My husband is a surfer and when we first started dating more than 20 years ago, I would hang out on the beach while he surfed. That got boring after a while and I decided to give it a bash. I started out at Muizenberg like most “groms” (beginner surfers) but when we moved to Somerset West the “Pipe” at Strand Beach became my local. There were not that many women surfing in those days, and even less women of colour. The lack of women in green and blue outdoor spaces is something I have become accustomed to over the years. But being in nature makes me feel whole and I have always known that I had a right to be in those spaces – regardless of the odd looks and hostile gestures I encountered at times.
Just before the COVID-19 lockdowns, I got in touch with Tasha Mentasti because I love her surf therapy work and her advocacy for inclusive surfing. We met at Dalebrook tidal pool and had a chance to swim and chat about our shared love for the ocean. I so admire her energy and commitment to making surfing accessible to all. Surfers can be very exclusive by nature – nothing beats uncrowded waves, right? – and then of course one needs a car to get to many of the beaches, a wetsuit and surf board, and one needs to get over a fear of the ocean. We both knew that we would try to find a way to work together at some point. When the annual Women on Waves event caught my attention, I knew who to call. She immediately responded with “Yes – let’s do this!”
Tasha organised for Noluthando Makalima, a successful competitive surfer with cerebral palsy, and her family to join us. Noluthando is an adaptive surfer from Khayelitsha who represented South Africa at the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Para Surfing Championships held in San Diego, California in March this year. Noluthando surfed her way into second place, earning herself (and South Africa) a silver medal in her division and she is now ranked second in the world.
Tasha, who has been coaching Noluthando, says: “Being able to witness history being made and to play a role in helping Noluthando achieve a massive result at World Champs was one of the most rewarding moments in my coaching career. I believe that we all deserve to be given opportunities to learn and grow as individuals, this is why Find Your Stoke was formed. Surfing has played such a positive role in my life; I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for my relationship with water. Being able to create a platform to offer free access to surf therapy sessions for individuals facing challenges with disability, mental health and social-isolation has helped me fulfil my intention of sharing the stoke as well as the healing properties of the ocean.”
We started the day with a new moon cleanup. TBC has hosted regular monthly cleanups at Surfers Corner for the past five years. The ongoing cleanups allow us to monitor the biodiversity in the location, as well as the volumes of marine litter. There has been a definite decrease in the volumes of litter collected because of the consistency of the cleanups. “Muizenberg is my favourite beach,” says Noluthando, it was perfect to have her join us for the cleanup and to share with her some insights into the debris we collected as well as the biodiversity we encountered. We were able to show her a few crowned nudibranchs, sea cucumbers and starfish! Danielle Powis, Caitlin October, Nikita Kekana, Tasha and I helped Noluthando and her daughter and niece to have a surf session in celebration of Women on Waves, which advocates for diversity in the surfing community.
It was a very special day for me, I have been surfing for more than 20 years and to do it with a tribe of women sharing their stories and their connection to the ocean confirmed that I was on the right life path in my mission to enable access to our marine environment for all.
“In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou