All my Hassidics in the building, please remove your flat-brim caps and tuck your sideburns behind your ears, Eithan Osborne has officially joined the Jewish surf squad!
It’s true, the Ventura fly-guy is abandoning his red, white, and blue roots for the land of falafel and Jesus.
Israel, as we know, is a delightful surf destination, described in Stab‘s 20 Places To Surf Before 2020 thusly:
“Welcome to Tel Aviv, the brightest city in Israel, a country surrounded on all sides by unfriendly neighbours. Stuffed with gorgeous, military-trained gals and a good-time nightlife, Tel Aviv is home to a culinary melting pot (though excels, obviously, when it comes to fresh falafels and expertly-made hummus), warm water, and some D’bah-esque beachbreaks. Ok, maybe that’s a little generous, but there is a whole lot of fun to be had. There’s a good amount of waves along the Israeli coastline, but if you want that surf / apres-surf mix (which you do), then TA is the place. While the best waves are in Haifa, in the Bat Galim ghetto (which isn’t the world’s best place to leave a hire care), you’ll have more than enough fun at Hilton and Topsea in Tel Aviv – and the locals are far more welcoming; Gorgeous women sunning themselves on the beach and a very, very enthusiastic (though rather green) local surf populace in the water. The area is dripping in history to immerse yourself in, and a trip to Jerusalem and the dead sea is a must. Otherwise… surf all day, party all night, Mediterranean style.
With such a description being offered about the Jewish nation-state, it’s no wonder that Eithan would want to embrace his roots and surf for the historic landmark of Israel. Also, there are Olympic implications that should not be overlooked. We’ll let Eithan, who fielded our call despite severe jetlag, explain his reasoning below.
Stab: Hey Eithan, are you just getting back from Bali?
Eithan Osborne: No, I’m actually in Israel. I got back from Bali two days ago, then I came straight here.
Oh, wow. Ok, tell me about everything that’s happening. Did they fly you out there to make it official that you’ll be surfing for them?
I flew out here to make my Aliyah—I used the Law of Return law, also known as birthright, which allows people of Jewish ancestry to come to Israel to live and gain citizenship. I got my citizenship at the airport, and yesterday I finished all my paperwork for my passport. So I came out here to solidify being a citizen so I can surf for the Israeli team.
How soon before the Olympics do you have to make that transition?
The cutoff is June 7th, I believe, to surf in the 2019 ISA World Games—that’s how non-CTers qualify for the Olympics. I’m still not totally sure how it works, but I think we need to do well in the ISA Games…
Yeah, I think the way it works is that the top surfer from every continent (other than the Americas) in the 2019 ISA World Games qualifies for the Olympics, and the top four men from the 2020 ISA World Games, regardless of the continent, will qualify also. So, in 2019, you’d have to be the highest-placing surfer of all the Asian nations to qualify (Israel is technically part of Asia, right?), or you’ve just gotta finish top-four overall in 2020.
Ok, sick. Well that’s the goal [laughs].
So, if you’re Jewish by blood, does that mean your mom is from Israel?
Well, my mom is from France, but her whole side of the family is Jewish: my grandpa is from Morocco and my grandma is of Russian origin but born in France. Israel is different from other countries—you don’t need to be born there to become a citizen, you just need to have proof of Judaism in your family lineage. It’s kind of a complicated, scary process, but it’s pretty cool.
Did you grow up following any Jewish or Israeli traditions?
I didn’t grow up very religious, but we have always been observant. I went to a Jewish preschool at the temple in Ventura. We always celebrate Hanukkah and other certain holidays, and my mom does Shabbat dinner every Friday. I’m very proud of my heritage and being Jewish, and I’m excited to learn more about my heritage and history of Israel. I’d like to become more knowledgable and connected to it.
Not to get overly political, but what are your thoughts on the Israeli-Palestine conflict?
I obviously know about it, but I don’t know enough to feel comfortable making any sort of statement. I definitely need to study that a bit more before I share any thoughts.
Very mature of you. People should take that stance more often, I think. Now, I know that Israeli boys of a certain age have to serve in the military… will you be exempt from that?
It’s boys and girls, actually. It’s everyone. It’s pretty gnarly [laughs]. And it’s always a possibility, but I believe there are exemptions for traveling athletes like me.
Lucky. Now, a lot of people have made the switch in recent years to, let’s call them “less-developed surfing nations”, as a means to qualify for the Olympics. Which makes total sense, because in your case, you wouldn’t be able to qualify for the Olympics as a US citizen, because those two male slots will come from the CT. So tell me about your feelings on the Olympics… is it something you’d be really excited to participate in?
Yeah I mean, it’ll be surfing history. It’s the first time our sport has ever been in the Olympics, so to get an opportunity to be a part of that would be pretty insane. But honestly, the Olympics are kinda just a bonus. I don’t know if you’ve been to Israel, but it’s pretty fuckin’ sick. Just the people and the vibe and everything is so cool.
But yeah, the Israeli government approached me after the Netanya Pro [a QS 3,000 in Israel that Eithan won earlier this year] saying there was a chance I could become a citizen, and I was like “Fuck yeah, let’s do it.”
I’ve been a part of the US Team since I was 10 or 11, and I’m super grateful for all the opportunities I received through that program. I still remember the day I was nominated to join the squad—I was so stoked. But I grew out of the Juniors, so it was the end anyway. Then when Israel presented an opportunity to continue within the ISA, it was really exciting. I really enjoy the team aspect of the ISA, and I’m honored to surf under the flag of Israel and represent my ancestors.
Did we hear that you have triple citizenship?
I do now, yeah. I have my US, French, and now Israeli.
So could you theoretically have surfed for France?
Yeah, I mean I guess so. I’m a French citizen so I guess I could.
Is there a limit to the number of citizenships a person can have?
I don’t know, a couple people have asked me that. I should just try to keep stacking them up [laughs]. Just kidding, I wonder what the record is though…
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