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Culture, Sport

Surfing in Zulu

by Mahala High Five Brigade / Images by Jon Ivins / 30.11.2012

Last weekend, a pretty unique surfing competition took place at Dairy Beach on the Durban beachfront. The Kushay’igagasi was billed as the first surfing event to be conducted entirely in isiZulu and featured the kids from the Umthombo surfing program. And while closed events like these can raise the same kinds of questions that dog Maori-only rugby teams and prod the still fresh wounds of our recent apartheid history, we thought it’d be a good idea to touch base with Bombsurf publisher, and co-organiser of the Kushay’igagasi surf event, John McCarthey to figure out exactly what went down, and why.

MAHALA: What was the point behind this event?

John McCarthey: The reason for this event was to provide a platform for the Umthombo Surf Club to showcase the surfing prowess which they have developed over the last 5 years or so.

Who was the sponsor?

The principal sponsor of the event, Mark Snowball, grew up in and around the Point Rd and South Beach, like a lot of the Umthombo children have. He also grew up surfing the same waves that they now surf daily. Surfing for him was a means of staying focussed and positive despite the challenges of his youth. He has subsequently gone on to become a successful businessman and happy family man. His message to the kids is that you can be successful if you remain positive, stay focussed and strive for excellence.

How’d it go?

The event provided a platform for the kids to do just that and as a result was a hugely uplifting and positive experience. Aside from the prizes that they earned, the format of the event and the nature of the surf conditions on the day (pretty heavy 3-5ft onshore) required both focus and determination and as such was a great life lesson in what is required to be successful.

What was your overall reaction to the Kushay’igagasi?

As an observer there were two things that struck me. Firstly how hard they all tried. Make no mistake it was a tightly fought contest where no inch was taken or given. Secondly there was some very good surfing.

Where to from here?

This is the second event we’ve run for the kids. The first was more a workshop and casual tag team event. This one was a real serious contest with real judges, scores and prize money, so there has been a significant step up from the first to the second events. Both of these events were for Umthombo kids only. Moving forward I think it would be good to open the event more and expose these guys to other surfers from outside of Umthombo. It would also be cool to have a celebrity heat against some really top surfers (Jordy Smith, Travis Logie etc) while somehow retaining the cultural ethos that both the first and second events had. The commentator was brilliant in isiZulu, so maybe we can keep the event is isiZulu, have the Umthombo kids forming the nucleus of the competitors, involve the other KZN development programs and bring in some stars…

Mark Snowball, and SSA have both committed to another event next year, so I think there is a good chance that we can build on the momentum we achieved this year.


*All images © Jon Ivins.

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