Youth at risk surf their way to success with HaGal Sheli

Learn how HaGal Sheli uses surfing to instill determination and persistence in teens discouraged by failure.
Photo courtesy of HaGal Sheli

“Life is a lot like surfing… When you get caught in the impact zone, you’ve got to just get back up. Because you never know what may be over the next wave.” — Bethany Hamilton, Soul Surfer

Just as Bethany Hamilton overcame all odds to compete again, HaGal Sheli (My Wave) has helped thousands of Israeli teenagers overcome challenges through determination and perseverance.

For most of the teenagers in the programs, HaGal Sheli is their anchor in life, their safe space on the most chaotic and turbulent days. HaGal Sheli has helped so many teens grow and develop, overcome their fears and challenges, and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Who started HaGal Sheli?

Eight years ago, two incredible entrepreneurs had a vision to combine their passions for surfing and educating at-risk youth.

Omar Tulchinsky and Yaron Waksman, founders and friends, now have three surf centers and have grown their programs from 10 students to over 4,400-plus graduates!

Between the three centers, there are 250 staff members and volunteers who are selected and trained to serve as inspirational role models and mentors to the teenagers in the programs.

HaGal Sheli cofounders Omer Tulchinsky and Yaron Waksman. Photo courtesy of HaGal Sheli


What can surfing teach kids and teenagers about life?

HaGal Sheli has created uniquely structured programs to offer teenagers a multitude of skills and life lessons including:

○ How to navigate the currents of life
○ How to turn obstacles into opportunities
○ How to balance on and off a surfboard
○ When a wave knocks you down, get back up and keep trying
○ With determination and persistence, anything is possible

Tulchinsky and Waksman have given these teenagers a support system and a family. Most importantly, HaGal Sheli has shown thousands of teenagers that the ultimate success is riding the waves, having fun and living in the moment!

HaGal Sheli participant learning to ride the waves.

What programs are offered at HaGal Sheli?

HaGal Sheli uses a unique learning model for its multi-year and multi-step educational programs.

The organization fosters a welcoming environment and encourages Israeli teenagers, regardless of their background and religion, to join the programs. Participants have the opportunity to go all the way from trainee to certified instructors at HaGal Sheli!

Graphic courtesy of HaGal Sheli

● In the Lighthouse Program, each session focuses on a specific life lesson taught with a theoretical lesson and a hands-on surfing experience.
● Graduates of the Lighthouse Program are invited to the A Place for Life Program, where they have the opportunity to surf at the center for life, free of charge. In this program, participants receive mentoring and work with instructors to improve their surfing skills.
● The next step is the Circles Program, which focuses on specific skills related to surfing. The program has three tracks, offering participants the opportunity to take on responsibility, give back to the community and develop practical skills for future endeavors.
● The final step is The Young Mentors Program, which requires selective interviews and workshops. Graduates go from trainees to certified instructors.

HaGal Sheli participants taking on new challenges together.

How did Covid-19 impact HaGal Sheli?

During Covid-19, many businesses had to close or shut down. HaGal Sheli was up for yet another challenge.

With the proper adaptations and tailored curriculum, they launched the HaGal Sheli Anchor Program, bringing more than 600 new teenagers into the wave toward a better future.

Groundbreaking Israel content is developed by ISRAEL21c’s Digital Ambassadors.

Alyssa Harris is an ISRAEL21c Digital Ambassador.

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