Gaza surfer girls find freedom on the waves

Fri Nov 5, 2010 12:27pm EDT
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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

SHEIKH IJLEEN, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - Away from Gaza's troubled reality and beyond its polluted shore, Shorouq and Sabah Abu Ghanem surf in a world of their own.

The two girls, 13 and 12, learnt how to swim at the age of three at the hand of their lifeguard father.

They can swim up to 10 km (6 miles), dive to seven meters (25 feet) and surf on plastic boards that they hope one day to trade in for competition-grade models.

"In the sea I find my freedom. I feel free of everything I leave behind on land," said 13-year-old Shorouq.

"Gaza is under blockade. We lack surfboards, we lack diving gear. We lack many things. But out in the sea it doesn't matter."

During this year's heatwave the shallow waters off the beach were no escape to Gaza residents. It is polluted in several spots because of insufficient sanitation and a crippled sewage treatment plant.

But the daughters of Rajab Abu Ghanim swim confidently out to the clean waves beyond the shoreline.

"My girls are like sea beasts. They are excellent swimmers and surfers," says the father of seven, who has been surfing for 15 years and has won prizes in long-distant swimming events.   Continued...

<p>Rajab Abu Ghanim (rear C) teaches his daughter, Palestinian girl Shorouq Abu Ghanem, to surf in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza City November 5, 2010. REUTERS/Ismail Zaydah</p>