Surf Therapy

It was a sunny morning as the kids waited for the taxis each with a towel in their hand at their usual spot, Khoza Square, the heart of Masiphumelele township. There was a sense of excitement and hustle and bustle for the new day as the kids laughed and chatted about their surfing outing. Upon arrival at Muizenberg beach, all forty kids flooded out the taxis and ran towards the water. Before any actual surfing began, Busisa, who used to coach for Waves For Change, led a guided meditation and breath work in a circle. We were so proud to see how the children have matured over the last two years and can appreciate such an activity now. They danced, sang and finished their warm-ups. Finally, it was time to organise boards, wetsuits and sizes – absolute chaos as you can imagine.

Pure Joy

At Bartosch Foundation, we want to challenge children to try new things and overcome their fears. It is very important that they believe they can achieve anything they set their minds to. None of them had ever surfed before but when the coaches pushed them in the waves, one by one, they stood up and flew. It was amazing how quickly they got the hang of it and cheered when they got it, looking back to make sure one of the coaches saw. Some found it more challenging than others and were quite scared of the waves but they encouraged one another and you could feel their pure joy when they finally rode their wave. Surfing mirrors many life lessons one can teach children such as waiting for the right moment for things to fall into place, taking that risk and paddling into your wave with all your heart, even if the drop looks scary, and most importantly enjoying the ride with all the ups and downs. It is an extremely therapeutic sport with endless mental health benefits, especially since one is in water which is calming and a natural stress release.

Ultimate Freedom

Time stands still when surfing and your worries seem to sink into the water. Many would describe it as the ultimate freedom. Imagine how beautiful that is for a child coming from a stressful environment where everyone is in survival mode surrounded by poverty and who is led to believe this will always be their life. Those based near the wetlands in Masi were literally sleeping with water soaking their mattresses due to recent flooding. On top of their basic needs not being met, on a daily basis many children in our Soccer Sunday program experience some form of trauma or abuse and lack parental guidance. You must see the look on their face when they get to escape reality and go on an adventure out of Masiphumelele. Like every child, they crave seeing and trying new things. Our goal is to create the opportunities and resources for this to happen.

Mental Health Benefits

The benefits of surf therapy include physical fitness, trust, independence, coping skills and relaxation, combined with the healing abilities of the salt water which creates a calming, sensory experience that may relieve emotional distress. It has been found to improve the mental well-being of children who are abused and neglected with exposure to violence by providing respite from scary thoughts or feelings and used to develop skills to cope with stress.

Let’s Surf Tomorrow Again

The energy was high and it was an absolutely stunning, joyful day at Muizenberg beach. After eating hotdogs and playing soccer on the beach, we had our usual closing circle where we said our verse and mantra. Immediately the kids asked if we could surf next weekend again… “Or even tomorrow” Thabiso asked! Safe to say they were ready to start a fresh new school week with a positive mindset and smile on their face.

Written by Petya Bartosch

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