Shaun Tomson, the 1977 World Champion from South Africa, has been inducted into the South African Hall of Fame, the highest accolade that any South African athlete or performing artist can receive.
Listed among the top 10 surfers of the century, along with his World Title, the former Durbanite is the six-time winner of that city's Gunston 500. Apart from surfing, Tomson is also a renowned author, businessman, environmentalist and motivational speaker.
The South African Hall of Fame celebrates great achievements by extraordinary South Africans excelling in their field, who inspire and empower youth to holistically reach their full potential. An individual's integrity, sportsmanship and character are also taken into account.
"The surfboard became a mere vehicle for an incredible human being, Shaun Tomson, to epitomize his passion and perseverance, and then he returned to create a message of hope," said Johnny Burger, Chairman of the South African Hall of Fame.
"We firmly believe that character supersedes talent and that one human being, no matter how big or small, can make an enormous impact. The biggest sporting legend that has ever walked South Africa, besides Gary Player, is Shaun Tomson. We honor you, we respect you and we thank you for leaving something bigger and longer lasting behind, than just yourself, and that is a true legacy," said Burger, before handing Tomson his award.
Tomson, who now lives in California, said, "I am so humbled and so honored to receive this award from my homeland. I know that I am going to do my homeland proud and spend more time here. What you will, you will become."
His words are from his book, The Code: The Power of I Will, where he illustrates how people, especially young people, can change their lives in just 12 steps, each beginning with the statement, "I will... ."
Tomson has spent the past few weeks speaking at local schools and organizations through the Positive Wave Tour, as part of the 50th edition of the world's longest-running professional surfing event, the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong in KwaZulu-Natal. It is a WSL Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000-level event.
Such is his affinity with the local youth that it has earned him the affectionate nickname ‘Baba Tom'. Wiseman Cele, Manager of New Development for KwaDukuza Municipality said, "The youth that Shaun has interacted with in the last few days have been so greatly impacted by his friendliness, positive energy and accommodative manner, that they started referring to him as Baba Tom. He has become like a father-figure to them."
"Alchemy is the transference of metals from one state to another which occurs through heat or pressure," said Greg Swart, a said former South African pro surfer. "Shaun Tomson has to be celebrated not for his achievements, but for his ability to transfer his own pain and transcend every single negative thing that has happened to him to become the person that he is today, an alchemist."
Tomson recently spent an afternoon with Dr. Albertina Luthuli, daughter of anti-apartheid struggle icon and winner of the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize, Chief Albert Luthuli. The two shared their sentiments on racism, sports, politics and their common love, South Africa.
His visit to South Africa culminated with him spending 67 minutes at the Lethithemba Secondary School for the centenary celebrations of Mandela Day July 18, which is Nelson Mandela's birthday, which recognized annually in the country. The number 67 represents the number of years that Mandela spend fighting for justice.