Final wave for surf legend
AHMED Collier, local surf legend and pioneer of non-racial surfing in South Africa, died on November 3 after succumbing to cancer. He was 74.
Collier was at the forefront of an era of resistance and frequently went to whites-only beaches to swim and surf, which often lead to him being arrested.
Born in Durban in 1943, he moved to Cape Town when he was 18 and married his wife of 50 years, Fawzia, at age 25.
“He loved the ocean and his motorbike and he also taught himself to play the piano when he was 15 years old,” said Fawzia this week.
Collier was an early member of the Wynberg Surf Club and later opened the Collier Swim School.
The family were avid swimmers and his children would often join him for surf and swimming sessions, said his daughter Doll.
“He was a very hands-on father and he would fetch us from school with surfboards strapped to the car. The children were all Western Province swimmers and my younger brother also went on to become an accomplished surfer. My father exposed us to the world,” she said.
In the 1960s, Collier joined the South Africa Surfing Union, a nonracial surfing group that allowed anyone to participate in surfing on the Wild Coast and KwaZulu-Natal coastlines.
Two days after his son, Cassiem, was born, Collier travelled to
Hawaii in 1971, where he was hosted by Hawaiian surfing champion Eddie Aikau. He travelled there to stop the South African surfing team from taking part in a competition because the team had said there were no black surfers in the country, which he saw as a major injustice in the surfing community.
Cassiem said his father had fought for a more diverse surfing community and believed in the power of bringing people together over the divisiveness of the apartheid regime.
“He was special in a way because of the era he grew up in. He was not partial and wanted more diversity. He loved to surf and swim and kept fit all the time. He was passionate about being outdoors and he liked to go swimming every Sunday at the pavilion pools in Strand,” he said.
While Collier never had the chance to surf competitively he took part in outdoor activities right up until his death.
“He enjoyed spending time with his family and his grandchildren. It was beautiful to spend the last few days with him and you could feel he was moving into the next phase of his life,” said Cassiem.
In the film Taking Back the Waves there is archival footage of Collier cheering on his son during a surfing event in Australia. In March, Collier received the honour of being inducted into the Surfers’ Circle Walk of Fame in Muizenberg.
Today a memorial will be held outside African Soul Surfers in Muizenberg at 11am before a paddle out at 1.30pm.
Collier is survived by his widow, his three children Ismail, Doll and Cassiem, as well as his grandchildren.
Surfing pioneer Ahmed Collier enjoyed riding his motorbike almost as much as swimming and surfing.