Surfing project rides high

2017-02-21 10:20

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A local programme which uses surfing to change the lives of vulnerable youth has won an “Oscar” of the international sporting world at this year’s Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco.

The award was presented on stage by princess Charlene of Monaco.

Waves for Change, which is supported by Laureus Sport for Good, saw a need for emotional and mental care for young people living in violent and unstable areas.

The programme was founded by Tim Conibear, an Englishman who spent time in South Africa after graduating from university. An avid surfer, Conibear spent every free moment he had surfing.

At the beach, he found young people from the local township who were at a loose end in search of something to believe in. Soon, Conibear was transporting a car full of excited young people to and from the beach. The car then became a van, and then came Waves for Change.

Although many of the young people who participate in the Waves for Change programme live close to the ocean, most do not know how to swim. The programme initially gives youngsters the chance to learn to swim, before engaging in group and peer-to-peer therapy.

Before long, the young people are embracing the ocean and pushing themselves towards getting up on the surfboard and riding out a wave. More importantly, as they learn to face their fears, they are learning to cope with their emotions out of the water and become leaders in their communities.

Since its inception in 2011, Waves for Change has reached over 1000 children and helped over 50 coaches achieve qualifications and skills in surf coaching, lifesaving, child protection, trauma counselling and computer training.

The success of the programme has seen it expand from one site to six – five in South Africa and one recently launched in Liberia.

Conibear says: “It is an honour to receive this award from the Laureus Academy and it is further proof that what we’re doing is working.”

The Laureus Sport for Good Award is awarded to an organisation or individual who has used the power of sport to overcome violence, discrimination or disadvantage.

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