Mandy received help from members of her church when she started up as well as from ordinary members of the public who donated old surf equipment for the kids to use. She also had help from surfing charity Christian Surfers International. And the local municipality provided her with a building to work from. “The municipality of Muizenberg was very supportive about the idea of a surf school for the less privileged,” she says. “They allocated me a building right in front of the best line of waves to use.”
For the first year Mandy ran the project alone, but she soon found that there were more kids wanting to surf than she could possibly help. “I decided to advertise for volunteers,” she says. “And guess what? All the enquiries I got were from people that did not know how to surf.”
Not to be beaten, Mandy explains how she overcame this seemingly major obstacle by starting a ‘learn to surf’ and a ‘learn to teach surfing’ school – teaching volunteers the basic principle needed to supervise the children.
Since advertising for help the organisation has grown beyond all expectations. It now receives between five and ten volunteers each month – ranging from professional surfers to absolute beginners. Mandy explains that there are 46 volunteers already booked in for the rest of the year. The volunteers – who mainly come from the UK, North America and Europe – pay a small fee to Son’surf to take part in the programme. The popularity of these “working holidays” has meant that Mandy has had to take on three members of staff to help cope.
Key to her newly expanded operation is surf school manager Widdy Banda. Widdy comes from Malawi in East Africa and learnt to surf while living in Australia. He has worked for the project for a year and Mandy believes he has been a great influence on the children – who see him as a positive black African role model. “They’re great kids,” he says as Chadwin and his friends clamber over him, vying for his attention.
“The children learn really fast,” he adds.
Up to 20 children now regularly turn up at the surf school each afternoon– some come through placements Mandy set up with local schools while others just turn up each day.