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Surfers not street children compete to raise awareness on UK surf tour

A South African surfing team with a difference are on tour in the UK from next week. The team riders are all ex-street children who grew up in Durban, South Africa at a street children project called Umthombo Street Children ...

A South African surfing team with a difference are on tour in the UK from next week. The team riders are all ex-street children who grew up in Durban, South Africa at a street children project called Umthombo Street Children.

They are now, as adults, part of an organisation and surfing team called Surfers Not Street Children which aims to change the way that society perceives and treats street children around the world whilst promoting the use of surfing as a tool within the model.

Three of the lead surfers will tour England and Wales competing, teaching and raising awareness of the potential that every street child has to leave street life behind.

Ex-UK surfer Tom Hewitt MBE, who founded both Umthombo Street Children and Surfers Not Street Children says: “Having worked with street children over the past 21 years, it became clear that fusing high intensity activities with psychosocial support was critical in giving these children an alternative path to the dangers and addictions of street life. This is the model that Umthombo uses and is the message that Surfers not Street Children promotes. The Surfers Not Street Children surf team is a chance for the rest of society to see the potential in every one of these children and support them.”

The tour will start and end in London with two receptions and in between the surfers will visit Devon, Cornwall and South Wales. The team will compete in the Gold Coast Oceanfest event in Croyde, North Devon and they will visit a number of local schools and even attempt to surf the Severn Bore tidal surge. The team aim to raise awareness and further sponsorship partners for both Umthombo and Surfers Not Street Children. Surfers not Street Children aims to expand its impact in a further two African countries.

“When I surf I feel like I am flying. I am far above street life.”
Khotso, age 15, former street child part of Umthombo

“The Umthombo Surf Programme changed my life, I was doing glue. I was doing bad things, but now my eyes are open and I can see a new way to be.”
Former street child

Umthombo focuses on promoting models that build the self-confidence and self-esteem of street children, giving them fresh motivation to battle street-related issues like solvent-dependency, so that social workers can then focus on the steps needed to re-integrate these children (where possible) with their families but also with society.

Surfers not Street Children are the first black surf team in Durban. The team riders who are noted for their lack of fear in surfing have won local competitions and gained individual sponsorship from local and international surf companies. As a result people have started to see street children differently.

Paul Canning. Former World Tour Pro Surfer and Manager of O’Neill, Africa, says: “It’s great to see the awesome work that Umthombo have done in getting the kids off the streets and introducing them to the ocean and a clean and healthy lifestyle. I believe that through the positive guidance of Umthombo it is just a matter of time until we see one of these young guys make it to the top of the international surfing world.”

The professional surfing community is in full support of both Umthombo and Surfers Not Street Children with endorsements and visits from surfing legends including former World Champion Shaun Tomson, former World No 2 Rob Bain, surf filmmaker Jack McCoy, current world title contender Jordy Smith and fellow South African WCT competitor Travis Logie whilst 11 times World Champion Kelly Slater has expressed encouragement for their work with a message on Twitter.

To find out where you can see the surfers visit

Photos: Amos Trust/Wilf Whitty

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