We would like to extend our most sincere words of gratitude to Surfing South Africa and Tasha Mentasti for making The Surfer Kids’ first anniversary one of the most memorable moments of their lives!
When we arrived in Cape Town on the 9th of November 2011, to prepare for the arrival of our Spring Surf Camp guests two days later, we were very excited!
We were about to meet Tasha Mentasti, from Surfing South Africa, to collect the equipment that had been donated to The Surfer Kids’ Surf Development Program. I hadn’t been this stoked since I surfed my first wave some sixteen years ago!
It was not planned but this donation neatly coincided with The Surfer Kids’ first anniversary! It also coincided with the addition of five new girls to The Surfer Kids program!!! If it hadn’t been for the extra surfboards and wetsuits I have no idea what we would have done to keep all 14 kids occupied that day…
During each and every Unravel Surf Travel Camp we organise at least one day of Outreach where Surf Camp guests and The Surfer Kids surf together! It just so happened that the Outreach Day for this Spring 2011 Surf Camp was planned for the 19th of November 2011, almost exactly a year since the inception of The Surfer Kids Program. It was on the 20th November 2010 that we took The Surfer Kids for their first surf ever!!!
We had been recruiting kids from the rural farming community of Friemersheim (in cooperation with the local primary school there) for the last year, and at certain points we struggled against fear and ignorance to fill up all the available spots… There were some serious misconceptions about the ocean and about surfing. Misconceptions that took time, effort and a lot of patience to overcome. And the process is ongoing…
Where we started off with only 5 kids one year ago, we celebrated our recent first anniversary with 14 kids! Six girls and eight boys!
But it was not always easy… On some weekends only two or three kids would show up for the surf lessons and at some point we even lost certain kids to superstitious beliefs. The parents of one kid withdrew their child from our program after a mysterious rash was blamed on frequent exposure to salt water… And for a long time we really struggled to recruit girls. They would come and go, but never stay…
Through continued hard work and dedication we overcame these and many other obstacles. We made it through periods of uncertainty and we continued doing what we knew we had to do. All of this is, in no small part, thanks to our local Community Outreach Coordinator, Benni, one of the kids’ parents, who has himself become a very keen surfer over the last year!
I want to use this opportunity to share how things have converged to create the story of The Surfer Kids.
The donation from Surfing South Africa (in conjunction with Reef Wetsuits and The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund) came at a time when we were finally recognised by the community of Friemersheim for all the hard work we have put into the development of their children with The Surfer Kids Surf Development Program.
It is crucial to understand that although it is our primary medium, surfing as such is not always priority number one when we work with The Surfer Kids. Prior to actually surfing, there are many basic principles of trust, respect, cooperation and education that we need to address before we can ever hope to let surfing have a positive influence on their lives.
I am not in favour of discriminating on any basis, but the simple reality is that these kids come from a very different perspective than what ‘we’ are used to. (And if you are reading this on a computer screen, then you most probably do not share their perspective…) Like so many people in this country, and all around the world for that matter, these kids live in a world dominated by the need to survive, disproportionately more so than anything else. When we started with Unravel Surf Travel Outreach and subsequently with The Surfer Kids, typically what we found was either utter despair or a dogged resistance to anything not essentially linked with daily survival.
With regard to the ocean, there are numerous superstitions and very few of the kids could even swim. It was always going to be difficult to spread the love of surfing in a community that have long been afraid of water and specifically of the ocean. Not too mention that for a very long time they were suspicious of our intentions and did not believe that we actually wanted to do what we said we wanted to do. They have become used to being taken advantage of and many of the parents remain very sceptical, even after a year’s worth of hard work and dedication to their kids’ development…
We want to contribute to the long term future development of these kids. In the long run, the aim is to let The Surfer Kids run The Surfer Kids’ program. With the assistance of Unravel Surf Travel only where it is necessary. This will take time. It is not our aim to just have isolated days of fun and games on the beach. We encourage the same kids to return again and again for the sake of continued long-term development. At least four of the kids have been with us since the very beginning.
But even these kids, who have been with us for a year now, cannot yet reasonably be called real surfers. They remain developing surfers. They have only just started paddling out to the back-line on their own. Only two of them can properly paddle into unbroken waves. It took almost an entire year of regular Outreach Surf Sessions just to show them that the ocean will not harm you if you treat it with respect and prepare yourself with the necessary knowledge and experience. On top of that they have only just started believing that they may have the ability to create a different life than the one they are exposed to on a daily basis. All this can be very discouraging without at least some assistance and recognition…
It is no coincidence that we received help at this crucial point in time. On a metaphysical level (where everything happens for a reason) the donation from Surfing South Africa served as a confirmation that, together with The Surfer Kids, we have started accomplishing great things. We have finally started making serious progress! The recognition has also inspired us to double our efforts in helping the kids to create the reality that they want!
You may think that each person is an entirely separate individual and that we share no fundamental connection with one another. But I beg to differ. We share more than what we are aware of. The famous psychologist Carl Gustav Jung called it the ‘collective unconscious’ while many people refer to this spiritual connection as God… One way or another we are all inextricably linked to each other. You need only to open yourself to a greater experience of reality to realise this. All it requires is a certain sense of calm and acceptance. A mind that is constantly busy will not allow a deeper consciousness to unfold… And ultimately, on a fundamental level, consciousness is what creates everything. You and everything else around you is connected.
So, although it was a pleasant and unexpected surprise, it is no coincidence. When The Surfer Kids decided to take us and themselves seriously, and to put real effort into making the most of this incredible opportunity, they were rewarded with a very generous gift from the outside world. A gift that served both as confirmation and encouragement of their commitment. An internal commitment that resulted in a reciprocal external commitment…
In the car on the way back home, after the excitement of the first anniversary celebrations had settled, Benni, our local Community Outreach Coordinator, shared with me something very inspiring. Something which only serves as further confirmation of what we have accomplished and continue to accomplish here.
Friemersheim Primary School recently held their end of year function. Marchall, Benni’s son and one of the kids that have been with us since the very beginning, was elected as Head Boy of the primary school for next year. Benni was very proud of his son, as he himself admitted that, prior to joining The Surfer Kids, Marchall had been a slightly “slow” kid. Whereas before Marchall had been quiet and withdrawn, in the last year the school’s principal, Mr Speelman, had witnessed some incredible leadership qualities emerge from within this boy.
Furthermore, Mr Speelman noted that every single child that has been a part of The Surfer Kids program has, over the last few months, made drastic improvements in all areas of their school work!
And I can assure you that this is only the beginning!
Once again I would like to thank Surfing South Africa for their generous donation and Tasha Mentasti for all her hard work. I for one do take note that things do not simply happen. People make things happen. Thank You.
Our Russian Surf Camp Guests were thoroughly impressed with Surfing South Africa and their contribution. They commended an organisation that enthusiastically supports grass-roots development programs such as The Surfer Kids. Other institutions charged with the development and education of future generations will do well to take note of what is happening here.
Thank you to my beautiful wife Jenya Zhivaleva and Spring Surf Camp Guest Katya Donova for these amazing photos! And thank you to all the people that play a part in making what we do a success!
I hope you enjoy these photo highlights from The Surfer Kids’ First Anniversary celebratory surf!
Yours in Surfing, Love and Life