The street surfers of Johannesburg

July 15, 2019 | Surfing
Street Surfers: a documentary by Arthur Neumeier

Frank Solomon is a professional surfer and ocean activist from Cape Town, South Africa.

He surfs since he was five years old.

"Street Surfers" is a documentary about a different kind of riders that make their living hundred of kilometers from the ocean.

They ride the asphalt, but they're not skateboarders. They smile, but they struggle to survive and make ends meet.

Solomon traveled to Johannesburg, where Mokete "Kwena" Mokete and Thabo "Paku" Mouti ride their four-wheel platforms at high speed through the streets and roads that lead to everywhere.

They wake up at 3 am and ride up to 50 kilometers per day to collect recycling.

"Sometimes, it isn't safe because some drivers don't consider us important, so they want to be the only driving on the road," explains Mokete.

They're a skillful duo in all types of pavements. However, to make 300 rands - around 22 dollars - they need to collect 1,000 kilograms of recyclables a day.

Mokete and Mouti need this money for themselves but also to support their families.

Street surfers: Mokete and Thabo give Frank Solomon a ride

Saving the World and Living in Misery

They live in primitive conditions, with no electricity, running water or toilets - pure poverty.

"After spending the day with Thabo and Mokete, and seeing their world, I thought of inviting them to my world - to the ocean, to the beach, something they've never seen before," Solomon says.

When the Johannesburg street surfers arrived at the beach and saw the waves for the first time, they were mesmerized.

Frank Solomon jumped into his wetsuit, paddled out and caught a few waves. Thabo and Mokete started screaming in joy.

Later, it was their time to try surfing. They loved it.

And then, they returned to their homes and to their lives to make the world a better and much cleaner place to live.

If you see them surfing the streets of Johannesburg, hug, help, or simply high five them. We all need to thank Thabo and Mokete for what they're doing for our planet.

The Summer Surf Gear Guide 2019