Shewana demonstrates power of collaboration that benefits young women
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Grootbos Foudation Surf Therapy
Sport has always been known to promote physical health and well-being, but the benefits go beyond that.

Learning a challenging skill such as surfing can catalyse self-esteem, self-confidence, and personal growth. 

Research has shown that surfing has a positive and lasting impact on surfers' lives, with higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of stress compared to non-surfers.

A mental health surfing initiative was developed by the Wave Alliance, and has been implemented by Grootbos Foundation in the form of a female empowerment programme called ‘Shewana’. 

I Am Water Foundation is another non-profit organisation that has developed a curriculum and shared its programme with other sports development organisations. 

Grootbos Foundation is in the training phase with I am Water so that coaches are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and knowledge to include marine conservation in the Shewana programme. 

Shewana is a two-year programme that teaches girls basic water safety, how to surf, and coping skills. The programme not only promotes physical health but also mental health and personal growth. It also creates a supportive community of young women who encourage and inspire one another. 

By surfing, the participants not only learn a new skill but also build self-confidence, courage, and resilience. And soon, a passion for marine conservation will be woven into the programme.

An inspiring example of a surfer who overcame adversity and found success via Shewana is Tanika Hoffman - a South African surfer who grew up in poverty in the Cape Flats. 

Despite the challenges she faced, Hoffman discovered a passion for surfing and pursued it with determination and hard work. 

With the support of mentors and coaches, she honed her skills and eventually became a professional surfer, competing in international competitions and inspiring others to pursue their dreams. 

Her story is a testament to the transformative power of sports and the role that caring coaches and mentors can play in supporting athletes and helping them overcome adversity.

The partnership between the Wave Alliance, the Grootbos Foundation, and I Am Water has been crucial to the success of the Shewana programme.

Each organisation brings unique resources and expertise to the partnership, allowing the programme to reach more participants and provide a more comprehensive experience. 

The organisations have shared training and coaching resources, allowing participants to benefit from a wide range of skills and experiences.

The basic skill of water safety in a peri-rural area of Gansbaai (home of Grootbos Foundation) with a long coastline, a hot summer, and no state schools with swimming programmes (let alone swimming pools), saves lives every year. 

Shewana also promotes marine conservation and water security by incorporating education and advocacy for marine conservation, and creating a community of advocates committed to protecting the environment and promoting sustainable solutions for water use and the environment at large. 

The Shewaneers learn to appreciate and respect the ocean while also learning the skills needed to stay safe in the water.

Shewana is an excellent example of how sports organisations can collaborate to promote physical and mental health, personal growth, and community engagement. 

By sharing resources and expertise, these organisations have created a comprehensive program propped up by experience and resources enabling young people to learn critical life skills.

Shewana is designed to be fun and inclusive, creating a supportive community of young women who encourage and inspire one another. 

The partnership between the Wave Alliance, the Grootbos Foundation, and I Am Water has been critical to the success of the program, allowing it to reach more participants and provide a more holistic experience. 

This demonstrates how sports organisations can collaborate to promote physical and mental health, personal growth, and community engagement, while also promoting conservation and safety.


About the author

Faye Graham has been a member of the Grootbos Foundation Communications team since 2022. She has an extraordinarily keen sense of justice, and uses her energy and mind for the benefit of the community. Faye is committed to uplift underprivileged communities, in particular young children and women.



South Africa
All the sports
Sustainable Development Goals
1 - No poverty
10 – Reduced inequalities
5 - Gender equality
Target Group
All target groups

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