Have you ever stood at the shore of the vast endless ocean, watching mighty waves swell up in the heart of it, and wondered what it’s like to be there, with no civilization around you, just you, the waves and the sea? Now imagine if you could be yet another creature in the sea, riding with the waves. Not conquering them, but being a part of a universe so surreal that it reminds you of everything that is good in the world!
Surfing is a much loved surface water sport wherein the surfer- or the wave rider- rides the face of a moving wave on a surfboard, and gets carried back to the shore with the wave. Where surfers usually stand up on their surfboards while riding the waves, bodyboarders lie on their boards on their bellies to ride the waves. Knee boarding, bodyboarding and surf matting are all different types of surfing. A 23.8 meters wave ridden by Garrett McNamara in Portugal was recorded as the largest wave ever surfed by The Guinness Book of World Records.
The history of surfing or wave riding seems to go back to the time when humans first started swimming in the open sea. Surfing especially has been a major part of the ancient Polynesian culture, including the creation of the modern surfboard as we know today. This sport was extensively used in Samoa and Tahiti for warrior training, and the elite classes had separate beaches and boards that the commoners could not uses. But the word ‘surf’, first used in 1685, etymologically derives its meaning from the Indian word suffe which means ‘coastline’.
The first contact of this sport to the Western world came when Joseph Banks recorded the art of surfing in Tahiti, at a stopover during James Cook’s first voyage. In Hawaii, surfing was more of a spiritual pastime until the Western colonizers came and the sport declined in popularity. It wasn’t until the 20th century when the people of Waikiki starting reviving the sport. The development of modern surfing as we know today was done primarily in the regions of Hawaii, California and Australia.
Best Places for Surfing in India
With a coastline of over 7,500 kilometres, India is a haven for surfers around the world with some of the best spots for riding the waves and kicking it out in the sea. However, water surfing in India is still a new sport, with the first surf camp organised in Chennai in 2011 marking the beginning of surfing as an organised sport in the country.
KOVALAM, TAMIL NADU
A small fishing village located just about 40 kilometres from Chennai, is one of the best places to surf in India. In fact, many of India’s best surfers learnt to catch waves in this little coastal village itself. Kovalam is known to have both beach and reef breaks, and to have the most reliable right-hand break points than anywhere else in India. Covelong Surf Point is one of the most famous surf schools in India, located in Kovalam.
A small village located some 30 kilometres from Mangalore, Mulki is known to be the home of the first ever surf school of India- Mantra Surf Club. Due to its relatively lesser known status, the beaches in Mulki are clean and less crowded and are perfect for surfing for beginners in India.
VIZAG, ANDHRA PRADESH
Vizag, also known as Visakhapatnam, is the second largest city in the state of Andhra Pradesh, and is one of the best surf spots in India. With its wide beaches and diverse surfing spots, Vizag is home to over 20 point breaks, mostly known just to locals. The waves here are quite powerful but not as steep, making Vizag a haven for beginner surfers. The most popular surf spots in Vizag are at Ramakrishnan and Rushikonda Beach, with the Lonely Surfers’ Surf School, as one of the most known here.
Best Time to Go Surfing in India
The waves in India round the year are mostly 3 to 5 feet in height but the world class waves that go over 8 feet to 15 feet can be found just before and during monsoons from the months of May to September. However, with these come immense downpour, making the sport more difficult and dangerous.
Surfing Courses and Certifications
The most widely known governing body for surfing is the International Surfing Association which has been recognised as the World Governing Authority for Surfing by the International Olympic Committee.
The ISA recognises Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 of surfing ranging from beginner, intermediate to advanced. Each surf school recognised by the Association offers these levels under various names and categories. Some of the most well known surf schools in India with ISA certified instructors include Mantra Surf Club, Mulki; Cocopelli Surf School, Gokarna; and Aloha Surf India, Goa. However, there are no ISA accredited surf schools in India. You can find the entire list here.
Career in Surfing
The most common surfing career is in competitive surfing that goes on to competing in the Olympics. Apart from this, one can also become a surfing instructor or a surf photographer like India’s only surf photographer, Rammohan Paranjape!
Not only is surfing ~fun~ but since the surf scene in India is still quite new, there’s a whole range of opportunities one can tap on. From a beach bum kicking it out at sea catching waves to a professional level competitive surfer, there’s something in it for everyone. Just writing this article made us want to pack our bags and hit the waves. See you there?