As someone who is really, really passionate about traveling, I have one simple rule – “Every year, visit at least one new place, and do one new thing”. This new place could be something I might have visited with my parents before, but never really explored the way I do – extensively on foot, or an entirely new place. The new thing could be a new adventure, generally a new sport or activity. I did scuba diving three years back, I did unique heritage walks two years back. This year, thanks to Coronavirus, I have no idea if I will be able to keep up with my rule. But last year, when I turned 30, I wanted to set myself a special challenge. The new place I visited last year, was Hampi. The new thing I wanted to do, was to set myself for an exciting challenge. And I chose surfing. And let me tell you, I don’t know swimming, not a bit, nothing. My knowledge of swimming is zest, zilch, zero.
I had heard a lot about India becoming the next new place to be for surfers. A friend told me about Jonty Rhodes coming to surf in India for surfing. I saw videos of Chris Helmsworth (*sigh*) surfing and teaching his kids to surf in Australia. I read about the very famous and happening Mantra Surf Club in Karnataka, which was spearheading the surfing revolution in India. And after reading a lot, and a lot of daydreams, I decided, my thing to do when I turn 30, would be surfing. I had no idea what I was signing up for, but I was sure it would be fun.
For someone who doesn’t know how to swim, learning to surf can be more challenging compared to someone who is a good swimmer. Surfing doesn’t essentially involve swimming, but it requires being comfortable in water, especially in waters that go quite deep. The deeper you go, the more distance you get to pop up on your board and surf, its as simple as that, or so I understood. And for me, the moment goes above my waist, survival instincts tend to kick in and warning bells ring louder than a lifeguard’s bell. But, a challenge is a challenge. It took me a lot of exhausting walks, from the beach dragging my board with me into the sea, failing to pop up every time, coming out on the beach on the board, and then dragging it back in again. It is extremely exhausting, trust me. But the day you will finally pop up on your surf board and ride the waves, all the exhaustion and injuries and tumbles and hits and all of it, would be worth it. The other challenge I faced is, pushing myself to stand up on the board. Its called ‘popping up’. The board is narrow, definitely narrower than I am (LOL), and, it is rocking and shaking on a just hit wave and a wobbly sea. And you are lying front-down on it, from where, you have to push yourself to stand up on it, all the while with the board shaking and wobbling. Tricky. But its all about technique. Master that, and the waves are yours to ride. And what do you need for that? A good trainer, a sane and calm mind, and agility in your body.
I think I will put up a whole new post on my experience of learning to surf. What do you think? Right now, let me share with you my list of the top ten spots to surf in India. This is a list I had when I had decided to learn surfing and was narrowing down on the destinations. I learnt surfing in Kovalam. I chose Kovalam because I know a bit of the place as I have been there before, plus a very, very good friend of mine lives close by, he knows the place, he knows the local language, and I could meet him while on the trip too. The trip would serve multiple purposes then! So, Kovalam it is. And the surf school there was cheaper too (money is saved, is money for another trip, you see).
One tip: Surfing season in India is from September to November and March to May. However, the March to May season might get really hot, and if you’re not used to the Indian summers, you could end up with a sun stroke or something, so plan well. And research well before planning.
So, without further ado, here’s my list. This list is not in any ascending or descending order, it is just an indicative list.
This is where I learnt swimming. The beach town, is undoubtedly really beautiful. The waves are not so big, so, you might end up with a lot of sand and water in your mouth. The surf club here is run with a social purpose. The club has good foam boards and fibre boards, and they rent them out. Along with Varkala, Kovalam is one of the most known surfing spots in Kerala. There are multiple hotels and resorts available for staying here, and good range of food options for everyone.
If I had to choose between Kovalam and Varkala, I couldn’t. The beach is at a cliff, and there are some great surfing waves here. There are multiple surf clubs here that will help you learn and rent out boards. Varkala has a beautiful scenery, as well as, great resorts, hotels and restaurants. It is one really amazing and chilled out place to be at and surf.
Mulki is a small town near Mangalore in Karnataka. The place has become a really popular hotspot for international as well as domestic tourists. This place is not just famous for surfing, but also for other water sports, long distance recreational kayaking stand up paddling, etc. too. This is where the famous Mantra Surf Club is located. Mantra was ideally my first choice to learn surfing at, they are awesome at it. Unfortunately, it voershot my budget, and I had to drop it. But if you want to train with the best, Mantra would be my first recommendation.
This place has become a very popular Goa alternative for domestic tourists. It is essentially a temple-town that has become known for its beaches in recent times. The long open beach at Gokarna is excellent for surfing. Gokarna is a great laid-back option for surfers and is a good spot for surfing in India.
Manapad Point, Tamil Nadu
Manapad Point is a small coastal village in Tamil Nadu, and is considerably less known to people. However, this is probably said to be one of the best surfing sites globally – that’s how good the waves are here for surfing. Surfing in Manapad Point is an extraordinary experience, and Would definitely one of the top spots to surf in India.
Covelong and Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
These are two different places. Covelong, also called as Kovalam Beach, is in Chennai, and is one of the best places in India for wind surfing and has a great surf school. Mahabalipuram is another temple town with a great surf school, making it a good place for beginners. Both the places are good for beginners.
Ashvem Beach, Goa
Ashvem beach is a popular surfing spot in the popular tourist destination of Goa. There are multiple surf schools in Ashvem, and people can easily learn surfing on this beach. The reason I did not choose to go here is because I was going to make the trip towards the end of November, which is a peak tourist season for Goa – making everything from air fares to hotel and restaurant prices go up significantly. Plus, it gets extremely crowded everywhere at that time. I tend to avoid crowds as much as I can, so Goa anytime from November to March is a no-no for me. But if you are up for it, take the trip!
Paradip beach, Odisha
The state of Odisha is becoming quite a happening tourist destination in recent times. Though right now, it is still recovering from the Cyclone Amphan that hit the state last month, it will soon emerge, and tourism will pick up in the state. Paradip beach is a very popular surfing spot in the state. The India Surf Festival was also held close to the beach here at the Ramachandi beach.
Serenity Beach, Puducherry
Puducherry has long been on my places to visit list, and yet, I have never been able to make it down there. Well, it will be when it is meant to be, I guess. The serenity beach is a very scenic beach with golden sand and spectacular waves, perfect for swimming. Experienced surfers say, Puducherry is one of the best surfing spots in India. Well, the place may not be very popular as Puducherry, this is the new name the place got a few years back. The place is a union territory that was originally a French colony, and the old name is Pondicherry, which is what the place is famous as. The place is also famous for the Aurobindo ashram.
Little Andaman, Andaman Islands
The Butler Bay beach of Little Andaman is a very important tourist spot and rated as one of the best surfing spots in India. Little Andaman islands are generally less touristy, hence, less crowded, leading to cleaner, serene beaches. Surfing in Andaman is a great experience and the day I visit Andaman, I am going to make sure I don’t miss it, and neither should you.
Well, that’s my list I made to choose where I would like to surf. Though I have myself surfed at only one of these places, and I am quite a rookie in the sport, I would love to surf at all these places some day. When yo stand up on the board, see the waves foam past you, and zip zap through it, and you see fellow surfers around, it is a feeling I can’t describe, you have to feel it to know it. If you are still wondering if surfing is for you, take the plunge. But be prepared for hurting legs, and being exhausted, it is not as easy as it looks. What I can assure you of is, it is worth the effort. The most, most important thing to learn surfing is GET A GOOD TEACHER.