I’m originally from Tsolo in the Eastern Cape, which is just a few kilometres from Mthatha, but I grew up in Cape Town. I only discovered the ocean when I came to Cape Town and started to spend time in Fish Hoek. We would sometimes walk from Masiphumelele to Fish Hoek just to be at the beach.
I got into surfing after meeting Tim Conibear in 2007. I was 17 years old, living in Masi, playing soccer and also teaching young boys how to play soccer. Tim invited me for a surf lesson at Muizenberg and I really struggled, I was just falling off. But I knew then that I wanted to become a surfer.
After that, Tim would come to Masi to pick me up for sessions. He saw a bunch of kids sitting at the park one day, smoking dagga and sniffing glue, and was really worried. I said we should take them for a surf lesson because they have nothing good to do. They told us that they had been expelled from school and there was no one at home looking after them. These young boys, nine and ten years old, came from broken backgrounds and just didn’t have anyone guiding them. We took them under our care and started a surf club. We would take them once a week and it would usually be around eight to ten boys. We called it Isiqalo, which means “The Beginning”.
Growing up in a township, especially Masi, is not an altogether bad environment. People in Masi are happy. They are a community and there is unity. If something goes wrong, they all respond. If something goes right, they are happy together. There is always a bit of negative and a bit of positive. It’s just that as a young person, you need guidance from an adult; you need to be mentally strong. If you don’t have that, you end up too easily doing negative things.