Waves for Change – Surf Therapy for Violent Communities

About Waves for Change

Waves for Change – Surf Therapy for Violent Communities


Waves for Change was founded by Ashoka Fellow Tim Conibear in Masiphumelele Township in 2011.

With the assistance of local community members Apish Tshetsha and Bongani Ndlovu, a programme was developed to plug the gap in the provision of primary social care and emotional support for vulnerable young adults growing up in South Africa’s most violent communities.

It was found many young South Africans suffered from acute emotional / psychological stress,arising from continued exposure to violence and poverty. This caused behavioural or learning difficulties that lead to young people being socially excluded.

Surfing was found to offer genuine therapeutic benefits that improved feelings of wellbeing. Where extra social support was needed, locally trained W4C coaches were able to offer the necessary emotional support and social guidance that oversubscribed social services were unable to provide.

Today, Waves for Change has developed an award winning programme that fuses elements of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Humanistic Therapy and Surfing to improve the wellbeing and emotional stability of young people who’s wellbeing has been adversely effected by violence and abuse. ‘Surf Therapy’.

The programme is delivered by trained local community members who are supervised by an inter-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals. From an initial reach of 10 children in the township of Masiphumelele, the programmme has grown to reach over 400 children, teachers and parents annually.

Waves for Change has received global recognition and has won several awards including the Beyond Sport Award for Best Sport and Health Programme in 2015.