Growing up with cerebral palsy meant Noluthando Makalima was limited to which sporting activities she could take part in and this left her not interested in sports at all.
However, at the age of 32, the single mother to a six year old, who survives on a government grant, is fast making herself a household name as an adaptive surfer.
This is the only sporting activity she has ever took part in and it was never even in her plans.
It was through the Siyaphakama Development for the Disabled Association that she was introduced to the sport of surfing in 2014 .
Siyaphakama is a support group for the disabled.
The Khayelitsha resident had no clue whether surfing was a real sport or just a hobby.
At the time of meeting with Siyaphakama, she had recently lost her mother, the only support system she had ever known.
Six years later she took gold at the SA Games in Durban in 2019 and went on to win silver for team South Africa at the International Surfing Association World Paralympic Championships in Los Angeles last year.
Not in her wildest dreams did she ever think she would be a sports personality that would travel the world.
Growing up with a disability that limited her from most physical activities, she has defied all the odds she faced to put not only her name on the map but playing a positive role in her community.
“A lot of people in my community still do not believe me when I tell them about the sport I play because they are not really familiar with it and they do not associate it with people with disabilities.
“It was even difficult when I was trying to raise funds to go to New York, a lot of people thought it was a lie as they didn’t believe that I could be a sports personality,” said Makalima.
With all she has achieved in the sea in the little time she has been competing, she still faces a lot of challenges as the sport lacks support in funding.
“I train in Muizenberg and I’m supposed to travel there daily but the taxi fare is a lot and I end up having to train only once per week.
“It’s a lot of effort because I also have my brother’s child that I’m taking care of and the lack of funding makes it difficult.
“With that being said I still feel I have a long way to go in this sport because now that I have realised what I can do, I can be great,” she said.
Makalima is currently vying for the Para Sport Star of the year in the GSport Awards and was recognised in the same awards last year when she received the Minister’s Recognition Excellence Award.
“Even though I am limited in some of the things I can do, I am someone who loves challenges and that is what surfing has given me, a big challenge.
“I was very fearful of the sport before because I can’t even swim but I challenged myself to take to the sea,” said Makalama.
One of the things she hopes to achieve in the sport is changing the negative attitude people have towards her sport especially for people with disabilities.
She hopes her medals and awards will go a long way to legitimising and making the sport get the respect it deserves.
“My biggest dream is to make it so far in this sport that I will be able to make a living out of the sport and create a better environment for my child.
“Right now I am looking forward to World Games taking place in December. Hopefully I will be able to have a better run to make the SA team as the more international exposure we get, the better it will be for my career,”
The sport is expected to make its entry at the 2028 Paralympics in Los Angeles and the Global Games is one of the stages where Makalima wants to show off her skills.
The International Surfing Association was unsuccessful in its attempts to have the sport included in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.