By Jacob Cherian for BigRush
India’s never been known for surfing even though the country enjoys nearly 7000 kilometers of coast line. India is ranked 19th in the world for the length of its coastline and yet most of it is still relatively untouched by water sports. South Africa and Spain are better known as surfing destinations and they are ranked way below on the coastline rankings at 41 and 27 respectively. So it’s not really the availability of the space that seems to be stopping Indians from taking to the waves.
Bikash Sharma has been surfing regularly over the past decade. He was introduced to it in Australia back in 1994. He’s now surfed at many of the hot spots around the world. He’s based out of Mumbai and has also tried the Indian scene. He says that it’s very common to get out of the water with a clump of dirty plastic bags tangled around your legs. The basic lack of amenities for India’s huge impoverished population leads to situations like this. Bikash is not looking back. He says he’d rather fly to Indonesia to catch some good, clean waves. However, not all beaches are as dirty.
One of the earliest known surfers in India is Jack Hebner aka Surfing Swami. In 2004 he set up the Surf Ashram on Mulki Beach about 30 kilometres from Mangalore. Today the ashram has four permanent members and its prime focus is to worship Lord Krishna.
Gaura Nataraj, the manager of Surf Ashram, says, “Indians are not surfing mainly because they are scared of the ocean. Many Indians don’t swim, and almost none of them swim in the ocean.” He does go on to clarify that all of this is changing nowadays.
After all, almost half of the guests to the Surf Ashram these days have been Indians. The largest number of Indians comes from Mumbai, followed by Chennai and Bangalore. The ashram has also been registered under the International Surf Association. These Hare Krishna surfers also hosted their first surfing competition.
The best surf on the west coast, around Mulki beach, is during the pre and post monsoons. More precisely, surfers would want to be there during the months of May, April, August and September. During these months, it’s easy to catch waves between 10 and 20 feet high.
The number of international surfers is slowly climbing for a couple of very India-specific reasons. For instance, the currents around the subcontinent are warm. So there isn’t a need for body suits to keep off hypothermia. The water is usually pleasantly warm. Shark sightings are very rare. And the best thing about it is that there is no rush. Surfers with international experience often complain about the long queues in Hawaii.