Let yourself be swallowed by a magical middle eastern adventure!
Earlier this year, the Australian surfers Ozzie Wright and Otis Carey were invited to compete in the Seat Netanya Pro, Israel’s first WSL event. This excited the two surfers very much as neither had been to this magical middle eastern democracy before. The trip presented one small-ish problem, however.
Neither surfer did contests.
Nothing personal, of course. Both surfers appreciate the skills and focus needed to excel at the highest levels of surfing competition, but, well, why put yourself under that kind of pressure when you can paint, sing and surf (Oz) or paint, model and surf (Otis)?
In any event, the pair dutifully joined the WSL, mowing through all the banalities of contest administration forms and erasing nearly one thousand dollars each on their credit cards in the process.
The level of surfing in the contest was higher than any of us thought (I’d even considered a cameo until I saw Pedro Henrique tag a two-footer a dozen times to the beach), surfers arriving from Portugal, Tahiti and beyond. Still, Ozzie looked like the happiest man on earth as he soared through two heats while Otis, whose talent and youth is stark, made a succession of heats and was only stopped in the quarter finals.
But the trip to Israel was never going to just be about a contest.
Ozzie is treated as a god in this part of the world and wherever he went, crowds of curious onlookers gathered around him.
“He’s more influential than Kelly Slater,” three different surfers, at three different beaches, told me.
The shaper and pro surfer Didu Biton, who owns the company Seadny surfboards, and who operates from a shaping bay behind a beachfront mosque, built Oz a surfboard (Buddha model) that proved a phenomenon in the wind swells.
The noted Israeli filmmaker responsible for the movie, here, Yakir Avrahami, explained that Ozzie was the first surfer to demonstrate how surfing could be more than contests, that it could lead to a fulfilling life, creatively.
It’s why Yakir, fresh from three years in the army, took to directing.
It’s why his graphic designer pal who cornered Ozzie at one of the dazzling bars in Tel Aviv brought a laptop – to show Oz the deep influence he’d had on his work.
At a party presented by the mayor of Netanya, the beach town north of Tel Aviv where the contest was being held, a surfer of no more than eighteen years stopped Oz and told him that 156 Tricks was the best movie of all time and his girlfriend called Oz the “best aerialist in the world.”
This movie, Love and Peace from the Middle East, will require a small leap of faith and I do beg your patience. It isn’t Under a Blue Moon, it isn’t Cluster. The waves are small and onshore. The action, therefore, limited.
It was made by a commercial director determined to give surfers, worldwide, an angle on his country that isn’t coloured by the sensationalist reporting of, say, CNN or The Guardian.
It is nine-and-a-half minutes long, longer than most surf shorts you’ll watch, although this does include Oz’s own two-minute credits, cut to the song he wrote in Israel, King of the Jews.