Del Mar native impacts lives through surfing and mentorship


Torrey Pines High School Class of 2015 graduate Tyler James has committed to serve for a second year in Durban, South Africa with Surfers Not Street Children (SNSC). SNSC fuses surfing and mentorship to empower street children to build a solid foundation and sustainable future.

Tyler is a volunteer mentor at the Surf House where a group of 12 former street children live and receive economic support, counseling, encouragement and mentorship to lead successful lives. He is also a coach at the Surf Club, an outreach project in the community surrounding Durban’s beachfront. Using a life-skills curriculum, street children are engaged through surfing with a focus on diverting them from the perils of the streets. The program operates every day with morning and afternoon sessions, serving over 90 girls and boys each month.

Tyler has been combining his passions of surfing and serving since he was 14 years old on summer mission trips to Nicaragua and Guatemala. In high school he established himself as a competitive surfer, rising up to the #2 spot in the NSSA Southwest Division. He even went on to take home his first paycheck at a Junior Pro Event. During his senior year at Torrey Pines, Tyler began to weigh his options of giving it a go on the WSL Tour or a more traditional route into college.

“Nothing seemed right”, said Tyler, “and my dad introduced me to idea of doing a gap year in South Africa.” Tyler applied and was accepted into the Christian Surfers Africa Leadership Training (CSALT) program in Jeffery’s Bay, South Africa. One month later he found himself serving at the 2015 J-Bay Open and witnessed first-hand the shark attack on Mick Fanning in the finals. “Watching that happen and then seeing the replay made me rethink how short life is and that any day could be your last, said Tyler. That experience changed Tyler’s perspective and brought a desire to stay in South Africa and serve after graduating from CSALT.

A “chance” meeting with Tom Hewitt, founder and director of Surfers Not Street Children, in lost luggage upon his initial arrival in South Africa blossomed into the next phase of Tyler’s journey. He came back home last Christmas with former street child and pro-surfer Ntando Misibi to secure funding and a three-year visa to go back to Durban, South Africa. Tom asked Tyler to be, “a mentor and friend to ex-street children in the Surf House.”

During his first year volunteering, Tyler introduced an income sustainability project by converting old surfboards into art sculptures, a program to develop surf filming and photography skills, and an advanced competitive surfing training program. More importantly, Tyler is using his life to impact change in the hearts of young men and children that society has thrown away. Tyler also finds time to compete in the South Africa Champs Series and WSL Tour; he has even started online college at Liberty University in its General Business Program.

Check-out the impact this Del Mar local is having across the globe in South Africa at: