A petite Eastern Cape teenager who is studying Messianic Judaism is one of the 10 finalists in the international Most Influential Girl Kitesurfer 2011 competition.
Michelle Smith, 19, is the only South African on the list and is currently in 4th position overall. The competition ends on Tuesday (November 22) and supporters can vote for Michelle online.
Michelle, who lives with her family in the small town of Alexandria, and kite surfs at the village of Cannon Rocks, is the current waveriding champion on the South African Kiteboarding Tour. In addition to her studies, she teaches pilates, gymnastics and kiteboarding. She is also involved in promoting malaria awareness and prevention, having survived malaria herself and having seen many children suffering from the disease in Mozambique and Malawi.
As a 5-year-old Michelle underwent a heart operation but went on to become a provincial gymnast for seven years. Her father, Henry Smith, introduced her to the extreme sport of kiteboarding nearly three years ago and she hopes the discipline will take her to the Olympics.
She said that she enrolled for a 4-year, online bachelors degree course in Messianic Judaism after developing a keen interest in the subject through watching Christian television programmes.
“I don’t know what I will do with the degree but I feel that God is really calling me to study in this area,”she said.
Michelle said she loved travelling and hoped that before long she would have the opportunity to make her first overseas trip. Israel was definitely among her top destinations, she said.
On her Most Influential Girl Kitesurfer 2011 profile page she was asked what she was most passionate about other than kitesurfing. She replied: “God. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not into being a Bible-bashing religious freak, I just like to encourage and inspire a personal relationship with your creator. It brings me so much joy and peace and I want to share this with others. And I thank Him for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful sport.”
Michelle said that in addition to getting competition votes from many people who know her, she has had support from a number of complete strangers from various parts of the world, who said they voted for her after reading her profile.
LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE CHATTING TO KINGFISHER FM PRESENTER GARETH BURLEY