The decision to grant South Africa the opportunity to host the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010 may not have been in vain. This nation led by President Jacob Zuma appears to be ushering in a new kind of sport that might soon become an African continental affair: surfing. A black man enveloped in neoprene surfing a powerful African wave is an image that has to date not fitted in with the surfing stereotype. Very few Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds have taken up surfing as a sport or lifestyle, according to Arise: Africa’s global style and culture magazine.
Irrespective of the aesthetic barriers that undoubtedly exist and that may discourage black youth from stepping out into the sport, surfing remains a relatively accessible sport. All you need is a board and a wet suit.
For a country like South Africa which is riddled with gangsterism and its economy wracked by drug addiction and violence, surfing might offer a way out for the few who are given an opportunity to ride the waves. After all there is a generation of young black surfers enthralled by the news that surfing can be a life enhancing experience and should be enjoyed by everyone.
South Africa’s Muizenberg town is said to be home to one of the most vibrant communities of black surfers. Its relatively gentle waves and proximity to one of the hubs of South African surf culture has led to an upsurge in the number of black kids in the water. The area which is characterised by a fairly stable political situation and a beachside lifestyle, has drawn families from all over Africa resulting in an eclectic and colourful surf scene across the continent.
Nonetheless, not all parts of the country are suitable for this kind of sport. The heavy hollow waves that break around the coast of South Africa are not particularly well suited to the graceful art of long boarding. Moreover, the young surfers are shielded from being part of this exciting sport due to lack of necessary equipment. With a new board and wet suit accounting to six months salary of a typical person from South Africa, the sport is unattainable for most of them.
Luckily, the stepping stones are in place for a young black person to become a high ranking professional surfer alongside their white counterparts. From Durban to Cape Town and every where in between, there are grass roots projects dedicated to introducing South Africans to the sport of surfing. Every regional surfing union is given a budget and certain developmental objectives.
One of the most proactive initiatives is Mahala, a non-profit surf company run by Cape Town surfer Andy Davis. Mahala exists to empower underprivileged young surfers through the collection and distribution of old surf equipment.
Proving to be a positive step away from the township crime in South Africa, surfing is a sport that will give many youths a different way to spend their time. If given the right environment and equipment, African youths might be able to exploit the ocean through this new which hopefully will not only be in South Africa but will spread to the other parts of the continent.