Doc Paskowitz (Stanford Alumni Magazine)

November 17, 2011, Judd

Surfing icon, countercultulist and raconteur Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz considers it a miracle that he received both an undergraduate degree and a medical degree from Stanford. “I’m the dumbest Jewish doctor on the planet and the dumbest person to have ever graduated from Stanford,” says Paskowitz, bronzing his svelte 87-year-old flesh on the veranda of his Dana Point, Calif., condo.

Paskowitz is seated next to his third wife, Juliette. They married in 1958 and produced nine children-eight boys and one girl-all of whom were raised in a 24-foot camper van. Not one ever spent a single day in school. Earlier this year, the theatrically-released documentary Surfwise chronicled the anything- but-Brady-Bunch lifestyle of the Paskowitz clan. During their 20-odd years in the camper, Paskowitz was to his children part zealous physical-education teacher, part surf coach, part dictator and part chauffeur, driving his family up and down the American and Baja west coasts searching for surf.

Whether he’s the dumbest doctor would be hard to quantify, but Paskowitz is very likely the poorest one, financially speaking. In spirit, however, Paskowitz feels he is among the richest.

Born in Galveston, Texas, Paskowitz moved to San Diego’s Mission Beach district at 13 and took up surfing. After Stanford, while serving as president of Hawaii’s Mental Hygiene Association (now the Mental Health Association) during the mid-1950s, he seemingly had it all, including financial abundance. “My life was a sham,” says Paskowitz. “I was living a lie. I was miserable. Worst of all, I wasn’t even surfing.” For him, the answer lay in what has become his mantra: “The pursuit of achieving a superior state of well-being.”

After what he calls that “nervous breakdown” in Hawaii, Paskowitz spent a year of self-realization in Israel, perfecting the art of living simply and, many claim, introducing surfing to Israel. Shortly after, he started his brood, most of whom are resentful of the fact that they were provided no formal education and made to live by their father’s choice of a life of poverty. Paskowitz would work an occasional doctor’s shift at various hospitals and traded medical services for food, but frequently prided himself on being down to his last dollar.

Paskowitz remains comfortable with his life decisions. He spent 15 years writing Surfing and Health, which he claims can save lives. He still surfs sometimes, though on his knees to spare his hips, and his children are funding the condo now that he’s given up his nomadic lifestyle. “Maybe I’ve just never been comfortable being rich,” says Paskowitz, referring, of course, to his wallet, not his soul.

Judd Handler is a freelance writer and wellness/lifestyle coach in Encinitas, California. He surfs uncrowded, fun reef breaks; plays instrumental alternate-tuning guitar; goes hiking in the backcountry; and is amazed on a daily basis by just being alive.