Surfing Smiles

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair." (Nelson Mandela)


Location Muizenberg (near Cape Town), South Africa
Duration From 4 - 24 weeks
Dates February to June & August to November
  • You must have an Intermediate level (B1) of English
  • Special skills: You must be able to swim, bring a good attitude, have a love for the ocean and be passionate in teaching children surfing skills.
  • Special skills: You must be passionate about working with children.
Minimum Age: 18
Your impact
Documents required Enrolment form, curriculum vitae, letter of motivation, passport copy, proof of medical insurance, police clearance certificate
Day of arrival Sunday (project starts every first Monday of the month, unless otherwise stated)
Day of departure Saturday


  • Living on the beachfront in a quaint little surfing town called Muizenberg.
  • Learning to surf at one of the best learn-to-surf beaches in the world.
  • Witness the amazing natural beauty of Cape Town (Cape Point, Table Mountain etc.) through the eyes of a local.
  • Involvement in the grassroots community project, assisting the children as tutors in the classroom and surf coaches during the surfing sessions.
  • Having the opportunity to immerse in South African culture
  • Enjoy great South African cuisine.
  • Leave South Africa as a competent and skilled surfer!

Project information

Muizenberg is a beach-side suburb of Cape Town and considered to be the birthplace of surfing in South Africa where the first waves were ridden in 1917. The colourful beach huts grace many a postcard and the beaches stretch for miles – an amazing place.

Surfing Smiles is a registered non-profit organization, providing children with a safe and stable family-like environment after school. The project currently supports around 70 children from the disadvantaged communities of Masiphumelele, Ocean View and Khayelitsha, with an equal ratio of girls and boys.

Children growing up in these communities around Cape Town, have little hope of escaping their socio-economic environment: poverty, crime, drugs, gangsterism, a lack of good quality education and job opportunities are real battles these children face.

Programme details

The children come to Surfing Smiles 5 days a week after school.
They participate in two surf sessions and three education classes, complemented by daily nutritious meals.

Surfing is the life and soul of the project; it is one’s way of expressing oneself, letting go, facing fears, overcoming challenges, pushing boundaries, and getting in touch with mother nature.

The sport opens the children’s eyes to a new way of life by being active, healthy, and closely connected to nature. In the townships, children are exposed to violence and other forms of trauma. The ocean and surfing can have powerful healing effects. Surfing is a sport that teaches participants self-belief, determination and perseverance and creates a deep sense of belonging.

Each week the children join two team-focused surf sessions in Muizenberg.
Each session starts with a yoga and fitness routine and ends with a group reflection, using the surf session as a tool to promote mental wellbeing and prosocial behaviour. The surf sessions are complemented by swimming lessons. To nurture the love for the ocean, Surfing Smiles organises beach clean-ups and environmental workshops with the children that educate them about the importance of caring for the environment.

Education is also an important element of the project. It helps the children improve their school performance, formulate their dreams and build their future.
Each week after school, the children attend three education sessions.
In the classroom, children are supported with their homework and participate in a mix of high quality online, one-on-one and interactive learning programs focused on Maths, English and computer literacy. The programs are tailored to the individual learning level of each child and make learning fun. The classroom sessions are complemented by vocational workshops and life coaching. Surfing Smiles facilitates the workshops in partnership with local organisations and businesses. Life coaching helps the children discover and realize their dreams, it coaches them in their personal development and guides them towards a desired and sustainable future.

Before and after each surfing or education session, the project provides the children with a nutritious meal to give them an extra boost in the water and extra mental clarity when solving problems in the classroom. The meals are accompanied by nutrition education. In the vegetable garden, children learn to plant their own vegetables and learn about the health benefits and origins of fruits, vegetables, and other types of food. The harvest is used for the meals and any leftovers are given to the children to take home.

To ensure long-lasting change, the children benefit from the Surfing Smiles program throughout their schooling or until they access better future opportunities. Once matriculated, the project supports the children with entering tertiary education or with obtaining a decent job in line with their dreams and unique skills set. 

Your role

Volunteers typically spend their morning doing their own surf lessons, yoga classes or going on tours.

During their afternoons (anytime from 14:00 - 18:00 o’clock at the latest) they are either assisting the children as surf coaches, or are in the classroom as tutors, helping with homework assignments or guiding them with their Maths or English. Two afternoons are spent in the classroom and two days in the surf, with one variable day every week reserved for environmental education, life coaching or vocational workshops.

Evenings and weekends are free.


Volunteers stay in a beach-front hostel with the best views in Muizenberg. The rooms are dorm-style (a mix of twin, triple, 4-bed rooms and one room with 7 beds) on a same gender sharing basis. Bathrooms are shared as well, bedding is provided but towels need to be brought.
Free WIFI is available.

During the evening, volunteers can unwind in the lounge, games room or enjoy a sundowner on the balcony with a beautiful view.

Free WiFI is available at the accommodation.

Volunteers can enjoy their breakfasts and dinners in the vibey restaurant/coffee bar or on the balcony overlooking the surf. Breakfast and dinner are included, lunch and weekend meals are self-catering.