Share the Stoke…

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The blonde, blue-eyed Jurgen Jacobs grew up with salty hair and sandy toes, surfing and watching turtles lay eggs which instilled his passion for ocean conservation from a young age. Now, he is trying to share this love with children from disadvantaged backgrounds and tourists.

He started teaching children to surf just for fun, while spending time in Sodwana where his dad was involved in an environmental project during the turtle egg-laying season. After school, he went to work in the yacht industry for six years. Despite all the glitz and glam of living with the super wealthy, Jurgen says nothing compared to the feeling of interacting with the children in the surf. “I struggled with the chauvinistic, capitalist, don’t-care attitude that I often encountered. I worked for a boat owner with multiple sclerosis and I was lucky to spend a fair amount of time with him as I often had to assist him. He was like a mentor for me and I learnt a lot from him about business which helped me develop my plan.”

When he had saved up enough money, he came back to his home in Shaka’s Rock where Small Steps Surfing was born at the end of last year. The two-pronged initiative offers fully customised, ten to 21-day guided coastal tours from Sodwana Bay to Cape Town geared at local and international tourists and the funds generated help fund the community work and surf programmes. “The tourists just jump into a minibus van, chuck the surfboards in and together with their surf instructor and driver, go on this epic trip. Along the way, they will experience game drives, the best surf spots and get involved with various surfing programmes and beach clean ups. It gives them a real feel and connection to our rural communities and allows them to make a difference while riding the best waves.”

While he loves showing off the natural beauty of the East Coast, Jurgen’s favourite part is being in the waves with the children. “We teach children between five and 17 years old from rural, coastal communities to surf, scuba dive, spear fish and the importance of ocean conservation. It is a way for us to help spread the word in their community about the need to save the ocean. It is also a way out for the children as we try to funnel them back into the business, once they have completed the programme, as turtle guides, divers or surfing instructors.”

Strangely, his excitement to teach surfing was met with scepticism at first. “When I started, no one came to my surfing lessons. I literally had to drive to people’s homes and ask them to come surf. The concept of giving and receiving without wanting anything in return took a while to be understood. People kept asking me what the catch was. There is no catch! All I hope is that the kids I work with learn from our work. If you see a piece of litter, pick it up. If you see a flower that we have taught you about, tell your friends why this flower is important. It’s just about changing the mindset, opening people’s eyes to the world around them and teaching them to love, care and look after it.”

Surfing has also proven to be a useful therapy tool. “Together with a forerunner in mental health awareness, Noggin Notes, we follow and study the effects of surf therapy which is such a successful therapy method to get children to open up and speak their minds. By simply giving the kids their childhood back and teaching them how to channel their energy, we aim to install a positive surf culture within the small coastal communities.”

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Details: Small Steps Surfing on Instagram and Facebook or email:
[email protected]

Text: ELANA WAGNER

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