Surf History Sunday: Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz


Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz  

(March 3, 1921 - November 10, 2014)

Dorian Paskowitz was an American surfer, physician & a proud part of California's surfing history. "Doc" opted out of the traditional norms of the time, even giving up a lucrative practice in medicine to pursue a nomadic, health-focused, surfing lifestyle. He and his family have been referred to as the "First Family of Surfing"

Paskowitz was born March 3, 1921, in Galveston, Texas. He was one of three children born to Russian Jewish emigrants Louis and Rose Paskowitz. He attended Point Loma High School, San Diego State, Stanford University, and graduated from Stanford Medical School in 1946.

After two failed marriages (including one that resulted in two daughters), he realized that he was unhappy as a doctor. Paskowitz went to Israel for a year where he found joy & purpose that he had been lacking. He volunteered for the Israeli army in 1956 during the Suez crisis, but was rejected.He then returned to the United States and focused on surfing full-time.

After marrying his third wife, Juliette, Paskowitz and his new bride began a period of roughly 25 years of a transient bohemian lifestyle on the road. The couple produced nine children, and the entire family lived and traveled together in a succession of used camper vans. Paskowitz's personal philosophy about education and money and healthy lifestyle was imposed on his family.

None of the Paskowitz children were formally educated during their time on the road. Paskowitz's philosophy about the difference between knowledge and wisdom led him to believe that the formal education systems in all the countries of the world were not useful. He believed that achieving wisdom came from real experiences in the world, and from meeting and learning from everyday people. He believed formal education was dangerous to young minds, despite being a Stanford graduate and a professor at community colleges.

A consistent theme of health pervaded Paskowitz's approach to family life. Most mornings, the family ate a breakfast of multi-grain gruel (as one of his children described it),and they were all expected to improve their surfing skills on a daily basis. Several of Paskowitz's children reached a competitive level in surfing, winning contests and earning endorsement income.

In August 2007, Paskowitz launched the Surfing For Peace project to deliver surfboards to the small surfing community in Gaza. Paskowitz had to persuade the Israeli government to let him deliver the surfboards because after Hamas took over Gaza in June 2007, Israel has only let in essential humanitarian supplies.Paskowitz founded Surfing For Peace together with his own son David Paskowitz, as well as Arthur Rashovan and  Kelly Slater, after reading an article in the Los Angeles Times which highlighted the lack of surfboards in Gaza.


Surfing For Peace worked with OneVoice Movement, a pro Israeli-Palestinian peace organization, to successfully deliver the surfboards and hold a follow-up benefit concert in Tel Aviv in October 2007. The successful surfboard delivery gained international attention for Surfing For Peace and launched a global community of surfers and supporters who aim to use the shared-surfing experience to bridge cultural and political barriers.

Paskowitz was described as a health guru and had a strong interest in health issues. He advocated natural diets low in fat accompanied by exercise. Paskowitz wrote a book in 1997 (republished in 2007) on his philosophy about health and other issues titled Surfing and Health.

Like many American outsider-adventurers, Paskowitz set out to realize a utopian dream. Abandoning a successful medical practice, he sought self-fulfillment by taking up the nomadic life of a surfer. But unlike other American searchers like Thoreau or Kerouac, Paskowitz took his wife and nine children along for the ride, all eleven of them living in a 24 foot camper. Together, they lived a life that would be unfathomable to most, but enviable to anyone who ever relinquished their dreams to a straight job. The Paskowitz Family proved that America may be running out of frontiers, but it hasn't run out of frontiersman.

In 2000, he was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Paskowitz died on November 10, 2014, in Newport Beach, California at 93 years of age. His health had declined following hip surgery earlier that year.

Today, we share waves and good times with one of Doc's sons, Israel Paskowitz. "Izzy" has carried on the family legacy with a career in professsional surfing & transitioned into becoming a co-founder of the Surfer's Healing Foundation alongside his wife Danielle. This organization offers free surf camps across the globe to children with Autism and does amazing work for thousands and their families!

The Paskowitz Family was introduced to a broader public in “Surfwise,” a 2007 film by Doug Pray that captured their barefoot lifestyle.

For MORE on the Paskowitz Surf Camp, click THIS LINK

For MORE on the Surfers Healing Foundation, click THIS LINK