WATCH | FEEL GOOD: Cape Town surf foundation launches programme just for girls

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  • The Surfpop Foundation is an initiative that seeks to empower the youth of Masiphumelele in Cape Town through surf, education, and nutrition.
  • Founder, Daniel Botha, and co-director Celine Hoeks noticed that fewer and fewer girls were attending the group sessions which were male dominated.
  • In 2018 Hoeks started doing research to find out why this was and introduced a programme just for girls in February 2020. Now they have some 18 girls enrolled.

The Surfpop Foundation launched its first programme catering specifically to the needs of girls back in February 2020 and now, almost a year later, they have enrolled a group of 18 young women. They also have a waiting list of up to 100 girls wanting to join the programme. 

Co-director Celine Hoeks says their goal is to secure enough funding to allow as many of those girls to join the team.

The organisation was founded by Daniel Botha in 2015 to empower the youth of Masiphumelele through surf, education, and nutrition, with the aim of creating, "... long-lasting" opportunities for the children.

"Surfpop aims to give children... the best chance at living life to the fullest: active, healthy and in touch with nature, who can access sustainable employment after school to truly lift themselves out of poverty and positively impact their families, social networks and community," the foundation says.

When Hoeks joined the organisation in 2018 she set about trying to understand why almost all of the girls, except one, had dropped out since the programme began in 2015.

"So we did some research when I joined in 2018 to understand the needs of girls and why they dropped out and if this was a programme for them, if they would like to surf," she said.

According to Hoeks they discovered that the girls really wanted to surf and they wanted to be part of the programme, but they identified some things that needed to change.

Some of the requests included, having a female surf coach, making sure they have a bathing cap so their hair doesn't get "messed up", and ensuring overall safety in the water and taking it a little bit slower than with boys, said Hoeks.

"Having a separate girl group, where they feel safe and where it can go at their tempo has been really powerful," she said.

Creating opportunities

One of their longest standing girl members, Asenako Mbunjana, won a scholarship through the organisation to study Hospitality Management at False Bay college in Muizenberg.

She said that although it was difficult at first, she loves surfing because it keeps her busy and she feels unstressed when in the ocean.

One girl who joined the group said they learnt to use a laptop for the first time, while another said she couldn't speak English before starting the programme, but now she can.

Hoeks attributes this development to a "holistic approach" which incorporates a number of different elements.

"We feel surfing is really powerful to teach children perseverance and to bring them in touch with nature and to make children fit and healthy, mentally focused, while the education part is incredibly important because unfortunately the education system in the township is not great," she said.

They teach English and Maths through online teaching programmes which also helps the children develop computer skills.

"Growing up in a township [it] is incredibly challenging to get that little step to go to the next level," said Hoeks.

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