WATCH | Good tidings: Cape Town surf academy gives Vrygrond youngsters a second chance

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  • Shaun Solomons started the Local Surf Lounge Academy in 2020 after he was retrenched.
  • He mentors youth from surrounding gang-riddled communities and teaches them life skills.
  • His aim is to promote self-reliance among the participants.

A local surfing academy in Muizenberg, Cape Town is not only teaching youths how to catch waves, but also how to empower themselves.

Shaun Solomons, founder of the Local Surf Lounge Academy, wanted to effect change in his community.

He grew up in Vrygrond and is familiar with the pressures young people face.

This community is riddled with gang violence and substance abuse – with many teenagers falling prey to the allure of gang life and criminality.

Resident Justin Almano told News24 that life there was tough for the youth.

He said:

A lot of the youngsters look up to gangsters as role models, because they always have money.

The increase in unemployment over the last year due to Covid-19 has forced families to get by with even less income.

"At the homes of many young people, there isn't always food. So they fall prey to a life of crime," Almano explained.

Making waves

The idea to start his own academy was born after Solomons was retrenched from an NGO in June last year.

"Growing up in Vrygrond, I got involved in so many bad things like substance abuse and gang activity," he said.

He started the Local Surf Lounge Academy to give young people a second chance.

He said: 

I loved what I was doing before and knew that I could help the youth a little bit better. I don't want them going through the same things I went through.

The academy provides daily mentoring sessions, cooking classes and surfing lessons to more than 50 youngsters.

Its aim is to teach teenagers self-reliance, and to think outside the box.

Lessons from the sea

The surf coach uses the ocean to teach them how to navigate through life.

"When you are surfing, you are with others, but only you decide when to catch the next wave. The same thing happens in life," Solomons said.

He said the Level 3 lockdown beach ban had a massive impact. Many of the youths in the programme went back to hanging with the wrong crowds. Donations from businesses along the beachfront dried up as they weren't operating.

"It was frustrating for the youth because their freedom was taken away from them. They couldn't run away from their oppressed life," Solomons said.

Reagan Chitter, from Capricorn, told News24 he's glad to be back in the water.

Chitter said proudly:

When I am in the ocean, it makes me feel free. It allows me to do things I would not normally do.

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