A surf trip to Iran may not be the top of your must-venture bucket-list. Tucked between Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, it can be a hotbed of political activity. And even in recent times, a certain tanned president issued a warning (via Twitter) to the Middle Eastern country.
But let's not forget that surfing transcends all politics and turmoil. And Iran is no different. The country's southern province of Balochistan borders with the Gulf of Oman, which connects to the Indian Ocean – meaning there’s very real potential to seek out uncrowded lineups on the fringes of a desert landscape.
A name you’ve probably not heard of is Salar Gheysari who hails from Tehran in Iran, before moving on his own to the UK - his parents choosing to secure a better education for their then 14-year-old son. Salar will soon be the first athlete to represent Iran, as part of Iran's team entry in the UR ISA World Surfing Games in a few days’ time.
And although he cut his trade in the USA and UK, Salar has spent probably more time than anyone scouring the coast of his motherland in search of setups particularly around Chabahar – which means four springs, a testament to the perpetually mellow, warm weather and cooling breeze from the Gulf.
There may only be 10 or so locales we know about in the east of Iran. Agonisingly, if you pay a visit to the Maahi fish cannery, just outside of Chabahar, you may be privy to one of the best points around, with no way to scale down the 60ft cliffs. But scoot a little further east and you’ll find Ramin – which probably offers the best combo of surf and access. West of the port, a beachbreak offers mellow waves, at least till the heavy shorebreak switches on.
Ahead of Salar’s UR ISA World Surfing Games debut, we checked in to talk all things Iran, what the event means to him and much more.
You're the first athlete to represent Iran at the ISA World Surfing Games, what does that mean to you?
It means everything. It means that I have reached a goal and a dream that I have been working towards consciously and subconsciously for the past few years.
To me, this is a moment to honour my people and my family because the only reason I do this is for the future of the country’s surf. I don’t really have any personal goals for this except to be the best that I can be and show the world that we have something to say in this sport in the next few years as a country, not as an individual.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up?
I grew up half of my life in Tehran, Iran and a half alone, going from the United Kingdom to the States. I used to be a soccer player and my passion was to become a pro when I was younger. I actually had a trial for the junior national team of Iran back in the day which really changed me into what I am today.
You moved on your own to the UK?
Well I moved out of my country when I was 14, and I stayed in a dorm in England with the help from my mom, she sacrificed so much for me to be there. She used to sell her stuff for me just so that I can pursue my dream in surfing. My mother is a true queen, she raised me alone and by herself for the most part when my father wasn’t around.
I grew up with both my parents until I was 13, and saw the amount of hustle and hard work they did for us.
Their sacrifice makes me fight everyday and I can never stop because they did so much for me to be here. I mean, my dad is over 65 and my mother is around 50 and they still wake up early every morning and go to work. Now I can’t sit here and just take from them. To see my parents happy is all I need in life.
Do you get to see them?
Yeah, I miss my family and have to see them every once in a while, as they are my everything.
How did you get into surfing?
Well, I've always been around the ocean and water since I was a kid and I am born on the year of the fish - but never saw surfing at all until my friend showed videos of it. I told him I will never go even when I'm in the States with the sharks and everything.
I made a promise to myself that I will do this for the rest of my life, no matter what my obstacles are
Years passed and my good friend at the time took me out and pushed me into a wave, super small but I sat on the shoulder and didn't even get up but that wave is the reason I am here today, because at that time I made a promise to myself that I will do this for the rest of my life, no matter what my obstacles are. I fell in love with the feeling and I've got barrelled dropped in on some bombs but none of that gave me the feeling of that first wave. I carry that moment with me on this day and for the rest of my life.
Talk us through the surf scene in Iran!
[laughs] yeah, there’s sick surf over about 10 different spots so far that we have found down south and a few up north.
North tends to get more wind swell during winter since it’s in the Caspian sea. Smaller surf too but in Chabahar, the village of Ramin and further towards the border of Iran and Pakistan we have some bigger waves.
Ramin holds waves up to 8ft that I’ve seen and possibly, maybe even bigger during the right season. So, yes, without a doubt we have waves. Winter is cold up north so you’ll need a wetsuit. South is perfection, super warm all year around but half the year, there’s no swell. Maybe some windswell after the season is done.
What type of waves do you like surfing?
I would say that I like beachbreaks, punchy and a little challenging to ride or read. I love being challenged so I don't have a preference. Honestly, I just have a limit on the size of the waves. I would like to get into big wave surfing at some point as well just to see if I am man enough [laughs]. Even if it’s small and windy and horrible, I tend to go out and train. I believe I have to be ready for any type of wave.