28 May, 2013 28 May, 2013

9 MILES, 100 SMILES – 9 Miles Project hosts inaugural event


9 MILES, 100 SMILES – by Anton Louw

“When I was growing up, there were three drug lords in Strandfontein,” says Nigel Savell, 9 Miles local and founder of the 9 Miles Project. “Now there are thirty.” A short drive from the croissants and colour-coded flags of Muizenburg, 9 Miles and its adjacent communities are a world apart. Having written about sharks (more often than I’d like to), I know just how sharky this coast is. I keep this to myself – not wanting to alarm the guys who call it home. But they know it already and laugh it off. “I’ve been surfing here for 20 years and I’ve never had a problem,” says Jason Isaacs. They then make the analogy of the real sharks that live on land.

Drugs, gangs, teen pregnancies, school drop-outs are all regular problems in the Strandfontein and 7de Laan community. This prompted Nigel and good friend Jason to found the 9 Miles Project – an outreach programme that uses surfing to teach youngsters invaluable life lessons. Founded in December, this last Saturday saw them hosting their first event, which involves an introduction to surfing, and then a contest for the local surfers.

In the first week of proper winter, Cape Town has seen a mist descend that shuts down the airport. I drive all through the murk and as I near 9 Miles, I leave it behind and emerge into crisp radiant light. Ten children have joined the start phase of the project. Nigel opens the proceedings with a short announcement and a prayer, before the eager groms are run through the basics, have a quick stretch and hit the surf. The energy and smiles are electric. It’s a reminder of what true stoke really is. A few guys are even able to get to their feet and ride it out. There’s no shortage of natural talent here. Although they’re soon exhausted, most will spend all day in their donated wetsuits, and as soon as they’ve recovered, will seize any opportunity to grab a board and ride a wave through to the shorey.


9 Miles Project founder Nigel Savel gives a few words before the fun begins.

Aside from surfing, they also aim to impart an empathy for the natural aspects that make surfing in SA so amazing, and teach skills that may be used commercially – including board repair and clothing design. Some of the groms grab my camera – also a first time experience – and are able to compose and shoot some good shots. With numerous surf-related channels available, all that is needed is a guiding hand in the right direction.

There may be so many negative influences around them at home, but here on the beach, it’s all positives. Nigel points out that this is a family event, rather than just a project launch with a surf contest. And there is a lot of good vibes and sense of community here. The aim to develop this initiative into a club that’s linked to the upliftment project. With the club surfing scene on the up around the country, drawing in surfers from a wider base has the potential to raise the bar of competitive surfing to new heights.


Grant Arendse gives a fun little 9 Miles runner the backhand treatment.

9 Miles has had a dedicated crew on it since before the transition and these guys have been quietly shredding away from the surfing mainstream. These guys rip and the kids need only look to their elder peers for good examples in this regard. The conditions are small, but nicely offshore. As the tide pushes, they get a bit more power, but it’s still quite soft. Still, the guys are able to coax some energy out of the waves and there are some good rail turns, as well as the occasional off-the-lip bashes and nose picks. As the first 9 Miles Challenge comes to a close, a cheeky barrel seals the win for Faizel Diedericks.

South Africa has had lots to cheer about in recent weeks, from Shaun Joubert, to Bianca and Jordy. So while good things are happening at the top, it’s great to see that even at the base, the future is looking bright as well.


Check out some more moments from the 9 Miles Challenge below:


Learning the basics is fun for Tyrese Boesak (9).


Keano Middlekop (12) and Nathan Perris (10) learn that you can rely on a buddy for support.


Marcoeleno Anthony (11) about to bust a move.


Jason Isaacs shows the judges some fins during his heat.


With his wax and singlet matching, Jason Ontong had no problems wetting his rails on a couple of lefts.


Showing great style to the newbies, the groms want to surf just like Grant Arendse one day.


Here’s Faizel Diedericks looking for a tight squeeze – which he got to clinch the 9 Miles Challenge title.


Mark Price smashed a couple of lips.


Jason Isaacs makes the tricky look easy.


Showing some power in the gutless surf was Grant Arendse.


Our beaches are our havens, and Jason Isaacs loves his. Here he sticks up one more turn in the shorey along 9 Miles.


Faizel Diedericks aka ‘The Champ’. Stoked!


  1. faizel
    28 May, 2013 at 8:08 am · Reply

    amazing, sitting at my pc with a bit of a tear in my eye of good feelings, nigel, krille and the rest of the team congratz and well done!!!

  2. Andrew John Snaddon
    28 May, 2013 at 8:16 am · Reply

    Well done 9-milers!)x9

  3. Gavin
    28 May, 2013 at 8:54 am · Reply

    To Nigel & the crew, Well Done! Great to see some positive activity taking place at our break! I’m stoked! Gavin

  4. Josh Salie
    28 May, 2013 at 9:12 am · Reply

    Great suff guys!! Good to see community surfing

  5. Jaco Du Plooy
    28 May, 2013 at 9:21 am · Reply

    Hey great work. How do I get in touch with these guys? Want to know more about them please. Maybe help out!

  6. Anne
    28 May, 2013 at 9:49 am · Reply

    This was such an amazing event and one that i was so proud to be apart of. So proud of my brother Jason Isaacs and the rest of the guys you were all amazing. So proud to be reading this 🙂

  7. yaseen
    28 May, 2013 at 12:30 pm · Reply

    Congrats are in order to the guys who took the time to do something for the youth. well done! you know who you are….

  8. Carmen
    28 May, 2013 at 12:40 pm · Reply

    Awesome guys! so nice to see good things being done in my community!

  9. Ashley Herold
    28 May, 2013 at 6:21 pm · Reply

    Great Stuff Guys!!! It’s awesome to see the positive influence members can have on a community and that greatness is in all of us.

  10. Paul
    26 July, 2013 at 4:55 pm · Reply

    WOW! Great work Nigel! So proud of you guys! Still great times ahead for you guys!

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