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.  















The School Life of an Angel

“This is a school that is all about the kids”,says Lou, my Aussie friend who started African Angels after getting ‘lost’ in our little village while backpacking around the world in her early 30’s.

African Angels has just held its second Open Day and the school and students are shining like the brightest stars!

Nutritious porridge fills hungry tummies each morning on arrival,

and learning takes place in warm, bright and organised surrounds.

It is not an easy task, building and administrating a school from scratch, but the support roles in thick and strong. Local businesses, South African and International donors and volunteers from all over the world who operate through African Heartland Journey’s Volunteer Africa programme   in conjunction with local NPO, Friends of Chintsa, give, build, paint, dig, and at times teach – helping to grow the school along with the kids.

And the results are well worth the sweat and tears!

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”   –   Nelson Mandela

I have no doubt that Tata Madiba would approve of Angels School.

Congratulations Lou and your amazing team.

Celebrating The Second Open Day of African Angels Independent School. Chintsa, June 2013

“Up In The Sky”

Eric started flying shortly after I fell pregnant with Sarah. Seven months on, I felt the pull of a power-kite for the first time and went bouncing along the beach on my belly…luckily we all came out of it intact. Not one of my smarter moves, but then hopefully one learns from the knocks….

Our baba arrived safe and sound and from very little, spent time wrapped in my arms, sheltered in alcoves along the beach, watching Papa learn to jump. He became quite good and jumped extremely high.

One of her first sentences was, ‘Papa, up in the sky!’  repeated each morning at first glimpse of the ocean.

Now Sarah is tall and strong,

and beginning to give kiting a whirl herself.

And I suspect it won’t be long till she,

like her Papa is also spending time ‘up in the sky!’

Kiting with Sarah and Leah – Chintsa Beach, September 2012

Denver and the Shark

Loyal friend, social development project manager, surf instructor, collector and curator of a beautiful bonsai forest, lover of nature and since young, a surfer – always a surfer; gentle and soft-spoken, strong of spirit, an unassuming strength in our community: This is the Denver that we know and love.

Last winter was a good season for surf, and on this particular day, one year back, the waves as we say – ‘were cooking!’. As it goes on days like these all the surfing folk who could had spent the morning in the sea making the most of its gift.

Thinking about heading in to join the others already chilling on the beach, including Denver’s new wife Kristy (also a surfer), Eric heard D yell and turned around expecting to see a good set coming through.

The dark form brushing against Denver was no wave-set or friendly dolphin and Eric watched in horror as it turned around, pulled D off his board while simultaneously  shredding through the leash. Eric started to paddle towards him, not sure what he would do when he got there, but rapidly repeating an anti-fear mantra in his head to keep him moving, – before he had the chance to face the reality of his question the shark had grabbed Denver again and disappeared back under. Both guys at this point  claim to have been thinking, ‘it’s over’. Denver also recalls wondering how long it was going to take…..

Miraculously though after a very long 15 – 20 seconds, he resurfaced. The shark having tossed him about a bit on the ocean-floor had lost interest. Perhaps D wasn’t the right seal flavour….or perhaps it had simply chosen that moment to send out a shark-size reminder that this was its turf too. With the additional help of Murray, another mate still in the water, Denver was placed back onto his board and assisted to shore where the guys began first- aid while waiting for the ambulance to arrive from town, some forty minutes away.

Shark attack victims often die from blood loss and shock. The shark hits an artery and you bleed out before reaching shore. Denver’s wounds were horrible but they were fortunately not fatal and after plenty of surgery and TLC from Kristy, he was back on the beach within a few months checking out the swell and grappling with his fears. Not much longer after that with wounds on the mend, he embraced his passion and the ocean once again, surfing out on a new board with lovely Kristy and his church pastor by his side. Funds had been raised to help with medical bills and D elected to use the surplus to start a fund to support similar incidents in the area. He also provided an emergency medical and rescue box on our beach.

It has been a year to the day since the attack and the guys are back in the water surfing whenever the weather and ocean feel benevolent, and we are so grateful to be celebrating a life living rather than a life lived.  But the question that continues to challenge me is this – how does one find the courage, after an incident like this, to face your fear and manage the recurring images that must rush through your head over and over? How do you get back in the water to continue to do what you love?

