Ntando Msibi - From the streets to pro surfer. How surfing saved his life.

July 13, 2017


Through the grapevine of spirited surfers, we had the pleasure of meeting one of South Africa’s strongest up and coming junior pro surfers. From the rough streets of Durban, orphaned at 8 years old, Ntando Msibi fell just short of becoming another tragic poverty statistic too many young South African kids become. His story is a testament of the lasting effects of apartheid conditions in South African, which ended more than 2 decades ago. 

Millions of children around the world suffer in impoverished conditions around the world, many orphaned and homeless, forced into street life to put food in their stomachs. What's worse, the psychological affects of trying to survive as a street kid, many turn to drugs and drop into the pitfall of addiction.

Ntando getting ready at Upper Trestles

As we sat with him, he told us a story best explaining how street kids are treated by local authorities. Treated like junkies and nuances, Ntando was rounded up with other street kids and dropped off 30 miles away from town, forced to walk back, Durban still being the closest shelter. Starving, shoeless, feet bloodied, and exhausted, he remembers getting back to town just before crumbling to the ground, and curling up in a vacant squatters shack. He explained that it's a regular thing down there. 

Finally, one day... homeless and stuck in a dangerous addiction to escape the reality of life, Ntando saw some of the older street kids surfing. He saw them laughing in the waves, hanging out with an English transplant that seemed to watch over them. He thought… If surfing was going to make him smile, he would find a way to do it every single day! Tom could see it in his awestruck stare and got him on a board. Ntando’s incredible journey began…

Ntando post-surf on the road up from Blacks Beach

Tom Hewitt, happens to be the founder of the non-profit, Surfers Not Street Children. Tom’s program started as a safe house for homeless kids and surf club to steer kids away from the street life of crime and addiction. Since then, the program has gone on to become a mentorship at its core, with returning kids becoming mentors for the younger children just entering the program. Tom has networked resources to bring in more mentorship, education, psychological counseling, vocational skills training, and job placement.

Still, at its roots, Surfers Not Street Children began, and remains a surf club at heart. The Surf Shack down at New Pier serves as headquarters for Tom's surf club, serving 120 kids throughout the year. With the backing of O'neill, British Airways and WSL, and visitors like Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds, Tom's non-profit has reached a level of global advocacy, bringing these kid's stories of overcoming adversity to a world audience, forever changing the perception of street children across the planet.

Ntando cutback at Seaside

This is where Ntando's life took flight, his rapidly developing surf skills noticeably jettisoning him into an elite surfing career. He joined the local junior contest circuit, eventually landing him the #2 spot in all of South Africa for his age group. Big names took notice. He now rides for the likes of Billabong, Von Zipper and Skull Candy, all the while, still working with his local shaper in the bay. A few phone calls were made, and while Ntando was in SoCal, we got a chance to link up to maybe link up!

We couldn’t believe it when he walked in the door, here to help us get footage on one of our newest shortboards. We’d heard his story and knew he could surf, but we were completely blown out of the water! Within the first 2 sessions, he had the board dialed like it was his own. We’d never seen so much pop and power out of such a compact surfer. Perfect for what he dubbed “The Biggie.”

Full roundhouse carve, Ntando, Uppers

“The Biggie” is the compact surfers shortboard. From sprouting grom, to light weight ripper, we’ve come up with a board that performs at the top tier of high intensity surfing for surfers that don’t quite fit the average board size. We took Hunter’s shortboard design seen in “The custom Experience” and tightened the dimensions down to fit surfers from 5’0 to 5’6” and 80-130lbs.

“The Biggie” comes stock in 2 sizes, 5’3 x 17 3/4 x 2 (20.5 L) and 5’6 x 18 x 2 1/8 (23 L) but can be totally customized to the surfer’s preferences. Perfect for rampy beach breaks and outside A-frames, “The Biggie” boasts a clean, lean outline with a fuller squash tail, single to double concave from nose to tail, with futures thruster boxes coming standard issue for an intuitive top-to-bottom surfing approach. 

The "Biggie" compact shortboard

Ntando went the ambitious route, taking out our 5'3" x 17 3/4" x 2" and absolutely LIT UP Seaside Reef, Blacks, and Upper Trestles with full rail speed gouges, massive boosts, vertical snap releases, and an occasional slot in the barrel. Needless to say, the footage speaks for itself, the "Biggie" is a keeper, here to bookend the shorter side of our model lineup. 

We'll let the this clip do all the talking and see you when you come in to pick up Ntando's favorite Degree 33 shortboard, the "Biggie." Available NOW in classic fiberglass (poly PU.) Look for us to roll this model in one of our more price point models towards the end of 2017, just in time for winter swell!

Visit the shop, give us a buzz at (858) 693-3692, or email us at surf@degree33.com to get the conversation started on your new "Biggie" shortboard...

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