How did you come to be in South
From the Dragon I went to St Edward’s and
then on to Bristol, where I read French.
During my under-graduate days, I spent a
year in Bordeaux and developed an interest
in wine. I spent a couple of years working
in surf schools in Cornwall and in the
wine harvests in South Africa, then two
friends from the Surf School formed a travel
company called Ticket to Ride, and asked
me to lead their South African operations.
How did Waves for Change begin?
Whilst working with Ticket to Ride, I started
taking children from the townships to the
beach in my spare time as I was interested
in learning about life in townships. Many of
the townships’ young people are exposed to
Aids, community or gender-based violence,
alcohol or substance abuse and gangs; they
have to cope with so much yet there are very
inadequate mental health and social services
available. There is a huge dropout rate from
school and unemployment is high so they
are caught in a vicious circle of poverty.
A friend in Grassroots Soccer was
researching the impact of sport on self-
perception and it was evident that the
Tim Conibear (OD 1995) and his work with
The Isiqalo Foundation (Waves for Change)
opportunity to surf gave these young
people a new outlook on life. Isiqalo means
“The Beginning” and I saw surfing as a
chance to give them a new beginning.
Other adults started to show interest and
I got sponsorship from Ticket to Ride,
Vimto and the Laureus Sport for Good
Foundation. We set up Waves For Change
with government support to offer an
integrated programme offering mentorship,
peer support, training and, of course,
surfing. It has evolved and developed over
five years. There are now about 800 young
people taking part each week. We are
supported by the Ashoka Foundation, and
a grant from Comic Relief has allowed us
to open three new projects - one in East
London, another in Port Elizabeth and a
final project in Liberia.
Tell me a little more about the
Children are referred from their schools or
from social services (aged 11-14) and they
take part in a one-year course of six hours
a week. They share their stories, take part
in role-play exercises and are helped to
stabilise themselves emotionally, through
these sessions and through surfing. After
a year, they go to weekend clubs, overseen
by mentors, and they can do a range of
activities such as life-saving qualifications,
surfboard building and homework clubs.
They are encouraged to develop their own
leadership skills so they can be good role
models and they can secure bursaries for
further study if they wish. Some go on to
become coaches themselves (aged 18-24),
trained by Health Care professionals to form
referral networks and liaise with key contact
points in the community.
What have your highlights been so far?
There are quite a few. Meeting my wife,
Daniela, in 2010 is the first one. She teaches
History at the Herzlia School.
I was proud to get a big grant from
Mercedes Benz and also to be featured in the
World Surf League for the past two years.
I have become an Ashoka Fellow, and
enjoy seeing the programme spread across
Cape Town, and now South Africa and
Africa. It is now the largest project of its
kind globally, and the growth has only really
just started. We also won the Laureus Sport
for Good Award in February 2017.
Tim Conibear and his wife Daniela