Unravel Surf Travel Outreach Update – 26th March 2011

It was another great day for surfing! The swell was a lot bigger than what the surfer kids had gotten used to at Buffalo Bay but they showed great determination, with the more experienced boys, Marchal, Wilmar and Duran, eagerly paddling through the white water towards the back. And with surprisingly little help from us!

Our two surfer girls also showed great courage. It was the third time that Bianca had come to try surfing, after two previous attempts to get her to into the water and onto a surfboard failed. She was terribly afraid of going anywhere deeper than knee-depth. She wouldn’t even lie on a surfboard in the ankle-deep shallows where there were no waves to speak of. On both previous occasions we emphasized that she could come back again and that if she really wanted to try surfing we will help her. At her own pace. We emphasized that she would be able to overcome her fears if that is what she wanted to do. In the week before the 26th of March she had been told by the school principal, Mr James Speelman, that this was her last chance as there are many other children that also want to try surfing and are on a waiting list to join Unravel Surf Travel Outreach. It would seem that this was all she needed, a little nudge, because she did it! Despite the same old fears still being there, with the patient and compassionate help of my partner Reinder, she pushed herself to face her fears and she actually went beyond knee depth, then allowed Reinder to push her into a gentle wave and she finally stood up!

Reinder later told me that she is still very afraid of the water, but that she told him that surfing felt like flying and that she would come back again just for that.

Chaniel, our other surfer girl, who impressed us so much last time, was back for more and her tenacity in the water made her almost indistinguishable from the boys. Perhaps this was why Wilmar, Marchal and Duran all went further than before, so as to stay ahead of the new girl. The only downer was when Chaniel was slightly injured by the board when a bigger wave hit her. She had to leave the water for some time, but came back later to swim with her Outreach friends.

The highlight of the day must have been when Reinder met Llewellyn Whittaker on the beach. Llewellyn expressed his admiration for our Outreach effort and asked to arrange a meeting. Jenya and myself met with him in Mosselbay later that week and chatted about surfing development. For those of you who don’t know Llewellyn is a pro surfer who has spent several years on the WQS (World Qualifying Series) and has his fair share of results. He is an internationally qualified coach and he runs the Waves S’cool of Surf in Mosselbay where he trains the professional surfers of tomorrow. In 2009 he was assistant coach to the South African Junior National Surfing team which took part in the World surfing games in Ecuador. Together with Quintin Jones, Llewellyn Whittaker will again coach the South African National Junior Surfing Team which will compete in the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Championships in Peru from May 21 to 29, 2011.

Llewellyn approached us with the idea of sharing his Ocean Awareness Program with our Surfer Kids and perhaps with their friends and families. As it says on his website: “Surfing is the tool we have in our hands to educate kids about water safety and we will use it if it means lives can be saved.”

Every year kids who do not have regular access to safe beaches, where life guards are always on duty, drown simply because they are unaware of what the ocean is and what it can do.

It is a bourgeoisie myth that people from impoverished communities are “not water people” “or cannot swim” and it is a reality that people who have historically been segregated and relegated to dangerous beaches will not trust the ocean and will therefore not educate their children about the ocean. They would rather just tell them to stay away. Our courageous surfer girl Bianca is such a case. She was scared to go deeper than knee-depth not because the ocean is actually a scary place, but because she had been told that to go any deeper will mean drowning. The more serious downside of all this is that kids will be kids, and the ocean looks inviting on sunny despite. Kids will not stay away and when they do go into the ocean, not knowing what they are dealing with is probably the number one cause of death or injury.

I look forward to working with Llewellyn as it can only be a good thing for all concerned. Through him we will have access to the Southern Cape Board Riders Association who will also have access to us and the Unravel Surf Travel Outreach Program. This will mean that the kids we teach have the chance to take their surfing further if they show the interest and potential to do so. And it also means that SCBRA will have a new and very unique avenue of development open to them.

Hopefully we can further our aim of broadening horizons for more children. We have a waiting list of about 40 children at Friemersheim Primary School and we only have the means to take about 6 kids surfing every second Saturday. Quite clearly we cannot do this on our own and all help is more than welcome.

I have always maintained that I do Unravel Surf Travel Outreach for myself. It is for myself that I take these kids surfing every second Saturday. Why? Because it illustrates to me that the dream I am trying to make a reality is not in vain.

Unravel Surf Travel is a dream that is in the process of becoming a reality. What is that dream? In essence it is a dream to share with people the insight that the world is after all not such a scary place as we think it is. We think it is very very scary and very few people ever push themselves to face their fears because they are so afraid that something bad will happen. But if we have the right guidance within a compassionate environment we soon realise that our fears are mostly fabricated and that they can be easily overcome if only we decided that we do not want to be afraid any more.

Bianca is a brilliant example of this. She wanted to surf. And even after trying, and failing twice, she came back a third time. She succeeded where most people would have failed because she was inspired to do so. She was inspired to make a choice. She decided that she would do that which scared her most. And she was OK.

All of us would do well to follow her example more often.

As a good friend of mine once said to me: “To stay on the right path when faced with dilemma’s you must simply choose that which scares you most. That way you can be sure of finding exactly what you need in order to progress as far as you want to go.”

But that is not always so easy to do. Which is why we all need a little help from time to time.


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