Last year we introduced you to the 9Miles Project and their plans to impact their local community in a positive way by taking them surfing. Well, this past Saturday they hosted their second annual 9Miles Surf Challenge, and Wilfred Diedricks sent us this report on the progress they’ve made since their launch a year ago.
9MILES PROJECT 2nd ANNUAL SURF CHALLENGE – By: Wilfred Diedricks
Just after the second annual 9Miles Surf Challenge ended on Saturday 31 May, I noticed a social media comment from one of the helpers which reads, “My highlight was the winner of the junior competition”. In a reply message another person writes, “So awesome. He really needed that. It’s changed his life”. To me this sums up what the 9Miles Project is all about. Transforming lives, and it’s done through surfing.
It’s been a year long journey for the 9Miles Project which launched one year ago. At last year’s event, one of the co-founders, Nigel Savel, articulated some of their future goals. Their aim was to teach the youth in the Strandfontein area, especially the underprivileged from the informal settlement, to surf. But they wanted to achieve more than showing them how to ride a wave. They wanted to teach them life skills. So were their ambitions realised?
The estimated crowd of close on 200 were treated to some spectacular surfing as well as other fun events throughout the day. The only damper was the strong wind, which sand-blasted all and sundry. The event was again held at 9Miles beach. Before the surfing took place, the youth participated in an ‘eco surf walk’, and an ‘eco educational talk’. There was a sandcastle competition, a treasure hunt, an angling exhibition and a talk by a swimming club.
During the ‘eco surf walk’ participants were educated about the environment.
The surfing events took centre stage however, because of the quality of surfing and because it was so satisfying to watch how the youth have improved. It was especially gratifying to witness parents of these children, aged between 10 and 18, enthusiastically egging on their offspring. Every time a youngster executed a pop-up the cheers grew louder, reminiscent of the parent support you find at local schools rugby or soccer matches. I was fortunate to also have been at last year’s launch and I noticed a marked improvement in their surfing abilities.
The senior competition was fierce and exciting. Despite the gusting NW off-shore wind, the surfers managed to pick a few rides that offered high scoring, with the rights offering the best of them. Those finding their rhythm with good rail-to-rail transitions and off the tops, with the occasional cutback and connecting with the inside bowl for final close out turns, were the ones to advance.
Seymour Wood grinds the lip during his heat.
The tide started to push which coincided with the semi-finals of the senior competition. With enough waves offering some good connecting rides from the set waves to the shore, Riaan Jonas was electric in Semi-Final 1. He threw buckets of spray and tail slides nearly on every turn, both forward and backhand. The main peak offered nicely-shaped rights for the natural footers. This made it easy for Seymour Wood (eventual runner-up) and Abdurahaman Farat (eventual winner) to advance to the Finals, after bashing every wave with their smooth forward snaps and rail cutbacks.
I couldn’t help notice every child lugging his or her board (which seemed to almost outweigh them) and I felt pity, but none of them seemed to mind. It strikes me though that this symbolises how these children are taught. They will toil hard for reward. According to Nigel the youth undergo a two year programme. People who are expert in their field are called in to teach them. Could this be building character?
The 9Miles Project – a step towards a positive future.
I also notice that every child who started the programme a year ago is still involved, plus there are three additional candidates. This indicates to me that this programme is sustainable.
As the junior and senior category winners are announced at the closing ceremony, Keanu…wins the junior category. Amongst his prizes are a R500 voucher and a surfboard. It’s a huge moment. An emotional moment for everybody because, as he stands proudly hugging his newly acquired surfboard, proud emotion reflected in his face, the real impact of the 9Miles Project hits home. This boy is going home to his informal settlement. This has definitely changed his life. Perhaps it will be a positive example to others in his community.
Keano Middlekop claimed victory in the Student Surf Challenge.
So, has the 9Miles Project realised their ambitions for this year? Positively, yes…
Educating the youth about caring for the environment is just one of the 9Miles Project’s focusses.
Keeping their beach clean is something to be proud of.
Jason Isaacs sets up for a backhand blast.
Lizay Steyn had everything under control.
Big smiles were a common sight.
Jade Jacobson (centre) showed composure and style during her heat.
Some of the younger crew built some impressive sandcastles.
Who doesn’t enjoy building sandcastles?
Close to 200 spectators and participants were involved in the 2nd annual 9Miles Surf Challenge.
Student Surf Challenge Finalists were stoked on the chance to compete.
Finalists in the Surf Challenge earned some great prizes. (above and below)
Zak Abrahams was ripping.
Abdulrahman Farat ripped the hardest and claimed victory in the 2nd annual 9Miles Surf Challenge.