Talking with Jessie Reder, co-founder of TEMPER brand and avid surf traveler, about her life in Israel, its surf culture and amazing food. If you’ve ticked off most of your dream surf destinations from your bucket list and you love hummus maybe it’s time to visit Israel!

Jessie surfing Cabo, Mexico

How it all started for you?

I’m from San Diego originally, and I started surfing with this like, 6’5” Rusty orange ‘shortboard.’ Mostly because I looked up to my older twin brothers, and didn’t want to be left out of the fun. 

I’ve worked in beauty and product development for the past 20 years – skin care, body care, fragrance, sunscreen. Now I co-founded TEMPER, a hair oil made especially for surfing and free diving. Often times I traveled for work, studying plants and seaweed for formulas, so that overlapped well with the desire to surf abroad, and make formulas for surfers.

So where have you traveled for surf?

My first surf trip was to Mexico, also with my brothers, but shortly after that I went to Panama and Costa Rica for my study abroad. I took my host mother to Tamarindo and longboarded like a wild woman escaping from class.

After that in order of appearance from 2002… not including repeats: Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Bali, Germany, Nicaragua, Ireland, El Salv, Morocco, Nias/Indonesia, Israel, Dominican Republic, Senegal/Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Australia, France, Maldives, Brazil. Need to return to Cuba for waves. 

I had a bucket list to surf (albeit often like a kook) every continent in the world, and Brazil in 2018 checked that off for me. Caveat being Antartica… I need Red Bull’s help with that!

In the US: Hawaii, Oregon, Cali, New Jersey, Florida. 

Photo by Adam Jang

When did you come to Israel for the first time? What was your first impression and how has it changed from then?

My first impression was, Israel is a second world country. We have some of the most advanced technology in the world, but we have to fax in our requests to our banks still.  When I first came, in 2008, it had the feel of a country frozen in the 1980’s – hotels that would have been glamorous but were frayed when you looked closely, slightly outdated.

Now everything has been revamped, and is modern and sleek. It’s very common for our architecture to be built out of Jerusalem stone, which gives the feeling that our buildings are part of the landscape, which contributes to that feel of eternity that you would expect from such a place. A link from the ancient to the present. 

Tell us about surf in Israel, where did you surf, do you have your favourite spots?

Oh boy. Keep in mind that the coastline of Israel is about the size of southern California. So you surf everywhere. I’ve heard Gaza is stunning, and haven’t been able to get there, but that would be cool. Otherwise, from Haifa to Ashdod! 

Favourite spot – a secret spot, of course ?, where you have to hike a little next to some cliffs. Sort of reminds me of surfing Black’s in California. A very mushy, non life threatening Black’s.  

Photo by Zlotan Tasi

Let’s talk more about vibe in the line up, maybe your best and worst experience?

Some sessions in your life are great because the waves are great. Maybe the break is empty, you and just one friend, trading waves like a treadmill. In Israel, it’s like surfing with your extended family. When I say everyone knows each other, half the time they actually are family. So the best is when everyone is laughing, teasing each other, calling each other off of waves and then whooping at each other when that person eats it. This is not the stoic quiet local line up that I grew up with. You can see how this can also be the worst experience on more critical days. 

In Israel, it’s like surfing with your extended family. When I say everyone knows each other, half the time they actually are family… everyone is laughing, teasing each other, calling each other off of waves and then whooping at each other when that person eats it. This is not the stoic quiet local line up that I grew up with.

What about crowds in the water?

Yeah. They’re there. And it’s often a more unruly, fight-for-your-place type line up.

Is surfing popular among women?

It’s getting there for sure, and the men are charming. Where as I often feel like in America, they’ll drop in on you until you prove otherwise, chivalry hasn’t quite died here yet, and they share a lot more waves.

What about safety?

Israel is totally safe! Politics aside, the general life in Israel is very very safe. As a girl, you can walk home at 4 in the morning by yourself. People still hitchhike here all the time. That family feeling extends throughout the country, and you have a greater chance of someone inviting you in for tea than harming you. This goes for all backgrounds, as Israel is quite diverse.

Photo by Roxanne Desgagnes

Surfing aside what about famous Middle East kitchen, any places you would recommend? Meals that you have to try while there?

Every town has their “The most popular hummus place in all of Israel.” Find it and try it. Go to places that offer lots of ‘salatim’ – the small salads that come with a main dish. While very touristy, The Old Man and the Sea in Yafo is a surefire place to experience this. For the love of all things holy, get Shakshuka after surfing. Thick slab of bread and avocado… 

Any other must do, experience while in Israel?

Jerusalem. Go to the Kotel, the Western Wall, press your head against the stones, and pray (whatever that means to you) out loud. You can feel and hear the people praying next to you – sobbing, sniffling, repeating and rocking and just plain needing something. It is so powerful, to be a part of so many people being part of something bigger than themselves.

Jerusalem… You can feel and hear the people praying next to you – sobbing, sniffling, repeating and rocking and just plain needing something. It is so powerful, to be a part of so many people being part of something bigger than themselves. This is that element of connectivity that we search for so often.

This is that element of connectivity that we search for so often. I think as surfers, part of the infinity of riding a wave is that it connects us to the greater universe. In that moment, we are elemental, we are both reduced and larger than life, we are 100% feeling. This is what it is like to experience the Kotel. 

Photo by Toa Heftiba

What would be your advise for people that want to travel and surf in Israel?

Start in Tel Aviv, Ma’aravi beach just north of Yafo, and work your way up. Plenty of places to rent, although they’ll often be soft tops. OH – around June, we get a crazy medusah (jelly fish) invasion. They love to land between your legs when you’re sitting on your board. Beware. 

Renting a car is cheap and easy, but so is the bus system. Also, weekending is a big thing here, so it’s really easy to find ‘zimmers,’ little B&B’s everywhere. If you choose to stay at a hotel, make sure they have the amazing breakfast spread that Israel is known for. Veggies, cheese, hummus, eggs, everything. Everything. 

Last but not least – favourite places to hangout?

Beach game is strong here. I’ve seen people come with power generators and actual cabinets. Favourite place to hang out is directly on the beach, equipped with some shade and some tasties.