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Surf's Up Around the World
Scott Moore on a hand-carved African board in the water off Sao Tome.

Michael Scott Moore on a hand-carved African board in the water off Sao Tome.

You know the surfer dude on the shores of California and Hawaii.  

But did you know of the Brits riding tidal bores in the Severn River?  Or the surfers for peace in the Gaza strip?  How about the feminist surfers in Cuba, or the man trying to save the surf with fishing nets in Japan?

Waves at the edge of the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

Waves at the edge of the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

Our guest today took a surfing safari to explore its origins — how America’s export has taught locals to hang loose and spread peace.

This Hour, On Point: Surfs up!  How this western export is changing sleepy beach towns around the world.


Michael Scott Moore, journalist and author of “Sweetness and Blood: How surfing spread from Hawaii and California to the rest of the world, with some unexpected results.”  Read an excerpt.

Watch Mike’s slideshow of Munich river-surfing at The Atlantic.

Arthur Rashkovan runs “Surfing 4 Peace,” an informal cross-border charity in Gaza he founded, along with Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz and surfing champion Kelly Slater.

See photos of surfing in Gaza at S4P’s Facebook page.

Pegi Vail, anthropologist and adjunct professor at Columbia University.  She’s working on a documentary called “Gringo Trails,” about the long term effects of backpacker tourism on cultures, economies, and environments worldwide.


Listen back to our show with the Pakowitz family and the documentary “Surfwise.”

Watch footage of surfers on the Severn River bore (They catch the big wave around 2:40):

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  • danielle moran

    I’m a 39 year old woman who took up surfing four years ago and got totally hooked! I surf the N.H. coast year round, I love to Longboard. I have recently taken a trip to Nicaragua which was an incredible, challenging experience. Next I’d like to surf northern Peru and Mexico!
    Surfing makes me REALLY happy and if I go without for too..I can get pretty cranky.

  • Ann

    My Mom told me that her cousins used to steal their mother’s IRONING BOARD to go surfing on the Jersey Shore in Point Pleasant. This would have been in the 1920′s! (They wouldn’t share the board with her because…she was a GIRL! She became a great swimmer instead.)

  • http://silverimagelimited.com Alexander

    Here in Gloucester Massachusetts we often watch with bemused disdain, the wintertime surfers of Good Harbor Beach. The surf is low, but we assume they must get something out of the ordeal or they’d not risk being so close to the other 99% of our coastline, which is made up entirely of jagged granite.
    Question: Many like myself perceive surfing to be a deliberate waste of time and energy. As an artist/photographer I struggle to make the resources and time I need to produce my art, but when I am done I have something tangible to show for my efforts. How do people get satisfaction from a pursuit that, at the end of the day, produces literally a ripple in the sea and nothing more?

  • Pat Pyles

    My family moved to Hawaii in 1964 when I was 9. The beach boys were big – my friends & I bought all their records. This was quite an influence on my wanting to try surfing for the first time.
    Surfing as well as someone that age could, I couldn’t get enough of the beaches there.
    Moved to Texas and the best we were able to get there was in the Gulf of Mexico.
    My love of the oceans and snorkeling, diving, fishng, surfing, have all grown from that time.
    Many vacations are geared toward time being spent near areas that have oceans or large bodies of water.

  • Amy

    I am a surfer who lives in RI. I’m a girl and I ride longboards from the 1960′s. They can weigh upwards of 40 pounds! We get our best waves during hurricane season and, even more so, in the winter. We endure shoving ourselves into thick and heavy hooded wetsuits, boots, and gloves. We endure numb toes and fingers that make you cry out in pain when the feeling comes back. All of this is because the feeling of riding a wave is like you are flying, and you just want to do it over and over. Besides my home state, I have surfed in NH, NJ, up and down the California coast, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica. I’ve found that feeling of flight everywhere but my favorite wave is a point break six miles from my house.

    My house has needed a paint job for years, my vegetable garden needs some weeding, and there are a thousand other things that could use my time and money, but they will wait because I just want to surf.

