Some 200 Israeli surfers paddled out together in to the Mediterranean to honor the memory of the late Jewish surfing legend Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz.
Paskowitz, who died on November 10 in California at the age of 93, is believed to have introduced the sport of surfing to Israel in 1956 when he visited the country for a year, bringing a bunch of long boards decorated with the Star of David with him.
On Tel Aviv’s Frishman Beach, Paskowitz found a kindred spirit in Shamai “Topsi” Kanzapolski, a lifeguard who was willing to take on the challenge of growing the sport in Israel.
It was on that same beach that the large group of Israeli surfers gathered on November 14 to pay their final respects to Paskowitz. Summoned by a Facebook event invitation posted by Orian Kancepolsky, Topsi’s son and founder of the Topsea Surfing Center, they arrived with their boards ready to ride the waves.
They paddled out on masse and formed a large circle formation in the water. Once in position, they splashed and threw flowers on to the sea’s surface.
“We enjoyed the Aloha spirit in his memory,” said Kancepolsky, referencing the “Aloha Doc” nickname by which Paskowitz, who spent part of his life in Hawaii, had been known.
According to Kancepolsky, not everyone who came out to honor Paskowitz had met him.
“Some just knew his story and wanted to be part of it,” he said.
Kancepolsky, on the other hand, had gotten to know Paskowitz and his large family (he and his wife Juliette had nine children) well when they stayed at the Kancepolsky home on their visits to Israel.
“It was amazing when he came here a few years ago to bring surfboards to Gaza. Here he was, this very old man with no money and who could hardly walk,” said Kancepolsky.
“I really liked his spirit. He believed that everything is possible, that nothing is impossible. He lived in the moment and had confidence that all would fall in to place at the right time,” he said.
Based on the turnout at Frishman Beach, it appears the Jewish surfing legend will be greatly missed by the Israeli surfing community.
“He was really a unique person. You don’t see a lot of people like him,” said Kancepolsky.