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Making Waves with Surf Therapy

 

By David McNair

On the beaches near some of South Africa’s most crime-ridden and poverty-stricken townships, an unlikely program is making waves by getting kids off the street and away from broken homes, drugs, and violence: surf therapy.

Waves for Change is a self-described “surfing advocacy” nonprofit founded quite by accident by a young man from Britain in 2011. Today, Waves for Change has 16 surfing coaches working with 250 boys and girls from townships in three locations. Many of the kids can’t even swim when they arrive, but that hasn’t stopped them from embracing the sport.

“Surfing is very addictive, so it keeps kids coming back,” says founder Tim Conibear. “Surfing is also a highly challenging sport—it seems to appeal to kids drawn to risk behavior.”

Conibear, 33, says one of his first students used to say the high he got from dropping into a wave, the thrill and freedom of it, was similar to the high he got from smoking “tik,” South Africa’s version of crystal meth.

“Surfing is also highly personal,” he says. “A lot of time is spent alone in the water, analyzing your own performance. This lends itself well to a more structured, introspective program that encourages kids to look at how they feel and how they cope.”

Waves for Change is a not-for-profit founded by a young man from Britain in 2011. Today, Waves for Change has 16 surfing coaches working with 250 boys and girls.

Source and photo: takepart.com

 
David McNair is an award-winning reporter and editor based in Charlottesville, Va. He runs the hyper-local news site The DTM and his fiction has appeared inVirginia Quarterly Review.

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