Ride the Waves in India

By: Staff Writer, 12 Mar, 2018

India’s vast coastline has been making big waves – well, I mean for surfers. In the last decade or so, surfing as a sport has really taken off. You can learn to ride waves even if you’re a complete novice, and see how the pros do it at surfing festivals. There are now surf schools in nearly every seaside state in the country. We asked some of the surfers behind the scene to tell us what inspired them and what you can expect when you surf! 

A quick reminder: Surf schools are generally shut for the monsoon as the seas can get extra choppy. Remember to co-ordinate with the school before you plan your trip! 



Soul & Surf, Varkala, Kerala

We spoke to Raffael Kably, partner and general manager at Soul & Surf (http://soulandsurf.com/india)  

What’s the story? Soul & Surf started when Ed and Sofie [the founders] quit their jobs nine years ago to travel the world. It was just a way to live a different lifestyle and from there, it went on to become a successful business. I partnered with them in 2012 when we moved to a bigger property (15 rooms) and since then, we've opened in Sri Lanka and do pop-ups in various locations around the world like Peru, Portugal, Andaman Islands and Indonesia.

What makes Soul & Surf different? Soul & Surf is not, and will never be, just a surf school. Yes, we offer surf lessons and board hires, but we like to look at ourselves as a bunch of people who love surfing and yoga as much as music, community and living a fulfilling lifestyle. Along with positively contributing to the local community wherever we operate.

How did you fall in love with surfing? I started surfing with Tushar and Ishita [of the Shaka Surf Club] in Mangalore and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I knew it was something I wanted to do for a long time. So I decided to quit my job and wrote to Ed. And the rest, as they say, is history.

How much do I have to shell out for a surf lesson? A surf lesson costs Rs 2,500 inclusive of all taxes.



Mantra Surf Club, Mulki, Karnataka

We spoke to Surfing Swami, the founder of Mantra Surf Club (www.surfingindia.net). 

What’s the story? Mantra Surf Club began in 2002 as a way to share my lifelong passion with the ocean, to stay fit through surfing and to simultaneously maintain our spiritual focus of serving Lord Krishna as our ultimate goal in life, through the practice of bhakti-yoga. Besides, it seemed like the coolest thing to do in a country such as India that is re-inventing herself in the 21st century — searching for a new identity while keeping in touch with her ancient cultural roots.

What makes Mantra Surf Club different? Mantra stands out from other surf clubs of the day in India in that it offers its members and participants clear and defined moral and spiritual objectives as part of the surfing experiences. It also is the first surf club in India and the inspiration behind founding the Surfing Federation of India, as well as being the premier surf club behind India’s first National Surfing Competition. 

How did you fall in love with surfing? I have been a child of the ocean since my earliest memories, which go back to Hawaii when I was just two years old. But my true love with surfing began in the summer of 1963 at Jacksonville Beach in Florida, USA. I happened to see a surfer riding effortlessly across the face of a blue wave and I was immediately attracted, like a bear to honey. By the end of that week, I had purchased a used surfboard for $80, made friends with three or four local kids of my age who surfed, and my journey began. As a kid, I played all the sports on offer in my country - baseball, football, basketball, swimming - but by far the experience of surfing topped them all. As my friend and fellow surfer Jonty Rhodes once said, “Surfing has the cool that other sports lack!”

How much do I have to shell out for a surf lesson? A three-day introductory course costs Rs 6,600. A day-long session costs Rs 2,200.


Kovalam Surf Club, Kovalam, Kerala

We spoke to Saskia Karina Knoop, volunteer for Kovalam Surf Club (www.kovalamsurfclub.com).  

What’s the story? The Kovalam Surf Club was founded in 2005 as a part of the bigger NGO S.I.S.P. (www.sisp.in). The idea behind the Kovalam Surf Club was to get the children of S.I.S.P. off the streets after school hours and to act as an extra motivation for them to go to school regularly. The main rule to participate in the surf classes is: “No school - No surfing!” 

Tell us more? The Kovalam Surf Club started off with three old boards and five to ten kids eager to become good surfers. The beginning was hard- the kids weren’t used to taking care of the equipment. Every week there were boards to be fixed, but the children learned how to repair them and realised it was hard work, so they became more careful. We’ve come a long way since then and foreign tourists, as well as locals, are impressed by the surf skills of our local guys; and they are really stoked to be riding the waves too. The demand for surf lessons has never been so big. Some of the older boys, who have finished their time in school, are now able to make a proper living out of surfing by offering lessons, guided surf tours, board rentals and board repairs.

What makes Kovalam Surf Club different? The Kovalam Surf Club is unique in its methodology, because all the money made from the commercial aspect of the club flows back directly to the local community. Our staff is paid a decent wage in order to establish a better life for themselves and their families. By the end of the season, we donate what is left of the profit to S.I.S.P. All members of the Kovalam Surf Club are local boys and girls from Kovalam and the surrounding villages. 

How did you fall in love with surfing? Surfing is a great way to be physically active, to challenge yourself and to empty your mind. For me, it’s the best way to relax from daily stress and pressure. Each day, the conditions are different. Sometimes you are lucky to have great waves, sometimes you have to wait for a good wave or the ocean is too rough to surf a proper one. Each day is special and I can enjoy every second of it! After surfing, I usually feel energized and it gives me such an amazing feeling of joy and respect to be one with the ocean. 

How much do I have to shell out for a surf lesson? A private 1.5-hour lesson costs Rs 1,500 inclusive of a surfboard and rash guard.


Mumu Surf School, Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu

We spoke to Mukesh Panjanthan, founder of Mumu Surf School (www.mumusurfindia.com). 

What’s the story? I started Mumu Surf School in a very small way in 2010. I only had a few boards back then and after storing them at my friend’s beach restaurant, I I got a tiny garage next to my home, a minute’s walk from the beach in the fisherman colony. Slowly, I bought some more secondhand surfboards from other travellers and surf schools, and after a couple of years I got my own webpage, so it was easier for tourists to find.

What makes Mumu Surf School different? Surfing is my passion. I simply love this watersport and I want as many people as possible (especially kids!) to experience the feeling of riding a wave. That’s why I give free surf lessons and surfboard rentals to local kids. The only condition is they have to help us keep the beach clean. My wife and I care a lot about nature and our environment and we do beach clean-ups almost every day. We also teach people how to recycle, upcycle and reuse stuff instead of throwing it away. We do the same with all the surfboards also. I try to fix them as much as possible, because it’s not easy to get equipment. We also co-operate with an orphanage school from Chennai and it fills us with joy to see the kids being so happy on the beach and in the water!

How did you fall in love with surfing? I was born to a fisherman’s family and I used to go fishing every day after school. I was always really comfortable in the water. When I started surfing, I got to know how much this sport connects people from all around the world. Through surfing, I meet new people and make friends daily, and I also travel a lot. It has given me the opportunity to see different places and different cultures, which I think is really important.

How much do I have to shell out for a surf lesson? A private 1.5-hour lesson costs Rs 1,300 per person, inclusive of a surfboard, leash and rash guard.

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