Tide changes for Masiphumelele surfers

Daniel Botha, middle, with volunteers and the children from Masiphumelele.

Bongi can be found in Masiphumelele every day. He doesn’t live there, but the children he is teaching how to surf, do.

Bongi is Daniel Botha’s nickname – he earned it as a youngster because of his immense love of drumming, and it has stuck. It is the name most often called in the crash of waves at Surfer’s Corner, where 12 youngsters from Masiphumelele visit every day.

Bongi collects and drops off the boys, who range in age from six to 16, and three days a week they have surf lessons, with life skills and other activities on the days be-tween.

For these Masiphumelele kids, Muizenberg is where life is beautiful.

“Many of the boys have parents who can’t swim, so these youngsters are breaking all kinds of barriers within their families. Their parents are working long hours, so instead of being left to their own devices, they are here with us at Surfpop, socialising and learning how to swim and surf,” Daniel says.

He has been running Bailey’s Surf Shack in Muizenberg since 2011.

He launched his organisation, Surfpop, as the best possible use of his tourism background and love of people and surf. He’s been a surfing instructor since the age of 16, and enjoys helping people.

“Through Surfpop we want to create a way out for children who live in vulnerable situations, we want to show them another life – one removed from gangsterism, crime and drugs. The ‘way out’ entails a new outlook on life, brought about by the love for surfing and the ocean,” he says.

Daniel is working with 12 children from Ukhanyo Primary School in Masiphumelele.

“This isn’t a once-off lesson, we have long-term plans and are building real relationships with the kids. We’re hoping to get them to the level where they will not only teach new kids, but the volunteers who come in to help,” Daniel says.

“It would be the best thing ever for us to see them become qualified surf instructors and perhaps start their own surf school one day.”

Daniel offers surf camps and volunteer holiday adventures – to anyone with a love of the ocean.

Volunteers from the world over join on a month-long package, learn to surf, sight-see and help with the children.

Volunteers learn everything from surfboard designs, surf forecasting, wave types and what boards to ride in different conditions.

The children have three-and-a-half hour surf lessons a week every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

On Tuesday and Thursday they enjoy other activities which include hiking, soccer, swimming, slack-lining, arts and crafts, and there are beach clean-ups.

While Daniel chats about the system, the boys dash about downstairs with the volunteers, laughing, chatting and getting their wetsuits on. Their excitement is palpable.

Why Masiphumelele children?

Daniel says: “I tried initially to find schools with children closer to us, but most of them flatly refused any sort of help, or simply didn’t respond to my offers. These lessons are entirely free to the kids: but I wanted a small group that I could really make a difference with.”

Eventually a feeder NGO put him in touch with Ukhanyo Primary, and he found his core group of boys.

“When I went to Masiphumelele I realised it was the right place, because these kids don’t generally have access to the ocean, and that needed to change.”

When Daniel started Surfpop he did so with the idea of doing it properly, of making it real and instructive. As his programme grows more solid, so he has expanded his own vision for what can be done.

His new plans include setting up a trust fund for the boys’ education, and plans to expand the programme to include the current boys’ siblings.

“Education is the key to change their lives on a very real level, and that’s what we want. Steady growth, real change, real opportunity for them. I am busy setting the trust fund up, and I am also redesigning the website.” He runs his hand thoughtfully through a head of lustrous curls.

“I was left alone as a child a lot, but it was in a very safe environment: I had a garden to play in… they don’t… their playground is the street: after school and before their parents get home. It is not a constructive situation.

“They often see things we don’t want children to see. Showing them another life is pointless unless that includes a follow through support system. That’s the next step for us,” he says.

Watch this space. For more information on what Daniel is doing, visit: www.surfpop.co.za