…Because the 20-year-old is forging a career, paving the way for the next generation and helping at-risk kids turn their lives around through surfing.
“I don’t want to be the first and last professional surfer in Mozambique,” Mini Cho told Wavelength. “I want many more to come.”
Cho was speaking to Wavelength after shredding The Wave in the Surf Invitational on Day 3 of Blue Earth Summit. The powerful and natural footer mixed a smooth tube with some big tunes; standing in what was a piled field.
Considering he’s only 20 and didn’t start surfing until he was 14, it was easy to see how his talent earned him sponsorship from the Smile Wave Fund, O ‘Neill South Africa and DryRobe, and why he is the first Mozambican surfer to qualify and compete in a WSL Qualifying Series event.
But, Cho wasn’t at the Blue Earth Summit just to show off his surfing. He is also the director of Mozambique Surfers Not Street Children (SNSC) and implemented the Durban-based program at his home beach of Tofo. The Summit was the perfect opportunity to raise awareness and funds for a program that has been changing the lives of African children for 25 years.
The SNSC program was launched by Briton Tom Hewitt in Durban, merging surfing, mentoring and care with the help of dedicated local teams including social workers, carers, lifeguards, surf coaches and administrators . She now has an office in Croyde, North Devon.
Cho was born to a Mozambican mother and a Korean father in South Africa, but moved to Tofo, a seven-hour drive north of the capital Maputo, when he was 12. The town is one of the last stops on the South African continental backpacker trail, and when a tourist lent him a 5’8″ neon yellow board, he was immediately hooked. A few years later, after seeing and working with SNSC Durban, he became manager and helped start Tofo Beach Club, using the same diversion scheme.
“On our end, you can really see the effects of the program in a relatively short time,” Cho said. “Being the first Mozambican professional surfer, I saw so many kids who wanted to get involved in surfing but didn’t have access to the sport. We gave them that access and for many who started surfing , it changed their lives.
Unlike the SNSC Durban programme, which mainly helps street children, Cho mainly works with children at risk of drugs, alcohol, poverty and violence. The plan is simple; get them addicted to surfing, so that’s all they want to do before and after school.
Tofo offers several big waves in the city itself, as well as various secret world-class spots to the north and south. Courtesy of Cho, Tofo Beach Club and SNSC, it is now the only place in Mozambique with a local, growing and dedicated surf scene. Recently, the club received a huge boost when they grabbed a pile of surfboards donated by the UK via FCS’s ‘The Board Drive’.
“The Tofo Beach Club is a way to tap into the base of surfing in the country and provide equipment, training and guidance,” says Cho. “We have a long way to go, but the next goal is to create a national surfing federation and then build an Olympic team. As the country’s first professional surfer, my ultimate dream is to represent my country at the Olympics.
Considering what he has achieved so far, you wouldn’t bet against him.
Wavelength Digital editor Ben Mondy asked Mini Cho a few burning questions before he hit the water for the Surf Invitational at this year’s Blue Earth Summit….