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‘FreeSurfer’ centres on top SA surfers who find freedom in the ocean

Cassiem ‘Cass’ Collier.

Cassiem ‘Cass’ Collier.

Published Apr 28, 2022


‘FreeSurfer’, an original, digital content series featuring the two surfers releases today.

It combats challenging stigmas of belonging, including defying prejudices based on race and gender.

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The two-part documentary sees two Cape Town residents take to the ocean to make South African history.

Cassiem ‘Cass’ Collier from the Cape Flats became the first coloured South African to win a big wave world championship.

In Mexico in 1999, Collier entered the Reed ISA Big Wave World Championship. He surfed against some of the world’s best surfers and came out on top with his partner Ian Armstrong.

Cassiem ‘Cass’ Collier.

Meanwhile, Khayelitsha born and raised Khanyisa Mngqibisa journeyed to become South Africa’s internationally qualified lifeguard and surfing coach.

‘FreeSurfer’ will be screened on April 28 at Corona Studios.

The film looks Collier’s fortitude in the face of adversity in apartheid South Africa, what kept him going, how he discovered freedom in the ocean in an exclusive sport and his work through his surfing academy.

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“I’ve spent my entire life in the ocean and that’s where I find my freedom. Once you experience that first wave it changes everything.

“I think the ocean is all about healing – and there’s no greater feeling of freedom than this. Everyone has a place in the ocean,” Collier said.

He said it was because of his father’s political views that he didn’t allow the apartheid regime to prevent him from excelling in the sport that he loved.

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His father passed away in November 2017, after battling a short illness.

“My father Ahmed Collier was the first black surfer to go to all the ‘white’ Cape Town beaches and take on the apartheid government.

“Often we would go to the beach to surf and leave in a police van, but he realised the freedom that surfing would give me. It did and it still does,” he said.

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The second episode of ‘Free Surfer’ recognises the internationally qualified lifeguard and surfing coach, Khanyisa Mngqibisa, who grew up in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

“She fell in love with swimming at 12, got into lifesaving in high school and started surfing at 21.

“One of my favourite highlights from my passion for the ocean is seeing more black people taking part in a sport they may once have thought was not for them.

“When the community sees a surfer who is black and a girl, coming from the same, disadvantaged community as they are, the perception changes that surfing is not for only white or rich people,” says Mngqibisa, whose dream is to start a young, black girls surfing programme.

Khanyisa Mngqibisa.

“In our community we face a lot of challenges – GBV, poverty, drug abuse, and teenage pregnancy. When the youth I train surf with their peers it gives them a sense of belonging, self-confidence and purpose.

“I want my community to feel motivated and encouraged to free themselves from the negative and go to any beach and enjoy nature just like I do.

“When I started surfing, with the support if my mother, I changed. I wasn’t the same Khanyisa as before,” she said.

The film shows her love for social work including contributing to the ‘Waves for Change’ projects that support traumatised children to gain self-confidence through surfing.

FreeSurfer’ will air on YouTube.