WATCH: Atlantis sandboarders masters of the dunes

2016-04-11 08:36
The Atlantis sandboarders on the dunes. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

The Atlantis sandboarders on the dunes. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town – The boys glide down the white sand with precision and ease, showing off dance moves as their boards come to a stop.

Their laughter is the only sound in the Atlantis dunes, a far cry from the gunshots and mayhem they say traumatises them in their block of flats - Neptune Castle in Atlantis - where gangsterism and crime often has them cowering under their beds in fear.

The group of boys from the Atlantis Sandboarding Club look forward to Friday afternoons, when Mamba Sandboarding owner Derek Bredenkamp collects them and drives them to the dunes.

They spend hours honing their skills on the sand.

Two years ago the children stumbled on the sport while out exploring. As they walked through the bush surrounding the dunes, they peeped over the white sand and came upon 'Uncle Derek', as they call him, sandboarding with a client.

“They were completely fascinated, and asked if they could have a try. They rode a little bit and became completely hooked,” he said. “The kids love it. And the skill they have shown on the board is amazing.”

'I feel free'

Nathan Steenkamp, 13, was one of the first boys to hit the sand two years ago when Bredenkamp handed them the boards.

“When I go down, I feel free. You don’t think about anything else – it’s just you and the wind. I finally found something that I am good at. I wish I could do it every day,” he said.

Steenkamp dreams of moving out of Atlantis and into the suburbs.

“I want to go where it’s quiet, where you don’t have to dodge bullets and run from gangsters. I want to work hard at my skills and become a professional sandboarder, or a pilot. Then I can make money and move to a better place where there is peace,” he said.

Bredenkamp said the social ills plaguing the children’s hometown are harrowing. “The realities they see there are awful. They so look forward to getting away and coming here,” he said.

“We have a group of about 30 regulars, but I can only take about 10 at a time, or as many as I can fit into my van. Today four had to stay behind – it was heartbreaking. If I was able to get them all here at once, I would.”

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

Zipping down the dunes

He is amazed at the growth the boys have shown in the weeks they have been speeding zipping down the dunes.

“They really are the best. I watch their skill and how they have developed and am dumbfounded. We have little competitions among ourselves, but I am planning to have a bigger one with sandboarders from the region. I won’t be surprised if these guys clean up.”

Getting the youngsters off the street and distract them from the gangsterism and drugs is important to her, Tessa said.

“What I enjoy most about it is seeing how excited they are every week when we drive into Atlantis to fetch them. Seeing them that happy is just so rewarding,” she enthused.

“They have gotten really good at the sport which makes me so proud. I honestly love these kids to bits and wish I could do more to help them exceed in life.”

Friday is 11-year-old Keagan Cloete’s favourite day of the week. “I can’t wait for the school bell to ring, then I start counting down the minutes until Uncle Derek comes to fetch us,” he said.

“We are safe here. And all Uncle Derek wants from us is to respect each other, have discipline and not to swear.”

Cloete dreams of one day becoming a pastor and doing good things for needy children, just like his role model.

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

Won't become gangsters

“This place will make them happy, just like it makes us happy. I will bring them here, pray with them and help them stay out of trouble. Then they won’t become gangsters and die when they are still so young.”

Bredenkamp, who borrows the boys the boards from his business and also pays for their permits to access the dunes, said that while he does not want to ask for handouts, he dreams of seeing more children being able to discover the joys of sandboarding.

“It’s a fun, constructive pastime which gives children a positive alternative. It would be fantastic if I would be able to give each boy a board of his own as it will give them a sense of pride and ownership.”

Sponsors for permit costs and gear for the children would also help, he said.

Anyone wanting to make a contribution to the project can phone Mamba Sandboarding on 021 556 9651.

Read more on:    cape town  |  good news

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