream of going professional, but they lack access to all the tools they need due to the years-long Israeli blockade restricting trade and entry of goods into the impoverished enclave.
“I have been surfing since I was seven, but there are no boards, because Israel prevents them from entering,” 24-year-old Mohamed Abu Ghanem explains to Efe.
Working as a lifeguard on the beach, Ghanem would like to take a surfing course outside Gaza but he cannot because of the blockade, which Israel imposed after the Islamist militant group Hamas took over the strip in 2007.
Gaza, with more than two million inhabitants, is blockaded by Israel from land, air and sea, affecting water sports such as surfing, rowing, sailing and water skiing.
However, entities like the Palestinian Federation of Sailing and Rowing keep trying to promote water sports by welcoming enthusiasts, especially the young ones, in Gaza.
Khaldoun Abu Salim, the federation chief, tells Efe that watersports are also impacted by the damage the Israeli aggression leave on the strip every few years.
In less than 15 years, the strip has endured four large-scale wars (2008-2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021) and a heavy military offensive in August, in which at least 49 Palestinians were killed.
The federation “suffers from a lack of capacity, there are no boats dedicated to the sport of rowing, no clubs or training centers,” an athlete basic elements that Palestinians do not have, Abu Salim regrets.
But Abu Salim does not give up and hopes to create a national team “capable of representing Palestine locally and in the Arab world” in the field of all watersports.
For now, the Gaza city council has given the federation a place on the coast of the city and a rowing academy will be established soon, the first in Palestine.
Meanwhile, given the lack of resources, there are Gazans like Mohamed Abu Hasira who learned the basics of surfing independently.
He has been surfing for 12 years now, although he stresses the need for boards and specialized coaches who could help both him and the people of his generation to learn new skills.EFE