Former South African Surfing Champion, Tasha Mentasti, has taken to social media to thank Sport and Recreation South Africa after her application for Covid-19 Relief funding was successful.

In a Facebook post, Mentasti said, “Today I am one of the lucky ones and I am truly grateful. Received payment from the sport relief fund this morning… I want to take the opportunity to thank SRSA and the South African government for the tireless work behind the scenes to make sure that the financial relief is being distributed correctly.”

Speaking to gsport, Mentasti said, “It was a post from the heart, and I believe in always finding the positive out of challenging situation and sharing the good news wherever possible.”

Mentasti, a pioneer for women’s surfing, has been directly affected by the global pandemic as a freelancer and is grateful as the department has released R150 million to assist artists, athletes, technical staff and the core ecosystem of various public events which have been postponed or cancelled.

Surfing South Africa played a part by communicating all necessary documents, guidelines and application deadlines to their members and recommending the application to SRSA

Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Mentasti chats about how the pandemic has affected the surfing community, discussions about the sport returning this year, and her thoughts on the overall state of women’s surfing.

Tasha, as a former pro surfer, what are you involved in these days?

Thankfully, I am still involved with the sport of surfing which I am incredibly grateful for. I work alongside the national federation and various other surfing associations and companies on the event side of the industry in the capacity of either Contest Director, Commentator or Coach. This allows me to actively play a role in the development of the sport as well as highlight the positive elements the sport plays within coastal communities.

I also hold internationally accredited surf instructor courses which educate and guide passionate surfers to make a career in the surf industry.

How has COVID-19 lockdown impacted on you having to successfully fulfil your roles?

Due to being a freelancer, the global pandemic has impacted me directly. Our season starts 1 April and runs through until end of July with multiple events taking place at various surf spots along the coastline of South Africa. With the lockdown being in place and all sporting events postponed until further notice, I am feeling the financial implications in a big way.

How has this pandemic impacted the surfing community?

The entire surfing industry globally is feeling the repercussions of Covid-19. The surf community is made up of passionate, small businesses who rely on their locals to support them and their families. From surf shops to surfboard shapers, surf schools and surf clubs – and this is just looking at it from a financial point of view.

If you go deeper, the impact is even bigger on the mental health side of many people who surf in some way or form. South Africa has a huge surf therapy network and active local surf communities who thrive on the thereaputic benefits of being in or near the ocean.

It was heart-warming to see your post thanking Sport and Recreation South Africa for their financial assistance. Please tell us more about this relief fund that has been put in place.

It was a post from the heart, and I believe in always finding the positive out of challenging situation and sharing the good news wherever possible. The funding was initiated through the Department of Sport, Arts & Culture after they released R150million towards assisting artists, athletes, technical staff and the core ecosystem of these various public events which have been postponed or cancelled.

All information can be found on the SRSA website – www.srsa.gov.za

Did you have to apply for this assistance?

Yes, you had to apply through your specific national sporting federation that you were affiliated to.

Has Surfing South Africa provided any form of assistance to its members?

SSA communicated all necessary documents, guidelines and application deadlines to their members accordingly. Part of the application process was that each member had to submit their documentation to the NF first who would have then recommended the application and submit to SRSA on behalf of the sport.

Are there any discussions at the moment of the sport returning this year?

There has been a statement that recently went out on behalf of the World Surf League (WSL) – who states that all events postponed until end June and will be reassessed then. Locally everyone is eager to get in the water and share a few waves, but the lockdown restrictions hinder is all from getting surf stoked at the moment.

Let us talk more about the sport. What are your thoughts on the overall state of women’s surfing?

At the moment women’s surfing is booming from an athletic point of view which is awesome! The girls are pushing themselves and each other and I am excited to see what the future holds for women’s surfing.

Is there a level playing field when it comes female and male surfers in terms of prize money, opportunities, and development structures?

No not yet. Us surfer girls are outnumbered probably 5 to 1 in the competitive side of the sport. We need to grow our numbers but I believe that the competition arena is a small chapter in the surfing journey for ladies, we are naturally nuturers and most become mothers, so to make a career in the sport takes a lot of dedication and sacrifices.

What do you think needs to be done to encourage more females to venture into taking up surfing as a career?

I believe we need to own our space as women in surfing communities. We need to host more female-only events and surf days that encourage girls, moms and women to participate and have fun. By doing this you also stick to the mandate and employ only female staff which helps build the technical side of the sport from a women’s perspective. It also encourages girls to be more confident when you hang out with the same tribe. It builds a community of trust and sisterhood.

From personal experience, what advice would you share with female surfers who are trying to create own their space within the sport?

When we can, just go for that surf! Sign up to your local surf club, connect with surfer girls in your area and go share some waves. And I am always open to going on a surf trip to share some stories and help grow our future champions of the sport.

What are you doing to share your knowledge to pass on to the next generation?

I have great relationships with all the surfing districts along the coast due to my various roles at surfing events and I always offer my help and guidance when asked. I am also currently building content to start sharing stories on my various social media platforms – I have had to adapt to these challenging times and make myself more present online and in the digital realm. No easy task for someone whose office is the beach, but I am up for the challenge.

What have been the biggest highlights of your surfing career?

Wow! There have been so many memorable moments but I’d have to say being crowned South African surfing champ, being nominated as the first female to sit on the Board of Directors for Surfing South Africa and to be selected as the first female to coach a national surfing team.

What are your plans for the future?

Many plans! Big plans! All focused around spreading the stoke of surfing! I have recently registered a non-profit called Find Your Stoke which aims to heal, uplift and empower people challenged with disability, mental health or social-isolation in underserved coastal communities by utilizing the ocean and surfing as a conduit to provide a positive thereaputic outcome for all involved.

Go check it out and please support – https://m.facebook.com/FindYourStokeNPC/

 

 

Photo 1 Caption: Former South African Surfing Champion, Tasha Mentasti, has been directly affected by the global pandemic as a freelancer and is grateful as Sport and Recreation South Africa has released R150 million to assist artists, athletes, technical staff and the core ecosystem of various public events which have been postponed or cancelled. Photo: Tasha Mentasti (Instagram)