  • Martine

    Fantastic show. I’m 56 years young, in shape, and have always dreamed of surfing. Michael, how do you think a middle aged woman would be received as a learner by the surf community? Is it too late to start?

  • Ann

    I love BODY SURFING and have noticed that fewer people are gaining skills in it because more & more people are trying board surfing, or just splash about.

    To me body surfing is probably my religion! I am NOT being disrespectful! To be At One with Nature (God to me), to be flotsam & jetsam within God’s great waves is to be In Awe, Aware, Aware of My Responsibilities to Myself & Those Around me, Grateful for the Help & Protection, and Transcendentally Happy! I’ve never been on a surf board but have frequently wondered whether it would produce these same feelings, diminish them due to being On a wave rather than In the wave, or enhance the feelings. So far, I haven’t met any board surfers who are as knowledgeable as seasoned body surfers about body surfing, so I’ve found no answer yet.

    Not to diminish the “lofty” nature of my true feelings above, I would suggest that this discussion’s easy mockery of the movie “Gidget” misses some stuff. Long before “Girl Power”, Gidget represented it. I was eleven years old when the movie came out & probably missed quite a bit, but the part of the movie that stayed with me, empowering me, was that she, a girl (years before Betty Friedan’s book which was much more about adult women’s issues) BELONGED in the surf. I don’t remember other messages from the movie; I just remember that she had the same love of the Ocean that I’d had & continue to have my whole life. She did not belong in the kitchen, & she did not belong in the “board” (sorry!) room, she belonged in the most beautiful part of Nature, even if Pop Culture came along! Even if!!!

  • Linda in SW FL

    Thanks Jane for this great show.
    I do not surf, but love it so very much.
    When we moved the family to SW FL from snowy rainy Upstate New York, one of their first stop was to the pawn shop to get a board.
    It has been all exciting since them, here and many world places ever since through many boards. I love it, love their stories, love to read the blogs, magazines.
    Cannot wait to read the book and pass onto them
    Cheers to the wave!

  • Neil Law

    Thanks for the link to my youtube video of the SevernBore. Mike is the surfer who enters the water with a bit of a splash as the live action starts.

    I just wanted to point out that the video shows the biggest tide in a year of very small tides. If you want to see a more impressive wave, try either one of mine, from the following year here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fzPu7_jP2I
    Or somebody else’s (best bit from 3 mins onwards) here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2fPjZ999qs

    And to respond to Alexander’s point about surfing, it is all in the experience and ( hopefully the unity of the surfer with the wave. If it is art, it is performance art, and therefore when it’s done, it’s done.

  • Stuart McDonough

    I recently saw a program on TV about traditional Peruvian surfing boats, made of bundled reeds. The paddler stood up. The people making them had learned how from their grandfathers.

    Good show.


  • Dana Franchitto

    Great show, yes, I’m not especially good at it but surfing saves my soul. I don’t see it as a “sport” but en extension of the wilderness experience.
    I would question one thing ,Mr. Moore said though. He sort of implied that leftists somehow frown on indivuality ,using surfers an Cuba “as left as you can be” or something to that effect. That’s not fair. I’m no fan of Castro but I am very left of center politically. Socialism does not automatically translate into cogs in a machine. But otherweise I look forward to reading his book.

  • Drew

    Great show.
    I started surfing down in the redneck riviera (myrtle beach) in the mid 90′s.
    Up here in Mass I hit RI and NH breaks all year. I’ve been to Australia, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

    …..and I am a TERRIBLE surfer. There’s just something very religious I find on the waves.

  • Nick

    I’m a longtime surfer myself, based in Virginia Beach, VA, who has been lucky enough to travel to many interesting out of the way places to surf as well. I recently returned from a trip to El Salvador, where surfing is basically their only tourism attraction, and is therefore a) economically vital to them and b) the only opportunity that the locals have to be exposed to international travelers. The interaction is one that has it’s side effects, but I think in general is very healthy, and as a result there are tons of incredible local surfers who otherwise may be living lives as aggressive young men in a poor country with little outlets for their energy.

