Tide is high and water is the right temperature, says Olympia Shilpa Gerald, from Puducherry's Summer Swell Challenge that saw 65 surfers from 14 countries riding the waves under the August sun

Keeping pace with a capricious wave on the Bay of Bengal with nothing but a six foot-board underneath and a blazing noon sky overhead is no easy task. But, determined surfers repeatedly launched themselves into the swell in a bid to ride a wave all the way to the shore, even as the countdown to the finale of the international surfing challenge, began on Sunday.

While the waters lapping against the beachfront at Seagulls restaurant were determined in tripping up those who dared to ride the waves, surfers had a whale of a time, egged on by lusty cheers from the audience, which comprised tourists and folks from Pondicherry and Auroville. Kallialay Surf School’s Summer Swell Challenge, supported by the Puducherry tourism department, saw as many as 65 surfers from 14 countries reinforce the international stamp of the event.

Bloom time for Indian surfing

The competition has also notched up a step, believes Marcus Rocha from Australia, who clinched the first prize in the above 25 years category. “Indian surfing is definitely blossoming and I was happy to share an experience with surfers here,” he added.

The surfer who won the title last year is a computer engineer. While Appu K. Manikandan walked away with the top honours in the 16- 25 category, G. Ragul from Kovalam finished first in the under-16 category. Barely 16, Ragul has been surfing only for a year. The Class X passout is determined to make it big in surfing. Runners-up in the respective categories were Munnu, Vicky and Fuku (from Maldives).

Destina Kittiel aka Rosie, who won the Indian Encouragement Award, is the only female surfer in the competition. “Frankly, I was really nervous being the only girl out there, but they all made me really comfortable,” said the 24-year-old Indian-born woman, residing in Hawaii now.

Other titles included the best wipeout (Mathias), best surfing moves (Fuku), best in expression session (Juan Reboul) and promising skater to Dharani. Sathish from Vishakapatnam won a special award for the most promising Indian surfer.

The event this year was designed as board riding event with skateboarding on a mini ramp complementing the water sport. “We could not have asked for better waves or a better competition,” said Samai Reboul, who runs the surf school with his Spanish sibling Juan.

Though the surfing challenge started as a smaller venture last year, it has grown to attract interest from outside Puducherry, said A.S. Sivakumar, director, tourism. P. Rajavelu, Minister of tourism, assured the department would support future editions of the festival to make it an attraction for tourists from India and abroad.

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