The Making of Watermen


Close on five years ago the Unstressed Surf School was formed. It was named after a young surfer who died in a car crash. He went by the name of ‘Unstressed Erik’. No matter the conditions, according to Erik the surf was always on and the waves ‘cooking’. This positive energy was the grounding of the Unstressed and continues even today.


The Unstressed Surf School is a youth development programme. It has many agendas as these types of programmes do. It is also one of a number in our area attempting to address issues around inequality, health, poverty, education and living conditions, all of which add value.


But this one has stolen my heart.


Perhaps it is the innocence of the kids that holds me captive –

their energy and continual resilience despite circumstance. These kids have never known the bright sparkle of a chlorinated swimming pool nor had access to water wings, pool parties and the season’s latest swim wear.

Perhaps it is the joy of watching the teaching process kick in as splashes, kickers and sinkers become swimmers, paddlers and surfers.


Or perhaps my attachment is grounded in my personal fears and desperate hope for the future of our area and country,

and my belief that cross-cultural engagement is fundamental to the healing process and that sport has no borders.

Certainly all of these ideals play a role but at the end of the day,

another agenda is met, one that allows me to spend hours on end in a beautiful place,

with fabulous, energized kids, doing cool stuff relating to the ocean.

And I get to watch as these kids grow into fine, strong watermen.

 Celebrating the Success of the Unstressed – Dec 2014 /Jan 2015

Current Unstressed Update:  Over the summer the Unstressed Seniors spent time on Chintsa Beach under the supervision of Marc Fennell: Surf Photographer, Instructor, Life Guard Trainer and Superb Waterman. They assisted the Wild Coast Life-guards as a means of introducing these young men to Life-guarding as a potential career. They trained hard, learnt how to use surf ski’s, knee boards and other life-guard equipment and grew in stamina and confidence. This year we plan to continue with this and assist them as they start working towards obtaining their SPA’s (Surf Proficiency Award) – This will allow them to pursue careers related to water safety and training.  
















15 thoughts on “The Making of Watermen

  1. It’s reading of initiatives like this that restores my faith in human nature. Learning through play and through sporting activities is such a great way of drawing people in so they can learn about so much more than just the activity. The fact they are being trained to take an active and helpful part in an activity they love must be life-changing. Such a small step to set up a venture to teach a sport, but the end result can be so enormous — not only for those concerned, but for all who want to see a fairer world with less poverty and more opportunities.

  2. Wonderful photographs and story 🙂 I’m particularly impressed that the program has been going successfully for 5 years, evidenced by the progression of kids who become Unstressed Seniors and who now also have further avenues of progression available to them. I admire the purpose and the follow-through of both the providers and partcipants.

    • Jobs, jobs, jobs…so important here. We have a little bit of scope because of the odd guest house and lodge in the area but beyond that there is very limited employment, so this is really exciting. Life guards are imported each season from other areas so it would be really great to have our own guys on duty and it is their home-break so that are really getting to understand the conditions here which will add even greater value. Thanks for commenting.

  3. “And my belief that cross-cultural engagement is fundamental to the healing process and that sport has no borders.” – I could not agree more. This was an absolutely beautiful post. One of my favorites. LOVE

  4. I totally love this post! I love water, and I love these kids grew into watermen, rather than into any kind of tribal violence… we should all have that kind of initiation to life 🙂

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