Waves for Change is a lifeboat for kids

Cape Town is a jewel for surfers and non-surfers alike, so it was no surprise when it was again named one of the world’s top 10 cities by Travel and Leisure magazine.

If you look a little closer, though, you will find overcrowded classrooms, a shortage of teachers, swamped social services, and a difficult struggle to promote the mental and emotional wellbeing of those most at risk.

A friend of mine aptly shared “the grass is greener where you water it”, and that is precisely what Waves for Change founder Tim Conibear has been doing since 2011.

With the assistance of Apish Tshetsha and Bongani Ndlovu, he developed a programme to plug the gap in the provision of primary social care and emotional support for vulnerable young adults growing up in some of South Africa’s most violent communities.

We are told that township children will experience eight traumatic events a year. Putting that into perspective, children in the US and UK will experience four in their lifetime.

Research has found that many young South Africans suffer acute emotional and psychological stress as a result of continued exposure to violence and poverty. This causes behavioural or learning difficulties that lead to young people being socially excluded.

Surfing has been found to offer therapeutic benefits that improve feelings of wellbeing, but Conibear soon realised extra support was needed.

The Waves for Change programme combines elements of cognitive behaviour therapy, humanistic therapy and surfing to improve the wellbeing and emotional stability of young people who have been adversely affected by violence and abuse.

The programme is delivered by trained people who are supervised by an inter-disciplinary team of health professionals. From an initial reach of 10 children in the township of Masiphumelele, the programme has grown to reach more than 400 children, teachers and parents annually.

Waves for Change is not a plaster to cover a problem but a meaningful, empowering, home-grown healing programme.

Dust off the longboard this weekend for some ankle- to knee-high, light southerly surf on both lines.




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Roxy Davis is proudly 'Capetonian', having grown up in Kommetjie, Cape Town. Roxy has won multiple South African Surfing titles. She is a professional surf coach, business owner, wife and mother with a real zest for life and adventure!

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