“After my first wave, I knew what I wanted to be.” Meet the world’s first female Zulu surf pro

 
 
 

Samukeliswe Cele steadies herself on the edge of Durban’s New Pier, before launching into the water. An instant later she’s among the waves, paddling for the perfect point to meet a surging crest. Her movements are fluid, made for the ocean.

“After my first wave, I knew what I wanted to be,” reflects Cele, who started surfing when she was 14. But had she paid attention to stereotypes while growing up, she might never have taken the plunge to embrace the sea. “I didn’t think surfing was for African people,” Cele admits. “I never realised that being on a board would be such a big part of my life.”

Two years after learning to ride, she became the first Zulu woman to take part in a World Surf League event at the Ballito Pro. “I’m someone else’s role model now,” Cele says. And an important one at that, since she’s flying the flag for the least represented group of South African surfers. “The sea belongs to no-one,” she says. “It’s for us all.” Cele’s journey has opened a new chapter for South African watersports.