Whilst Tom Hewitt was running Umthombo, it became known for its surfing programme that fused surfing as a high-intensity engagement activity with pyschosocial serves. Many youngsters were empowered to leave the streets through this and as a by product, ex street children became a new wave of “New Pier” locals in Durban becoming incredible surfers in the process. Many of these youngsters are now adults qualified and working in areas such as lifeguarding, surf ins ruction and in the beachfront tourism industry. Some are also ambassadors with Surfers Not Street Children.
Surfing at the New Pier put these youngsters and Umthombo in the same space as the Durban surfing community, which at first yielded a range of both positive and negative interactions. However, over time the surfing community has embraced these youngsters with the guidance of some of the prominent New Pier crew as well as many of the local pro surfers. Jordy Smith has been extremely supportive of the youngsters as has Travis Logie, Paul Canning, Shaun Tomson, Simon Nicholson, Dan Redman and many other of the local rippers as well as international visitors who have connected with the kids such as Dean “Dingo” Morrison. The local surfers have watched this crew of ex street children develop from beginners flapping around in the white water to solid surfers who understand the surfers code of conduct in the water and have earned their place in the line-up at the New Pier. Umthombo has changed the racial demographics of surfing in Durban and has made the Durban line-ups truly multi racial.
A few years back a local New Pier surfer and owner of the Bombsurf magazine, John McCarthy approached Tom Hewitt about putting on a competition to showcase the surfing of these youngsters and encourage them in their life transitions. Enter another dedicated and good hearted local surfer, Mark Snowball who got his company RFB Logistics to support the event financially , and local legend Ann Wright of KZN surfing to run the event and the first Kushay’igagsi surf contest was born in 2012. It was totally unique as it was the first ever contest run entirely in Zulu, with a Zulu MC, African judges and competitors. It was a huge success and won by Surfers Not Street Children ambassador Sihle Mbutho who walked away with R3000 prize money. The level of surfing was fantastic, the participants had all either been street children and come through Umthombo or were still at Umthombo. They had an absolutely amazing day.
In 2013 John McCarthy had the idea to run the event on Reconciliation day in South Africa, December 16. There would be an influx of people on the beach and it would be a great way to introduce ordinary Africans to surfing as well as to showcase the work of Umthombo and Surfers Not Street Children. The crowd on the beach was some 20 000 strong and really got behind the event which led to an electrifying final with crowd support of a kind last seen at the old Gunston 500 in Durban. The event was a huge success thanks to the support of SA Surfing, Mark Snowball and RFB Logistics, Bos Iced Tea, the Bombsurf, John Invins photography, Greg Kitto (video), O’neill wetsuits and apparel and eThekwini Municipality.
There were two divisions, one of experienced surfers and one for beginners. Surfers Not Street Children ambassador and ex Umthombo kid, Ntando Msibi won the main event with a fantastic repertoire of tricks in the final. The event was a huge success and also involved a surfing clinic from Afrosurfers surf school (Sihle from Surfers Not Street Children) that saw eager beach visitors get their first taste of surfing.
All pics and art work: Jon Ivins. Video: Greg Kitto.