On the way from Sydney to Singapore I read an article about a Surfing Club in India, I was intrigued. The article talked about Kerala and the places we were going to, Varkala and Kovalam. It talked about surfing in both places and what it claimed to be the only surf club in India. I was sold, so on a mission to meet the Surf Club members I started researching, I was lead through a website who supported the Surf Club with donations to an organisation called SISP (which you now know all about).
Whilst in correspondence with Paul about SISP he told me I would be able to meet one of the elder boys from the club and if there was good surf hopefully go out with them and photograph.
I met with Praveen and after seeing all the young grommets getting their slips signed by Paul to approve their surfing time for the weekend I knew the next day was going to be fun.
We were staying on Lighthouse Beach in Kovalam which I will say is an epic break, apparently a few years back some ‘foreigners’ put in an artificial reef to improve the break, which is now defunct, and the break works well without it.
Some background to surfing in Kovalam is owed to a local by the name of Muthu who about 8 years ago started surfing; he no longer lives here so I was unable to find out more than that. Later on through the volunteer program at SISP a young Dutch man by the name of Jelle arrived as a volunteer Social Worker and also surfing enthusiast, he must have been in heaven arriving for his volunteer stint in Kovalam. The surf club was born during his first stint at SISP. 4 years later, Jelle comes back every year for 3 months to work with SISP and the surf club each time looking to improve and further the club for the kids. He has been able to bring O’Neill to Kovalam for a surf workshop and also get equipment from various places or even donations from passing surfers. I had just missed Jelle as he had just finished his three months but I got to enjoy the pleasures of his work and tutelage of the kids. Steph blog Surfing In-D-I-A talks more about surfing with the kids so I will just show you some photographs.
Surfing here is not just about the surf club though there is a whole scene, as well as the Clubbies I got talking to the business men behind the surfing, there was three of them renting an array of boards to the tourists both foreign and Indian alike. Sanjay was our man, he rented me the pride of his Bodyboard collection and it did not let me down. He also rented us our umbrella and sun bed, which we got some good deals on!
Once surfing is done for the day the Clubbies grab their boards and head off on a 5 minute walk from the beach to their club house. Mani is a local who has his own restaurant in the town and he offers the club storage for the boards and is also working with Jelle to help build a proper club house on the rooftop of his new building. Mani like so many in this town is a good man he looks and cares for these boys as if they were his own, he also makes sure the boys are fed and watered after a hard days surf. His restaurant is the centre of surfing in Kovalam outside of the waves, the juniors and the elders hang out here and goof around like young boys do.
I loved it in Kovalam, it had all the great traits we had found in Kerala, and it also had a surf scene like no other, there was no pretension here, it was all about the joy of surfing and the rush of catching waves. In my opinion the essence of surfing, no one cared how good you were, what labels you wore or what board you rode or whether you were a local. The only care was the waves and the big smiles it brought to many.
Thanks to Praveen, Sebastien, Ramesh, Vienee, Rajin, Geenesh, Kumar, Sujin, Rahul, Ajay, Dravia. And good luck to the boys for this months surf competition they will be competing in at Tamil Nadu. More photographs can be seen on www.francisminien.com later in the year.