Surfing is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. This lifestyle can benefit so many people in so many different ways. As a result, over the preceding decades, a wide range of different surfing charities and non-profit organisations have sprouted up. They look to solve a host of different challenges from the environment all the way through to mental health and poverty.
This post explores 5 surfing charities which are making waves in their respective fields.
Surfers Not Street Children
Founded by British surfer and long-time poverty campaigner Tom Hewitt MBE. Surfers Not Street Children’s primary goal is to empower the children it works with to leave the streets behind for good and become independent and self sustainable. Its staff is made up of trained professionals and trained former street children, giving it a unique perspective on the children it serves.
The charity started out in South Africa and now operates in Mozambique and UK. In South Africa they have they key programs, namely, the Surf Club, the Surf House and the Independent Living Program.
The Surf Club is a drop-in program for those for those at risk of becoming street children. It is a daily surf club that offers surfing, mentorship and a life-skills curriculum. It is run by a head social worker who has a team of childcare workers, surf coaches and qualified lifeguards working alongside them.
The Surf House is a live-in mentorship program for homeless youths which leads them from childhood into adulthood and life independence and sustainability. The goal is to prepare them for adult life and to offer them opportunities for apprenticeships and jobs within the local area.
The Independent Living Program is offered to children looking to graduate from the Surf House. The young adults should have full-time employment by this stage.
In this program they are assisted in groups of two or three, to find their own accommodation and over a period of 6-9 months they eventually take ownership of their accommodation and living cost payments. It’s the final step in their journey towards self-sustainability.
Waves For Change
Waves for Change or W4C works in communities affected by poverty, violence, and conflict, and where mental health services are often stigmatized and under-resourced. They currently have a strong presence all across South Africa, and have recently also set up shop in Liberia.
Waves For Change was founded by Ashoka Fellow Tim Conibear, who moved to South Africa after graduating from university in the UK. A passionate surfer, Tim spent every free moment he had to surf. In 2009 he started a small surfing club in Masiphumelele Township.
The club was focussed on providing voluntary weekend surfing sessions, which soon grew when local community members – Apish Tshetsha and Bongani Ndlovu – volunteered to lead and expand the club.
Apish and Bongani recognised that surfing was an effective way to engage young people, who soon started sharing their stories and challenges. The trio identified the need to social support in these communities but soon realised that social services were massively over subscribed and under resourced. They saw a gap.
Waves for change is now centred on using surfing to help young people cope with and overcome mental health challenges that often come about from the instability presented within the communities they reside.
A Walk On Water
A Walk on Water provides surf therapy to individuals with special needs. They do that by hosting surf therapy events that celebrate and honor courageous kids, adults and their families.
The goal of Surf Therapy is for the athletes to feel the thrill and confidence that surfing brings. Their families are fully supported and cared for as they share a much deserved day of fun, relaxation and respite.
Surfers Against Sewage
Surfers Against Sewage was set up by people who were sick of seeing sewage in our seas and on our beaches in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Moreover, they were fed up with getting ill when doing the sports they loved – surfing, swimming, windsurfing and anything else that involved being in the sea.
In their words:
“We began as a response by the surfing community to the dreadful state of our beaches. Those hardy souls who ventured into the water back then often found themselves swimming in raw sewage. There’s tales of sanitary towels on heads and human poo sandwiched between bodies and boards. Completely unacceptable.“
In May 1990 they decided to set up Surfers Against Sewage to combat this very smelly problem. However, the charity would soon transcend just that of a faecal matter issue.
Today they campaign broadly against polluted waters and spend most of their time doing beach cleanups and raising awareness about the “new sewerage”, namely plastic.
4Ocean does large scale ocean cleanups around the world. They raise money by selling bracelets made from recycled materials. Their pledge being that for every bracelet bought they will remove 1 pound of trash from the ocean.
It all started when two mates, Andrew and Alex took a surf trip to Bali Indonesia. On that trip they were devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, and they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about it.
One afternoon they came across an old fishing village where fishermen were literally pushing their boat through piles of plastic that had washed up on shore.
The two surfers realized that the proliferation of plastic threatenedour oceans and fisherman around the world. Could the fishermen use their nets, they wondered, to pull the plastic from the ocean? This idea stuck with the two surfers and they knew it was time to hit the drawing board.
After realizing that the demand for seafood was driving the fishermen to focus on fish instead of plastic, they knew they had to create something that could fund the desired cleanup efforts. This is how the 4ocean Bracelet was born. 4Ocean is now a huge global charity employing over 150 people worldwide.