From lawnmower to Jet Ski

27 May 2013 - 02:39 By NIVASHNI NAIR
Welcome Radebe was a gardener before finding he had a talent for jet-skiing. He is now one of the country's top 20 jet-skiers
Welcome Radebe was a gardener before finding he had a talent for jet-skiing. He is now one of the country's top 20 jet-skiers

When KwaZulu-Natal gardener Welcome Radebe pushed his employer's Jet Ski into the Hazelmere Dam at weekends in 2000 he never imagined that nine years later he would be representing South Africa at an international water sports event.

Radebe, who participates in jet ski circuit racing and freestyle jet- skiing, and the SA Maritime Safety Authority, (Samsa), want to change the belief that water sports are just for whites.

"Blacks need to give water sports a chance. The opportunities are there so we cannot say that it is just for whites. We must not be afraid of the water," he said yesterday in Durban at the inaugural Samsa-Durban Stars Surf and Jet Ski Competition.

Radebe fell in love with jet skiing when his employer asked him if he wanted to "hop on".

"His employer began training him and he started entering competitions," his mechanic, Kuhle Ngcobo, said.

Radebe qualified for the Jet Ski World Cup in 2009 and 2010, and represented South Africa in Thailand.

He is among the top 20 jet-skiers in the country and is expected to go to Thailand again for the World Cup later this year.

Another watersport talent is S'celo Zondwayo, who could not swim or surf in 2007 but a year later participated in the Zululand surfing trials and went on to the Junior South African Championships, in Port Elizabeth. The bachelor of commerce student qualified for the South African under-20 championships this year.

The head of the SA Maritime Safety Authority's marine tourism and leisure programme, Itumeleng Pooe, said the water was "there for the taking".

"We have a beautiful coastline of about 3000km, more than 500 dams, and rivers [but they are not being used]. We want South Africans, even the most impoverished, who live near these resources to take advantage of them, for sport, development and entrepreneurial opportunities.

"There is this myth that black people are afraid of water but we have to break that myth.

"We want black people to know that there are sports that can be played outside of a soccer stadium and that they can have fun in the water.

"They can also build careers around these resources," she said.

Pooe said Samsa wanted to promote tourism, sports and development by introducing more blacks to beaches, dams and rivers.

Young people from Umlazi and KwaMashu were bused in to attend this weekend's event.

"The Durban competition is just the start of a campaign of similar events, including in inland areas where sport can take place on rivers and dams," Pooe said.