His eyes told me a story.

“Never stop dreaming. Once you stop dreaming, then your life ends… The goals you set for yourself, never stop aiming for the stars. Always aim higher, so you can make a success out of your life.” – Raoul Overbeeke

The Blue Shed was particularly bustling that faithful morning, with customers streaming to queue around us, and the staff using the roasting and grinding machines to prepare fresh coffee beans. Raoul’s four-year-old daughter, Alba, was also endearingly calling out for her father, wanting him to entertain her. Despite all these distractions, something drew me intensely to his eyes. Raoul was soft-spoken but his eyes did most of the talking. In front of me was a man full of life experience and a father who loved his daughter. I knew I had much to learn from him.

34-year-old Raoul Overbeeke was born in Cape Town, but moved to Mosselbaai when he was seven. He expressed how much he had fallen in love with the town. It was here where he picked up surfing and took part in local competitions. His excellent performance attracted the support of sponsors. However, towards the end of high school, issues of favouritism and pressure from sponsors drew him away from the sport. “Surfing, the waters or just sitting around the beach was a way to relax and escape from problems… but [these issues] took the fun out of it,” Raoul cited. I could sense how much surfing meant to him, his eyes told me so.

Raoul has slowly returned to the sport recreationally over the past few years He gave a nugget of advice, “If you have lost interest in anything you do, you should stop and take a break because it would take the fun out of it. When you are ready, come back and slowly pick it up again.” Now, he is back on his old-school surfboards, riding the beautiful blue waves.

Inspired by his parents, Raoul began his career in the oil and gas industry over the past eight years. As a Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) Advisor, he had led teams to survey oil vessels and production platforms in numerous African countries such as Kenya, Mozambique, and the Ivory Coast, where he is currently based in. He explained the high risks workers at such oilrigs faced, and that it is precisely his job to ensure safety procedures and protocols are adhered to, so as to prevent accidents.

His work not only brings him to many countries, but also brings many cultures to him. He has worked with Australians, Romanians, Singaporeans, and Indians during various assignments. He fondly recalled how they bonded over food. “The food on the offshore [facilities] was not very nice, so we talked about what we would eat when we returned home.” The rich cultural exchange has exposed him to fresh worldviews. “The grass is not always greener on the other side,” he affirmed. He has learnt to appreciate the access to electricity and paved roads he has in Mosselbaai. An impactful encounter in Ethiopia was with children who travelled long distances just to sit in an open field – their classroom. Raoul urged his fellow locals to take advantage of the free education they enjoy.

Raoul will be off for another assignment in mid-July, but till then, he wants to maximise as much quality time with his family and friends. He shared with me his plans to bring Alba out for a fishing trip that very afternoon. There is no doubt his exploratory spirit and love for the great outdoors will rub off his daughter. His eyes told me so.

Featured Image Credits: Claire Oreskovich

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