Doc Paskowitz

Doc Paskowitz

Living The Dream — In our humdrum world of nine-to-five, it isn’t difficult to talk of escape. Only the brave don’t talk – they simply do.

This story was first published in Huck 11, 2008.

Dads can be predictable. They come in all shapes and sizes – strict, laidback, cool as hell – but are generally bound by one thing: education, and making sure you get one.

Dorian ‘Doc’ Paskowitz has a slightly different take: “There is a wisdom in the wave – high-born, beautiful – for those who would but paddle out.” With a philosophy that laced surfing as number one, the Texas-born doctor packed up his clan (wife, eight boys and one outnumbered girl) in the sixties, boarded a motor home and, echoing Kerouac, hit the road for a life spent chasing waves.

Education for the Paskowitz kids was a home-schooled curriculum of surfing and health. “It was the same way one of the Rothschilds might wanna share banking with his kids,” says the eighty-seven-year-old. “There is a core, central power point in my life that has just moved everything. And that has been surfing.”

Having tuned in and dropped out, the Stanford-trained doctor traded in fixed abodes and regular pay for a vagabond life, but ended up becoming a surfing pioneer of political proportions. The Paskowitz Surf Camp, founded in 1972, etched the family name into surfing’s history. But it’s the footprint Doc left in Israel that reverberates a little deeper.

“It turned out to be a fantastic media issue,” says Paskowitz of a trip he took last year with Surfers For Peace, which he co-founded with Kelly Slater, to hand-deliver surfboards to surfers in Gaza. “Over a billion people saw us give those boards. But it didn’t start off with a billion people in mind – it started off very simply. We saw a picture of two guys in Gaza, who were Arabs, sharing a surfboard and my friends and I – mostly Jews – said, ‘Oh hell, that’s no good. If they want to surf as much as we do, we just gotta go get them some boards.’ So we did. That was the end of it for us – that was the beginning of it and the end of it.”

So what does a nomadic, pro-peace, surfing physician see when he looks back over his life? “I have been a beach bum since I was twelve years old,” says Doc. “On top of that I became a lifeguard, a research physiologist and a medical doctor. But you know, it was all what you might call T-shirts on top of a bare-skin beach boy. It was a great life. I’m sure I’m gonna miss it.”