No black and white - just surfers — Before Apish and Noncedo took up surfing, violence and disorder dominated their world. Now they've had their lives turned around by Waves for Change, a charity providing surf therapy for Cape Town’s disadvantaged young. A new documentary, ‘Freedom Riders,’ traces this positive work, showing how Apish and Noncedo - who are now surf coaches - have freed themselves and others like them from the stresses and struggles of home life.

For Apish and Noncedo, life in Cape Town’s Masiphumelele has been brutal and corruptive. With no formal police force, unemployment rates of 70-80%, and 23-28% of the population diagnosed with HIV, Apish and Noncedo have had their childhoods marred by violence and disorder.

However, thanks to Waves for Change – a new initiative bringing surfing to disadvantaged young people – they have finally found solace and escape through surfing. “From my own perspective, I’ve seen what is happening to the kids,” explains senior coach Apish. “Surfing takes away all the tension and sadness in their lives. It just gives them freedom. It feeds their souls, reconnecting them with nature.”

The project is re-writing the legacy of apartheid which, in the not so distant past, saw the beaches closed off to the black community as ‘whites-only’ areas. “Surfing gives us the freedom of movement, the freedom of expressing ourselves and has unlocked that potential for the young people,” Apish tells me. “We’ve embraced this new surf culture, showing there’s no black and white; just surfers.”

Having experienced for themselves the liberty offered by surfing, both Apish and Noncedo are now working hard to impart their knowledge, experience and surf skills to young children also struggling with life in Masiphumelele. “I am teaching them to grow up in life, and showing them that what tomorrow has to bring is positivity,” Noncedo tells me, reflecting on the power of surfing. “I am helping them to build a better future for themselves.”

“We focus on their wellbeing, coping skills, and how they can enhance their behaviour for the better,” beams Apish. “We show them how they can calm themselves down and cope better at home, combining surfing and life lessons.”

Follow Waves for Change on Facebook and Twitter.

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