Cape Town - More than 100 people joined Waves for Change (W4C) on World Mental Health Day, for the organisation’s first public immersion session at Muizenberg Beach.
The immersion session, at the W4C site, aimed to create awareness of adolescent mental health and surf therapy.
W4C, founded by Tim Conibear and Apish Tshetsha, started as a small, informal weekend surf club for children, in 2009, and registered as a non-profit organisation in 2011.
Conibear said: “After each session they would share lots of challenges they had with us. So we started investigating what other avenues children have for support because they obviously experience a lot and we realised not much support is available for kids. Social workers are overworked and there aren’t many psychologists at schools, but we were creating some type of space for them at the beach where they could share. So we thought if we could open lots of beach centres and connect kids with the ocean and have fun with them, help them explain their challenges, manage their challenges, maybe we have something.”
A test site opened in Muizenberg with about 100 children has expanded to five beach hubs – Muizenberg, Monwabisi, Hout Bay, Gqeberha, and East London – serving 2 500 children, and with 50 coaches.
Coaches, aged from 18 to 25, are trained in Surf Coaching, First Aid, Counselling, and Child Safeguarding, and are from the same communities as the children.
Children are referred to the W4C 10-month Surf therapy programme by a counsellor or social worker, schools, the Western Cape Education Department, and local hospitals, covering about 43 under-resourced communities.
“You attend it like you would a counselling session. It’s one session a week for 10 months, it’s learning to surf, learning some self-regulation skills. After children have done a 10-month programme, they join a weekend Surf Club and they can be in the programme for as long as they want.”
Many of the participants later move on to become coaches.
Jose Peffer, lead facilitator, joined W4C in 2017. Peffer said the immersion session, part of the curriculum to introduce children to Surf therapy, was to give members of the public and stakeholders an idea of what the programme was like for the children.
One of the main objectives of the session was to highlight just how seriously mental health should be taken, he said.
“And it's important that we stand together and support each other and help each other to get through these obstacles, a barrier called mental health. Part of the activities that we were doing is just checking in with the person next to you, simply just asking ‘are you okay?’, so that they can feel that they are not alone, so that they can feel they are supported.”
Attendee Jamie-Lee Domburg said that having people come together to have a conversation on mental health was a “great step in the right direction”.
“I think many years ago, speaking about mental health or speaking about not being okay was such an absurd idea, so just to see a community of people come together and celebrate a day like today, is already a step in the right direction.
“One take away for me was that sense of community and just people being vulnerable enough to share that this is a day that they feel is important.”
Junior coach at the Monwabisi site, Thabiso Lufutha joined the W4C team at the start of this year and works with children from Khayelitsha.
“I teach kids how to surf, how to swim and also we have a session where we talk about life. For example we have a session like Thankful Take 5, Immersion, where we breathe in and out, thinking about what you do. We think of something that we’re grateful for, saying, ‘I am thankful that happened to me’, so that we can feel better.”