Hanging 10 with Israeli Surf Instructor Nitzan Benun


My first day heading down to the beach with a surfboard was intimidating and I didn’t believe that I would actually learn how to surf.  I was there for the kids and I just wanted to have fun and relax.  I had a private lesson at Galim with instructor Nitzan Benun- and he absolutely believed that I would be able to surf.  

Before we got into the water we stretched and practiced how to get up on the board. Nitzan did a really exceptional job at explaining how to stand, how to jump, what muscles to use and how to correct my balance.  By the time we reached the water, surfing felt like it was almost familiar to me- like a combination of yoga, thai chi and skiing.  It felt as if my body already knew how, and just had to draw on the skills I had, and then re-purpose them for surfing.  I had to upcycle my muscle memory.

I didn’t get up on the board on the first lesson, not even on the second lesson but Nitzan kept encouraging me.  He gave me exercises to do at home and  recommended that I come to surf everyday, even if only for a short time so that I can practice. Because my kids were in the camp, it was easy to come daily because I had to be there anyway. Slowly I got stronger and felt more comfortable on the board.

Finally, after two weeks, I was starting to give up and I scheduled another lesson with Nitzan.  Not only did I get up on the board but I caught my first wave and rode it all the way to the beach.  I felt a rush of joy.  And then I looked back at Nitzan and he raised his arm and made a fist with his thumb an pinky out. It is called the “Shaka”- and it is surfer sign language which I suppose I have seen in movies but didn’t really get until I jumped off the wave and saw him there with his arm in the air. I raised mine in return and it was like a surfer “high five” from across the water.

Learning to surf was daunting.  You need to combine strength, timing, skill and balance.  To be honest, I am not sure that I would have actually learned to surf without Nitzan.  He really took me seriously and pushed me to be better, to expect more from myself than lazy paddling and hanging out on the board.

Nitzan is passionate about surfing. It’s not just a sport for him, it’s deeper than that. He has been surfing since the age of 15 and has travelled all over the world surfing- including France, the Canary Islands, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Australia and Indonesia (Bali).  He has competed in surf competitions and his only regret seems to be that he didn’t start surfing younger.  

Part of the reason why Nitzan is such an exceptional instructor is that is he is also highly trained.  He is finishing a degree in Physical Therapy from Tel Aviv University, in addition to being a certified Surf Instructor from Wingate and a Health & Fitness Instructor.  When he is teaching, he draws on all of that knowledge to really help explain body mechanics along with the sport.

Nitzan is a very disciplined person, he is punctual, and reliable.  Part of this could be from his training as a Navy Seal in the Israeli army.  He is currently a combat soldier on reserve duty.  Last year he wasn’t teaching surfing because he was fighting in Gaza.

Nitzan teaches the kids at Galim as well as being a private instructor.  The kids love him.  When I asked my sons to help me describe him for the article they said (In Hebrew) “Hoo Gever”, which means “He's the Man”. He picks up jellyfish without fear, rides waves like a rock star and is fun to be around. The kids really look up to him and he is a great role model.

As for me, I enjoyed hanging out with him too.  A lot of the time in the water is spent waiting for waves and chatting. I am sure that being able to chill out between waves is part of what kept me motivated when I wasn’t making progress. We talked about everything from surfing to politics, sports, travel and kids.  

My favorite time of the day to surf is from 6:00-8:00 pm.  The sun sets slowly over the Mediterranean, the sky starts out blue and bright but changes to pinks and purples and winds pick up and make better waves.  Most of the time surfing I am on my board facing the beach with my back to the sun, but Nitzan made sure that I turned around to take in the breathtaking sunset.  As the sun dipped below the waves, I had one of life’s peak moments.  Sunkissed and exhausted, I knew the day was over but my life on the waves had just begun.
If you want to learn more about surfing at Galim or to sign up for private lessons with their fantastic instructors, check out their website here or give them a call 03-517-5517.
You can reach Nitzan Benun on Facebook, email [email protected] or by phone 050-984-4817
Follow our family travel adventures all summer long staying at Airbnb on the beach in Tel Aviv- surfing the waves and exploring the city for family fun and high tech adventures. @sarahnadav on twitter and @dayinthelife on Instagram