Surfer Ramesh’s journey to national glory

From being a fringe, recreational activity to an Olympic event, surfing has become one of the most exciting sports in recent years.

Published: 07th June 2022 10:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th June 2022 10:30 AM   |  A+A-

Ramesh Budihal (Photo | SFI media)

Ramesh Budihal (Photo | SFI media)

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  From being a fringe, recreational activity to an Olympic event, surfing has become one of the most exciting sports in recent years. It all started on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, where a few boys took tourists on wave-riding. Those waves had reached every coast, and they hadn’t missed Indian waters as they hit Ramesh Budihal, the new Surfing Champion at the third edition of Indian Open of Surfing in Mangalore last week.

Being called a champion of a sport like surfing in India is no mean feat. Born in Goa, Ramesh's family had shifted to Kovalam, Kerala when he was three. He started following tourists and got himself enrolled on SISP (Sebastian Indian Social Project), the educational wing of the NGO Kovalam Surf Club. The school encouraged children to surf at the weekends and pursue education during the week.

“My mother, who sold handicrafts imported from Bombay and Delhi, found it difficult to enroll me in a private institution, so I followed tourists and enrolled myself in SISP. Paul, a Belgian tourist, was one of them and had opened my eyes to surfing. But, I was not good at school,” Ramesh recalled laughingly.

“I started surfing when I was a 5-year-old kid, for a couple of months, during the weekends with Jella, another Belgian who had a surfing teacher. The teacher also taught me how to surf during the off-season with good boards, and that's how I fell in love with surfing.” But it wasn’t easy for him to convince his parents, who were scared. However, coming third at the Spice Coast Open in 2013 sealed the deal. “I still remember them being so proud and happy when I secured third place.”

When asked about what surfing meant to him, He passionately stated, “When I enter the sea with my board, It shows me who I want to be. Surfing brings me so much peace, and I enjoy surfing. I had days when I didn’t go back home to my parents and slept on the beaches.”

“I had to enroll in surfing courses and became a surfing instructor, which did not help my training,” said Ramesh, pointing out that to live a stable life as a surfer, they need good training and sponsors. And when the pandemic struck he lost one of his sponsors. “During lockdown, I was completely hopeless. I couldn't surf, and that resulted in me losing my balance. I thought it was the end of my surfing journey,” recalled Ramesh, who tried to keep himself up by watching surf videos and dreaming about riding those waves.

As Ramesh maneuvered through the waves, impressed judges and fans, and took home the first place with 16.33 points ahead of Tamil Nadu’s Ajeesh Ali (15.67) and Sathish Saravanan (13 points) in Mangalore, it was a redemption of sorts after the heartbreak he had in the previous Mangalore event. He recalled that event and returned with nothing but broken boards and a broken heart. His desire was left untouched, and he came back with the intent to win, and he succeeded in style. That was not only it. Ramesh also bagged the “expressions race”, adding to his National champion crown. “This event at Panambur is special to me since it's my home break. Winning it was crucial to me.”

Ramesh touched upon his hopes and dreams of representing India in the Olympics. “I think it is too late for me to represent in the Olympics in 2024. It would need a lot of funding and training. However, I wouldn’t say the same about representing India at the World Surfing League events and the 2028 LA Olympics, which have surfers from across the globe.

He also acknowledged the overwhelming support he got from his crew, the Kovalam Surf Club and the Shaka Surf Club, Kodi Bengare, Udupi for their efforts in supporting him and making him what he is today — India’s Surfing Champion.


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