Paul Chow Sampson
From homeless orphan to surfing sensation. This is the remarkable story of Paul Sampson. Image: Kody McGregor/World Surf League

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Paul Sampson: From homeless orphan to surfing star

This is the remarkable story of a Capetonian who defied the odds and will be surfing against the world’s best in Australia this weekend …

25-04-24 15:35
Paul Chow Sampson
From homeless orphan to surfing sensation. This is the remarkable story of Paul Sampson. Image: Kody McGregor/World Surf League

South African surfing has a new superstar ready to take flight, but his extraordinary journey to the big time was anything but guaranteed. This weekend, Paul ‘Chow’ Sampson will compete in the 2024 World Surf League (WSL) Challenger Series. The first event of the season takes place on the Gold Coast of Australia at the iconic Snapper Rocks.

The event window runs from Saturday 27 April to Saturday 4 May. And Sampson will be vying for glory against 80 world-class men’s surfers. We encourage you all to follow the live stream at this LINK and see how he fares in the competition.


*Video: ZagTV on YouTube

The WSL Challenger Series (CS) is one tier below the WSL Championship Tour that currently features South Africans Jordy Smith and Matthew McGillivray. However, following a recent mid-season cut for the Championship Tour, this weekend’s CS event will be jam-packed with top-tier surfing talent. Should he except the entry, surfing G.O.A.T. Kelly Slater may even be out in the lineup at Snapper Rocks!

However, we bet Slater and WSL CS tour regulars won’t know what hit it when 24-year-old Paul Sampson steps up. Check out his flamboyant aerial manoeuvres (as showcased in the above video). While extremely talented in all disciplines of surfing, it’s his aerial game – often performing multiple airs on a single wave – that’s garnered the most attention as SA’s tie number one surfer.


Surfing sensation Paul Sampson at the Cape Town Surf Pro. Image: WSL

As The South African covered earlier this year when Sampson won the Cape Town Surf Pro and secured his path to the CS tour, the former street kid’s story is nothing short of remarkable. Sampson was orphaned in his early teens, and even spent a period of time homeless.

He lived in the mountains overlooking his beloved Muizenberg beach. So, to say the Capetonian has overcome daunting personal obstacles and extreme poverty to reach the WSL CS is the understatement of the century.


This organisation does incredible work to uplift disadvantaged communities through surfing. Image: Surfshack Outreach on Facebook

Now, the sheer magnitude of the difficulties he’s had to overcome is beginning to inspire others. He’s established a Back-A-Buddy sponsorship page to generate financial support for his tour. Because even with sponsorship deals and an entry ticket, reaching each competition on the 2024 WSL CS is by no means guaranteed.

Professional surfing is an incredibly privileged sport, with the biggest hurdle being the means to travel to competitions all across the world. Even for the most gilded competitors, travel and accommodation for weeks at a time in faraway locations is impossibly expensive. Never mind all the training and nutritional needs of any professional athlete on the road.


Competing on World Surf League Challenger Series will be tough, least of all due to the travel and financial obstacles. Image: WSL

Nevertheless, Sampson holds dear his roots in the Cape Town surfing community. In an insightful GroundUp report, he says he took part in his first surfing development academy in Muizenberg at the age of six and a half. And that’s where he fell in love with the sport and the ocean. His mother earned money as a car guard in Muizenberg, but died just two weeks before Christmas one year.

After that he and his half-brother moved from home to home, before the Chudleighs from Surfshack Surfschool and Outreach in Muizenberg fostered him. They took care of Sampson until he turned 18. The Chudleighs helped him through Muizenberg Junior school and a stretch of homeschooling. Sampson is now coached by South African surfing legend Cass Collier, who has his own experience on the world tour in the ‘90s.


Sampson’s coach, the legendary Cass Collier. Image: Cass Collier Surf Academy on Facebook

Collier says travelling alone is difficult and he doesn’t want the only underprivileged competitor on tour to face that alone. However, he says the 24-year old is ‘unbelievable under pressure’ and he can’t wait to see him prove his mettle. WSL Africa director Tasha Mentasti says she’s watched Sampson’s progress through the years. And while the WSL cannot assist with finances on tour, it is doing all it can on the administrative front regarding travel visas, etc …

We encourage you to follow the Gold Coast Pro live stream on WSL at this LINK and see how our new up-and-coming surfing sensation fares. His success can inspire thousands more from disadvantaged backgrounds.