On the first week of February, 2013, deaf surfers from all over the world met at Ma’ili Point for the HSA Deaf Surfers World Championship. It was amazing to see this global community unite in the water, but we were there to see one man in particular: Ido Dar-El.
When I first met Ido two years ago, it was a cold evening in Tel Aviv. We were standing across the street from the Mediterranean and he was offering us sahlab, a warm, creamy drink found in the Middle East. Surfing The Nations had found a kindred spirit in Ido Dar-El: Here was a man who shared our heart to use surfing to “give back” to the communities of the world! When I met him again, the scene was very different: in the bright sunshine on a warm beach in Hawaii. Though many things were different, two things that hadn’t changed over those years and that distance were friendship and surf, the very things that led us to Tel Aviv, and to Ido.
It is impressive enough that Ido surfs professionally without the ability to hear, but Ido stands out even amongst the deaf community. Ido’s story is one of ambition, giving back and leadership. As a deaf surfer in Israel, he often felt alone, so when he first came to Hawaii in 2009, he was shocked with the amount of deaf surfers he met from all over the world.
That first trip to Hawaii ended up being a key part of his future, and inspired him to start something in Israel. “When I came back home, I realized that I had a gift to give to other deaf people in my country. I started a non-profit organization to teach surfing to the deaf in Israel. Up to date, we have about 200 members. I give them the happiness of the ocean, and not only teach them surfing but teach them knowledge of the waves, and the currents.”
Ido understands the love for surfing as a sport, as well as the unique struggles that the deaf community face in everyday life. He uses this insight and experience in the water, to make surfing a way of building character and confidence out of the water.
“I give them the tools to be sure of themselves, because most of the deaf are afraid to get in the water; they have no communication with people in the water, and cannot take the hearing aids in the water. When they learn to surf, they are confident and it’s easier for them to deal with the hearing world. It’s a challenge, but in a good way.”
The journey to get over to Hawaii for this competition was a joint effort that Ido describes as a “moving experience” for him. Ido was eager to raise the banner for Israel and the deaf community but could not make it happen on his own. “I asked for help in Israel and all of the hearing surfers joined together and helped me get here.” $1,895 was raised to cover Ido’s costs for the trip and contest! This display of surfers giving back is just a small example of what Ido is hoping to do in Israel.
“I want to win (the contest), but the main target is to make deaf surfing more known to hearing people.I will teach the hearing surfers sign language, so they can communicate better with the deaf, and the deaf can communicate in the water with other hearing surfers. Then, they can bridge both of the worlds and not make it different.”
Ido also shared with us how he thinks surfing can promote a better future for Israel. “I think once you begin to surf you understand the way the ocean is giving: it’s so big and so open and freeing. If you have a hard life, it gives you relief, and you begin to understand that you can also give back… I believe if more and more people surf and give back, Israel will be a better place.”
There could not be a more suited man to promote giving back than Ido. When asked about his desire to win, his simple reply was: “If I win, I want to give it back to Israel. It’s not my win.”
And win he did. Ido took away the first place in the Masters Shortboard Division and proudly brought home a trophy to give to his country, Israel, as he had hoped.
Ido’s work is not done; there is still much to be done and much help needed. If you would like to get involved and support Ido’s efforts, check out his organization’s facebook page, Deaf Surfers Israel.
Photos courtesy of Ido Dar-El