Jess Vyvyan-Robinson. Back row: Fred Buyle © Phanor Montoya-Maya
Durban Harley owners support local shark scientists
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 5 February, 2013 : - - Umhlanga, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa -- On Friday evening, the Durban Chapter of the Harley Owners Group met at their club in Umhlanga to welcome new members and to introduce their chosen charity for 2013. Each year, the Chapter raises money by hosting charity rides for non-members wanting the Harley experience, and through sponsorships, rally fees and the Poker Run at their annual July Duma rally.
Tickets to ride with the Chapter retail at R300 each, 50% of which goes directly to their adopted charity- last year, the Durban HOGs raised R60 000 for charities including ‘Dreams for Africa’ in Winterton, CHOC, Nashua Children’s Charity Foundation and the SPCA Durban & Coast.
This year, the Chapter has chosen to support Shark Angels, a conservation organisation that campaigns for the protection of shark species worldwide. The money raised by the HOGs will go towards a very specific aspect of the Shark Angels’ work, funding the invaluable research being carried out on the KZN coast by scientist and Angel Jessica Escobar-Porras. J
Jessica’s work is currently focused on establishing the population genetics of blacktip sharks in the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area, with the aim of achieving protected status for them in the near future. The blacktips constitute a primary draw for the world-famous dive tourism industry around Scottburgh and Umkomaas, and are therefore a valuable source of income for the area as well as a vital part of the marine ecosystem.
The event was attended by several of the Shark Angels, including Jessica, surfer OJ Symcox, champion free-diver Fred Buyle and local shark dive operators Mark and Gail Addison. The project was introduced by Shark Angels founder and executive director Julie Andersen, who successfully used her passion and commitment to the cause to transform a room of partying bikers into a rapt and attentive audience.
According to the HOGs fundraising coordinator Karen Dean, the committee’s decision to choose Shark Angels as their charity for 2013 was unanimous. Usually, the Harley Owners Group fundraises separately from the women’s Ladies of Harley- this year, the two groups have decided to collaborate to support an organisation that director Paul Schorn says has captured the attention of them all.
The initial inspiration to get involved with the Shark Angels’ work came when Karen heard East Coast radio DJ Darren Maule talking about his experiences diving with Angel OJ Symcox and the Aliwal sharks. Fuelled by a desire to come up with something different to fundraise for, Karen investigated some more and found her imagination caught by the ties between the two organisations.
“We are proud to be the Durban Chapter of HOG”, she says, “in a place with the best sightings of sharks in the world. Helping the Shark Angels, making a big noise, creating waves of awareness for the sharks’ plight all seemed like the perfect match”. The connections were obvious aesthetically as well as geographically: there is a shark in the Durban HOGs logo, and wings in the logos of both the Angels and Harley Davidson. However, similarities between the HOGs and the Angels run deeper still...
The overriding impression at the Harley club is that being a part of it is a way of life for everyone there. It is a passion, shared by people who ride for the sake of riding- for whom the destination doesn’t matter nearly as much as the journey. This commitment is something that all of the Angels are familiar with. Being involved in shark conservation is all-consuming, and the people that dedicate their lives to it do so because they are passionate about the cause.
Paul Schorn also theorises that perhaps the reason why the HOGs have been so keen to support the Shark Angels is because they, like the sharks themselves, are often misunderstood.
Shark Angels spends a considerable amount of its time attempting to alter the common perception that sharks are nothing more than mindless killers. Similarly, Paul recounts anecdotes of mothers warning their children to stay away from the bikers while on outrides: these are people who understand what it is to have an undeserved bad reputation.
In reality, sharks kill just four people on average per year worldwide; in reality, the majority of the Durban HOGs are in their fifties, and are parents themselves. In fact, the committee for this year is dominated by women, with a lady named Gillian Scott holding the position of head road captain.
There is obviously a positive side to the fame of the Harley name as well, and the image that goes with it. It is the reason that the Durban HOGs get requests from companies and individuals to go on charity rides, and the Chapter hopes that it will be able to use the brand to bring attention to the Shark Angels’ cause.
January’s rides have already generated R4000 for the Angels, which will go towards funding the next round of Jessica’s genetic sampling. Julie Andersen says of the new collaboration that "the Shark Angels are thrilled to be partnering with the Durban HOG chapter to give sharks a chance. There is so much work to be done in South Africa in terms of shark education, awareness, tolerance and research - and the HOGs are truly giving us the wings to fly to all new heights."
With the support of the Durban HOGs, the Shark Angels will be able to continue with their mission... and yes, plans are already underway to get the Angels riding with the Harley pack, and the bikers underwater to meet their newfound friends.
Source: Olivia Jones Communications
Author: Jess Vyvyan-Robinson
Tags: Sharks, South Africa, Olivia Jones, Harley Davidson,