For nearly 30 years surfer Francisco Araña, better known as Cisco, has run Escola Radical, a surf school in the coastal town of Santos, Brazil. In 2018, he started a seniors’ surf program, offering special classes to people over the age of 50. Now, waves and WhatsApp are providing many of his newest — and oldest — boarders with a renewed sense of community and belonging.
“We started with a small group of 20 people — some of whom already took our regular classes — and now we have 110 students. It is all very exciting. Many now have the opportunity to do something they could not have done when they were younger,” says Cisco, who started the 50+ group because of strong demand. Now he leads students as old as 75 once a week at Pompeia Beach.
To deepen the personal impact of these classes, Cisco encouraged students to get to know each other better, and to do so, they turned to WhatsApp.
“The students themselves created a WhatsApp group where they share information about the sea, the weather, and sometimes even poetry and music to inspire each other,” says Cisco. “WhatsApp has helped us create a bridge between friends; it is a wonderful tool for everyone to have this feeling of family.”
Francisco Verazane Aguiar and Edmea Pereira Correa started surfing with Cisco 12 years ago and loved it. The married couple recently joined his 50+ group, which has helped participants work through everything from depression and loneliness to physical activity.
"The students themselves created a WhatsApp group where they share information about the sea, the weather, and sometimes even poetry and music to inspire each other"
“It is not only a group, it is a family,” says Francisco. “It is really good for us to chat to each other; this is definitely the best part of the week.”
“Surf has helped me a lot in my life. I had breast cancer and during those hard days the classes were extraordinary for me,” explains Edmea.
Cisco is proud that his surf programs are creating unique bonds for dozens of senior surfers in his local community. He says now they are not only connected to each other by the sea, but also via WhatsApp — which, like surfing, is adding meaning and motivation to their lives through community.