Riding The Wave: The Indian Surf Stories
India is now home to surfing festivals, training schools and even surfboard manufacturing start-ups.
Who knew Indian shores could also script inspiring surf stories! But if the number of surfing schools and festivals that have started in the country in the past few years is anything to go by, we seem to be riding a rather buoyant wave. Here are stories from the front-runners of the growing surfing scene in India.
Murthy Megavan – The Fisherman-Turned-Festival Organiser
(Kovalam, Tamil Nadu)
Murthy Megavan, a fisherman from Covelong Point, Kovalam, Tamil Nadu, started surfing using just a wooden door for a surfboard, until he met Jack Hebner, a.k.a. Surfing Swami, a veteran who has been surfing on Indian shores for more than 40 years. It was Hebner’s surfboard that Megavan had used for his first ‘real’ surf in 2002.Says Megavan, ‘Those 20 minutes on the board changed my life.”
In 2012, Megavan set up The Covelong Point Surfing School, offering free admission and coaching to children who wished to learn the sport. His only condition to interested kids was that they should keep away from alcohol and drugs, a common problem in his fishing community. In 2013, he started a surfing contest-cum-festival called the Covelong Point Classic Surf Contest, with financial assistance from Arun Vasu, the the director of a Chennai-based cargo company. The two-year old event, which also features art and yoga, has so far witnessed performances by festival favourites like Raghu Dixit,The F16s and Skrat, among others.
Anil Ningappa: The Seven-Year-Old Surfing Wonder
In 2014, seven-year-old Anil Ningappa and his laborer parents moved to the beach town of Mulki, Karnataka to look for a better livelihood. Every day, the boy would spend hours sitting on the beach, watching kids from the Mantra Surf Club surf and swim in the ocean. “He watched us for two weeks,” recalls instructor Shamanth Kumar, who is now Ningappa’s surfing coach. One day Kumar asked him if he wanted to surf too. Ningappa happily said yes. On day one of his surfing lesson, Ningappa fell off his board, but that didn’t stop him from waking Kumar up early next morning for his second session. Much to Kumar’s surprise, the boy learned to surf even before he could swim. On the second day, he managed to ride his first wave. A young surfing star, Ningappa now wants to ride waves that are six-foot high. Kumar says, “He will become a legend one day; I’ll make sure he does.”
Spandan Banerjee–The Surfboard Start-Up Man
What started out as a simple week-long trip to discover surfing spots along the Indian coastline soon turned into a bigger project for Spandan Banerjee, a mechanical engineer-turned-pilot and surfing enthusiast. In 2012, he co-founded the India Surf Festival, which is held annually on Odisha’s Ramchandi Beach. The next year, he launched his solo startup called Tattva Boards, which custom-makes surfboards and long boards.
In its past four editions, ISF – which Banerjee is no longer part of – drew in a large number of competitive surfers, and also hosted many local and international music acts such as the Argentinian techno DJ, 120dub, France’s world music ourfit Alchimix and Mumbai’s reggae/psychedelia act Tribal Flora, among others.
Read the full feature in the October issue of Rolling Stone India.