I couldn‚Äôt think of anything more relaxing than spending a day at the beach gathering some rays and having a cool drink but then trust us humans to take a tranquil and peaceful place and make it a fast paced, adrenaline pumping playground. At least that‚Äôs what I thought surfing was about before I took my first surfing lesson. The sport of surfing was something that I‚Äôd always admired from afar, enjoying the many internet videos of ‚Äėsurfer dudes‚Äô riding big waves in Hawaii but I finally decided it was time to take the plunge myself and so we headed out to the coast to catch some waves. Surf‚Äôs up, let‚Äôs hit the water.
We first had to make our way from Mumbai to the town of Kemmannu, near Udupi in Karnataka. We made the 800 kilometre road trip in the new Elite i20 and for November, the weather was a pleasant surprise. It was a cloudy day with light showers that continued through the day. The Elite i20 made short work of the distance and the kilometres ticked off the odometer quickly. The i20 is a great car for the open road and the smooth, efficient diesel engine and six speed gearbox was great for cruising down the NH4. When the road turned twisty as we neared the coast, it handled the twists and turns with equal ease. We reached our hotel late in the night and were quickly asleep. Surfing was not turning out to be quite as laid back as I thought and the early bird gets the wave or something, and that‚Äôs why we would be waking up at 6am the next morning. Who‚Äôs heard of waking up early in the morning to go to the beach?
If you want to learn to surf, the day starts early and we were on the beach just after sunrise, ready for our first surfing lesson. Unlike most other adventure sports, unless you already know how to surf, it‚Äôs not quite an ‚Äėarrive and drive‚Äô type of activity. You actually have to learn how to do it before you venture out on a board. And after my first lesson I realised why ‚Äď it‚Äôs nowhere near as easy as the surfer guys and gals in the videos make it look. To artfully carve through the waves on a surfboard takes years of practice but then everyone has to start somewhere. There are a small number of surfing schools on both the east and west coast of India that are happy to introduce newcomers to this way of life. We visited the Shaka Surf Club that is run by Tushar Pathiyan and Ishita Malaviya. They show you the ropes and provide you with rented surfboards to get you started. They recommend that you spend at least three days learning the ropes on your first try so that you can grasp the basics thoroughly.
After a quick theory lesson from Tushar, we hit the water and I spent the better part of the morning session finding my balance on the surfboard and learning how to paddle. The next step was standing up on the board and this was the really crucial step. It requires you to spring up from completely prone on the board to standing upright in one smooth motion – quickly enough so you don‚Äôt miss the wave and smooth enough so you don‚Äôt upset the balance of the board. For me the standing up bit was not quite that easy on account of the number of doughnuts I‚Äôve put away over the years so standing up on the surfboard would have to wait for later. The next few days were spent on the water, trying to catch my first wave. And when I did, the experience was like nothing else. I could feel the water grab hold of the surfboard, propelling me forward to the shore. I could feel the wind in my face and see the water rushing by. And in a flash, it was over and I knew one thing for sure, I wanted more.
As I gained my balance and confidence on the board, things started to take on a more mellow hue and I started to relax. Once you get past the physicality of it, you start to appreciate how brilliant a sport surfing is. It was no longer as fast paced as I imagined. In fact things started to slow down rather than speed up. I now understand how so many people say that surfing is more of a lifestyle than a sport. As we bobbed up and down on our boards chatting with each other, we scanned the horizon for the next wave. Taking in the sun, soaking in the cool water and watching the fishing boats go out to sea. In surfer spiel, we were just ‚Äėhanging loose‚Äô or ‚Äėchilling out‚Äô ‚Äď living in the moment so to speak.
And then the next wave rolled in and I heard Tushar shout, ‚Äúpaddle, paddle, paddle‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ and I set out to try and catch it. I paddled my heart out and it still got away from me and I chide myself for messing up the timing. ‚ÄúChill out dude‚ÄĚ, says Tushar, ‚Äúthere‚Äôll be another one along in no time.‚ÄĚ