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Staff Riding - the deadly art of train surfing in South Africa

There are not many places in the world where you could get away with something like this, but South Africa seems to be one of them. And for too many, the risk is far greater than prison time. They call it ‘staff riding’, a scarily common sport for dare-devil thrill-seekers which involves jumping aboard moving trains and surfing on the carriage roofs, dodging 3,000 volt electric cables. Some say it’s a means of finding release or even a way to express themselves.

Italian photographer and film maker Marco Casino went to Katlehong, one of the largest townships in South Africa to document this subculture and witness the deadly pastime that has become part of the everyday commute…

“The almost total majority of surfers are kids under 25. Amputations and death are really common. The Prasa Metrorail, the SA train company, is one of the foundations of their society. This connection between train and citizens remained very strong over time. The spectacular and risky act of train surfing becomes the framework to tell the Katlehong’s young people social fabric.”

“This place has been the epicenter of the anti-apartheid’s guerrillas, and on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the facts that we all know, the situation of segregation has remained more or less unchanged in daily life. In a context where violence, rampant poverty, abuse of alchool/drugs and infant birth/AIDS are the masters, the train surfing is configured as the search for a social redemption that will never come for the characters of this story. Staff Riding is part of a long-term project about the township lifestyle 20 years later the struggle against apartheid.”

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Marco Casino: Staff Riding (South Africa), 
via photographicmuseumofhumanity

Staff riding, the local slang for train surfing, is a widespread phenomenon in SA. Katlehong is one of the largest townships in South Africa and has played a key role in the history of the struggle against apartheid. The population is strongly multiethnic: all the eleven South Africa’s official languages are spoken in the township.

Almost the total majority of surfers are kids under 25. Amputations and death are really common. The Prasa Metrorail, the SA train company, is one of the foundations of their society.This connection between train and citizens remained very strong over time. The spectacular and risky act of train surfing becomes the framework to tell the Katlehong’s young people social fabric.This place has been the epicenter of the anti-apartheid’s guerrillas, and on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the facts that we all know , the situation of segregation has remained more or less unchanged in daily life.

In a context where violence , rampant poverty , abuse of alchool/drugs and infant birth/AIDS are the masters , the train surfing is configured as the search for a social redemption that will never come for the characters of this story . Staff Riding is part of a long-term project about the township lifestyle 20 years later the struggle against apartheid.

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Staff Riding by Marco Casino

In a context where violence, poverty, abuse of alcohol, drugs and AIDS runs rampant, staff riding – the local slang for train surfing – is known as the only escape for some. During a span of several weeks, Italian photographer Marco Casino captures the thrills of this often deadly sport, with a series of images and video documentary in Katlehong, one of the largest townships in south africa. Taking place mostly on the SA prasa metrorail, participants find themselves in a pursuit of an extreme adrenaline rush, which often times results in death from being crushed or serious injury such as amputated arms and limbs.

5 min video of the project is worth watching

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The Crazy Train Surfers Who Flirt With Death for Sport

In the townships of Johannesburg a dangerous game is being played. Reckless students and disenfranchised young men are dangling from cars and clambering atop the roofs of commuter trains. These thrill seekers risk life and limb in a sport called Staff Riding–a combination of cocksure showmanship and cathartic release.

Photojournalist Marco Casino took his first trip to South Africa to document this high-stakes distraction from poverty and boredom. Underneath the dangerous acrobatics, which leave the unlucky either killed, electrocuted or maimed, Casino found a microcosm of the nation’s stratified society.

The trains link the wealthy urban core with its ramshackle outskirts, packed with exhausted workers, street preachers, latchkey kids and these Staff Riding daredevils. The commute emphasizes the psychological distance between city and township. Those ducking power lines and surfing curves high above the tracks are the latest generation left to grapple with the legacy of apartheid.

“Most of them really had a lot of diffidence about me, because it’s illegal,” says Casino. “They are not so comfortable with the camera.”

Casino found out about Staff Riding by watching the documentary Surfing Soweto, and tracked down the production team to set up contacts. He set up shop in Katlehong, 20 miles southeast of Johannesburg, staying at his fixer’s house.

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…an exhilarating mini-doc by Marco Casino on the dangerous sport of train surfing in South Africa.

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Documentary of the week: Staff Riding - Marco Casino [2014]

La giuria internazionale dell'edizione 2014 della Sezione Multimedia del World Press Photo ha annunciato i vincitori. Tra questi, c'è il fotografo Marco Casino che ha ottenuto il primo premio nella categoria cortometraggi con “Staff Riding”, un lavoro sui surfer di treni in Sudafrica. In un contesto socio-economico problematico, il train surfing può essere visto come la ricerca di una redenzione sociale che per i protagonisti di questa storia non arriverà mai.

The international jury of the 2014 World Press Photo Multimedia Contest has awarded prizes in three category: short feature, long feature and interactive documentary. The italian photographer Marco Casino won the first prize in the short feature’s category with “Staff Riding”, a documentary concerning the train surfers in South Africa. In a difficult socio-economic context, the train surfing can be seen as a search for a social redemption that will never come for the characters of this story.

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Marco Casino: Documentare lo staff-riding a Katlehong, Sudafrica, nel suo contesto

© Marco Casino

TUTTE LE FOTOGRAFIE: http://www.marcocasino.com/portfolio/staff-riding/

Finalista del concorso Leica Talent Italia nel 2012 ed oggi stretto collaboratore di Leica Italia, Marco Casino ripercorre in quest'intervista le tappe del suo ultimo lavoro realizzato in Sudafrica,Staff-riding, a cui la giuria del World Press Photo’s Multimedia Contest 2014 ha recentemente attribuito il primo premio nella categoria “Short Feature”.

Prima parte di un racconto a più voci e a lungo termine volto a documentare diversi aspetti della società sudafricana dei quartieri più disagiati - e a vent'anni dalla transizione democratica - in cui il fotografo si concentra su un fenomeno popolare (altrimenti chiamato surf training: “fare surf sul tetto del treno”) che è pure causa di alta mortalità tra i giovani delle townships.

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Nella cittadina di Katlehong - a pochi chilometri da Johannesburg, un gruppo di giovani si cimenta nel surfare i treni della Prasa Metrorail, la compagnia ferroviaria sudafricana.

Vincitore nella sua categoria del World Press Photo Multimedia Contest, “Staff Riding” è un cortometraggio di Marco Casino - il racconto di un frammento di vita, in una “township” che ha giocato un ruolo chiave nella lotta contro l’apartheid.

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Video: Train Surfers in South Africa

Staff Riding, the local slang for train surfing, is a widespread phenomenon in South Africa. In Katlehong, one of the countries largest townships, almost the total majority of surfers are kids under 25.

Mini Docu: Staff Riding in Zuid Afrika

Mini Docu: Staff Riding in Zuid Afrika

Je hebt het wellicht al af en toe in het nieuws zien verschijnen, maar nu heeft Marco Casino er een mini documentaire over gemaakt; Staff Riding.

In de volksmond ook wel train surfing genoemd is met rasse schreden populairder aan het worden bij jongeren in, in dit geval, Zuid Afrika. Dit is uiteraard niet zonder gevaar; het rennen over treinen en hoogspanningskabels ontwijken kan natuurlijk niet…

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