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Ahmed Collier, South African Surfing Legend


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Ahmed is a South African surfing legend, husband, father and grandfather, he is friend to many. I was fortunate to know him.

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Ahmed Collier, South African Surfing Legend

  1. 1. 1 AHMED COLLIER Fawzia Collier holds Ahmed Collier’s custom painted helmet with an artist’s rendition of their son Cass surfing Drafting in Ahmed Collier’s Wake November 4, 2017 Ahmed Collier was a husband, father, businessman and national heritage surfer. He chose Fawzia as his bride, together they raised three children, Junior, Doll and Cass. They have many beautiful and talented grandchildren who today can visit any beach due to the courage of their grandfather. Ahmed and his wife owned Colliers Swim School in Grassy Park, teaching anyone how to swim. The Colliers are leaders in drowning prevention and water safety. They would teach children for free whom could not afford lessons. Ahmed was also a surf coach and a mentor. Trailblazers pay high costs to set the path of change. When Ahmed was growing up he was told by his government what he could and could not do, what bathrooms he could use, all because of power.
  2. 2. 2 There are two ways to discuss surfing heritage in South Africa, during Apartheid and Post-Apartheid. The generation that lived during this time is leaving us now, they are our elders and possess a lifetime of wisdom and experience. Ahmed would be one of the first to tear down the wall of discrimination where the ocean met the sand. ‘Nine Mile’ beach was an area reserved for colored and blacks to attend. It was a convenient crappy break to push out anyone who was not white from surrounding beaches so the beachgoers could live an illusory world. Ahmed Collier is a pioneer of freedom. His children suffered alongside his desire to be a freeman. All the Collier children surfed, now the third generation is enjoying freedom in the waves. His son Cass Collier left South Africa to attain a level of professionalism that was closed to him in his own country. Cass was considered a disenfranchised citizen for his pursuit of excellence as a professional athlete in the country he was born in. Shani Nagia started the Wynberg Surf Club, which opened up the waters for a no-racial surfing experience. Shani was a champion for all. Davey Stolk joined the Wynberg Surf Club when the Cape Flats were burning, apartheid was crumbling,
  3. 3. 3 soon the nation followed. Ahmed joined up to form the South Africa Surfing Union, a non-racial surfing group, anyone could participate in the Wild and KwaZulu-Natal Coast. The 1960’s were growing up! Eddie Aikau hosted Ahmed Collier when he had traveled to Hawai’i in the early 1970’s. Ahmed saw the Hawai’ian surfing world with an awe of capability versus restrictions. Here ‘coloreds’ were surfing and competing without threat of arrest. Then in 1971 the Smirnoff ProAm surfing contest things began to change surfing restrictions around the world and especially in South Africa. Surfing was being noticed and participation was gaining. Apartheid was still strong with colors of skin dividing a segregated South Africa and coloreds not allowed on ‘whites only’ beaches. The movie Endless Summer featured open wall waves with few surfers, it was a new frontier for the American Vietnam war era surfing culture and surfers wanted to go to South Africa, but there were problems. One of the contestants was Eddie Aikau who arrived in South Africa to compete. Eddie realized the effects of apartheid because in South Africa he was treated discriminatorily, as all coloreds were. Eddie was scheduled to be competing on a white’s only beach and special allocations had to be made for that to happen. Racism and unfair treatment were a way of life in South Africa for non-whites, but for outsiders a culture shock ensued. If one supported the surf culture in South Africa and didn’t speak up against the division, what did that make them? Ahmed Collier began changing the tide in the 1960s’ for all surfers to be free of this oppression regardless of pigmentation of the epidermis. Welcome to the world the Collier family navigated in South Africa. The political climate was discriminate even for access to God’s creation, the ocean and its waves. The specialty of the coastline is how the Cape of storms draws the Roaring 40’s and the craggy coastline of South Africa had a dividing point. The Indian ocean and the Atlantic ocean merge with a distinct discoloration from warm to cold water. It reflected its people symbolically. Cass continued with the pat his parents started, he began to coach surfers. Ahmed’s son Cass became the second generation of family wave riders. Cass’s performance level escalated due to personal desire but also the offering of the coastal terrain, but he had to leave his own nation to attain status. The Crayfish Factory was a training ground for big wave surfing with a strong 800 meter paddle to the break and a healthy bull kelp forest as was the Outer Kom. Nearby Hout Bay welcome the breaks the Slab, and Dungeons.
