Ed Templeton and Sofie Radecki, who run a surfing-cum-yoga school at Varkala have started a surf school at Papanasam beach, Varkala

Ed Templeton and his wife, Sofie Radecki, are on cloud nine. Their Papanasam Surf School at Papanasam beach, Varkala, is now officially up and running. “It’s a year long dream come true,” says the couple. As Ed sets down a cup of coffee by the table, Sophie excuses herself, saying, she has a yoga class to conduct.

The duo runs Soul and Surf in Varkala. “We started Soul and Surf, a place which teaches surfing and yoga in 2010. We first began working out of a four bedroom house with me as surf instructor and Sofie teaching yoga. Sofie learnt yoga at a place near Neyar Dam,” says Ed, who learnt to surf when he was in his thirties.

Soul and Surf has since moved to a lush property, which has 15 rooms for lodging, a restaurant, a verdant garden and an outdoor lounge area which overlooks the Arabian Sea. There are also five International Surfing Association qualified instructors from the United Kingdom and some local employees assisting them now.

“Not only do we teach our guests to surf and do yoga, we also introduce them to Kerala and its culture. For instance, we take them to Kathakali shows. As each student has a different level of proficiency in surfing, our classes vary from three to seven days. The classes are one-and-a-half hours long and we run through the basics with them. We also teach them beach safety (which parts of the beach to avoid due to the waves), surf techniques like paddling, how to lie prone on the board and then do a pop up (stand on the board)...”

Surf and Soul is however open only during the months of October till May. “The waves are rather choppy during the rest of the year,” says Ed.

The seed for Surf and Soul was sown during a visit to Varkala in 2009. The duo had then just quit their jobs in the media field to travel the world, to surf, a sport they both enjoy, and to practice some yoga when their journey brought them to Varkala. “We found the place charming, it felt like home. The surf was good, the water warm and the water was not crawling with surfers, unlike other beaches in other parts of the world. The waves here are perfect for beginners and amateur surfers. That is when we decided to start Soul and Surf.”

Ed admits he and Sofie were unsure if their venture would be a hit, “but within two weeks of creating a website for Soul and Surf, there has been no looking back, we are always fully booked”. Although majority of their customers are from Europe, there is a gradual flow of Indian customers now. “We get quite a large clientele from the metros and we recently had enquiries from a group from Technopark.”

Ed recalls how the locals, especially the fisher folk who live by the beach, looked on dumbstruck when he first started surfing. “They would cheer on as I navigated the waves; I felt like a pro. One or two fishermen asked me where the motor for the board was located. The fisher folk have become our friends and our supporters. We are insistent that we do not intrude on their work while we surf and are respectful of them. In fact, before we start our surf lessons, we teach our students a bit of Kerala’s culture and sensibilities. Tiny bikinis are a big no for our students,” says Ed, who adds that he has managed to pick up a bit of Malayalam.

Surf and Soul also conducts free surf lessons every Sunday for the fisher folk children. “The kids here are born and brought up around these waters and this sport comes easily to them. Our goal is to train one or two kids who show potential in techniques of surfing. They can then join us as surf instructors, if they like.”

Surf school

Papanasam Beach School, which was inaugurated yesterday, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. A one-and-a-half hour lesson costs Rs. 2,000. This includes the use of a surf board and a personal instructor to guide you. The school also rents out surf boards. The boards are all brought in from Europe.