Tomorrow, Saturday February 24, sees the launch of the Waves 4 Change (W4C) Surf School in Hout Bay.
The surf school is driven by Hout Bay local and pro surfer Frank Solomon who has been a W4C ambassador since last year.
W4C provides a child-friendly mental health service to at-risk youth living in unstable communities. Through access to safe spaces, caring mentors, and a provision of weekly surf therapy sessions, W4C gives children skills to cope with stress, regulate behaviour, build healing relationships, and make positive life choices.
Mr Solomon, a former Camps Bay High School pupil, grew up surfing Cape Town’s waves, and turned professional 10 years ago. He has become a regular on the Big Wave World Tour and his film, Let’s Be Frank, an insider’s view of the world of big wave surfing, took home an Emmy Award and a host of other international film accolades.
While on tour in France last year, he was sent a video link showing police shooting 14-year-old Imizamo Yethu resident, Ona Dubula, with a rubber bullet during the Hangberg protests.
“When I saw that video, something clicked in my brain. I thought that if this kid was off the streets, this would never have happened,” Mr Solomon said.
On his return to Hout Bay, he reached out to W4C, believing that surfing would be the ideal way to keep children busy and off the streets.
“I started thinking about where we should have our clubhouse, and considered the part of the beach near Dunes (restaurant) as an option. But then I remembered the green container that is used by the lifeguards on the Chapman’s Peak side of the beach.
“I started discussions with (City manager) Gregg Oelofse and councillor Roberto Quintas to see if we could use the container as our base, and after a lot of emails and correspondence from my side, we managed to secure it.”
The container will now be shared with the lifeguards.
When W4C began its surf school in Masiphumelele, organisers had difficulty in attracting interest from the local community. To solve this, they signed up mentors from within Masiphumelele who were trained as coaches, who then brought youngsters into the programme.
Mr Solomon followed this formula, signing up Anele Tyhobeka from Imizamo Yethu and Chadwin George from Hangberg as mentors.
“The coaches receive a monthly stipend, and they in turn train the youngsters at the school. These youngsters can then become coaches later. The kids can also use the skills they’ve learnt to become lifeguards or first-aid responders.”
W4C Hout Bay has conducted two “trial runs” in the lead-up to tomorrow’s launch, with 40 youngsters from Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg taking to the waves, which are perfect for beginners, according to Mr Solomon.
“W4C provides surfboards and wetsuits, so my main focus right now is to improve the state of the container, and possibly add another one. Another idea is to build a deck that can be used by the lifeguards as well. So far, my girlfriend and I have been making sandwiches for the kids to eat after their sessions, but we are appealing to restaurants and retailers to come on board to provide food for them.”
Mr Solomon would also like to improve the landscape around the base, filling in earth that has collapsed and building more permanent walkways.
Ultimately, Mr Solomon and W4C aim to grow the site to provide surf therapy to many children each morning and afternoon during the week, and grow the weekend surf club to offering lifeguard training, advanced surfing sessions and environmental education.
“I would love to bring in a recycling component as well, so the kids can learn something about caring for the environment.”
The launch takes place from 9am to 1pm.
Mr Solomon can be contacted at Frankjsolomon@gmail.com