There’s been a revolution in Iran, and we’re not talking about the one that resulted in overthrowing the Shah in 1979! The latest one involves an Irish environmentalist and surfing champion, and her mission to bring the sport to Iran, and its women.
When a young boy stood on the beach in a fishing village in one of Iran’s least known areas, and saw three women catching waves, it was the first time he had seen females surfing. Actually, it was the first time he’d seen anyone surfing! One of them was Easky Britton. We featured her first visit to Iran before, but now there is a documentary about her incredible mission to introduce surfing to Iran.
A passionate environmentalist, Easkey started surfing when she was just four years old. She first came to Iran in 2010, her curiosity and attraction to the unknown taking her to a remote and dangerous part of the country that even many Iranians don’t travel to: Balochistan. Marion Poizeau, a French film maker came with her, and created a short video about Easkey being the first woman in Iran to surf. It quickly drew media attention.
In 2013, after hearing lots of positive of feedback from Iranians about this new sport, the pair returned to make a documentary. With Marion’s passion for film-making and Easkey’s thirst for surf, the two were an inspiring combination. Into the Sea follows the journey of Easkey, Iranian snowboarder Mona and Iranian diver Shalha, who are introducing surfing to Iran. The film was a project based around an objective of sharing a passion for surfing in the country, and at the same time making it accessible to everyone, including women.
“Scariest little corner of the world”
Iran has a lot to offer, but it’s never really been a country renowned for its beaches or its surf. Many people haven’t even heard of Balochistan. It’s rarely mentioned in guidebooks. Poor life expectancy, high poverty levels and low rates of adult literacy; the picture hasn’t been a rosy one for this remote area that borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact The New York Times branded Baluchistan as “The scariest little corner of the world.” But with vast stretches of empty, crowd-free beaches, for Easkey it meant a “guaranteed adventure in a little-understood country.”
Making waves in the local community
Easky and Marion ended up in the city of Chabahar, and the the small village of Ramin just to the east of the city. From her first visit Easkey wore a hijab and full-length wetsuit in the water. She wanted to challenge perceptions about women and sport, but was also careful to respect the local culture and Islamic religion.
Marion who was filming the experiences said that the support they received touched her deeply: “We had a sit-down with the elders and the tribesmen. We drank tea for about three hours with them. They spelled out the rules: women surfers must cover their hair and separate surfing lessons would be given for men and women. After that, we were under their protection.”
The enthusiasm of the Balochi people was overwhelming, but it was apparent there was a long way to go. Easkey at times has struggled to accept how much local women were kept in the background; how invisible they seemed. In Chabahar, despite the positive reaction by the local community, Shalha expressed her uncertainty about whether the local women would be allowed to surf or swim in the future. When she and Mona asked local women if they wanted to go surfing, they declined. Shalha explained that “It looked like they wanted to go, but they weren’t allowed.”
But surfing has empowered the women of Balochistan in some way. For Easkey, introducing surfing to them has meant that Balochi women and girls no longer on the sidelines. “What’s most inspiring, is the enthusiasm and vision of the young people here, with young women making an important, change making role, leading the way in a new frontier sport,” she said.
Surfing into the future
Into the Sea, screened in Tehran and London, has been critically acclaimed. Marion said: “This film is a message of tolerance and shows that by following our passion we can create nice stories even in unexpected places like Balochistan. It’s a great perspective of a beautiful story that is still ongoing.”
In September 2014, Easkey, Mona, Shalha and Marion went back to Balochistan and put on more surf classes. They created the group “We surf in Iran” where Iranians – both male and female – from all around the country went to participate in classes. Next the women hope to establish an Iranian national federation of surf and be able to organize international events and encourage foreigners to experience the region, one that the Easkey and Marion now consider a second home.
For more information on where to watch the film visit: http://www.x-tremevideo.com/films/into-the-sea/