Humble Beginnings: How Ziyaad’s Skate School is ‘Changing lives through skateboarding’ and creating a blueprint for youth development in SA
These days there are many skate schools in South Africa, from one person operations, to groups of skaters forming small enterprises providing lessons for beginners at both public and private skate parks. There are also many grassroots development programmes springing up nationwide to assist and nurture young talent – especially from underprivileged communities. Both are sorely needed and a net gain for SA skateboarding.
But few have managed to combine the two like Ziyaad Davids, 32. who hails from Hangberg, an embattled and impoverished fishing village under the Sentinel mountain in Hout Bay, Cape Town, right in blunt mag’s backyard. Through his thriving skate school, Ziyaad and his team have created an active and meaningful youth development programme servicing the Hangberg and nearby Imizamo Yethu (IY) township communities, one that truly lives up to its mantra of ‘Changing lives through skateboarding’.
Words by bluntEd. Photos by bluntEd and courtesy Ziyaad’s Skate School.
The idea started with me working for an NGO called Indigo Youth Movement. I worked for them for a year and then COVID happened and I basically lost that stream of income and that is when I decided to do it. I always wanted to give back to the community, I always wanted to teach kids in Hangberg skateboarding, because skateboarding had such a big impact on my life as an individual and I felt like it could help a lot of our kids as well. I also needed a stream of income, so I started with private lessons. But, when I started my lessons at the skatepark, I had a lot of kids that were part of the Indigo Youth Movement that asked me when I was going to teach them. I was busy doing private lessons in order to make money and that is when I basically decided, you know what, I wanted to give back to the community, so I started the after school programme.
“‘Changing lives through skateboarding’ basically means that it can help kids in lots of different ways, especially kids that are drawn into gangsterism, smoking drugs and all those bad energies and bad activities that are taking place in our communities – Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu.”
What was the reaction from the local community?
It was perfect, because I was getting lots of support from the community, so I thought, why not give back to the community through my skate school by starting the after school programmes? We started in 2019 and here we are in 2022 still going strong. That is basically how Ziyaad’s Skate School started. I was looking for lots of different names. But I realised it is my mission, it is my vision, it is my movement, so just name it that. In the beginning there were some people that were not that supportive of my name and asked me why are you starting a skate school and all of that, but I kept on going and the community support just grew from there.
Your slogan is ‘Changing lives through skateboarding’. What does that mean to you? What do you think skateboarding can do for the communities you are active in?
Personally, I always talk about my experience. ‘Changing lives through skateboarding’ basically means that it can help kids in lots of different ways, especially kids that are drawn into gangsterism, smoking drugs and all those bad energies and bad activities that are taking place in our communities – Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu. Through skateboarding personally I had an escape mechanism. When things got hard at home for me, I would get on my board and go for a ride. If I felt overwhelmed, I would get on my board and go for a skate. If it was the weekend, instead of hanging with a crowd that does drugs and all the naughty things, I would link up with a group of kids. We would go to the village and link up with other groups of kids and just go skate.
Some good skaters still get up to no good though? But it was a much better environment overall?
Sure, but even though some of those activities still took place, it didn’t take place in that manner, because it was up to you. You came to skate or you came here to catch your nonsense, but the main focus was to come to skate. Like for me you know it was like learning from the next person, the next person helping me and you realise that through skateboarding the more effort you put in, the better you become. And I think that is a very important thing in life as well, that you can learn through skateboarding and if you are consistent with something, you will end up becoming better. So the slogan is not just about skateboarding, these kids, they can literally learn so much from skateboarding about life. Consistency, putting effort in and it helps keep them fit and it helps them push towards new tricks; it helps with confidence, communicating with different people, interacting with one another. That’s what I have learned from skateboarding and I feel like that can change a lot of kids’ lives as well. Especially kids that come from where I come from.
What main challenges did you encounter when you set up your skate school?
The main challenge was COVID, which we overcame by pushing through. We went under strict lockdown when I had just started my business and we were not able to use the main park or the small facility we use at the local park. Law enforcement kept on telling me you need to go inside, you need to stop skating and all that. That was the main challenge, everything else was fine, especially with the support that I got. I didn’t get much support at first, which was also a bit of a challenge, but I knew that having your own thing, just starting up, you have to start very small and work with what you have. The longer you do it the more you will be able to prosper and grow your business. That is one of the main challenges I had with starting Ziyaad’s Skate School.
What are you most stoked about that have you achieved so far?
What I have achieved is the trust of my community. I am very stoked about that, the support of the community. I think that is one of my big achievements, and then my other achievement was to be able to purchase my own car so that I can continue with my other businesses, my transportation business and my tourism business. I am very stoked about that.
