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Two disabled Cape Town surfers set to make waves at World Champs in US

26 September 2023

Nolu and Michele with one of their volunteer coaches Camilla

  • Two Cape Town disabled Para Surfers will jet off to the USA to take part in the world surfing competition. 
  • The dynamic duo have been training non-stop and are excited to represent their country.
  • They depart in the next few weeks.

Two determined, passionate and incredible disabled women from Cape Town have embarked on a remarkable journey that is set to take them from the Mother City to Huntington Beach, USA, for one of the most renowned surfing competitions in the world.

Noluthando Makalima, 35, has cerebral palsy, and Michele Macfarlane, 55, is visually impaired.

Both are single mothers with disabilities, and both have a passion for sport surfing.

The two formed a remarkable friendship during their time in sport and say they are incredibly proud to represent their country.

Makalima said:

I am also happy to have the chance to inspire people in my community and my daughter – especially women and people who are disabled. People must see that the disabled can do great things.

Macfarlane said she was excited to be mixing with some of the most incredible people in the world, and to showcase their stories.

“The para surfing community is a testament that there are wonderful, compassionate and determined people worldwide. International competition is a great platform where I can fulfill my purpose as a disability ambassador and raise public awareness,” she said.

The women said they spent most days running or strength training.

Macfarlane said she did her surf-related exercises by practicing on a wobble board at home and doing daily pop-ups.

“The ideal training is to surf in the ocean, but like Noluthando, this is a challenge, as she needs assistance in the water,” she said.

Makalima needs a “pusher” and a “catcher”, and Macfarlane needs a “spotter” to give her audio cues. Together, they can assist one another in their sports.

Macfarlane will push Makalima around in her wheelchair, serving as the legs of the operation, while Makalima is the eyes.

Team Players

Despite facing immense physical and emotional challenges, the dynamic pair have conquered the waves and received a coveted invitation to participate in the World Adaptive Surfing Championship in November.

Their achievements embody the spirit of resilience and determination that have made them an inspiration to so many.

“I went to the World ParaSurfing in 2020, where I won a silver medal, and Michele went to the UK last year, where she competed in the English Open and won a bronze medal. And then we went to the World Parasurfing in California earlier this year,” Makalima said.

She added:

So it’s not our first time going overseas for competition. The selection process has become tougher this year, so we are glad to have made it. The nerves are kicking in as the days come closer to the competition.

The competition runs between 4-11 November at the iconic Huntington Beach.

At the World ParaSurfing competition, part of the challenge is for them to get to the beach quickly.

Macfarlane then pushes Makalima at a run while she shouts clues, such as left and right.

“Travelling as a disabled person away from what you know is mentally and physically exhausting. We keep each other motivated,” said Makalima.

Recalling some of the difficult challenges she faced, Macfarlane said there were times when she wanted to pull out and forget about the competition and how far she’s come.

“It was Nolu who said I shouldn’t give up. God has a plan for us both. Nolu’s strength inspires me and makes me believe in myself. And I know she wants me there, because she can trust me and turn to me when she needs anything, and that’s comforting enough.”

Their coaches said they were “incredibly proud” of what the surfers had achieved over the years.

“I have had the privilege of helping mentor and coach Nolu from the first time she surfed. Ever since that first session, she showed she had the talent to be among the world’s best prone-assisted surfers. We look forward to watching her use her talent and fighting spirit to win a world title this year,” said coach Ant Smyth.

Coach Tasha Mentasti said both women had already defied the odds by just taking on the challenging sport of surfing.

She said:

To be selected to represent South Africa reflects these ladies’ tenacity and never-give-up attitude. Their journeys are inspiring, and their stories will have a positive ripple effect.

The journey to the World Champs involved considerable expenses, including travel, accommodation, equipment and coaching, and the two were thankful to the community at large for financially assisting where they could.

The International Surfing Association (ISA), in a statement, said it was “excited” to announce that the 8th edition of the ISA World Para Surfing Championship (WPSC) is back.

The event’s highly successful and record-breaking 2022 edition in Pismo Beach, California, saw over 180 athletes representing 28 national teams competing across 9 Para Surfing Sports Classes.

WPSC will undoubtedly see more records broken this year as the ISA furthers its mission to see Para Surfing included in the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.

“Women’s involvement has been increasing at a significant rate each year, making up a full third of the field in 2022. Gender equality is a pillar of the ISA’s mission, and the organisation is invested in further promoting gender equity in each surfing discipline,” the statement said.

Michele Macfarlene

ISA president Fernando Aguerre said their biggest hope and dream was to celebrate Para Surfing’s inclusion in LA during the World Championship in the 2028 Paralympic Games.

“Para Surfing continues to grow every year as we run this amazing and important championship. Athlete participation grows and the level of performance and competition increases at a phenomenal rate,” he said.

“Our mission at the ISA is to create a better world through surfing. The life-changing effect that the ocean has is undeniable, and surfing has played a key role in the healing of mind, body and spirit for so many in the Para Surfing community.”

Makalima and MacFarlane depart for the competition next month.

Source: News24


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