CHENNAI: Catching a glimpse of India’s first lady surfer, Ishita Malaviya, at her early morning best was perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the two-day Surfing Championship held at the Mamallapuram beach over the weekend. Born in Mumbai and equipped with a course in journalism, the 22-year-old has in fact shifted base to Manipal with a few friends, for the sole purpose of riding the waves as more than just hobby.
“Well, I started surfing about four-and-a-half years ago at the ashram run by Narasimha Swami,” she recalls, adding that her bunch of friends at the time were some of the first Indian students to opt to learn the sport.
After a whole lot of practice, and cuts and bruises, (she gestures at her ankles for effect), Ishita and her friend Tushar Pathiyan started their own venture in 2007 to introduce beginners to the sport, called ‘The Shaaka Surf Club’ in Manipal. “Surfing is more a lifestyle and once you develop an appreciation for the water, then it is more likely you will want to clean up the ocean as well,” says Tushar.
The group tries to rope in youngsters to give the sport a try by also combining their lessons with humanitarian work, such as beach clean ups and the opportunity for under-privileged youth to experience the rush of sometimes standing taller than a wave.
While these surfs buds ‘board the tide’ almost every day, they do confess that the number of takers are limited and the fact that the purchase of a surf board (Rs 10,000 for a second-hand buy) could ‘wipe out’ a month’s salary doesn’t help.
However, an enthused Ishita adds, “We are on Facebook and I guess because the surf community in the country is so small, it keeps us well connected all the time.” The next step, they hope is the formation of the country’s first official surf team to compete on an international level.
For the present, it seems that the Mamallapuram surf carnival had these youngsters rather content. Tushar pointed to the waves, “You see where the waves over there hit the rocks, it’s called ‘point break’, which means that the wave peels perfectly for a board to ride.”