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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014
Your guide to Indian surfing
Veenu Singh, Hindustan Times
May 03, 2013
First Published: 13:15 IST(3/5/2013)
Last Updated: 14:51 IST(6/5/2013)
With its long coastline ideal for the sport, India is emerging as an exciting new international surfing destination. Are you ready to ride the waves? (Photo: Rammohan Paranjape)

Bronzed bodies cresting the waves, with the wind in their faces and azure waters beneath their feet, aren’t just the stuff of Hollywood flicks and late-night lifestyle television. The surf’s up closer home, literally, with the number of enthusiasts shedding their inhibitions and letting fly with a surfboard, growing.

Consider the Chaudhary family from Mumbai. The surfing bug bit doctor couple Milind Chaudhary (52) and his wife Punam (48) on a trip to Australia and they encouraged their 21-year-old daughter Eishany, a student of medicine, to take up the sport. “That is how my love affair with surfing began,” says Eishany. “Now I take a three-week break every four months to surf. I’ve done it in Sri Lanka, Hawaii and California. But there’s something special about India.”
 
Very level of surfer: right from beginners to the highest level of professional surfing,” says Jack Hebner, credited with pioneering the surfing movement in the country. Hebner, who is known in sporting circles as the Surfing Swami, drifted into India in the 1970s, part of the big wave of Westerners seeking spiritual salvation. As he began wandering around the country, Hebner discovered it had a number of incredibly exciting surf spots. “On my next trip from the US, I brought back some equipment and started surfing. For the first few years, I was completely alone. But now I am finding some company,” he says.

(Photo courtesy: Antton Miettien for ROXY ss’13 campaign)

From a handful of enthusiasts in 2004, when Hebner formed the Mantra Surf Club in Mangalore, the number of surfers in India has grown to about 100 active members today. “If you are spiritually inclined, then you will appreciate the ocean because it fosters individuality, determination, patience and peace of mind,” Hebner says.

Whether it is spirituality, adventure or just recreation, surfing enthusiasts from our metros cannot seem to have enough of the waves.

Riders on the storm
Surfing is the new adrenaline high for Delhi-based IT executive Karan Grover. Earlier, Grover, 30, and his group of friends would get their kicks white-water rafting in Rishikesh. Ever since they got a taste of the surf and the sand in Karnataka, it is all they want to do. “Once we reached Mangalore and saw even young boys riding the waves, we couldn’t resist the temptation as well.”

Even as a child, recalls Bangalore-based entrepreneur Harsha Jadhav, 27, he was fond of adventure sports such as skating. Since then, Jadhav has always enjoyed exploring new terrain. “So, when I came across an advertisement for the Mantra Surf Club, Mangalore, I decided to check it out. After the first day, I realised surfing complemented my temperament. For the last six months, I have been trying to come to Mangalore on the weekends.”

Rammohan Paranjape, 24, vice president of the Surfing Federation of India, ventured into surfing photography after he realised it was an untapped sub-genre. “It also takes me to new destinations, which suits me as I love travelling.”

Cresting the waves
Almost every Indian coastal state boasts spots that are ideal for surfing in India (see map). Paranjape says that these places get good waves throughout the year depending on swells and wind. “But to actually experience and ride world-class waves, one should go to Lakshadweep and the Andaman Islands.” No wonder the Andamans inspired celebrated American surf-rocker Jack Johnson to write Holes to Heaven, when he went surfing to the islands. But it’s the university town of Manipal in eastern Karnataka that has emerged as one of the biggest surfing hubs, thanks primarily to Ishita Malaviya and Tushar Pathiyan, the team behind the Shaka Surf Club. “Five years ago, when I moved to Manipal to study journalism, I caught my first wave and it was magical,” says Malaviya, the first woman surfer in the country.

(Photo courtesy: Rammohan Paranjape)

Apart from city-bred adventure seekers, surfing has given wings to the dreams of youngsters in India’s smaller coastal towns. Mangalore resident Satyaraja Das, 19, for instance, has evolved from an awkward teenager into a compulsive surfer. “Like many boys my age, I wasn’t sure what opportunities we would get in a small beach town. But things have changed and people from all over the world are coming to Mangalore in droves,” he says animatedly.

You can surf
Now, surfing isn’t a tough sport to pick up as it doesn’t require high levels of fitness, say experts. So long as you are generally fit, you should have no trouble getting on to a surfboard. “Of course, the ability to swim is important. As a rule, we don’t work with non-swimmers,” says Tushar Pathiyan of the Shaka Surf Club.

“The basic level begins with a person catching his first wave, which may be two or three feet, or just white-water-riding on a long board which floats better,” says Malaviya. “As one keeps getting better, one starts riding shorter boards and bigger waves,” she adds.

But getting on to a surfboard isn’t quite the same as staying upright on one. Like most disciplines, surfing has various levels that can be mastered depending upon the number of hours a person is willing to dedicate to it.

With former cricketer Jonty Rhodes and actor Suniel Shetty being signed on as brand ambassadors, the future of surfing in India appears bright. “The Spice Coast Open 2013, a surfing festival held at Kovalam, which ended on May 5, hosted 25 international surfers along with 75 Indian ones,” says Hebner. Plus, the 3 India Surf Festival will be held in Puri from January 16-18. “Surfing in India is here to stay,” he adds.

Surfing for dummies
The best season for surfing in India is from the summer until the onset of the monsoon, and then from August to October. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

Always surf with a buddy, never do it alone. Do not underestimate the power of the ocean. Even experienced surfers can drown.

Gear up: India Surf Shop retails surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, bodyboards, rash guards and other essentials online. Leading brand Ocean and Earth is available at http://templeadventures.com. To buy Quiksilver gear, check out facebook.com/quiksilverindia/info for a list of retail outlets.

India’s coolest surfing spots

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2013/5/Surfing.jpgMangalore jetty: Next to the harbour, it’s the only beach coducive for surfing in Mangalore   
Nearest airport: Mangalore
Murudeshwar: Besides surfing, it offers other watersport options also 
Nearest airport: Mangalore
Kovalam: Home to coral reefs, it has gigantic waves that surfers love
Nearest airport: Trivandrum
Varkala: Crystal-clear waters and neat beaches, you can also spot dolphins at sunset
Nearest airport: Trivandrum 
Puri: It’s the venue of a popular surfing festival
Nearest airport: Bhubaneswar

Pondicherry: Popular with tourists, it gets good waves in February-March
Nearest airport: Chennai
Mahabalipuram: One of the oldest beaches in India known for surfing. The shore temple is an added attraction
Nearest airport: Chennai
Covelong Point: A pretty fishing village ideal for beginners
Nearest airport: Chennai
Manapad: Internationally known as the best place to surf in India
Nearest airports: Tuticorin and Madurai
Vizag: Known as the Miami of India, it gets epic waves
Nearest airport: Vishakhapatnam
Lakshadweep & Andaman islands: World- class wavesat both islands
Nearest airports: Cochin and Port Blair

From HT Brunch, May 5
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