Some days, you’d be forgiven for thinking that social media is nothing but a scourge, and surfers are a wholly selfish bunch.
However, over the last few weeks, a campaign started by Cornwall based surfer, shaper and industry bod Brad Rochfort has proved both of those assumptions are entirely false.
A few months ago Brad met Tom Hewitt, the Devon-born founder of Surfers Not Street Children. For those who don’t know, SNSC is a brilliant charity that changes the lives of poor, disadvantaged and homeless young people in South Africa by teaching them to surf.
Hewitt, who is a life-long surfer, relocated to South Africa in his late teens. Having previously worked in the field with street children in Africa, he arrived in Durban in 1997 to find an intense situation with street children and no coherent strategy to help those most at risk, so he decided to act. He created the Durban Street Team in 1998- which morphed into Surfers Not Street Children in 2012- and has helped almost two thousand children in the years since.
After their meeting, Brad was inspired by the charity’s work, and pledged to donate any cosmetically damaged, but still totally surfable boards from Softech, one of the companies he works for.
“Previously the boards would have been destroyed,” Brad explains, “but we wanted to change our policy to be more environmentally friendly and having met Tom Hewitt I knew this was the way to go!”
“The charity is also based in Durban which is where I spent a lot of my younger years and where I learned to surf as a kid,” he continues. “I have close friends there and my dad still lives there so it has a special place in my heart.”
Then, two weeks ago, after hearing about Brad’s pledge, his mate Pete rocked up with a few boards and asked if he could add them to the stack set to be donated to SNSC.
“That was a lightbulb moment,” Brad says, “so I opened my shed and dug out four more boards. I realised that there could be a few more out there so I did a shout-out on Facebook with a target in mind of around 20 boards.”
The post on Facebook lit up, garnering a huge number of comments and shares overnight. All of a sudden, boards were being offered from as far afield as California and Biarritz and after just two weeks, Brad has already accumulated over 100 boards.
Donations included a vast variety, ranging from foamies to high-performance shortboards and everything in between.
“Surf Shops and Surf Schools have donated in volumes and support from the likes of Alan Stokes and Andrew Cotton has really been great. I must also say a big thanks to Karl Fise-Thomson and Pete Burnett who have been a huge help.”
“Some boards were available in London, Wales, North East and the south coast which were more difficult to arrange collection,” continued Brad. “As I work with a lot of good surf shops all over the UK through FCS, I made some calls and arranged for some stores to be ‘drop-off’ points. Then either myself or my agents could collect the boards on our weekly sales tours and bring them back to Newquay.”
The boards were then transferred up to SNSC North Devon HQ, where they will be loaded into a shipping container, and set sail for Africa.
“Going forward, FCS and Softech are committed to supporting the charity and all FCS dealers, shapers and Softech affiliated surf schools will be official drop-off points. This way we can continue the surfboard amnesty well into the future,” added Brad.
Through the hard work of Brad, Surfers Against Street Children and all those who donated, these formerly unloved sticks can now be transformed from garage dwelling cob-web racks to vehicles that improve the lives of disadvantaged kids, offering them the chance to experience the therapeutic powers of surfing and – with the help of SNSC mentors- leave the streets behind for good.
And for that, we say kudos to all involved!
If you’ve got a board you’d like to add to the ever-growing pile, contact Brad on Facebook.