Kolad, Goa, Rishikesh, Ladakh, are popular places in India for kayaking, white-water rafting, para-sailing and other water sports, but the 7000km coastal regions are gaining prominence now because of the increasing popularity of surfing in India.
The coastline in India is still being explored by surfers, but it only takes time and dedication to find the best surf spots.
Kerala: The point break (waves hit a point of land or rocks jutting out from the coastline) surf spot of Kovalam is probably India`s most well known surfing destination. “Kovalam, does not have the monster waves of Australia and Hawaii, but is an ideal place for beginners,” says Tamil Nadu based Madhumathi Ravi of Bay of Life Surf School. Not far from Kovalam Beach, Varkala in Kerala is a beach break (waves break on a sandy seabed ) surf spot. Apart from surfing, there is also the ancient temple of Sri Janardhana (Vishnu) just off the beach and several ashrams.
Karnataka: Beautiful with coconut trees and a backdrop of rocky mountains, inexpensive hotels and camping, Gokarna, in Karnataka is a haven for back packers and surf wanderers. Good waves form several times a year, at the Gokarna Main Beach (near the Mahabaleshwar Temple).
Orissa: When the waves are six and eight feet at Jagannatha Puri, a beach break in Orissa, getting through the strong currents can be a challenge. The tallest temple in India, Jagannatha, is more than a thousand years old and is another attraction apart from the surf. Sanjay Samantaray, founder of Surfing Yogis, recommends Paradip Port in Orissa for experienced surfers as it has the longest swell and you can cover 1 km in one catch.
Tamil Nadu: At Manapad Point, you can expect upto a 400 meter ride, when the waves are at its best. This lava reef is not easy to find and surfing here should be tried by experienced surfers. “Surfing in the monsoons, at Manapad Point is good fun,” says Gaura Nataraj from Mulki Surf Ashram.
The swell is good in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerela and Goa, though not all year round in Goa. It is best for beginners to start in Karnataka and then head South for bigger and more challenging waves. Kerala is a good location for point break surfing while the Andamans and Lakshwadeep islands are excellent reef breaks. It is safest, however, to learn on a beach break. Even if you fall, you will hit the sand and not hard rock or sharp coral.
There are many secluded spots, but these take a whole lot of time to explore and there is no guarantee that the right wave will hit. “It`s like spotting a tiger in a jungle,” says Madhumathi. “Good surf spots are remote. But the fun is in exploring these remote spots and hitting the waves with the perfect conditions, reiterates Tushar Pathiyan of The Shaka Surf Club in Karnataka.
Surfing has caught on with people from Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, apart from the locals, express most surf schools. Surfing is popular in the United States, Australia and in other counties, but the shores of India are still relatively unexplored and empty. “Surfing is still in its infancy and is new to Indians. People don`t even swim in the ocean in India, so the idea of surfing is still picking up,” explains Madhumati. “Surfers across the globe travel to India to explore our beaches, to learn about the Indian surf culture and to exchange ideas. Surf Tourism is now growing,” informs Kishore Kumar from Mantra Surf Club (Ashram Surf Retreat). Surf on!
Important to know:The surf spot— the currents, whether there are rocks or not and how to enter and exit.
Best time: Anytime as long as you get a good swell, except perhaps in the monsoons when the water is choppy and the waves don`t form well.
West coast: May-June and September-October. Due to strong currents and huge waves (10 fr +), the west coast is not suited for beginners, during the monsoon
East coast: June-August and December.
Ideal Conditions: Offshore winds, shifting from high to low tide and a good swell, all at the same time in a day.
Precautions: Surf in a group. Always ensure that someone who knows you are in the water is around. If the surfboard hits your head , you may pass out in the water.
Know you capabilities and have fun gradually progressing to more challenging waves.
With inputs from Tushar Pathiyan, Gaura Nataraj, Madhumathi Ravi, Sanjay Samantaray, ShowkathJamal and Kishore Kumar.