You run paid skate school lessons and free clinics right? What other services do you offer the community?
I do that and then I also do shuttles, airport shuttles, short transfers around Hout Bay. I do tours, peninsula and city tours, I also offer playdates for kids, I offer house sitting for my private students and that is about it.
“I am trying to teach a lot of our kids the importance of education. I am trying to teach our kids the importance of confidence, just basic life skills, etiquette and hygiene and all those small things that matter in life. And how to interact with one another and let them know that integrity is very important.”
You teach skateboarding, but also life skills and have a big focus on mentoring, as there is a lack of that in Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu?
I am trying to teach a lot of our kids the importance of education. I am trying to teach our kids the importance of confidence, just basic life skills, etiquette and hygiene and all those small things that matter in life. And how to interact with one another, I think that is a very big situation that we have in our communities like Hangberg and IY, I am just trying to encourage our kids every day and let them know that integrity is very important, so do we have topics about all these basic life skills and things that will make them better people. And I always try to get other individuals that know a bit more about life, that have been through things in life, to come and chat to the kids, talk to them about certain things that are important to them in their day-to-day lives.
You haven’t done it all alone of course, tell us about your team, Wonga Lucas and Keerin Noah? How did they get involved, how do they fit into the picture and what skills do they bring to complement yours?
Starting with Coach Keerin (Noah), we worked together for Indigo, and we were running programmes with them in Hangberg. Keerin has all the skills I have, so we were sent on the facilitator course through Indigo. And he is brilliant with kids, he has been doing it for almost five years. Towanga Lucas, he was part of the Eyethu movement and has been working with kids for the last six to seven years, and when it comes to handling kids, when it comes to motivating kids, Towanga is that person. And I think that is a very important skill to have, to discipline kids when they are in the wrong, and also with activities, he is very good at keeping the kids busy, playing games and stuff like that. Those are the skills they are bringing to the table and I think without them the movement would not be possible, because everything comes together perfectly. Coach Keerin comes all the way from Bonteheuwel and decided to come and assist me with my after school programmes, after he also lost his job with Indigo Skate.
How do you feel the communities in Hout Bay could do more to support your efforts? What do you need further to achieve your goals?
I think more donations, old clothes, old skate gear, old shoes, I think donating things like that in order for us to keep going. Also, what the community can do is come a bit more out to the kids, come and communicate with the kids, especially if you are a person that is successful in life and you feel like you can give back. Instead of giving money or whatever, come and have a talk to the kids you know. I feel like that is more important than worldly things. But you obviously need clothes and stuff and whatever to keep us going. But I think what is more important is to come and chat to the kids and make them feel special, that for me will be amazing. Especially on our Monday, Wednesday and Friday programmes, just to come around and have a chat to the kids, that support will be humongous and it will be much appreciated.
“What the community can do is come a bit more out to the kids, come and communicate with the kids, especially if you are a person that is successful in life and you feel like you can give back. Instead of giving money or whatever, come and have a talk to the kids you know. I feel like that is more important than worldly things.”
Who would you like to thank for their help in your journey so far?
Firstly, I would say Vicki Scheffel (of Eyethu Skate Park NPO), she has been helping me since day one, motivating me, keeping me going with the programme, trying to get funding for me and obviously that is part of the Eyethu movement. The Eyethu crew as well for giving me the support and motivation to push myself and my business. Secondly, I would like to thank Hout Bay Rotary Club for always being there for me. I need to thank them as well, because they helped build the skate park and they donate whenever they can, and they give whenever they can. And then the Hout Bay community, I would love to thank them for everything they are doing as well, also Clay Cafe, they have been supporting me by giving me funding. The Llandudno community, they have also been helping a lot. So I want to give a thanks to Llandudno and the Hangberg community, to thank them for sending their kids to join the after-school programmes and putting the trust of their kids in the Ziyaad’s Skate School team’s hands, and the IY community for the same thing.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing what you have done in another community in South Africa?
What I would say to them is that it’s not easy, and that they need to remember that with starting something like I am doing, with teaching kids and stuff like that, consistency is important. They need to be consistent and be sincere about what they actually want to do and to continue doing what they are doing and not give up.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to continue to push skateboarding and get more positive outcomes out of this movement.
How can people volunteer or donate to your efforts?
People can reach out to me on my channels and I will get back to them:
Whatsapp – 063 200 6381
Account holder: Ziyaad’s Skate School
Account number: 1215537484
Account type: Current account
Bank name: Nedbank
Branch code: 198765
Check out our photo gallery from some of Ziyaad’s Skate School’s recent youth programmes:
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