  4. 4. 4 Times certainly did change. They changed because Ahmed was taken away by the authorities at night under arrest. Fawzia at home with the children holding ground and honor with an internal terror of will her husband return and how can she find him? Their personal story was not a private experience, they were not alone in South Africa. Ahmed was a real estate magnet, however selling homes was also a segregated business, lines were drawn and they were harsh. Ahmed’s pluck and grit saw him through tense times, he stood his ground and he pushed back. That is what it took. The family lived in an area called Grassy Park. Grassy Park is a suburb in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, situated on the Cape Flats in the City of Cape Town. Grassy Park began to develop in the early 1900s on part of the Montagu's Gift estate north of Zeekoevlei. At that time, the area was rural, under the administration of the Divisional Council of the Cape. By 1920, the estate had 2000 residents. From 1923, it was represented on the Southern Civic Association. Grassy Park was proclaimed a local area in 1935, which meant that the residents received municipal services, for which they paid higher rates. It was later incorporated into the South Peninsula Municipality in 1996, and into the City of Cape Town in 2000. Grassy Park is home to some of the most diverse plant and wildlife as well as being almost completely surrounded by vleis and lakes. The most notable is the Rondevlei Nature Reserve home to a very shy hippopotamus, a few eland and other mostly nocturnal animals including many caracal and porcupine. Rondevlei is also home to a healthy pelican community. Zeekoevlei is one of the many freshwater lakes in the district.
  5. 5. 5 Described by some as "apartheid's dumping ground", from the 1950s the area became home to people the apartheid government designated as non-White. Race-based legislation such as the Group Areas Act and pass laws either forced non-white people out of more central urban areas designated for white people and into government-built townships in the Flats, or made living in the area illegal, forcing many people designated as Black and Coloured into informal settlements elsewhere in the Flats. The apartheid regime in the mid- to late 1960s moved people classified as coloured or black into the township for low- income families. Originally called Koek se bos, or Cook's bush, the apartheid regime cleared tracks of land for the coloured people that lived in areas that were designated 'white areas' by the regime. The Collier’s eventually sold their home with the indoor swimming pool and moved to shores of Zeekoevlei, enjoying the migratory flamingos and occasional loose hippo. In 2017 the Muizenberg Improvement District worked hard to create a national surfing monument. Thus the Surfers Circle Walk of Fame was born. Amongst the 30 inaugural inductees called the Legends of South African Surfing was Mr. Collier. Held on Sunday March 19, 2017 in Muizenburg plaques and notables were in attendance, it was a momentous opportunity for healing, recognition and honor. Ahmed enjoyed his motorcycle, he liked getting on the road with his beloved bride Fawzia.
  6. 6. 6 Ahmed’s story is not about apartheid exclusively, although it was a major setting from a negative influence. His life was lived as a man of intentions, he dreamed big and he wanted to see the effects of his efforts not be restrained. This determined energy is what made Ahmed bigger than life. He was not a tall man, but when in his presence he boomed larger than life. His voice resonated presence and people took notice, he loved to tell a good story. He was not afraid. His family is a reflection of his struggles and triumphs. He lived a life of purpose and intent. Ahmed’s name will be immersed in South African surfing history along with those who supported the elitist blockade against colored and blacks in their own waters. These racial restrictions were overthrown because men like Ahmed cared about their God given rights, human rights, not only his future generations but all generations of visitors and citizens alike.