I challenge anyone to pinpoint a country that has endured as much turmoil as the state of Israel. Between Egypt and Jordan, on the South East coast of the Mediterranean, Israel has seen its fair share of blood shed over the years, and nearly all of it in the name of territory. Tensions have always sored between Israel and Palestine, but when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat declared a war against Israel in the late nineties shit really hit the fan. Since 2000, records indicate around seven thousand seven hundred and thirty fatalities as a result of the on-going conflict.
Kiril Shchegolsky is arguably the top Bodyboarder from the Jewish nation.
“For the last ten years I’ve been Bodyboarding and travelling all around the world Hawaii, Mexico, Canary Islands, all over Europe and USA,” he types from Israel, “we had a great winter season in Israel, the waves were good, it was a very consistent season here.”
Not a lot has changed for the twenty-four year-old since we met in 2010; yearly trips to Mexico, Hawaii and the Canaries are still on the cards, and he’s still hanging out with Bodyboarding royalty on a regular basis. So far Kiril’s been back in Israel for about six months, the longest period of time he’s been back home for five years. Kiril is pretty far removed from the stresses of living in a burdened plagued by a historical conflict. Five minutes from the beach, about thirty kilometres north of Tel Aviv and ten minutes away from his local break, Argaman Bay, he lives in the City of Netanya (meaning Gift of God and twinned with Australia’s Gold Coast), and spends almost all day every day in the sea.
“Right now I’m studying at ‘Vingeyt Sport University’ it’s a big sports school. I’m doing that through ISA (Israel Surf Association). I also have a small surf school called “TIME 2 SURF” working with kids.”
Alongside his study Kiril also bartends weddings with his girlfriend Lea, who just finished two years of national service in the military.
“She skates and surfs and she’s really good at snowboarding too, I’m really stoked I met her and we can do all these things together. She’s epic!”
Israel is the only country in the world to draft both men and women for military conscription. All Israeli citizens are conscripted at eighteen. Men serve three years and women two. Of course, Kiril was no exception, fresh out of school at eighteen, he joined the army.
“When you’re eighteen and you’ve just finished school and want to go ahead with your dreams, you have to go to the army! So it kinda sucks! It’s good for those who don’t know what to do with their lives and want to learn more about themselves, for those who want to have some experience being part of a system and some lessons for life in general, but for those who got some alternative objectives in life, it might be an obstacle. For surfers it’s definitely an obstacle.”
But, with the support from the ISA (Israel Surf Association) as an active water-sportsman in Israel, he still managed to spend the majority of his military time in the water.
“I was in the army, but I never went to fight, I was surfing ninety-nine per cent of my army time. But don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for people who serve their duty to the army. My big brother was in the Air Forces of the Israeli army for 4 years, and one of my best mates is doing a career in the army and I’m really proud of him. I’m just not really the right person to fit in this kind of systems like the army, but I guess you just have to go and do it. Israel has a lot of hostile countries around it and there are a lot of terrorist threats, so it needs to protect itself.”
In July 2005, eighteen year-old, Ahmed Abu Khalil detonated himself on a pedestrian crossing near the entrance to Hasharon Mall in Netanya, representing Palestinian Islamist militant organization ‘Islamic Jihad.’ The suicide bombing killed 5 civilians and wounded a further ninety. The shopping mall was situated about fifteen minutes from Kiril’s home in Netanya, and his mother had left for the mall fifteen minutes prior to the time of the explosion.
“Ten to fifteen minutes after she left the house there was a big BOOM everything was shaking in the house, it was crazy! I looked at the window and saw black smoke coming up from the shopping centre, the next second the phone rang. It was my mom, she was fine. Super lucky, just a few blocks away from getting to the shopping centre she met my grandma, and they stopped to talk for five minutes, so she didn’t get to the shopping centre, those five minutes saved her life that day.”
Tucked in the corner of the Mediterranean, most of Israel’s waves come courtesy of short period wind swells, so most of the waves lack the kind of power bodyboarders would usually look for.
“It almost never gets epic, but it can get three to four feet a few times a year can be really fun most of the breaks in Israel are beach breaks. it’s the Mediterranean sea so winter time is the surf season here. Summer time we have heaps of jellyfish that sting really bad and the waves are small and shitty most of the summer except a few occasional swells.”
Having said that, now backed by YCB (Yamo Custom Boards), Kiril has surfed nearly every day since being been back in Israel, due to an unusually consistent season.
Kiril started bodyboarding a couple of months before his fourteenth birthday. He and his friend Danny were rebel kids, and Bodyboarding kept them out of trouble.
“We told each other we were going to buy a surfboard, but since we were young cash was tight. After going to a local surf shop, Beach House in Israel, we discovered the amount of money we had together was not even enough to buy a surfboard, let alone a leash to go with it. So the owner of the shop gave us a really, really, old Mach Morey boogie, maybe from the eighties, and that’s how it all started.”
When I met KiriI back in 2010, he was based in Puerto Escondido for the summer, which he has done for the past eight years, with his close mates Shay Shamian and Mor Cooper. Along with Eden Mugani, the three of them travel all over Israel in the search of waves. Now studying with the support of the ISA, Kiril wants to increase the Bodyboarding scene in Israel and bring more Bodyboarding brands to his home country, setting off again.
“I definitely will do a big trip after I finish the study I’m doing right now. I was thinking about The Philippines to start … the place looks epic, sick waves!”