Life & Style

Waves on his mind

On the eve of International Surfing Day, 28-year-old Sekar Pachai is living his dream of representing India at stand up paddle boarding championships

The seaside village of Kovalam was witness to something unusual that day. A little boy marched importantly towards the sea to join fishermen much older than him on a fishing expedition. “I was probably the youngest in my village to go fishing,” recalls Sekar Pachai. Sporting a team India T-shirt with the Surfing Federation of India logo, the 28-year-old speaks of how much his life has changed over the last eight years — he learned to surf, became a surfing instructor at Covelong Point Surfing School, trained himself in stand up paddling (SUP), and has gone on to represent the country at international championships.

Sekar settles for a conversation in Covelong Point’s sea-facing sit-out, hours before leaving for Switzerland for the 2018 Swiss SUP Championship. “As a fisherman, I body-surfed from a young age,” he says. And living in Kovalam, it was natural that he tried his hand at surfing even before laying his hands on a surf board. “I used a foam board employed to pack ice for preserving fish,” he recalls.

Sekar remembers how surfing came to him naturally. “I caught the first wave I encountered,” he says. Once he got himself acquainted with fisherman-turned-surfing instructor Murthy Megavan, Sekar’s life took a completely different turn. He realised he was better equipped to ride the sea he was born into, rather than sail it for fishing.

Waves on his mind

“We had very few surf boards to practise on then,” says Sekar. “Murthy gave one that three boys from the village had to share.” He remembers sitting on the shore, his eyes on the boy with the board, waiting for him to come back. “If he caught a good wave, he would take his own time riding it,” he says. The aching, long waits only made the time he spent on the board more precious.

Fishing gradually took a backseat in his life and soon, Sekar got absorbed at the surf school as an instructor. This was it — the surf board, the high he got from conquering a wave… Sekar realised that he was at the best place to be. But he wanted more. “I taught myself SUP,” he says. In the end, it was SUP, an off-shoot of surfing, that got him fame.

Sekar started participating in competitions — his first was the Summer Swell Challenge at Puducherry in 2012. “I didn’t win, but I learned a lot,” he says. He got to know SUP jargon such as cut back, bottom turn, barrel, ariel, 360. “These are the various kinds of moves; I did them myself, but didn’t know that they were referred to by these terms,” he says. He also picked up techniques that earned good points from the judges.

Summer Swell started a pattern that went on to groom Sekar’s sport; with each event he participated, he got to learn from his fellow participants. “They were all well trained by professionals, whereas I am self-taught,” he explains. Then came 2016 Fiji ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship in which he stood 20th among 50 participants. It was his first international event. Sekar went on to participate at championships in Singapore (2017), Denmark (2017) and Thailand (2018). “Arun Vasu of the TT Group came forward to sponsor me,” he says.

Sekar now trains between Bengaluru and Kovalam. “I have an excellent gym trainer in Bengaluru,” he says. “I spend one week every month in the city.” The one thing that bothers him on his travels abroad is the fact that he is the only player representing India. “Countries such as Australia have several people competing, which increases the country’s chances of winning,” he says.

“It’s true that technique and training matter,” says Sekar as he prepares to hit the waves with his paddle board for our photoshoot. “But for a sport such as surfing, a lot depends on Nature. We might be the best surfer in the world, but if the sea decides not to send a wave that’s good enough to ride on, we lose,” he says.

He believes in the sea; he feels it is alive, and that it listens to him. “I talk to the waves,” he says. “When my mind is cluttered, I simply grab my board and hit the waves. I come back with a clear mind.”

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 6:40:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/waves-on-his-mind/article24163076.ece

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