You know you have done something right when you find your hobby turning into your full-time job.
Noticing a gap in the fitness and water sports market in Egypt, El Sobky had a creative spark and
decided to open up Egypt’s first, fully-operational, well-equipped surf school on the shores of the
North Coast. Wanting to understand his full journey, as well as learn more about surfing, we sat
down with him for a chat.
First things first, what made you start surfing in the first place?
Back when I was living in the U.S., I used to only work and party and my life was missing something-
something for me to be passionate about. I used to see surfers going back and forth to the beach
and I thought ‘wow, they look, cool, I want to try that!’ and so I started surfing back in 2007 and
haven’t stopped since.
Surfers do look uber cool, we agree! How did the idea to start Surf School Egypt come about?
When I first started surfing. in the U.S, two of my best friends had also started surfing; one in Egypt
and one in Portugal. When we all reunited during the summer in Egypt, we all started surfing
together and then a small community of surfers started forming. We formed a surfing school back in
2010, but it died down when I had to go back to the U.S. for another job. This year’s school is a
collaboration between myself and Youssef, the owner of the Surf Shop in Hacienda; he helped us
with building our booth and also provided us with equipment throughout the season. I also have a
part-time partner who is also a head coach, Ahmed Shams. We also have instructors, Seif Tamimi and
Tell us a bit about the career shift you made?
Well, I used to work as an engineer in a multinational oil and gas company- quite a promising career. I
decided to take a year off and start my own business, which I feel very passionate about. The thing
about my old job is that I never felt any real satisfaction, but training people and watching them
learn about something completely new and then, later on, excel in it is, on the other hand, extremely
satisfying. Mezena, for example, who is now an instructor at the school, was my student back in
2010, and when I saw her surf this summer and give full-on sessions to beginners, it literally left me
speechless. These are the kind of moments that make you feel like what you’re doing is worthwhile.
That sounds absolutely heart-warming! What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced when it came to opening up and operating the school?
One of the biggest challenges is actually convincing Egyptians that there are high waves that you can
surf on in Egypt, especially in the Mediterranean Sea. Another challenge, of course, is that surfing, as
a sport, is seen by many as very seasonal. I am currently in the process of brainstorming for ideas to
overcome that and offer some surfing activities during the winter season.
Tell us more about what makes a good surfer?
What I truly believe in is that anyone can surf. What would make you especially good at it is
dedication. You need to work on your strength so you can do the pop-up correctly. You also need to
spend as much time as you can in the water. You also need to be very patient; you need to paddle
for some time before you can catch a good wave. If you’re surfing for an hour, you can actually only end up spending two or three minutes only on your feet standing on the board. It might seem like a short amount of time, but they will be the most thrilling moments of your life!
We bet! At what age can kids start surfing?
I’d say at six years old. We had a six-year-old girl training at our school this summer and she was
amazing. If the waves were too high, however, we wouldn’t let her surf because her safety is always
the number one priority. We have a lot of really talented kids enrolled in the school and their
passion and dedication for surfing are intense. If the waves are flat on a day, you would find them
sitting on the beach closely watching for the smallest glimpse of a wave so they can start their
surfing session. I want to embed the surfing culture in little kids because when you do it at such a
young age, you have a bigger opportunity to actually go pro and compete worldwide. I want to give
Egyptian kids the opportunity I would have loved to have back when I was their age.
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