Surfers Not Street Children was started by long-time street children campaigner, Tom Hewitt MBE, who is also the founder of a street children organisation in Durban called Umthombo Street Children. Tom was well known for having fused surfing and other activities with psychosocial care in order to empower street children to be able to leave street life. His surfing program for street children was the first of its kind in the world. Tom realised that the youngsters that were coming through Umthombo at the time had not only made huge strides in their own lives but were becoming great role models. He initially started Surfers Not Street Children with three ex street children who had come through Umthombo in order to empower youngsters approaching adulthood towards their own independence, to inspire other kids still on the streets through the surfing and life stories of these role models and to engage in advocacy on behalf of street children. Surfers Not Street Children quickly made a mark for itself as a voice around the phenomenon of street children and today is a larger team of ex street children who continue their journey of transformation but also committed to the lives of others.
The Surfhouse in Durban is the team house. They live there and it is the hub of all the activities. The Surfhouse was opened in 2013.
In 2013 the team made their first visit to another city in Africa to inspire local street children. They visited Cape Town where they worked alongside local surf development projects (Waves for Change) and also local street children agencies. Also in 2013 the team visited the UK on a speaking and surfing visit to raise awareness around the phenomenon of street children. In 2014, Sihle Mbutho, one of the team members visited Australia to shoot a surf video about his life story with surfing company O’Neill and surfer Jordy Smith. During 2014 the team made numerous TV appearances to share their life stories and to speak about the subject of street children, they made a number of high profile web clips about their work, appeared in a number of newspaper articles, spoke at various events in Durban and further afield and hosted many people at the Surfhouse for introductions to the phenomenon of street children.
At the end of 2014, Surfers Not Street Children was nominated for “Recreational Body of the Year” by the South African Government’s National Department of Sports and Recreation at the South African Sports Awards. Ntando Msibi, one of the youngsters in the team had also represented South Africa that year at the ISA World Surfing Games in Ecuador and won the Supersport TV “Lets Play” Junior Sportsperson of the Year. Ntando has been selected to surf for the national South Africa junior team again this year and will be traveling with them to California.