Surfing for Freedom or Freedom for Surfing in Gaza Strip


Andrew McConnell is a photographer and surfer from the west coast of Ireland. In 2010 he journeys to Gaza, to discover the surf culture that has emerged in the midst of a battleground.

“Freedom of movement for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip has been so restricted in recent years that the territory is commonly referred to as the “largest open-air prison on earth”.

“In January 2000, before the second Intifada, an average of 17,635 day labourers crossed from Gaza into Israel everyday. By 2005 that number dropped to 49, today it is zero.”

“To find the sport of surfing in Gaza is at once both surprising and completely natural. In a region where the common narrative is conflict and daily life is marked by constant struggle, surfing offers a means of escape. The sport in Gaza is still in its infancy; from the first surfer in the mid-eighties there are now 23 surfers each with their own surfboard and others who borrow boards when they can.’

‘Equipment is impossible to find in the Gaza Strip so international donors have helped to get boards and wetsuits into the territory and with more resources it is believed the sport could flourish. For now the group is small, but, they are some of the very few who get to escape the confinement and who find some semblance of freedom, every time the waves come.’

“I had always planned to return to Gaza to begin filming a documentary about the sea – about how life can revolve around the sea for the people who live beside it. I arrived a week after the conflict began and now the sea is completely empty. No one dares venture near the beach.’

‘In one of the most shocking incidents of the war four children were killed by an Israeli attack at the exact point where the guys usually surf. So now it’s deserted, which is quite a contrast to what you would usually see at this time of year – packed beaches in the hot summer.”

“I often wonder if growing up in Northern Ireland during the conflict led me to cover conflict elsewhere. It certainly sparked an interest in countries that had divisions or had suffered from similar issues. But I’ve also just always had an innate sort of curiosity about the world, a desire to see things, and to tell stories.”

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