CHENNAI: The waves around the Mamallapuram shore temple were dotted with surfers from almost every Indian beach all through Saturday as they battled the waves in the Ocean and Earth Surfing Championship, held here. “There are a few people who enjoy surfing along India’s coast, but this is the first time that we are coming together to have a good old surf-and-turf,” said ‘surfer’ Rob Patridge, an Australian who teaches the sport in Auroville. Surf enthusiasts arrived from as far as Bubaneshwar and Vishakapatnam on the eastern coast, Mumbai and even Mangalore on the other.
Word about the competition was propagated online through Temple Adventures, a surfing academy run by Rob and his partner Dave in Puducherry. Said Dave, “We called for registrations through our website and also spread the news through surfers we met.
We were surprised to have 70 entrants in our very first competition. Ishita Malaviya, the country’s only female surfer added, “The surfing community in India is small, but very tightly knit and so we are quite excited to be here,” after flying from Manipal for the two-day event.
The competitors comprise an equal number of Indian and expat surfers, with a few hundred beach youth and holidayers stopping by to gaze at the spectacle.
The competition was divided into three categories based on age; Saturday saw the prelims for young adults (20-30) and adults (30-40), though the beginner surfers and the advanced were judged separately. Sunday will not only witness the finals, but also the battle of the young uns’ (Under 20). “We are judged based on the three best waves that we catch and ride,” stated 14-year-old Dylan Imhoff. “If a participant cuts in on another’s wave, more than once then he will be booted out.” Rather interestingly, there is also a clash between four expat surf ‘legends’ on the cards, “These are some of the best waves for surfing that you can hope to find,” said Narasimha ‘Surf’ Swamy, a 65-year-old veteran, originally from Jacksonville, who presently runs a surf academy near Mangalore.
Perhaps the most endearing part of the competition were our surfers from Kovalam; led by Murthy M, a fisherman who has trained several youth from his fishing village to ride the waves, the local lads earned high praise from the organising expats.
“These guys, especially Murthy, are really amazing.
Imagine what the average Indian kid can do with a surf board if they had professional training,” marvelled Dave.
Murthy was visibly thrilled at being the only local surfer to have made it through to the advanced level, surfer’s final. “I don’t know what will happen in the final, but it is like a dream to surf against the same men who handed me a board eight years ago.” Maybe he will be one of the lucky ones to walk away with the expensive surfing merchandise on offer as prizes, but it is certain that he will not sustain injuries of any sort; owing to the extensive safety measures and lifeguards in catamarans deployed in the waters.