Stab Magazine | How Kelly Slater Inadvertently Led To The Pope Visiting Mozambique With Surfers Not Street Children

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How Kelly Slater Inadvertently Led To The Pope Visiting Mozambique With Surfers Not Street Children

A trinity, of sorts… 

news // Sep 13, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pope Francis just dropped into the Tofu Surf Club in Mozambique for a little froth session with the crew from Surfers Not Street Children.

“Last week the Pope was visiting Maputo in Mozambique and we got the call up! We took four people from Tofo Surf Club on a road trip,” Tom Hewitt, director of the organization, said when Stab caught up with him. 

“Julia, who is the first ever female Mozambican surfer and to whom Steph Gilmore connected with and gave a board to earlier in the year during the Stab Electric Acid Surfboard Test. Castro, the first Mozambican surfer in Tofo, who now runs the program came with Mini Cho, Mozambiques’s best surfer and first QS campaigner. Also with us was a boy called Aly who is an integral part of the club. We all met with Pope Francis in a private meeting and Castro briefed him on the progress of the last year.” 

Of course, the Pope doesn’t just pop in—he’s the Pope. There’s a backstory.  

“The story is actually quite funny,” Tom explains. “A few years back, when Kelly Slater broke his foot at J-Bay we were due to host him in Durban. Plans changed, obviously, but Todd Glaser and Alek Parker came up to Durban to shoot with us for Kelly’s Continuance 2 edit. They actually gave us a heap of time in that edit which was super generous.”

“Awhile later I got a call from a guy named Matias Anton, a surfer from Argentina. He worked for an organization called Scholas Occurrentes and had seen the edit. He was keen to explore a partnership between Scholas and Surfers Not Street Children. What I did not get at the time was that Pope Francis had started that organization before he was Pope and was still the figurehead.”

From a phone call out of the blue, Hewitt and Anton continued to communicate and develop the relationship between the Pope’s group and Surfers Not Street Children, which utilizes the power of surfing and the ocean to help get kids off the street in South Africa and onto a more positive trajectory.

“At the time we were looking to open our project called Tofo Surf Club in Tofo, Mozambique. So we decided to do the program together. Only when Matias asked me to come to Rome to brief the Holy Father did it occur to me just how involved the Pope would be,” Hewitt says. “Or just how stoked he was with the idea of surfing as a vehicle of positive change.” 

“I met with the Pope and Scholas and we signed an agreement and the project started in May 2018. In fact, on opening day we did a live link up with Pope Francis, who was stoked. I told Kelly how instrumental Continuance 2 had been and he said he said, ‘Wow that’s amazing, I have goosebumps all over.’”

The Tofu Surf Club was launched and is flourishing today. The challenges are somewhat different than what Surfers Not Street Children face in places like Durban, but the mission is the same.

“Like Durban its a fusion of surfing and mentorship. Although the kids in Tofo are not street kids, they do live with a set of real challenges that we are able to help them address,” Hewitt explains. “The kids are frothing and the program is having real impact.”

All of this led to the meeting with Pope Francis last week. 

“It was such a rad event and Pope Francis is awesome,” Hewitt continues. “Big heart for the poor, but also seems to love the idea of surfing! So, we’re stoked to keep this awesome partnership with Scholas Occurrentes going and develop the program for the kids of Tofo, Mozambique. Big thanks to Kelly for putting us out there and to Matias Anton for reaching out from Scholas!” 

“Who’d have thought the Pope would be so pumped on surfing!”


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