Quintin van Jaarsveld
South Coast surfing pioneer Philani Sikobi (pictured) says he is heartbroken after his club was gutted in a fire on Thursday.
The humble Trafalgar Surf Club has for over a decade been a dream factory for underprivileged youth; a safe haven, a surfing sanctuary and an escape from the grim reality of growing up in a rural community.
Sikobi started the club and its inspirational Waves of Hope initiative to inspire children to rise above adversity, using surfing to teach them life lessons and steer them in the right direction, despite having little himself.
He’s the South Coast’s greatest unsung sports hero, a self-taught and highly talented surfer and a qualified surf coach who trains some 30 kids, many of whom excel at regional, provincial and national level.
He mentors them in all aspects of life, even helping them with schoolwork. His extra-ordinary efforts were last year rewarded when East Coast Radio and Quiksilver sponsored Trafalgar Surf Club several brand-new boards, wetsuits, rashvets and leashes.
The inspirational tale took a tragic turn on Thursday morning when the club and all the equipment inside of it burned to the ground.
In mere moments, Siboki’s Waves of Hope was literally dashed.
Sikobi, who works and studies at the Genesis Trust, based at Norwegian Settlers Church, said he’s shocked and devastated by the fire, which is being investigated.
“I was on my way to work when I got a call and was told about the fire. When I got to Norwegian Settlers Church, I told my boss and we headed to the club. We got there at about 10am and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“It was surreal…there was nothing left – all the boards and wetsuits…everything was gone. I thought to myself, ‘this can’t be real; this can’t be happening.’ I’m shocked and heartbroken,” he told eHowzit.
“I’ve worked so hard on my surf club to help the community. Surfing is the only thing I’ve ever had. I grew up with the dream of becoming a pro surfer and becoming the first black South African surfing champion.
“That didn’t happen because of the hard times I went through, growing up without parents and things like that, but I love the ocean and decided that if I couldn’t realise my dream, I would mentor kids and hopefully help them achieve the dream I had at their age.
“I’m devastated for the kids. We have kids from eight to 17 years old and surfing is all they have. It’s their only hope and the only thing they enjoy. They live in a rough area in difficult circumstances but they are innocent and good kids – they stay out of trouble, they are very well behaved, they do well at school and some work as lifeguards.
“They are dedicated and talented and the club is a place of comfort for them where they get to use surfboards and wetsuits they can’t afford to buy for themselves…now they have nothing,” a distraught Sikobi added.
Norwegian Settlers Church youth pastor Jason Price was the person who drove Sikobi to the club after news broke of the blaze. He explained that the Genesis Trust linked up with Trafalgar Surf Club in March to assist Sikobi from a financial and administrative point of view.
Sikobi has since been working on a trial basis as surfing director as well as giving sports lessons at schools whilst doing computer training.
Price praised Sikobi, telling eHowzit, “Philani has a great passion and heart for surfing and helping kids through surfing. He’s a person of sincere compassion and has a lot of character and integrity.”
Another community member, Cindy Kay, also lauded Sikobi. “He’s an absolutely amazing person. His skill and ability to teach kids how to surf is heart-warming. I’ve watched him teach small kids how to swim and a few weeks later they are surfing.
“He’s an inspiration to the kids; he motivates them, believes in them and he makes them believe in themselves. He has an amazing team of surfers and to see what they achieve with the little they have is a big inspiration in my life.”
Kay explained she and her husband met Sikobi and his surfers last November. “We live close to the beach and would see kids walk to the beach with their surfboards with no shoes on, so we gave them a lift. We met Philani and heard what he was doing.
“One day, we took a few of them home and we were quite shocked by what we saw and how far they have to walk to surf and it really touched our hearts, so we started supporting them with a lunch on a Sunday and some clothes and donations from family and friends.”
Trynie Haskings, whose daughter is a member of Trafalgar Surf Club, said, “Philani is the salt of the earth and does a wonderful job with the kids. We were there again on Saturday and they are such a good group of guys.
“They are disciplined and take very good care of their stuff. We need the community to stand together and rebuild the club.”