Israel's Thriving Surf Scene

Anna Dimond

Pedro Henrique (PRT) .Air Merrick &GoPro Freestyle Session. Portugal's Pedro Henrique was pleasantly surprised by the waves on tap in Netanya. - WSL / Laurent Masurel

Israel's playful breachbreaks will never make it a destination location for surf travelers, but its vibrant surf scene has been thriving for decades, as many European surfers discovered this week while attending the SEAT Netanya Pro, the first pro event sanctioned in Israel since the early 1980's.

Trailer: SEAT Netanya Pro
Some of the top European surfers converge in Netanya for a historic first WSL event in Israel.

Israel's Surfing Roots

Gudauskas Brothers in Tel Aviv
Take a tour of Tel Aviv -- Netanya's neighbor to the south -- with San Clemente's famous surf clan. Video: Vans.

Israeli surfers have the late surf icon Dr. Dorian Paskowitz to thank for bringing California's budding surf culture to Israel when he moved there in 1956. According to surf historian Matt Warshaw, that's when Paskowitz took his Hobie pintail to Tel Aviv, opened the Paskowitz International Surf School, and changed the country's relationship with waves forever. Those seeds have blossomed into a robust local industry with shapers, shooters, and core surfing enthusiast.

Halley Batista (BRA) .Netanya QS 2016 Brazilian Halley Batista looked inspired during his visit. - WSL / Laurent Masurel

North to Netanya

Women Rule at Pro Netanya
See what the urban surf scene looks like, with some of Europe's top female surfers doing battle at the beachbreak.

Netanya sits roughly 15 miles north of Tel Aviv. It's flanked by multiple breachbreaks and home to a solid community of surfers. The breaks at Kontiki, the stretch of beach that hosts the SEAT Nentanya Pro, are famous for their winter barrels and strong (if not finicky) northern swells.

Local Standouts?

Meet the Lelior Sisters
Anat and Noa Lelior are two of Israel's emerging surf stars. Video: Billabong.

Yoni Klein, Vovka Merlis and sisters Anat Lelior and Noa Lelior are four of the top surfers from Israel. Klein won the 2015 Maldives Open Championship, organized by the Asian Surfing Championships and, along with Merlis, has surfed for Israel at the International Surfing Association contests. The Lelior sisters have been fixtures on the ISA roster, and both made it to the Quarterfinals in the SEAT Pro Netanya.


In 2014, Stab Magazine took the CT's Josh Kerr, along with freesurfers Craig Anderson, Dion Agius and Creed McTaggart, on a surf trip to Tel Aviv. The results made for a boost-filled edit.

The next call for the SEAT Pro Netanya pres. by Billabong is Saturday, January 23 at 7 a.m. local time.