From street children to champion surfers

2013-01-06 10:01

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

With a programme of sport and coaching, the Umthombo programme in KZN helps turn kids with no future into winners

Growing up in Amaoti outside Durban, Sihle Mbutho used to travel on foot to Phoenix where there was a public swimming pool.

This is where he taught himself to swim.

Little did he know that one day – at the age of 20 – he would become a champion surfer, thanks to Umthombo Street Children, a South African non-governmental organisation that empowers street children with alternatives to street life.

Mbutho, who once regarded surfing as a “white sport”, won the second Umthombo Surf Contest held at Durban’s Dairy Beach recently.

Ntando Msibi came second and Sifiso Mhlongo third.

Umthombo made headlines in 2010 by spearheading a campaign to end the rounding up of street children during the Fifa World Cup.

They also hosted the first Street Child World Cup in 2010 and will be sending a team to the next event in Brazil.

There are currently about 200 children under the age of 18 living on Durban’s streets. Mbutho, Msibi and Mhlongo are three of the shining products of the Umthombo project.

Mbutho spent six years at Umthombo and started surfing within his first two months of being there, after “realising that the sea treats everyone equally”. He has progressed from just being able to swim to winning surfing competitions and attracting media attention both locally and abroad.

He has also completed an International Surfing Association level 1 coaching course and can often be found in the surf helping youngsters with their technique.

He is now sponsored by Durban surf company, Peg, and has featured in Zigzag and theBOMBsurf magazines, among others.

He has also set up his own surf school with the help of Umthombo.

“When I’m not surfing, I enjoy soccer and skateboarding but falling off a surfboard hurts less than falling from a skateboard,” he said.

Umthombo has been making waves in Durban with their surfing initiative, which aims to give street children an alternative to the many vices to which they can easily fall prey.

The programme provides surfing equipment and instruction to the kids and the sport is an integral part of the psycho-social counselling provided by Umthombo which prepares them for

re-integration into society.

A total of 22 black surfers put on a world-class show at the Umthombo surf contest, the first to be conducted entirely in IsiZulu by judges, tabulators, commentators and other officials.

The contest was the result of a Surfing South Africa and KZN Central Surfriders Association transformation and development programme.

Other partners were Mark Snowball, theBOMBsurf magazine, O’Neill wetsuits, Surfing South Africa and KZN Central Surfriders Association.

The 15-year-old Msibi, who came second, has already represented KZN at the SA Junior Championships and will be competing in the national junior selection trials this month.

Third-placed Mhlongo has also represented KZN and the SA development team on a number of occasions.

The winner and runners-up won medals as well as cash prizes, part of which is kept in a trust for them by Umthombo.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.