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