Bodyboarder in Israel: Kiril Shchegolsky

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.”

kiril b and w

Photo: Lea Ohana

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.

Secret Reef in Israel serving up the goods

Secret Reef in Israel serving up the goods: Kiril Shchegolsky

“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.”

Kiril in Mexico. Photo by Marcelo Rocha Braga

Kiril in Mexico. Photo by Marcelo Rocha Braga

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!”


Winny Takes out the 2012 Chilean Challenge

Australia’s Dave Winchester has been crowned the winner of the 2012 Stealth Arica Chilean Challenge at El Gringo which saw glassy 6ft conditions.

Winchester took out lasts year’s winner, GuilhermeTamega, with a huge invert followed by a tight spin and close out roll awarding him a score of 9.84 in the dying seconds of the final heat.

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This is the second win at Arica for the 30-year-old from New South Wales who has had more success here than at any other wave on the Grand Slam Series.

“I am so happy to beat Tamega today. I just wanted to get him back for beating me in the final here last year. It was even better that it all happened in the last few seconds, because he thought he had it,” said Winchester in today’s IBA press release.

The Chilean Challenge presented by Bodyboard Surf Co is the third stop on the IBA World Tour Grand Slam Series. The competition is a firm favourite for many of the athletes as-well as spectators. “It’s the biggest stop on tour as far as the crowd goes,” said current world number 2 Tom Rigby.

With huge waves breaking so close to the rocks it is never a surprise to see some of the riders take a hit or two in Arica. Former world champ Ben Player describes the wave as “pretty bloody scary,” but said that “most of the competitors would rather be hurt than knocked out.”

With two third place finishes, today’s win sees Winny take control of the 2012 IBA GSS rankings, 900 points ahead of number 2 seed, Jeff Hubbard from Hawaii.

“I would have to say this is the highlight of my career so far, I’m pumped. And I can’t forget to thank Lester and Hardy for the carry, good blokes.”

A Breath of Fresh-Air

Photos by Kaelan Sizemore

An interview over the internet is never ideal. So much is lost without meeting face to face. I caught up with Sampu Samantary or Sanjay Ray as he’s more widely known, after he returned from a trip full of discovery to the “wild and virgin” region of the Bay of Bengal, where he said he found some “world class waves.” However, sat on Facebook chat late at night I can sense his beaming smile as the symbol indicating his reply returns to the bottom right hand corner of my screen, and it’s becoming infectious.

“Waves, culture and spiritual journey, make a unique surfing journey,” says 41 year old Sanjay, who hails from the Orissa region of India. I’ve never really considered a surf trip to India, but as he describes his love and passion for the country I find myself wishing myself away from a wet and currently wave-less West Cornwall.

“In India, one has to dig a life from shortage and struggle in the mass. It took 20 years from my first beach adventure, for me to settle my bread butter house to come back to the beach and to start the surf things. It was a big challenge for surf to be in India due to lack of experts, equipment and the surf culture. Yet I had plans, to use the power of internet as my tool to organise the hurdles.”

Sanjay is the founder of Rangers Adventure Foundation who has been facilitating camping on the beaches of the Bay of Bengal since 2002. “SurfingYogis operate from our campus at the Puri -Konark marine drive with a secret beach break behind our forest,” he explains.

“Our team, Surfingyogis was recognised by our state tourism department which opened the official surf history of India and we started taking expeditions along the coast to search for waves.”

Unlike so many companies that focus purely on wave quality, Surfingyogis, place a heavy emphasis on keeping a healthy balance between the sport and the country’s natural beauty, careful not to pollute or damage the beaches or any of the surrounding ecosystems, offering its customers more than just waves.

“We try to provide such trips to open minds, or those who are ready to open their mind for possible spiritual elevations within scientific justification.  Surfyogis is about living to the fullest in joy, love and service.”

The company offer healing beach practices, organic life styles and yogic mind management alongside great waves. “It has a taste, smell and colour of green and unpolluted scenic India,” says Sanjay.

In February of this year, Ramachandi Beach, on the Puri-Konark Marine Drive in Orissa played host to The India Surfing Festival (ISF). With Orissa State Tourism Department and Chilika Lake development authority being the only companies getting behind the event, Surfingyogis took it upon themselves to provide a unique experience and they didn’t disappoint.

“We worked hard to bring all this without corporate sponsorship and yet we showed to other festivals to adopt an artistic approach to avoid high tech pollutant plastic. It all came out good. India is Surf ready now.”

Super keen Bodyboarder, Kaelan Sizemore, from San Clemente, California is currently working with Sanjay, promoting the surf industry in India, and tasting the various fruits India has on offer.

“My work is kind of random,” he explains, “talking to different companies and government officials here to promote our different goals.”

To many people surfing in India is still a strange concept. In a country widely associated with poverty and disease people overlook the wave potential of the forgotten coast line.

“There aren’t many people that know about the surf scene here”, says Kaelan, “that’s the problem, and so much of it has gotten lost in translation with Indian journalists.”

Sanjay describes Kaelan as “King cool,” and I’ve got to admit, after spending some time with him in Mexico in 2010, I can see where he’s coming from. The length of his hair and beard along with his laid back approach to life has to be admired, regardless of his ability on a bodyboard.

