Riding the Waves

They race along the surf, dropping off massive waves and cutting through the water along the tranquil coast of Mangalore. Ishita Malaviya and Tushar Pathiyan, two of India’s youngest surfers ride the waves with us as they share secrets about this new-age sport and how its suddenly catching on in India.

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Its definitely not Malibu beach, though the waters here are equally blue. It’s the lack of tanned, fit bodies, men in board shorts and babes in bikinis that brings out the stark difference between the beach in California and the one in Mangalore. While the quality of waves at both these beaches are extremely conducive for surfing, Malibu is teeming with enthusiastic surfers while Kodi Bengre is populated by its two lone occupants – Ishita Malaviya and Tushar Pathiyan.

Having made their way to Manipal in search of education, Ishita and Tushar chanced upon the Surfing Swamis at Mantra Surf Club located in a small hamlet some 40 kilometers away. Run by American Jack Hebner and his bunch of Krishna conscious disciples, this unique surf club offered room (and surf boards) to its customers, thereby getting the young duo hooked onto this adrenaline feeding sport.

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“Surfing is not about catching a few waves. A lot depends upon your fitness and technique; its a lifestyle commitment,” says 24-year-old Ishita. “There’s a misconception in India that people who actually want to surf need to go abroad to learn. We have 7,000 kilometers of coastline and some of the most spectacular waters here. There’s no need to go anywhere; you can surf right here,” says her companion Tushar.

Upon completing their education at Manipal the duo opened The Shaaka Surf Club at Kodi Bengre, a small fishing village nearby. “So far we’ve taught over 200 people how to surf, many of them students from Manipal, a few tourists and some locals,” explains Tushar, adding that, “Most people don’t know how to interact with the ocean; surfing provides that missing link.”

While Ishita studied journalism, Tushar studied architecture. “There were times when I used to go to class late because I spent a few extra moments on the water. Once you’re hooked the sport is addictive (but in a good way) and all you want to do is ride the waves,” tells Tushar. “Our lives are based around the ocean,” says Ishita, explaining how they educate locals on water safety and how to keep the ocean clean.

“Many of the local fishermen go out to sea, but they don’t know how to swim. We teach them to swim and to appreciate the ocean and all that it gives us,” she says. The duo also gives lectures at several local schools and colleges on how to stay safe in the water. They charge a nominal fee to teach people how to surf – ranging from Rs. 700 to Rs. 1,000 for every three-hour lesson.

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Ishita is the country’s first female surfer and The Shaaka Surf Club, run by this young and enterprising duo, was recently supported by Quiksilver, the world’s largest manufacturer of surf wear and board-sport related equipment. “Its great to finally be recognized for all our hard work. We hope that with the support of more such brands we will now be able to do a lot more to promote and popularize surfing across the country,” says an excited Ishita.

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For now the duo continues to work relentlessly to teach more like-minded individuals the joys of surfing. They’re also putting out word, to whoever’s listening, that the waters in India are not as flat as a pancake. They’re choppy, rough, exciting and perfect for surfing.