As we face up to a Christmas unlike any other, we’re reminded that everyone does it differently – so we’ve been checking in with our community to see what the holiday means to them.
In our final check in before the big day, we caught up with our Ambassadors in South Africa, Apish Tshetsha and Hanli Prinsloo, to see what they have in store for this year's festivities and how the sea influences their lives.
What does Christmas and this time of year mean to you, your family, friends and loved ones?
We don't celebrate the Christmas period in what would be considered the typical sense. Back at home it's a time to relax and spend time with family away from work. If it wasn't for corona - we would be back on the Eastern Cape. Performing old traditions, rituals and other sacred practices.
Christmas for me is long lazy days around the swimming pool eating watermelon - the Southern Hemisphere summer Christmas offers a different twist to the snowy Santa image! For us it’s a chance to have time for family and friends, long conversations and slow cooked meals in the shade.
At this time of giving and receiving, what does the ocean give to you and do you give back to it?
The ocean is the greatest giver, an all year round blue Santa! From the (obvious!) life giving gifts of oxygen, to the water cycle and sustenance… she gives us a place to relax and play. I don’t think one can be in a true loving relationship without both parties giving, and as the ocean gives us so much, of course we must give back! For me this is through I AM WATER, sharing ocean experiences with children from underserved communities, seeing them feel that ocean connection and be inspired to live a life more in tune with nature.
The ocean is the place where I swim, surf and switch off from work for a moment. I also work as a Lifeguard and a surf instructor, sharing the stoke. At the moment there is a family in Cape Town who were looking for an intensive, two-week surf lesson, so I am booked out now. This is different to my normal workload but a way of spending time in the sea and coastal environment.
What have you done this year, or plan to do next, to harness your symbiotic relationship with the sea?
Next year, with Waves for Change, we are putting plans in place should we have to respond to a second wave - if corona strikes again. It's putting a plan in place to protect the projects, be proactive and see the programme continue to run.
This year has seen hours of quiet kelp time, cold water swims and rockpool explorations. With the travel restrictions of 2020 my time exploring my own blue backyard has been more than ever and I intend to keep doing this in 2021.
What learnings has this strange year brought about already?
This year will go down in the annals as one of learning and relearning. What I feel for myself and have seen in so many others is the deep, deep appreciation for nature. The weeks of lockdown - not being able to leave our homes and immerse ourselves in oceans, mountains and woods - I think opened the eyes of even those not already drawn to wilderness to want more time in the blue and green. Without nature we are lost.
Learning to appreciate the therapeutic magic of the ocean and being patient with myself and with others.
What’s your relationship with the sea this time of year?
It is my escape and my recharge as I'm mostly in the ocean to work with children but during festive season it is time to fill up my cup of Ubuntu. I've just spent some time in the water Freediving with Hanli Prinsloo which was special. Being in the water with Hanli and Dougal Paterson is always time well spent.
It’s summer for us! Not a day goes by without at least one ocean interlude… surfing, swimming, freediving. This time of year is the time of salty hair, sandy feet and an invariably burnt nose!