He names a Mexican wedge and South Straddie in Australia as his favourite beach breaks but claims to have found India’s answer to these waves earlier this month.

“A heavy inside sandbar, breaking like a wave back home in Cali that’s considered to be pretty good.  I got one of the most aesthetically pleasing photos I’ve ever captured Bodyboarding, super glassy wave with my reflection in it. It’s very trippy. And about 2 weeks ago we had really good beach break it was like a left and a right with a channel in between and ramps at the end of each wave but, the surf would be comparable to a much smaller version of Mex-pipe on a blown out afternoon almost every day. I’m definitely having a blast.”

To many people surf tourism is becoming a stale industry, sometimes it feels like every corner of the world is being raped for waves and good times. But it seems India is introducing a much needed breath of fresh air back into the surfing world, far from the pretences of popular destinations.

10 Days in Ireland

Photo: Tim Hunt

Images of empty Irish slabs took up residence in a wave riddled corner of my mind some time ago. Watching guys like Brendon Newton falling into green caverns in the old Mickey Smith videos always had me amped on making the crossing, but it was only until a few weeks ago that the opportunity really presented itself.

My brother had some work experience lined up on the west coast and fancied chasing some waves for a week before he started. A few persuasive phone calls, a clean looking swell on the charts along with the idea of spending St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland firmly planted into my head, and I was sold on the idea.

I now had 48 hours to book the ferry, complete and hand in work, hit Falmouth and get myself home and packed ready to leave early the next morning.

In Cork, an introduction to Beamish, led to 15 hours of heavy drinking with St. Patrick, who led us well and truly into the next day with my cousin and her family.

Full of stout, we headed west in the search of waves. A brief stop in Lahinch was followed by the mission north, to find offshores. After a windy night in the tent without pegs on Mullaghmore Head, we opted for some small barrels in Bundoran.

Cliffs of Moher

Without any form of map, GPS or working phones, we headed for Easkey, which we completely overshot, to find a secluded left hand reef. The surf was only a few feet but held the most perfect little crystal clear, hollow bowls to split between us.

Another Baltic night in the tent was followed by a 300km drive back down south to Ballybunion, where my brother worked at the angling festival after a rough night’s sleep in the car.  I joined 300 primary school kids for a sea-life talk, to leave richer in knowledge after discovering how dolphins sleep. Winning!

That afternoon, we passed Tom Lowe and Fergal Smith at a windy Aileens, to come across a stretch of reef holding a flawless left hander. A bowling sucky take-off that ran into hollow wall… and only two guys out! We were also graced by the mystic presence of local celebrity, Dusty the dolphin. She’d accompany us as we paddled back to the peak, swimming under and around us while we tried to get our heads around the bizarre situation.

Below Sea Level. Photo: Tim Hunt

Happier than a pair of pikey’s in a scrap yard, we settled for a swift pint before hitting the hay as we knew the winds would be light the following morning.

We started the final day by heading to a slab we had checked a few days before and believed to be Bumbaloids. As we hopped the fence to have a peak, it only looked about shoulder high, but after watching a couple fold in half and spew their guts out into the channel, it was clear I would be going it alone.

Aileens. Photo: Tim Hunt

The paddle was further than I had expected, meaning it was also a lot bigger than I had first thought. The second problem was a dropping tide: As I got close I could see it sucking water so hard off the slab that about half a foot of it was poking its ugly head out the water…..SHITE!

I couldn’t paddle all this way without getting  couple, so I watched it a bit longer from the shoulder trying to suss out which ones weren’t going dry. I knew exactly where I needed to sit, but that meant back-dooring the bastard, and with no one out, my balls weren’t having it. Some of them also had a hideous side wedge running through them and I definitely didn’t fancy falling head first through one of those.

Picking a Fight. Photo: Tim Hunt

After barrel dodging a couple of wide ones, I went a little deeper but caught my nose as soon as I made it to the bottom. I lost my board from under me and scorpioned my way back up the face before being dropped onto the slab. I bounced around in knee-deep water for a bit before admitting defeat and making my way back to land. It wasn’t until half way back that I noticed two cuts across my arse framed by two big tears in my suit. Ideal.

No poorly organised surf trip is complete without some sort of travel fail at some point, and up to now, the trip had run smoothly, maybe too smoothly.  We checked the wave from the previous day, but with a dropping swell and time ticking down to my return flight we sacked it off. Back at the car my brother declared he had lost the car keys, just three hours before my flight home.

After an hour spent retracing our steps through fields, it hit me….The clocks had changed last night. Props to my brother, who forked out a 120 Euro taxi ride for me to

Heaving. Photo: Tim Hunt

get to the airport. By the time taxi arrived, we had under an hour to make an hour and halves journey.

The driver was a hero. Without easing off the accelerator, he made some hairy over takes and went for some full on Colin Mcrae racing lines through the winding lanes and got me to the airport only 20 minutes after check-in.
10 minutes later, I’m sat on the plane, leaving a perfect chart behind with nothing but a maxed out overdraft to cheer me up.