In 2008, a loose band of surfing enthusiasts formed the Gaza Surf Club with help from the U.S. nonprofit Explore Corps that helps to provide surf programming and distribution of equipment. Prior to the formal establishment of Gaza Surf Club, organizations, such as Surfing 3 Peace and Gaza Surf Relief, were providing new boards and equipment from companies abroad through person-to-person outreach. Like a band of brothers — and sisters on occasion — they descend from their homes in farmlands or fishing villages to the beach in Gaza City,  young surfers venturing out, whenever time, schedules and modes of transportation allow, to explore their own little slice of the Mediterranean. Most work as lifeguards who gather informally in the wee hours of the morning before the crowds arrive, or whenever enough fellow lifeguards are not working.

Alice Martins first began photographing the club in March 2012, and has been following their updates every since.

Though predominately featuring men, several young girls have taken up the sport as well, wearing a burkini swimsuit. Surfing 4 Peace designed swimwear that meets the strict regulations regarding women’s attire in Gaza. Of the four girls who were surfing when Martins initially began her series — Rawand, Shoruq, Sabah and Kholoud — Martins says only two continued. Rawand and Shoruq each stopped to prepare for college, and get married and have a child, respectively. Sabah and Kholoud continue to surf, mainly because they are still under 16, and don’t attract as much attention on the beach. Among the boys, Mahmoud “Moody” El Reyashi, Yousef Abo Ghaname, and Ibrahim Arafat are some of the most popular. A nurse, Arafat, volunteered at the main hospital that treated the injured when conflict between Israelis and Palestinians broke out in August.

Most have acquired a love for surfing in part from low-budget American films shown via Arabic television. Exposure to surf culture beyond their borders was slow coming. In April, Explore Corp offered to host one Gaza Surf Club member in Hawaii for a workshop, the first trip abroad for the group. And as the sport’s popularity and awareness continues to increase in Gaza, more organizations are looking for ways to monetize the rising interest. A 2012 article by SurferMag.com stated that some organizations were trying to exercise control over surfing equipment or when and where surfers could surf during certain times of the day.

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