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South African street-to-surf project names ambassador

Sihle Mbutho © Kevin Sawyer



Surf Culture

O'Neill picks Sihle Mbutho of Inanda

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 29 March, 2014 - From the streets, to riding the crest of the wave, young  Sihle Mbutho of Inanda, is surfing his way to ‘his perfect day.’As part of their international “Today is Perfect” campaign O’Neill is flying Sihle to Australia to support his hero, Jordy Smith, as he competes in “The Drug Aware Margaret River Pro.”

This is the second contest of the 2014 WCT (World Championship Tour). The ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) prime-rated event takes place from 2 -13 April 2014.
Brand Manager for O’Neill in South Africa, former pro surfer, Paul Canning, who placed third in the Margaret River contest in 2004, commented; “The ‘Today is Perfect’ campaign aims to make every day perfect despite rough conditions and obstacles. It’s about a mentality, pushing boundaries and going further, longer and bigger and O’Neill was looking for a candidate who matches these criteria.”
Durban-based Tom Hewitt, who was awarded an MBE for his work with street children, helped us identify one of his ‘Surfers Not Street Children’ Team Riders and Ambassador, Sihle Mbutho, as an inspirational youngster who despite his circumstances, strives to make each day perfect. 
‘Surfers Not Street Children’ is part of a global movement promoting surfing as a means of rehabilitating and empowering street children to leave street life. As an ambassador for ‘Surfers Not Street Children,’ Sihle has travelled to Mozambique and the United Kingdom, encouraging street children to follow his example.
“I want to be known as the street kid who helped other kids leave the streets. Surfing took away my stress and the sea is my new home. I know I can help other kids feel this way too,” explained Sihle.
Apart from his ambassadorial role, Sihle teaches surfing and works at the new Surf Rider Cafe and Surf Museum near Marine Surf Lifesaving Club on Durban’s Addington Beach. He is overwhelmed by the prospect of being met at the airport by Jordy and hanging out with him and the world’s best surfers including the likes of Kelly Slater and  Mick Fanning. 
“I am so excited,” he said.  “I left my granny and my home in Inanda six years ago as I thought that my stealing was going to give her a heart attack. I carried on stealing in Durban until I met Tom Hewitt and realised for the first time that I could live a better life.” 
“Surfing rehabilitated me and now I am going to get a chance to hang out with my hero, Jordy .... and his dad has shaped a special surfboard for me.  Plus, when I land in Australia, O’Neill is taking me to their head office to kit me out!”
‘The first thing I am going to do when I get there, is to ask Kelly Slater how such an old man is beating us young surfers all the time!’

Frances Park-Ross

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