Street surfing

Images supplied by BackaBuddy

Street surfing: An unlikely friendship that is helping the planet

Through shared experiences and common interest, an unlikely friendship has been formed.

Street surfing

Images supplied by BackaBuddy

The friendship is between big wave surfer and marine activist, Frank Solomon from Cape Town and two street surfers, Thabo and Mokete, who live on the streets of Johannesburg.

What is street surfing?

People familiar with Johannesburg will be aware of the ‘street surfers’ who navigate the streets on flatbed trolleys. These surfers haul large silo bags filled with recyclable materials which they collect to make a living. 

Choosing to collect and sell waste over a life of begging, crime, and unemployment, Thabo and Mokete can be seen surfing their way between the city’s cars, pedestrians and pavements as they take their goods to various dumps around the city in exchange for cash. 

For Thabo and Mokete, like many others, becoming a street surfer was a decision born from necessity. With cold nights spent sleeping on the streets and exhausting long-distance walks across the city each day, it’s easy to understand why this work would be one of the last resorts. 

Humbly saving our planet

The good that street surfing does cannot be overlooked, although it so often is. Both economically and environmentally, these men are working hard to bring about change. 

Only 10% of South Africa’s waste ends up being recycled, despite the global climate crisis. 

“These guys do an incredible job for the environment, yet they live without access to running water and electricity, things we take for granted every day. They’re up from three in the morning and graft all the way through to the late afternoon; it’s unreal. 

To earn just R300, they need to collect 100kgs of plastic. If you do the math on how many bins they’d have to shift through to reach that target, it’ll blow your mind. You know, at the very least the government and people, in general, should just respect these guys, it’ll go a long way,” says Frank.

Saving the seas by street surfing

Unbeknownst to the street surfers, they also safeguard the ocean, preventing tonnes of plastic from entering the marine environment – something that cannot be overlooked in our quest to end plastic pollution.

“When you see street surfers digging through the trash, separating recyclable materials, let it serve as a reminder of how far we have to go, it’s a brutal job, but these guys are willing to do it. 

The unbelievable reality is, even in the face of such overwhelming adversity and abject poverty, you’ll never see these men not donning a genuine smile,” says Frank.

Crowdfunding on BackaBuddy

To give back to Thabo and Mokete for their humble service to our planet and to positively impact their lives, Frank has created a campaign on BackaBuddy, to appeal to South Africans to support these gentlemen as we lead up to the festive season.

“I hope with our BackaBuddy campaign we can raise enough funds to transform Thabo and Mokete’s lives so they can be seen as role models in their community. 

When I met them, I asked how I could assist them. Their response was heartbreakingly simple, they need help with ‘life’, they said. With support, I hope to provide them with food, clothes and other living expenses for as long as possible,” says Frank.

Donations to the “Street Surfers” campaign on BackaBuddy will be used to provide Thabo and Mokete with a surfer’s pack that will include:

1) Two pairs of comfortable, hardcore boots

2) Clothing for the elements (a few pairs of overalls, wet weather gear and jackets)

3) Two pairs of gloves 

3) Monthly food vouchers 

Funds raised will be transferred to and managed by non-profit organisation, The Sentinel Ocean Alliance to purchase the surfer’s pack, as the gentleman don’t have bank accounts.

Support this street surfing cause by making a donation on BackaBuddy:

Watch some of their story here: