Freedom Riders Foundation and Sentinel Ocean Alliance brings surf therapy and ocean education programme to the under-resourced communities and vulnerable children of Jeffreys Bay

A new surf therapy and ocean education programme has launched in the iconic surf village of Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. Local not-for-profit organisation (NPO) Freedom Riders Foundation have partnered with Cape Town-based NPO Sentinel Ocean Alliance (SOA), to establish the first child-friendly mental health programme in Jeffreys Bay through surf therapy. The aim of this programme is to make community-based mental health services accessible to vulnerable children from the under-resourced coastal communities of Jeffreys Bay.

Surf therapy is an innovative evidence-based programme developed by Waves For Change, that fuses the rush of surfing with mind-body therapy, for children and young people who are exposed to high levels of trauma, violence and adversity.

The Freedom Riders Surf Therapy Programme will focus on therapeutic and health outcomes, rather than sports performance – although the stoke of mastering a new and exciting physical activity like surfing contributes hugely to those well-being outcomes.

“There is a great need for a programme like this in Jeffreys Bay. The impact of Covid-19 in the community of Jeffreys Bay has been far-reaching. Not only has education been severely disrupted, but these kids are also battling other huge violations such as poverty, violence and loss of household livelihoods which have deepened the impact of the pandemic and created an even greater need for mental health support. The children of these communities need role models and mentors to look up to and we are hoping this programme will help them learn valuable life skills that is sadly not afforded to many of the kids from these areas”, says Cheron Kraak, founder of Jeffreys Bay Surf Alliance, and partner of the Freedom Riders Surf Therapy Programme.

The programme will provide children with access to caring adults and a supportive peer group, build a positive self-concept by independently mastering the difficult new tasks of surfing and meditation, and offer respite from the stress caused by the adversity they experience daily.

By including ocean education and awareness into the curriculum, the children will broaden their knowledge about the oceans, the threats they are facing as well as practical solutions to these problems. This will empower and enable the children to become ocean activists and community leaders.

Says SOA Founder and professional big wave surfer, Frank Solomon, “The sport of surfing has the ability to impact lives in a profound way. This surf therapy programme has been proven to help young people build positive relationships, learn to identify emotions, self-regulate and build a positive vision of their future and we are very excited to be involved.”

Since its founding in 1999, Freedom Riders Foundation (also known as Jeffreys Bay Surf Club), has implemented its surfing development programme to uplift the youth residing in the previously disadvantaged community of Pellsrus in Jeffreys Bay.

Says Freedom Riders Academy Programme Manager, Daniel Jeggels, “I am excited to take our programme to the next level by teaching ocean education and life skills through surfing to make a lasting contribution to the lives of the kids from my community.”

The NPO is also partnered with Sentinel Ocean Alliance, a Hout Bay-based NPO that has initiated a number of successful community programmes. These include the Parley Ocean School, which educates disadvantaged children about the ocean environment, the Hout Bay Surf Lifesaving Club, an employer of youths from the local community, and Turn the Tide, which teaches local kids how to swim.

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