The young Iranian woman adjusts her hijab headscarf, stands tall on her surfboard, and catches a wave rolling toward the southern shore of Iran. It is a shoreline so dry, empty and forbidding, it looks like a moonscape. The woman is part of a small group of Iranian women, who have introduced the sport of surfing to this unusual desert beach.
Here in Southern California, where I live, surfing has been a way of life. We live on the Pacific shore, where natural waves define many lifestyles. It seems that the world has now discovered our fun.
To underline just how international surfing has become, the teacher and mentor of the Iranian surfing girls was from Ireland. Surfer Easkey Britton, winner of the Irish national Surfing Championships was the first female surfer to ride the big wave, Aill na Searrach, off the Cliffs of Moher, a pretty dramatic place to surf.
A surfing friend of Britton suggested that another dramatic place to surf, Balochistan, the only coastline of Iran open to ocean swell, might make an interesting surfing adventure. Britton decided to give it a try.
She was accompanied by French film director Marion Piozeau who created a short film about surfing in the desert.
The film was shown in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. It inspired some adventurous young Iranian women to conclude that surfing might be just the sport for them.
Britton is the kind of person who enjoys reaching out and connecting people. She enthusiastically agreed to teach these young Iranian women. Since surfing is not a contact sport, participation by women does not violate any religious principles.
The success of these Iranian women led to the creation of a new long form documentary named “Into the Sea” is available for viewing at iTunes (one of the places where you can download all our Listen2Read audiobooks) and Vimeo.
Iranian surfing is a long way from Hawaii, where the sport was born. Mark Twain was one of the first writers to describe surfing in 1886 when he visited the Hawaiian Islands. Twain called it Surf Bathing.
Jack London wrote about surfing in 1907. London and his wife, Charmian, had begun what they contemplated would be a world sailing adventure on their ketch, the Snark, when they made landfall on Oahu, Hawaii. (free preview, “The Cruise of the Snark by Jack London: https://listen2read.com/the-cruise-of-the-snark/)
It was during their stay on Oahu that London was introduced to the long board:
“I’ll never forget the first big wave I caught out there in the deep water. I saw it coming, turned me back on it and paddled for dear life. Faster and faster my board went, untill it seemed my arms would drop off. What was appending behind me, I could not tell….I heard the crest of the wave hissing and churning and, then my board was lifted and flung foreword….Though I kept my eyes open, I could not see anything, for I was buried in thrashing white of the crest. But I did not mind. I was chiefly conscious of ecstatic bliss at having caught the wave.”
The person who really brought surfing to the attention of the world was Duke Kahanamoku, considered the “Father of surfing”. In 1912 he won 2 Olympic gold medals, not for surfing, but for freestyle swimming and freestyle relay in Stockholm.
Duke Kahanamoku’s Olympic success and his winning personality allowed him to introduce the sport of surfing to the Los Angeles and southern California area leading to surfing becoming popular all over the world…..even Iran.
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