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Tue, 5 March 2019

South African surf coach and manager Tasha Mentasti has just won the Aloha Award, a prestigious international prize from the US. Spike spoke to her.


ADAPTIVE WORLD: Tasha's work with adaptive surfers was part of the reason for her nomination.

The news hasn't been made official yet, so it's likely you heard it here first. Local waterman and founder of the Shark Spotters Greg Bertish told me about Tasha Mentasti's achievement as global recipient of the Hawaiian-based Aloha Award.

As one of the judges, Bertish said that the judging panel recognised her adaptive surfing and other philanthropic work (she was the manager of the South African adaptive surfing team at the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships in San Diego in December).

"She does so much amazing work for disadvantaged and less-abled kids and people. She does this with limited resources, limited support and often at her own expense. All the nominees were incredible. It was a hard choice. But because she manages to do this in a country with little formal structure, funding and resources, it makes it even more credible, and admirable," he said.


AFRICAN UBUNTU: Tasha wins an all expenses trip to Fiji and R70,000 for charity. 

According to the website, The Aloha Award recognises individuals in the global surfing community who are ambassadors of the Aloha Spirit. And as it happened, I travelled with Tasha on a Safair flight to East London to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. I was on my way there to speak at a seminar hosted by Surfing South Africa (SSA), Buffalo City Municipality and Mercedes Benz as part of an ongoing process of surfing development. Tasha was there to manage the weekend for SSA, which included a session with grassroots development organisations.

I am because we areMentasti was honoured and excited, and told me how Africa and Hawaii shared a very similar concept, that of the aloha spirit and Ubuntu in South Africa (I am because we are). “Surfing saved my life many years ago when I was in a very dark place. As a recovered addict I have always wanted to put something back into the sport that has given me so much. I’m just very lucky to be a surfer girl and call the ocean my sanctuary," she said with open honesty.

Part of her prize is a donation by The Aloha Award of $5,000 (about R70,000) to a charity or charitable endeavour of her choosing. She told me she will be putting it into adaptive surfing in South Africa. The money she has won gives her an opportunity to help grow adaptive surfing in underprivileged coastal towns, and even neighboring countries.

18 AdaptiveDay_1020_1347

ADAPTIVE DAY: Tasha always volunteers to help out on Adaptive Surfing days at Surf Emporium

“The only obligation of the prize is to utilise the donation to uplift adaptive surfing by sharing proceeds of the funds to selected adaptive surfing projects around SA, either to buy more equipment, and to invest more time into mentoring, educating and uplifting the community,” she said.

"My goal is to be able to reach as many people with physical and mental challenges and share the healing properties of the ocean and spread the stoke of surf therapy around Africa."

After all the good vibes and channelling of the aloha spirit into upliftment in South Africa, I was beginning to wonder about an upside for her personally.

Well, she also wins a one-week trip to Namotu Island in Fiji in July, with flights and accommodation, and that means tropical surf at epic spots with no crowds in the middle of Cape Town's winter. That's not half bad.

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