To me, success means more than taking care of myself and my family, but maximizing my positive impact within society as I minimize my negative impact on the environment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from perfect, but I’d like to use my short time on this planet to work on myself and do what little I can to leave the world a bit better than I found it.

Having the privilege to grow up enjoying the great outdoors, I’ve realized that the ocean has offered a great space for peace and solitude. Spending time on the coast has given me the opportunity to learn my place in and respect the ecosystem, as well as my personal boundaries.

I believe that providing a safe space for youth to engage and appreciate the ocean in the same way I have will open them up to a deeper sense of self, and offer valuable lessons that will serve them well through life. That, and surfing is rad and should be more socially diverse, safe, and accessible.

That being said, making a regular financial contribution towards Waves for Change is my first small step beyond the little reach I have on my own, as an organization that I respect for their efforts within my local community.

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About Waves for Change

 “Our youth are powerful. We know the solutions to the problems we face. We just need the training and support to face and overcome them. This is what we are doing at Waves for Change.” W4C co-founder, Apish Tshetsha.

Our evidence-based surf therapy programme is designed to provide youth with the opportunity to have vital experiences which meet their psychological, developmental and well-being needs by:

– Providing access to caring adults and a supportive peer group,

– Building a positive self-concept by independently mastering difficult new tasks such as surfing and meditation, and

– Offering respite from the stress caused by the adversity they experience daily.

We recognise the impact this stress has on children’s health and development. Our mission is to prioritise their well-being and support them in taking agency over their emotions and behaviours, in order to live healthy and happy lives.

Waves for Change began in 2009 as a small, informal weekend surf club for a handful of children from Masiphumelele (Cape Town, South Africa). Every weekend our co-founders Tim Conibear (from the UK) and Apish Tshetsha (a local Masiphumelele youth leader) would take the children surfing at Muizenberg beach, a historically “whites” only beach with perfect beginner waves.

“Each week I’d ask the surfers ‘why do you come’. Most of the replies were as I expected: ‘It’s fun’, ‘It’s new’, ‘It’s exciting’. But the answer I wasn’t expecting, and the one answer I got from every single surfer, was ‘We get to talk to people who listen to us’” shares Tim. The children weren’t only coming for the thrill of surfing – they were coming because they felt safe, heard, and connected.

Despite living in a community where they experienced an average of eight traumatic events – such as witnessing or being subjected to violence, or living in poverty – every year, which decreased their self-esteem and impacted their physical health (including an increased risk of non-communicable diseases and impaired cognitive functioning), W4C children had little-to-no access to much needed mental health services. Tim and Apish saw the surf club as an opportunity to try to meet that need.

Over the last seven years, W4C has worked with community stakeholders, local and international universities, and referral partners to design and deliver a cost-effective and inclusive youth-focused well-being service. At the heart of our programme are youth from the same or similar contexts to our participants, who we recruit based on their values and commitment to being change-makers in their community. We support their work as surf therapy mentors by investing in their skills and understanding, and providing the resources – such as transport, lesson plans, surf boards, on-going management, and access to psychologists – they need to deliver impactful surf therapy sessions.

Our team of over 40 surf therapy youth mentors positively impact the lives of over 1000 children through weekly surf therapy sessions, and our vision remains the same as when we started our first weekend surf club in 2009: change lives, one wave at a time.

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