Cyril Mqadi learned to surf before he learnt to swim.
But it is not something he is currently recommending
to the 50-odd street children he coaches in Durban.
"It's dangerous; I don't believe anyone should do that,�
he says, laughing. Mqadi was one of a bunch of kids who'd
spend their post-school afternoons hanging around the
beach in Mzumbe on KwaZulu-Natal's south coast when
an offer of a loaned surfboard changed his life.
"There were always surfers coming down to Mzumbe
and my friends and I would be watching them and we
got to know them. I must have been 12 or 13 years old,
and one day Peter Maish [a surfboard maker] offered us a
board and we picked it up from there,� he says.
The 32-year-old went on to compete as a junior
surfer in local events between 1994 and 1999 and
took up judging in 2000, becoming the country's fi rst
internationally recognised black surfi ng judge.
He has offi ciated at both local and International Surfi ng
Association events, including the Mr Price Pro and last
year's World Surfi ng Games in Costa Rica.
In between, he has translated the surfi ng judges'
rulebook into isiZulu and was the focus � together with
his twin brother Meshack � of the 2008 documentary
fi lm, Zulu Wave Riders. The same year he won an award
from the Association of Surfi ng Professionals (Africa) for
his work on the transformation of surfi ng in South Africa.
He believes there is still much transformation work to
"Black surfers get initial support, but there is no buy-in
from government. We're not getting any funding to send
black surfers to compete overseas, and the government
people just don't care about developing the sport. I'd like
the fatties from Parliament, including the sports minister,
Makhenkesi Stofi le, to come down here and see how
hard surfi ng is.�
Mqadi believes his current job, coaching street kids
full-time, "helps keeps them human and gives them pride
and focus. Once they're on the water, these kids change
completely,� he says. "We're teaching them to swim, surf
and also about ecological issues around the ocean. But it's
not just about surfi ng. These kids will hopefully realise that
they can change their lives by maybe opening surf shops,
or becoming lifeguards or divers,� he says. � Niren Tolsi
Lunch spot: Centre Court or the Ship Wreck, uShaka Marine World, Durban