MAKING WAVES FOR CHANGE
Extreme sports aren’t just a hobby, for most they are a lifestyle!! Extreme Sports can make you believe that you are capable of achieving great things and pushing yourself further than you ever thought. By overcoming your fears in extreme sports you obtain a very important life skill that can be used in other challenging parts of life.
Extreme sports can also be used to take you out of your everyday situation and give you a break from the harshness of reality, even if it’s just for a moment, it can make all the difference.
We are thrilled to be collaborating with an incredible organisation, who, through surfing, are not only changing underprivileged children’s lives, but are also reshaping the status quo of surfing from the shores of Durban, South Africa.
With that, we’re proud to announce our partnership with Surfers Not Street Children. We sat down with CEO and Founder Tom Hewitt MBE, to unpack what this collaboration means for us both….
Toby first got in touch back at the start of lockdown. He told me about Bravery, and about how it came to be, and I was blown away by his extraordinary story. I thought, this man could have been destroyed mentally by what happened to him, but instead he dedicates his life to helping others.
As he explained what he was doing through his business, I could see straight off the bat there was a synergy between Surfers Not Street Children and Bravery, and that it was something we would absolutely want to be involved with.
About Surfers Not Street Children
I moved out to South Africa back in 1990, as part of an anti-apartied fact-finding trip. It was a key time for the nation, volatile but also transitional. I was 18 years-old volunteering on behalf of the African National Congress during the civil war and I kept thinking to myself what more can I be doing? It was at this point that I met street children for the first time. I was shocked that children could be living on the streets like this, so I went to the local politicians and asked what I could do.
I got to know a group of kids in the Eastern Cape, and started volunteering at a project that was facing closure there. When I wasn’t doing this, I was surfing. I have been surfing since I was 13 years old, and the surf in South Africa is incredible. But it wasn’t until years later that my two passions came together.
I moved to Duran, in 1998 to continue the programme, and this is when I had my lightbulb moment. I was out surfing, when one of the kids in the programme started talking to me from the pier. He was asking me about surfing, and I knew he could swim, so I said ‘jump off the pier’. He jumped in right away. So, I put the leg rope on his leg and pushed him into the wave, and as I could hear him woohooing as he went off into the water, I thought, ‘why haven’t I put surfing into the program?’. So, I did.
I started teaching the kids how to surf, and through surfing, they now have access to shelter, nutrition, support and guidance — giving them the means to escape the challenging circumstances they’re in and help them go on to get jobs, enjoy their lives and be self-sustainable as adults.
The name ‘Surfers Not Street Children’ came about in 2012, after the surf brand O’Neil had donated wetsuits to the programme. It was the hottest, most humid day out on the water, and I was sat there in my boardshorts while the kids were all wearing their wetsuits. When I asked why, they responded, “…when we wear these, we are surfers, not street children”. They wore those wetsuits with pride, like a uniform that meant they were not defined by their circumstances. And so, the name stuck.
Our joint mission
For us, it’s all about doing good through surfing. Back in 1998, we were the first programme of our kind, but now there are so many people doing good and giving back in our global surfing community. There are so many positives from surfing; it’s intrinsically therapeutic — for life, for mental health — and we’re proud to have been a big part of the transition over the years, and we want to continue that with Bravery.
It’s also a time for us as the surfing community, to take responsibility for our image. Despite surfing originating in indegenous communities, for a long time surfing has been associated with a blonde-haired, blue-eyed male, but the racial and gender demographic is being rightly challenged, and slowly, people are waking up to this and fighting for change.
What the future looks like
We were honoured that Bravery wanted to partner with us, especially given that Toby was born in South Africa and knows the surfing world. To be a beneficiary of this, is just so amazing, and I can’t wait to see what we can do together.
Right now, Bravery is all about supporting our work, but Toby’s story is so inspiring, and I look forward to a time (post pandemic) where we can come together face-to-face and he can connect with the kids themselves, because he will be a huge inspiration to them.
This is the start of something really special for us at Bravery, and we look forward to growing and supporting each other, giving back to our global surfing community, and encouraging more people to use surfing as a tool to rise above their challenges.