The Surfer Kids’ Cape Town Trip

Two days after finishing our November Surf & Yoga Tour we took 11 kids from our Outreach Program, The Surfer Kids NON-Profit, to Cape Town!!!

We camped at Ouskip Park in Melkbosstrand from the 10th to the 13th of December 2012.

The Surfer Kids NON-Profit is a part of Unravel Surf Travel OUTREACH. With The Surfer Kids NON-Profit we aim to enrich these kids’ experience through surfing and travelling. That’s what this trip was all about!

Keep in mind that, for some of these kids, when we took them surfing it was their first visit to Diaz Beach in Mossel Bay, which is only 40 km’s from where they live in Friemersheim!!

Now imagine what it meant for them to see Cape Town! Climbing up Table Mountain and riding down with the Cable Car! Visiting the V&A Waterfront and experiencing the Two Oceans Aquarium!!!

We were fortunate to have received a very generous donation from SUPsistas in Cape Town, without which this trip would have been entirely impossible! They also gave the kids the opportunity to try Stand up Paddling for the first time!

What a trip it was!

But there’s another side to this exciting story.

It is a side seldom mentioned when it comes to talking about outreach work.

The purpose of The Surfer Kids NON-Profit is to create opportunities for the children of Friemersheim. But not only is this easier said than done, personally this isn’t my primary objective.

Allow me to explain.

Taking 11 children from a rural village to Cape Town for three nights requires a lot of effort. Camping, cooking, driving, organising, fund-raising and generally making sure that they don’t hurt themselves, is not an easy job.

And that’s all besides the more than two years of solid commitment from Unravel Surf Travel OUTREACH; taking the kids surfing every other weekend, organising and maintaining equipment and funds, donating money raised during surf tours and just general organisation. We’re getting close 100 full days spent with The Surfer Kids NON-Profit.

Now. What would you say if I told you that it wasn’t always immediately obvious that the kids enjoy and appreciate what we do for them?

Because quite often kids show very little gratitude or appreciation.

Some people have romantic visions of big brown-eyed kids looking appreciatively up at them, smiling and thanking them.

These people have no idea what it’s all about…

This preconception of changing lives is misguided, because it doesn’t happen that way. Most people expect immediate results and when it doesn’t come, they’re disappointed.

Why would kids show appreciation if they don’t understand what they’re receiving?

There are only a few things that kids really do understand. Food and sweets are perhaps top amongst those. If you give kids food or sweets they will thank you because the benefit is obvious.

But does food or sweets improve their overall situation? Tomorrow they’ll just want more food and more sweets. It’s like the old saying goes: If you give a hungry person food, they’ll be hungry again tomorrow. If you teach a hungry person to grow a vegetable garden they can look after themselves.

And that’s the point here. Teaching kids how to “grow a vegetable garden” is a very difficult and slow process.

Think about it. Why would they want to go through the effort of learning how to grow something if it’s easier to just wait for someone to give them something? Which is an attitude reinforced by society everywhere. Immediate gratification.

If you teach kids something worthwhile, chances are it’s something that doesn’t necessarily show results straight away because anything that’s worthwhile requires some effort.

If you drive into a poor area and start handing out sweets, the children will smile and you’ll feel good, but have you done anything worthwhile?

Our society is overly fixated on quick fixes, immediate benefits and instant results. When we help people we expect an enthusiastic “Thank You!!!” and when we don’t get it, we’re disappointed. Demotivated. As if we were helping that person simply because we wanted their appreciation.  So we call the person unappreciative and we feel justified in letting it go. Which is unfortunate, because it’s quite likely that it’s there where the real work lies.

People often ask us: “Do the kids appreciate what you’re doing for them?” And sometimes my honest answer is: “Well, most of the time it’s very difficult to see whether or not they do appreciate it.”

Many people do not understand this. They think that there must be something wrong with our approach. That we should change our program. Or they simply think that there’s something wrong with the kids themselves.

Generally, unless they’ve acquired the long term experience themselves, people do not understand what Outreach work is all about. What it requires.

It’s easy to take a bunch of children down to the beach and have fun surfing with them. But try and motivate that same group of children to return on a weekly basis for more than two years, and you will understand what I’m trying to say.

If you really want to teach someone something meaningful, it means that you’ve got to teach them something that they haven’t yet learned. Not a new fact or a more complex set of rules. But an entirely new way of approaching life.

With most people, and especially with children, it’s very unlikely that they will be able to see the long term benefit of this.

Don’t get me wrong. It warms my heart when the kids smile and appreciate what we do for them. And I’m super stoked every time I see one of them ride a good wave!!!

But to get to that point, we’ve had to work through a lot of tough times. There were weekends when not a single child showed up to go surfing and I would ask myself “Why? Why am I doing this if they don’t appreciate it enough to come surfing whenever I give them the opportunity? Shouldn’t they be queuing up for this?”

This trip to Cape Town marked our 2nd anniversary with The Surfer Kids NON-Profit. The program was founded on the 20th November 2010.

It’s now been more than two years since we took the kids surfing for the first time.

And we’re only just beginning to see the first glimmers of genuine appreciation amongst the older kids.  They’re only just beginning to realise what we are doing for them. And still, it’s only every now and then. Other times they still behave nonchalantly as if two years of dedication means so little.

So the answer to my question of “Why am I doing this?” is simple. There is no reason. I simply do it.

We cannot expect to gain something from doing anything. That’s how life works. But don’t take my word for it. Life will teach you this lesson sooner or later.

If you’re looking to benefit from doing something, you’re using this moment as a means to an end. And this moment is life.

Life does not allow itself to be used as a means to an end. We all eventually learn this one way or another.

Sure. You could take this step for no other reason than getting to the next one. You could take this step without really paying attention to it. You could use this situation as a means to an end. And you may succeed. For a while. But at some point you will fall. For a simple reason. Life wants to teach you something. If you’re not paying attention to this moment, you’ll miss this step and you’ll never make it to the next one.

Life is now. Life doesn’t exist in the future or the past. Those are only concepts in the mind. And Life wants your attention to be here. Where it is.

Personally, that’s my approach with The Surfer Kids NON-Profit.

Generally people are overly obsessed with goals and objectives. What do you hope to achieve with this and what will you do with that?

Nothing in particular.

I don’t hope to achieve anything with this or that. I’m simply doing it for the sake of doing it.

Sometimes the kids smile and other times they don’t. But if I allowed myself to smile or moan because of that, this program wouldn’t have lasted half a year.

What’s the goal of The Surfer Kids NON-Profit? There are several possibilities, and some of them may come to pass in the future. Perhaps some of the kids will eventually work on tour with us. But who knows?

These possible outcomes could benefit the kids. But that’s all besides the point really.

I simply enjoy working with The Surfer Kids.

If you look at these photos you will understand.

I simply appreciate being here. Doing this. Whatever and wherever it is.

Yours in Surfing Love and life


All photos by Jenya Zhivaleva & Hermann Vivier.

3 thoughts on “The Surfer Kids’ Cape Town Trip

  1. Hiya Herman, I myself have seen these types of programs over the years, all over the country, and I have seen them fail/dissapear many times, in fact I spoke to a KZN guy who said that their sucess rate is about 2 out of a hundred. But well done, your program is the first where I have seen such an imput from the parents, and I believe that this is a key point. I have also spent many an hour wondering why we do the things we do, and the most sucessful is when we do it for ourselves. The kids eventually teach us, but generally not in the way we expected. Keep it up, forget about your future expectations and go with the flow.


  2. Pingback: Update on The Surfer Kids NON-Profit | UNRAVEL SURF TRAVEL

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