I recently took up windsurfing off of Tel Aviv’s coast.
It’s challenging. Learning to balance on the board while hoisting the sail, accounting for wind direction and wind speed, shifting direction and turning or jibing takes practice, quite a bit of falling into the sea, swallowing a very unwelcome quantity of seawater and bruising legs and feet when falls aren’t graceful.
Aside from the physical aspects, twice during lessons I have been very pleasantly surprised to see religious Jewish men surfing.
I know they’re religious because I see them before they put on their wet suits: yarmulkes (male head covering), tzitzit and the standard issue black pants and white button down shirts.
Today’s encounter was a bit awkward – in the club changing room, odd as that may sound. But it’s not, really, because most of the surf and SCUBA clubs I’ve seen in Tel Aviv are unisex. One or two showers for all and a non-gender-specific lock-with-key changing room if a person wants privacy.
Locker areas – generally the place people put on or take off wet suits and boots and change into or out of seaware if they’re not bothered about privacy (which I’ve found is often the case) – are mixed.
So as I stood in my wet bathing suit and boots in the locker area waiting for a lock-key room to change into street-wear, across from me stood a religious guy removing his tzitzit and other articles of clothing. He didn’t strip to bare skin. That would’ve been awkward. He found an empty shower stall and locked himself in for the final swap from pants and shirt to wet suit.
Once in his sea togs, you’d have never known his religious preference save a few locks tucked behind his ears.
I hear he’s a yeshiva student from Jerusalem who can’t resist the sea; he comes down to Tel Aviv when the wind is good or “surf’s up”.
Leveling the playing field. It’s a wonderful thing.