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Growing Up In a Surfer Family, Wipeouts and All

Jonathan Paskowitz isn't just any surfer. He's a professional surfer — but even that isn't why his story is unusual.

Paskowitz is one of the nine children born to Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, a onetime physician who in the 1950s quit his practice, dropped out of the mainstream and raised a family while living a nomadic surfing lifestyle. So Jonathan Paskowitz grew up on the beach, essentially, as part of what has been described as the first family of surfing.

The Paskowitz family (Doc, wife Juliette, eight sons and one daughter) lived on a 24-foot camper, home-schooled their children and traveled throughout America and the world in search of good waves. The family celebrated the Jewish Sabbath on the beach every Friday night.

Along with beach living, Doc Paskowitz insisted on an all-organic or raw-foods diet, with no sugar or fat. He was also a stern father who struck his children when they didn't measure up, and who sometimes pitted them against one another in the effort to shape them after his own image. And because he mostly kept his family isolated from society, they found themselves ill-equipped to handle life on their own when they inevitably left the nest.

Jonathan Paskowitz's story, and that of his family, is the subject of the recent documentary Surfwise, directed by Doug Pray. (Watch a trailer.) Paskowitz is a producer on the film, which the Village Voice calls "a mesmerizingly ambivalent documentary about an itinerant family of Jewish surfer-dude health nuts," a "forgiving film" that "tries to offer us Paskowitz, the whole man, without judging him or his children."

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