Wednesday, June 04, 2008

(click image to enlarge)

They Surf(ed) Wise: The
11-Strong Pankowitzes

First BeansTalk read about them in the L.A. Times. Then, second son Jonathan Pankowitz appeared on one of regular shows, The Stephen Colbert Show. Finally, BeansTalk's CFO commented, "This is really your kind of story."

And indeed, he is right. We find this utterly fascinating. There's a documentary of the lives of these extraordinary people, Surfwise, which we're certain we're bound to see. For now, we were pleased to get ahold of these bios as we couldn't find anything on the web that listed the Pankowitz kids in chronological order and also gave details of their lives, past and present. So you are rewarded with all this scoop in one place. We've also included a synopsis of the documentary (straight from the movie's presskit, btw). Doc's marriage to Juliette is his third, but for him, it's the proverbial third time's the charm -- the couple are still affectionate and together.

Surfwise Synopsis

“Most parents say ‘Go to school. Don’t go swimming with sharks, that’s dangerous. Our parents said, you can go swimming with sharks, but you’re not fuckin’ going to school—that shit’s dangerous!” - Salvador Paskowitz, the 7th Paskowitz son

Surfwise follows the odyssey of 85-year-old, legendary surfer Dr. Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, his wife Juliette, and their nine children—all of whom were home-schooled on the beaches of Southern California, Hawaii, Mexico and Israel; they surfed every day of their lives, and were forced to adhere to a strict diet and lifestyle by their passionate and demanding, health-conscious father.

In the mid-1950s Dorian Paskowitz was a successful doctor living the good life in the territory of Hawaii, until two devastating divorces and the realization that he had no interest in money or status caused him to completely upend his life. Dorian dropped his practice and traveled to Israel for a year where he lived among the Bedouins and developed a lifelong obsession with a healthy diet. He introduced surfing to Israel and became a hero in the burgeoning Tel Aviv beach scene. Returning to the States, he met his wife Juliette, and the rest was history. They fell madly in love, steered clear of society, lived out of a tiny camper on the beach, and had 7 sons in rapid succession: David, Jonathan, Abraham, Israel, Moses, Adam, and Salvador Daniel. Then they had one daughter, Navah, and their ninth child, Joshua.

The children were raised in the Jewish tradition, complete with Shabbat on the beach every Friday night. But that’s where similarities with a normal societal upbringing end. Doc’s absolute determination was to raise his children according to the strictest standards of nature. They ate only organic and/or raw foods with no sugar or fat. Their community was their family. They didn’t need money or have to pay bills or taxes. Their home was anywhere the crowded camper was parked.

What happens to eight brothers and a sister that are raised under such extraordinary circumstances? Surfwise is the story of a man who pursued his dreams and dragged his family along for the wild ride.

The Paskowitz Parents

Dorian Paskowitz is an 86 year-old doctor and surfer who has spent most of his life promoting what he calls the “5 Pillars of Health”: diet, exercise, rest, recreation, and habits of mind. An early advocate of preventive health and the benefits of surfing, his philosophies are detailed in his 1988 book SURFING AND HEALTH: How to Lose Weight and Gain Life.

Born in 1921 in Galveston, Texas, Doc first surfed at the age of nine in the Gulf of Mexico. Both he and his mother were asthmatic and as a result she was a devoted health-food advocate. His father was a shoe salesman and they were all raised in the Jewish faith. Doc’s younger sister and brother, Sonia and Adrian, are both interviewed in SURFWISE. The family moved to San Diego in the 1930s where Doc became a lifeguard and was among the first true generation of early California surfers, making San Onofre his favorite spot (“old man’s” break is still named for him and his buddies).

In the 1940s, Doc earned B.A. and M.D. degrees from Stanford University and did military service aboard the USS Ajax, when he witnessed the atomic bomb tests on Bikini Island. He became president of the American Medical Association in Hawaii and had two unsuccessful marriages when he became disillusioned with his life. He traveled to Israel, where he lived in the desert (learned to eat healthy), tried to join the Israeli army (failed), tested his newfound sexual prowess on dozens of women (he called it a scientific “study of the psychosexual behavior of women”), and became a local hero for introducing surfing to Tel Aviv. Then, he returned to the U.S. with a new set of priorities “to be a good father, and thus, a good man” as he says in SURFWISE, and wed his current wife of 48 years, Juliette.

As the film details in living color, Doc and Juliette had nine children together, whom they home-schooled and surfed with as they traveled around the continent in a 24-foot camper. Living a pure and healthy life outside of all societal expectations, Doc has always shared strong opinions about how modern America is rapidly “killing ourselves” through fat and lack of exercise. He therefore made sure his own family lived according to the strict diet and lifestyle of animals in wild, which has brought both praise and controversy from his kids and outsiders.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Doc would take on part-time medical work in needy areas to make small amounts of money as they traveled. In the summers, their home base became San Onofre beach in California, where the family established the world-renowned Paskowitz Surf Camp in 1972.

Though Dorian Paskowitz was inducted into the International Surfing Hall of Fame in 1991, he was never a big-wave or competitive surfer. Instead, Doc has incorporated the “aloha spirit” of surfing into his life and made it a vital component of his teaching. Throughout the surfing world, Doc is famous for the medical treatment and lifestyle advice he’s given to surfers, and for the impact his wife and 9 incredibly-dynamic children have had upon it. Until recently, Doc and Juliette lived in a small apartment in Waikiki, Hawaii (seen in SURFWISE). They are now back in Southern California.

Juliette was born in Long Beach California in 1932. Her parents were originally from Durango, Mexico and she had four sisters and three brothers (which perhaps prepared her for the idea of having nine of her own?). Immersed in music from an early age, she learned to sing every part of the great operas such as Carmen, Rigoletto and La Traviata that her father would play for her on 78 records. After her voice deepened (and she became very tall) she continued her passion for music by attending Long Beach Community College where she took “every music course they had to offer,” with an emphasis on choral work and J.S. Bach (her “first love”). After studying music, Juliette auditioned for, and was accepted into the internationally-acclaimed Roger Wagner Chorale in Southern California. But after meeting Dorian Paskowitz in a bar on Catalina Island, things changed fast. They fell in love, and she was pregnant and married within a year, with the two of them living out of a modified Studebaker and establishing a style of beach-living that they would continue for most of their lives. Even though SURFWISE highlights the difficulties of life in the camper for Juliette (“for ten years I was either pregnant or breast-feeding, without one day off…”), Juliette is very outspoken about her devotion to her husband, and her support of the lifestyle they chose. She and Doc remain as a strong couple today and she stays in close contact with all nine of their children, as well as all seventeen grandchildren.