Pioneer Tasha Mentasti Relishing the Opportunity to Grow Surfing in Africa

A gamechanger and trailblazer in the world of surfing, former SA Surfing Champion Tasha Mentasti was recently appointed as the new Regional Director – Africa at World Surf League. She joined Lonwabo Nkohla for a chat on the gsport IG Live following the great news.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity not just for myself but for women’s surfing. What that appointment entails is that I’ve been given a platform to make much needed change for surfing in the African continent. To start focussing on diversity and exclusivity within the sport. We’ve got so much untapped talent in this continent and I want to play a positive role of showcasing how extremely talented we are in the both in East and West coast of Africa.”

Describing where we are as South Africa and as a continent in the sport of surfing: “As we know being South African and understanding African Culture, there’s a big fear of the ocean especially in SA. I was in Senegal recently for an incredible programme. Do people utilise the ocean? Absolutely, but more with fishing boats and staying above water than going in water. There’s a big cultural divide that I’m hoping to change. The ocean is freedom, freedom for all of us and it’s about being able to break through that cultural indifference, it’s about the breakthrough in those fears to know that when you get involved with the ocean and surfing you get given the opportunity to ride these waves and be part of nature.”

“In SA we’ve got very strong athletes, but in the top tier of surfing, we don’t have any women featured on the Championship Tour yet however we’ve got very strong female athletes that are upcoming the second tier, the Challenger Series. The biggest problem is that we don’t have enough professional surfing events taking place in Africa and that’s what I’d like to change.

One of my roles and responsibilities is to create those events and therefore give more opportunities to African surfers to be able to gain points and hopefully one day qualify for the Challenger Series and eventually the Championship Tour.”

Mentasti also conceded that one of the issues is that surfing is still very much an elite sport: “Look in SA, it’s definitely a privileged sport, which is something I want to change because privilege means nothing when you’re in the ocean. Is it an elite sport, for the time being, yes it is. But I’ve been working on the ground with Surfing South Africa and an incredible surf therapy organisation called Waves for Change and this charity works with underserved and with at risk youth in coastal communities to be able to introduce people to the ocean and the sport of surfing as an activity to try and impart some mental health tools.”

“I don’t want to just hold these exclusive professional surfing events, I want to include the national federations around Africa so that we have a development programme that enables opportunities for people in their own country. So that there is growth within the sport.”

This announcement comes a year after she was appointed as Head Coach of the 2022 SA Junior Surf side. Tasha is no stranger to breaking doors that were closed for women and breaking barriers in impossible seeming situations. “I have forever been in a male dominated industry where I am the minority and I’m not considered; I’ve had to put in a lot of free time to prove that I deserve to be in certain spaces. Never give up on yourself or your dreams, keep pushing. When I got appointed as head coach I had instant self-doubt because no woman had done that before. With our feminine energy we always bring a needed difference into that space and we need to embrace that as women in sport.

Click here to watch the full interview on Instagram!

 

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