07/20/2012 07:32 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How I Started Surfing The Middle East

The following is an introduction to Jesse Aizenstat's Surfing the Middle East: Deviant Journalism from the Lost Generation.

Major in political science. Graduate with honors. Fail to find a job. Go surfing in the Middle East.

In 2009, I graduated from college in San Diego, California, and couldn't find a job. My only lead was from the Surfer's Journal, where I pitched a deviant little idea to tell the story of the Middle East through surfing.

From Israel to Lebanon would be my route. Around the closed Israeli-Lebanese border, where the Israeli army and Hezbollah take only the fiercest aim at one another.

So, I would have to go around. Meaning that once I surfed in northern Israel I would have to go back to Jerusalem, through the West Bank and into Jordan, where I would fly over Syria and land in Beirut. I would need two American passports, as the Lebanese gleefully deny entry to any and all saps foolish enough to enter with a Hebrew-lettered Israeli stamp in their passport.


It was a daring mission to try to surf from Israel to Lebanon. But if you believe as I do, life is about experience and challenging the waning tide of our own mortality.

In the end, I got closer to the humanity, the conflict and culture than I ever thought possible. I got to ride the fine-breaking Mediterranean waves that have been bombarding this ancient coast since the beginning. Be it surfing with ex-Israeli commandos in Haifa, getting tear-gassed in the West Bank, or even sneaking into a Hezbollah rally in south Beirut, the whole thing was downright mind-bending.

And the best part is that it's still out there, waiting for the next time, whenever that glory will be.

This post originally appeared in the Fair Observer.