South Africa


Riding a wave: Surfing spreads delight and creates awareness of those with special needs

Riding a wave: Surfing spreads delight and creates awareness of those with special needs
An ecstatic Shumeez Scott from the Shumeez Scott Foudation, who has Down syndrome, surfs a wave at Muizenberg corner with coaches admiring her ride. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

A meeting between friends three years ago has resulted in an event that makes it possible for people with Down syndrome and special needs to experience the joys of surfing.

It was three years ago that Yani Trout, a surf instructor for Nexgen Surf School, was approached by his friend Yolanda Peterson who was affiliated with the Shumeez Scott Foundation. The foundation works with children and young adults who have autism and Down syndrome. 

Peterson asked Trout to partner with the foundation in hosting a beach day where the instructor would teach the children to surf. From this discussion, the Nexgen Surf for Down syndrome and special needs people event was born. 


Yani Trout, whose day job is a surf instructor and who has been involved in organising this event for the past three years, gives some encouragement to a girl before she braves the waves. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

This past weekend, the foundation, based in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, brought parents and their children to Muizenberg for this year’s surf day.

surfing shumeez

Shumeez Scott stands up on her surfboard for the first time, to applause from onlookers. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Foundation secretary Nardia Hercules, who was attending her second surfing event, said the stigma attached to special needs people was very real. She said she wanted to encourage those with special needs to come out and not stay at home, adding that events like this created awareness in society. 

“Seeing so many happy, excited people has made me decide to try surfing next year. If they can do it, then so can I,” she said with a smile. 


The surfers and their coaches get instructions from Yani Trout before they enter the sea, some for the first time. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Children and adults with Down syndrome and autism warm up before heading into the surf with their coaches at Muizenberg beach in Cape Town. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Siyasanga Mathanjana gets encouragement and help from surfing volunteers to overcome her fear of the waves at Muizenberg beach. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Esmerelda Harmse, who is autistic, shows onlookers how to ride a wave and have plenty of fun. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Laughs and pure excitement from Mishqa Dreyer and the women from the Shumeez Scott Foundation as she braves the waves at Muizenberg corner. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

There was no stopping a delighted Enrique Baatjies as he rode wave after wave right on to the beach. (Photo: Brenton Geach)



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