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Wave riders

Nivedita Ganguly
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Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, here’s where to get on the surf board,writes Nivedita Ganguly

Photo: K.R. Deepak
Photo: K.R. Deepak

The weather is peachy and the two trainers push the bunch of youngsters onto their first waves. A few minutes of nervousness and soon the thrilled young spirits charge one of the best waves of the region. The waves and the conditions were just perfect. Now this isn’t in distant California or Australia, but right here at the pristine stretch of beach in Rushikonda, now known as a surfer’s paradise.

Riding a wave can give a kind of adrenaline rush that very few things do. Srija Bhaduri, a student of class XI of Calcutta International school who was here last week to attend a surfing camp, can vouch for it. “Just being on top of a wave is the best feeling on earth! I want to do more of it,” says Srija, as she paddles out in to the warm blue sea on her surf board.

Dotting the coastline is a swelling contingent of surfers who have started to realise the potential of what they call 'The Surfer’s Paradise'. They are tourists from across the country as well as ardent surfers from countries like Germany, France, USA and South Africa who have traced their way to the sands of Rushikonda to break up their day in the waters. India has about 20 listed surfing spots, mostly clustered around the south of the country. Vizag’s Rushikonda beach features on the list in popular surfing sites of magicseaweed.com and surfingindia.net. The coastline’s mix of epic waves to beautiful, small glassy swells, brought David DeLaughter here from the USA four years ago. A passionate surfer himself, David conducts short surfing camps at Rushikonda for his close associates and friends from other countries. “The city is so beautiful and it is a great place for surfing. I have been convincing all my friends and family members from other countries to come down to Vizag and experience the fun,” says David, who runs a company called Karoi Adventure Sports along with his friend Jay Sutherland.

This season, they have a big team of enthusiastic surfers from the USA and other cities in India for a surfing camp. The surfing camp that began on Friday will go on till Monday. “Rushikonda has good waves for learning. In fact, it is a great spot for even experienced surfers,” says Jay, who has been surfing for the past 20 years. In order to promote the surfing culture in the city, David plans to open a surf-themed coffee shop.

But despite of many favourable elements that make Rushikonda a great surfing spot, it has not yet scaled the popularity levels of other destinations like Pondicherry, Mangalore and the neighbouring Puri beaches where the India Surf Festival is held. Melville Smythe of the Dolphin Yachting Association (DYA) says that the lack of support from tourism department is the main reason behind it. The association has 10 body boards and four surf boards, which isn’t much going by the standards of a popular surfing spot.

The beginning of this year brought in some good news for the surfers of the city when a big team of 60 students from Kolkata came to Rushikonda. This was the first time that such a large group took part in the surfing camp. “I want youngsters to get attached to the water and not be scared of it,” says Melville, who is planning to approach the city schools to take part in surfing camps. His team has three instructors and 15 kids who come from the fishing community. Interestingly, these fishermen’s children have mastered the art of surfing. One of the boys, Sathish, won the title of ‘Most Promising Indian Surfer’ after his stint at the international surfing challenge held in Pondicherry last year. A school dropout, Sathish used to help his father in fetching more catch from the sea. After spotting the talent of this 13-year-old boy, the trainers at Rushikonda used to give him surfing lessons. Sathish’s award last year at the international event has given lot of hope to the boys of the fishing community, who now assist the trainers in making the spot a lively surfing destination. But, unless the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Board warms to the idea that surfing can help develop beach tourism, any increase in Rushikonda’s popularity as a top surfing destination in India could well remain a pipedream among a few passionate surfers.

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