Surfing their way up to fame

K. Manikandan
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at Konark, Odisha:Members of the Tamil Nadu team that won the SUP event, held as part of Wave Surfing Festival.Photo: A. Muralitharan
at Konark, Odisha:Members of the Tamil Nadu team that won the SUP event, held as part of Wave Surfing Festival.Photo: A. Muralitharan

K. Manikandan

Like most young boys in fishing hamlets along the coastline near Chennai, Murthy Meghavan took to the high seas like ducks to the water.

He began by surfing on a broken wooden window frames when he was in class IV. An year later, he dropped out of school, unable to cope up with studies, and joined his father on the catamarans and fiber boats in the high seas in search of fish.

Hailing from a family of fishermen who have been living in Kovalam hamlet for a long time now, Murthy's vistas expanded when he was exposed to proper surfing methods introduced to him by foreign tourists, who used to surf on the long coastline between Kovalam and Mamallapuram.

Murthy has today come a long way — training several other young men and even school children from fishing hamlets in around Kovalam in surfing and Stand Up Paddling (SUP).

Recently, Murthy, Vignesh, and Manikandan from Bajanai Koil Street, where they grew up together, swept the first three places at a SUP event as part of the first ever Wave Surfing Festival held at Konark. In SUP, surfers use an oar, which can be used in stagnant waters as well.

Conducted by the Odisha Tourism Department, the three-day event, which began from February 7, attracted participants from more than a dozen States across the country in addition to surfing enthusiasts from Italy, France, Switzerland and others a few more foreign countries. The festival was organised jointly by the Surfing Federation of India, which in turn is affiliated to the International Surfing Association.

For the finals

Among the 60 participants who took part, five were selected for the finals. The participants had to travel nearly 6 km from start to finish in the backwaters of the Bay of Bengal at Chandrabaga Beach near the famous Sun Temple in Konark.

Balaji Thangavel, President of Surging and Water Sports Association of Tamil Nadu (SWAT) said the victory of the young men was bound to give this adventure sport, which is gaining popularity in Chennai, a shot in the arm.

Endowed with a coastline measuring nearly 800 kilometres, surfing and SUP had tremendous potential for adventure activity, tourism and providing an alternative employment to fishermen during lean seasons in Tamil Nadu.

Mr. Thangavel said they were planning to provide advanced training to the fishermen so that they can compete in international events. The fishermen could use SUP surfing boards and help in rescue operations along the coastline at Marina and Besant Nagar.

“We would soon be approaching the government agencies to start these programmes,” Mr. Thangavel added. He can be reached at 94446 77955.

Mr. Thangavel can be reached at 94446 77955

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