Namib Sustainable Waves – Children surfing towards brighter futures

The Namib Sustainable Waves Project (NSW) looks to work with vulnerable children along Namibia’s famous Skeleton Coast. The home of world-renown surf spot Skeleton Bay (locally better known as Donkey Bay), probably the longest barreling wave on the planet.

Where a lot of surfers dream about scoring the longest barrel ride of their lives – young Namibians from the townships aren’t born with a wide spectrum of opportunities. NSW is looking to change that.

There is a GoFundMe campaign active. You can find it here. Even the smallest contribution goes a long way towards the final goal.


1. Why does Namibia need a project like this?
2. How was Namib Sustainable Waves born?
3. So what is the Namib Sustainable Waves Project?
4. Why is surfing the centerpiece of the project?
5. How can you help the project?

Why does Namibia need a project like this?

In Namibia, children begging for money in the streets isn’t a rare sight. Kids are born into poverty with little to no chance out of it. Their parents are often away in other cities trying to make some money. A lot of these kids fall into the dangerous spiral of drug and alcohol abuse.
It’s easy to think you’re doing a good deed by giving them some money – but you shouldn’t – gender equality minister Doreen Sioka told the media in this article.

“The minister warned the public not to give street children money, as they were encouraging their lifestyle of drug and alcohol abuse.”

While not every child in the streets begging for money is a drug or alcohol addict – they are always on the verge into that world, whilst roaming the streets. The minister emphasized the need for facilities, where these children can learn skills and get psycho-social support.

“Sioka further stated that there is a need for youth rehabilitation facilities in the country, with a specific focus on skills […] and psycho-social support.”

How was Namib Sustainable Waves born?

Let me take you on a little journey a few years back – Ollie (born in Windhoek, Nambia) owner of The Salty Jackal – Backpackers & Surf Camp in Swakopmund, is about to jump into his car. He’s approached by a group of kids in the streets begging for money.
Instead of giving them money, he offers the children to go surfing with them. He goes on to show them a few pictures of surfers on his phone and explains, what it is he’s doing.

The kids decide to give it a try and go for their very first surf session ever. It is an absolute blast of fun. The children are energetic in the water and have big smiles on their faces afterwards.

“The children are energetic in the water and have big smiles on their faces afterwards.”

Namibian Kid smiling surfing
The smiles Namib Sustainable Waves puts on faces

Fast forward a couple of years. Ollie and his girlfriend Iris – who initially came to Namibia on a 3 month paid leave to volunteer in a school in the townships – are sitting in the park. It is March/April 2020 👉🏽 the global COVID pandemic has the world in a firm grip and by now the effects of it have reached Namibia as well.

There are two children hanging around and it seems like they aren’t really doing anything. So Iris and Ollie approach the two to find out how they’ve been affected and how they’re doing in the current situation. It turns out they can’t go to school, because it’s closed. They can’t find a job either and to provide for the family at all the mother had to leave town to make some money.

This isn’t comfortable to read – but this is the situation a lot of children in Namibia find themselves in.

They introduce The Salty Jackal – Backpackers and Surfcamp and tell them about the garden and the fruits they grow in it. Together they spend the day gardening and cooking – so at the end of the day they leave The Jackal with a full stomach and a meal packed to take home.
Thus going surfing together, having fun and learning all the things the ocean can teach – grew into a full day of gardening and cooking as well. They are learning about the environment they live in. Gaining the valuable experience, that they are able to do something for themselves, able to learn new skills, able to have a whole lot of fun – unlearning the sense of helplessness, that would have them begging for money in the streets.

“[…]unlearning the sense of helplessness, that would have them begging for money in the streets.”

Namib Sustainable Waves in it’s current form was born – taking place weekly. But as the group of children grew bigger – it became obvious that the project needed a little funding and to stand on a more official platform.

So what is the Namib Sustainable Waves Project?

The Namib Sustainable Waves ethics revolves around working with young Namibians from the townships, to help bring about a shift in attitude towards their natural surroundings, acquire new skills and build self-esteem. The project will teach them how to surf and provide them with cultural exchange of learning, education and interconnectedness towards their environment.

The young people will acquire new skills in ocean awareness and safety, gardening, cooking while working with volunteers from other nationalities. All of this to cultivate curiosity, environmental and personal awareness, inspiration and build self-esteem to widen the spectrum of each child’s opportunities according to his/her specific skills and interests.
With the goal in the future to see each young person within the project, become a valued member of their community – To become mentors and an inspiration to the next group.
All with an aim to better their chances in finding employment and purpose in life, whilst having a whole load of fun.

Why is surfing the centerpiece of the project?

If you have never surfed before in your life – you might ask yourself why surfing is the centerpiece of the Namib Sustainable Waves Project. Well apart of being tremendously fun and probably one of the sports, where you can get the closest connection to nature – the ocean and surfing teaches you so much more.

Namib Sustainable Waves kids learning surfing namibia
It’s not always easy but the small wins feel amazing

Surfing isn’t the easiest to learn, and the learning curve is quite flat at the beginning. But through persistence and constant trying – failure turns into success. The incremental steps you take towards being a good surfer will present your brain with constant dopamine hits that keep you going and motivated.
It’s that balance between failing and succeeding through hard work that is the single most valuable lesson you can teach any kid – but even more valuable to these Namibian children, who have little to no chances of making that experience anywhere else.

How can you help the project?

So what can you do for Namib Sustainable Waves? There is a GoFundMe campaign active that you can find right here. Really any contribution will go a long way for the project and what isn’t a big amount of money to you might change someone else’s life.
Other than that 👉🏽 you can share this article and the campaign to help raise awareness for the project and attract more possible donators. Get the word out there – help Namib Sustainable Waves in helping Namibian Children.

If you’re interested in the project you can start following them on their new Instagram Account as well as on Facebook

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