The Board Drive, a partnership between FCS and Surfers Not Street Children, is the feel-good surf story of the year.
It started with one surfer, wanting to donate one board, from his tiny backyard man-shed in Newquay. And it ended with 258 sleds getting delivered to young surfers living in tough and challenging environments in Africa who needed them more than any others on the planet.
Newquay’s Peter Burnett was the instigator and driver of the program, with a board gathering dust, he reached out to FCS’s Brad Rochfort, who had long worked with SNSC. Rochfort also had some spare sticks and within a day the pair had six surfboards ready to donate.
The Surfers Not Street Children program was started by the UK’s Tom Hewitt, with the team recently making an appearance at the Blue Earth Summit. For almost 25 years, the organisation has fused surfing, mentorship, and care using dedicated local teams that include social workers, carers, lifeguards, surf coaches, and administrators.
“We have given them access to surfing and it really has changed their lives – they go to school and then afterwards all they want to do is surf,” says Mini Cho, Mozambique’s only professional surfer who has extended the SNSC program from Durban to his home beach of Tofo. “They get home, they are exhausted, they sleep and they want to do it all again the next day. It’s a good cycle and it keeps them off the streets.”
The program has transformed the lives of many children with an impressive portion of participants going from ‘street children’ to becoming coffee baristas, lifesavers, surf shop staff, restauranteurs, surf coaches and pro surfers. Yet such has been the program’s success, that recent times have seen a shortage in equipment for the surfers in programs in Durban and Mozambique.
Rochfort and Burnet had outlined their donation on social media, and soon surfers from all the over UK were willing to contribute. With the pair unable to cope with the sheer volume, FCS stockists stepped into became drop-off points for donated boards.
UK Pro surfers, Ben Skinner, Jayce Robinson and Alan Stokes, were just some of the high-profile athletes who became part of the drive. Stokes donated one has favourite boards that had helped him get slotted in slabs in Iceland and the Outer Scottish Islands. It would later be ripped by a young South African goofy on the local beach breaks of Durban.
Eventually, more than 250 surfboards were gathered, at which point Down The Line Surf Shop entered the fray. They organised the boards to be shipped by container to South Africa, where three months later, a sea of stoked surfers were on hand to unpack their new weapons.
“That batch ties down the next couple of years in terms of equipment,” said Hewitt. “With so many surfers of such different abilities and needs, these boards will make a huge difference. I’ve seen so many times in this program how a single surfboard can change a life. So receiving a gift of 250 of them is massive.”