How do you do that?

Perhaps you chose to embrace the challenge partly because if you don’t it is almost as if the shark attack was infact fatal and you end up loosing a huge part of who and what  you are…. Denver is no fatality.

Without doubt it is a choice of huge magnitude requiring  reason to override fear and demanding enormous courage.

A courage that I find unfathomable  – but one that continues to inspire me daily.

Celebrating a Year of Great Courage – Chintsa East 22 July 2012

Lighting Up The Winter Blues

In the freezing cold of mid-winter in the village of Chintsa East along the African Shore, children gathered to celebrate.

The drizzle and low temperatures had not stopped them from stomping up the hill to the Country Club away from the shelter and protection of their humble homes, with paper lanterns clasped in their mittened hands.

Their beautiful teacher, Nokuphumla had lovingly helped craft 60 of these contraptions and after all the hard crafting the kiddy’s gulped down their mugs of warm, milky sweet tea as they anticipated nightfall.

On arrival of the darkness the grounds were lit up with lanterns and the bright eyes of their creators as they excitedly followed Tom the Clown onto the grounds to celebrate the longest night of the year with magic and song.

Celebrating the Longest Night of the Year – Chintsa East 21 June 2012

Sweet River Life

Over the road and down the path lies our river. A couple of turns and bends away and it meets the sea.  Never complacent to the beauty of our surroundings we are constantly amazed at how lucky we are to live where we do and have a river on hand.

‘Crab Hole’, our swimming spot is where I jumped in, stark naked and eight months pregnant in a celebratory mood over our decision to purchase our funny ramshackled river house.

The river is where Sarah and I (pregnant again) spent long sunny Tuesday afternoons (when the restaurant was closed), playing ‘Mommy Crocodile – Baby Crocodile’, dragging ourselves through the shallow water and sand.

The river is where my hubby spent many painstaking hours by my side teaching me to kite-surf after I sold my restaurant and found time to play.

The river is where hot summer afternoons are spent cooling off with mud-baths and swims when the crowds and wind make the beach a non-option.

The river is what we stare out at while sitting on our stoep drinking our second, fourth or sixth cup of tea as we discuss life, plan our next adventure or just spend time together doing nothing. At times we get to watch the fish eagles hunt and on the rare occasion a buck or even an otto ambles down the river path.

The river is what we wake up to every day.

Chintsa River:  2002 -2012


When I was a kid I went to school in Texas for a year. On my first day while grappling with my locker a sweet boy stopped to help. My strange accent drew attention to my nationality and was followed with the stereotypical question that I was to hear over and over again that year: “Do y’all have lion in your yard?”

Now years later and settled into domestic bliss in the sleepy coastal village of Chintsa East, I can confirm that as a rule there are still no lion in the back-yards of South Africa, even out here in the sticks. But there are other forms of wild-life, in particular – monkeys.

Monkeys that cause constant mischief, sneaking in through open windows, setting off house alarms, stealing fruit or bread that isn’t packed away, and making a general  nuisance of themselves leaving behind a trail of monkey mess.

Managing to get in at times they have trashed the kitchen, breaking glass bottles and ripping open bags of pasta and flour. In their panic to escape they have smashed through glass window panes – like in the movies!

They are not shy these Chintsa monkeys. They know our weakness’ and smell our fear. Soon after my first baby girl was born my brave hubby had a stand-off in the kitchen with an alpha male – both of them in their birthday suits, one of them a lot bigger and wielding a broom – a scary sight indeed. The monkey was far less impressed than I.

As painful as they can be, we still love having them around. Hours are spent watching as they frolic in the garden and lounge around on our stoep, and their presence helps us feel like we still live in the wild. The troops are deeply territorial and they were here first. Having invaded their space, sharing it is the very least we can do. And in the spring the babies come. Ohh the beautiful little babies…….making up for the sins of their parents.

Read more about vervet monkeys here:

Spring in Chintsa East, South Africa 2012