    In the end, surfing is an extremely enjoyable form of exercise, and is therefore no more of a “deliberate waste of time” than any other form of exercise (running, swimming, etc.). Rather, surfing is a character-building sport where you don’t have a team to support you…you succeed and fail ultimately on your own regard only, and that, for many people, is part of the addiction and results in great lessons about life and working hard to achieve something. Challenging and overcoming greater and greater obstacles, seeing yourself achieve and receiving a bigger rush each time you do so…you can always do that with surfing, because you can always travel somewhere to find bigger, better waves, and a new challenge.

  • Niko

    Answer to Alexanders Question: While Surfing (especially in the North East) may appear to be a fruitless endeavor, I assure you that the sport provides great satisfaction on many levels. As an artist, I am positive you would enjoy the perspective you gain from being out there in the elements. Surfing has allowed me to see things that only surfers get to see. Surfing has taken me around the world and introduced me to my closest friends. The lessons I have learned about myself while surfing have changed me. Oh yea, Its fun too.

  • Derek McLaughlin

    The largest and best organization of surfers I’ve known of since I started surfing in 1962 is Surfrider Foundation. They work to preserve surfing sites and the health of the oceans. They have many local chapters in the U.S. & other countries. At their meetings you’ll meet surfers who have great attitudes on surfing and preserving the beauty of the sport and the sites we surf at. They have a website. If not ok to put it I hope NPR will just edit this last sentence, it is surfrider.org

  • Don

    I want to contact you, not post a comment. Please let me know how to do so. Thank you.

    I want to know how to send “a pitch” to you. I don’t mean baseball.

  • Don

    Hm. I see this approach doesn’t work. If anyone out there knows how to contact “On point” by e-mail, please let me know. Thanks.

  • Beverly

    Surfing rocks- even just being in the water with a board floating is great. Sea, surf, sun and sand. What more could you ask for?

  • Erik

    Your guest said “there are no waves in Germany” but he’s wrong. It may not be considered “true surfing” but in the English Gardens in Munich, there is a river channeled to create a standing wave. Surfers take turns surfing against the current riding on this wave. It’s worth checking out, although it may not be as exciting as real surf.

  • http://www.uswindsurfing.org Dan Weiss

    I very much enjoyed the interview with Michael Scott Moore, but I must take issue with a statement I recall he made during the show. Mr. Moore was asked whether he knew of any means other than board surfing by which a person can ride waves while standing. Mr. Moore incorrectly replied that surfing is the only such activity.

    As Director of US Windsurfing’s Northeast Region and as a member of US Sailing’s Windsurfing Task Force, I feel compelled to point out that windsurfers also ride waves while standing. Windsurfers also catch the wave while standing whereas surfers catch the wave prone and then stand as they drop in.

    I will also add that the very popular sport of stand-up paddling also has the surfer catch and ride each wave while standing on the board.

  • Brett Greider

    Surf Culture is planetary, and your (MSM) book and this show celebrate its spread around the globe ~ very stoked to hear the show! However, you missed a vital piece of history: Hawaiians brought surfing to California in 1885 (and the continental Western Hemisphere) – about 65 years before the 1950s that Michael Scott Moore claims it was transmitted. Three Hawaiian princes went surfing in Santa Cruz in July 125 years ago, and they taught locals to surf – this is historical and fascinating! (see: Riders of the Sea Spray http://www.goodtimessantacruz.com/component/content/article/2-good-times-cover-stories/936-riders-of-the-sea-spray.html ) While your big story is the wave spreading round the planet, an accurate social history of surfing should carefully include key historical transmission points, such as the 1885 direct contact. Or maybe its just the NorCal v. LoCal rivalry bias blinding you, brah?!

  • JB

    There is all kinds of surfing to be had in Iceland…


    I’ll be taking lessons soon.

  • http://www.quiversurfworld.com Cebolla

    Happy New Year!! Good waves and Good vibes from EL SALVADOR!!!

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