"I feel like I am flying — out there on the water you don't think about any of your problems," says 32 year-old Iranian Mona Seraji, a pioneer for surfing in her country. She played a key role in helping set up Iran's first surf club three years ago, a low-key organisation originally made up entirely of women. Now they've recruited 50-odd members and run wave-riding workshops on a regular basis.
"We said, 'Let's make a surf culture here and we can make it grow into a surf school and it can grow bigger and bigger and bigger,'" Mona told NBC News. "I was really into surfing my entire life. What could be better than that?"
They've planted the surfing flag about 1700 kilometres south of Tehran, in a fishing village near Ramin, on the countries remote south-east. Taking a look on the map, you'll see there's a little stretch of coast that's exposed to the south swells that whip up from the Indian Ocean, travelling across the Arabian Sea and landing on their desert shores. It's a dangerous area rife with gangs smuggling goods, drugs and people. The surf club has support from paramilitary volunteers who look out for the members and their equipment, some of which participate and assist in the events.
The club was inspired originally by a visit from Irish surfing star Easkey Britton, believed to have been the first ever female to surf in Iran. Shortly after her milestone session, wearing a scarf in line with local custom, they'd create a wave of interest from both men and women. Mona Seraji remembers the time a young local man approached asking, "Is this something only women can do, or can guys surf too?"
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