Monthly Archives: August 2017

A Day in the Monsoon Swell

A Day in the Monsoon Swell

Somewhere between the beginning of October and end of December comes a time where the small surfing community of Auroville wakes up before the break of dawn for the same reason: to manifest themselves in the strong monsoon swells formed by the rough cyclones which are fuelled by the warm oceans off the East Coast of India.

Throughout the majority of the year the flame that burns inside of us is dormant, sustained only by a few South swells that manage to survive passing Sri Lanka. Now, though, during these monsoon months where low pressure depressions spring up on the maps every week or two, now is when our flames burst into life until they are huge infernos of ecstatic and pure energy.

Our eyes search the horizon as it lights up with a rush of fresh energy from the sun who gave the wind its strength to raise and nurture the big, clumsy swells.

As soon as there is enough light for the eye to read the waves, we come out of our thick sweaters and rain jackets, allowing our bodies to slowly become a part of nature itself. The biting drops of water eat away at the warmth which the artificial materials had previously given us. The crisp gusts of air make our skin form up into bumps and constrict our blood vessels as we try to hold in as much warmth as we can.

At first my body and mind reject the thought of going in; but as my feet sink into the cold, wet sand and my eyes lock onto the swell that I have been waiting for all year, my mind melts into the present, and everything else drifts away.

Surfing during the winter and monsoon months in India, old memories, good friends, good waves, and great surroundings all come together to make some of the best experiences that can ever be had. One reason for this is the energy brought upon us by two of the biggest factors of our environment merging together: the air and the ocean. They change our point-of-view of things and show us how small we really are.

As soon as the water reaches my waist I place my board on the surface and launch myself forward towards the oncoming waves. As I slowly make progress towards the open ocean (the outside) the white waters become bigger and bigger, each wave pushing with more power than the previous.

The breakers approaching, I do my best to time it so that I can pass untouched by them. I barely miss the last one as it breaks on top of my toes, halfway through my “duck dive” (a technique to pass both body and surfboard underneath the crashing waves). The buoyancy of my surfboard pushes me out the other side where I paddle to find a suitable take-off spot.

Then comes the rush of adrenaline as I drop down to the bottom of the wave, the speed increasing with every instant. Once at the bottom my fins dig deep into the water, giving me the traction to project myself down the line. I give in a couple extra pumps to maximise my velocity and I crouch, holding myself as close to the growing face of the wave as I can. Within a second the lip of the wave throws itself overhead. My mind is then calm and I am in a different state. Thoughts no longer come in the form of words, but as emotions, instincts and impulses. What might be a couple seconds feel like an eternity as the wave envelopes me within itself, the exit moving ever further away.

I pull my surfboard up higher on the face as the ‘foam monster’ reaches from below to devour me. Now out of its reach I gain speed, moving towards the cavern entrance. The intensity of the light is increasing. “I’m out,” I think to myself. But the wave has a different plan for me, and shutting down in the last second swallows me whole, pressing me on the sandy bottom.

For a good part of the day then, we stay in the water, exchanging waves and trying new manoeuvres as we toy with the surf, which seems glad to spend some time with us; although we maintain vigilance, for at any moment the surf could sweep us off our boards and send us flying to the bottom of the sea, where we lose orientation as it, in turn, plays with us, throwing our limbs in whichever direction it sees fit. It loses interest soon enough though, letting us escape back to the surface.

The connection between the natural elements, our minds and bodies grows almost too strong for our small, infant-like selves. We are forced to sever the link, letting the final exchanges of emotions take place between us as the sun sets off to see what the rest of the earth is up to. We slowly head back to our warm and cozy dwellings, with new memories we will treasure for the rest of the year.

By Perceval Fayon

Making Top 10 at Asia MTB

Asia-MTB_Piyush

At the start of 2017, I had a feeling that my riding needed to be more alive; that I wasn’t being challenged enough in my little environment. Though I was training harder with a new coach and a confirmed extension of my contract with Scott, I struggled to create an environment that pushed me and helped me grow.

So I decided on a trip to Indonesia from July to September to train, race and collect some UCI points.

I had a few good warm-up races and a big one at the Asian Continental Championships. I was looking forward to my trip ahead and then received news that Ajay Padwal – an old riding friend – had passed away.

Of course we were all shocked, and I did not understand how to deal with it because I literally grew up riding with him during my first few years on a bike. But I knew that I did not want to remember my friend like that, so I decided not to postpone my plan and flew out of the country as planned.

This trip was already getting a little wild with that shocking incident and whether I like to admit or not, it did have an effect on my first race.

My first two weeks in Indonesia before I headed to Sumatra were just plain busy, stocking up on bike parts, repairing old ones and a whole lot of riding in the Cikole Bike Park. This park has been built by riders with government support. You are charged INR 75 per entry with a full day shuttle costing a maximum of INR 500 if there are five people for each loading car.

Add in some great healthy local food just outside the track and you can return to the city happy for less than INR 1000 for a whole day. The Spartan Racing team from Indonesia helped me by sharing their knowledge and skills, and I really owe the good experience I had on my bike to them.

I was, surprisingly, not so excited to race in Lubuk Linggau (south Sumatra), but I was still looking forward to it. The entire race went like a fast-forward button where I enjoyed a few bits, but mostly just went through the motions. I tried making the most of it and learned quite a bit in terms of bike setup which would guide me for the next few races.

Post this race, things took an interesting turn. I was able to figure out why I was in that mindset and I decided to do my usual gym-ride-train-repeat routine for a week before I left for Malaysia.

During that week, I took a long XC ride to some waterfalls just outside the beautiful city of Bandung and that really bought the flow back for me. I had a feeling in the back of my head that Malaysia would be really good, and honestly it did not disappoint.

I was here for the Asia MTB Series in Tambunan, Sabah, and I was thrilled to meet my old friend Jr Barba who is one hell of a crazy rider and a bro to me.

We saw the track. It looked wide open and full throttle, with just two bad pedal sections, one big road gap and a few fun features. It wasn’t very exciting to me until I actually rode it a couple of times and realised that every run was better than the next!

My main issue before the race was attempting the 22-foot road gap. It was really scary and I had never jumped anything that big. Barba spoke to me on the uplift and his words strung well in my mind.

On the next run, I made a clean landing and found myself thinking once more that it was really me holding myself back. It was that simple – either you do it or you don’t. Ajay’s recent passing also made me literally pull my head out and realise that life is truly short and that I must make the most of any and every opportunity, just like he did.

On race day, we had seeding in the morning and the race in the afternoon. I seeded fifth, a podium spot for downhill. This got me excited and nervous at the same time. Unfortunately, it rained, and I struggled riding some sections confidently, losing some time to finish seventh.

I lost a chance to make the podium, but this was my first ever top 10 and I walked away with six UCI points. I know I could’ve done better, but this result has surely motivated me.