The day his mother dies, Jabu’s instinct is to run. He runs away from the Johannesburg hospital and soon finds himself amongst a gang of train surfers on top of a hurtling train. After witnessing the dark side of train surfing, he continues to flee from his hopeless life, all the while searching for a place to call home.

He stows away with an unexpected creature companion as he travels from Soweto to Durban, hoping to find his aunt. Through a series of fortuitous events, Jabu makes interracial friendships (in a time when that was unusual), learns to surf the waves and connects deeply with the street children called Father’s boys. Being an orphan in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s is perilous. The police are a constant threat. It takes courage, loyalty and friendship to overcome the societal dangers.

On the other side of apartheid society is Billie, a gutsy tomboy. It’s not that she wants to be a boy, but she yearns to be with the boys in the surf, living daringly. Friendships are forged and challenged.

The characters’ lives are all about to change as they become a part of a bigger South African story that goes beyond surfing to betrayal and forgiveness.

Written by Kate S. Richards

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Book one in the Adventures of Jabu & Friends trilogy

Read NZ Te Pou Muramura worked with NZATE (New Zealand Association for the  Teaching of English) and  the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) to  “create a ‘master list’ of suitable books for secondary school English teachers and students”. Trainsurfer is on this list.


“The issues that the author covers in her book are still prevalent and current in our time today and this book will resonate with many of our young people who are struggling to overcome adversities.” ~ Kristal Montrose-Arnold, Librarian, James Cook High School, Auckland

“This author has not only created a wonderful story she has also filled a void in children’s literature.  Talking about tough subjects with the younger people in our population is a daily struggle for parents, librarians and teachers.  This book not only helps fill that gap but also gives the reader a poignant story.” ~ Jennie Rosenblum – Editor & Book Reviewer

“Thought-provoking.” ~ Rebekah Fraser, NZ Booklovers reviewer

“It captivated me from start to finish.” ~ Fifi Colston, illustrator & author

“Extremely ‘hooking’. Interesting, exciting, thrilling. I couldn’t put it down.” ~ Caleb, aged 12, Wanaka, New Zealand

“Trainsurfer is a tale of redemption and friendship. I won’t spoil it by telling you more. Read it for yourself. Read it to your children. You won’t soon forget Jabu and all his friends.” ~ Connie M. Huddleston (Award-winning author)

Kiwi author Kate S. Richards Kate S Richards

Find out more about Auckland author and school librarian Kate S. Richards on her author profile.

Additional information

Dimensions 23 × 15 cm

Paperback edition



Page count


Published by

Kate S. Richards


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