I had no idea that you could surf in India. Surfing is a relatively new sport in India with only a small community of native Indian surfers, and last year I met Ishita Malaviya, India's first female surfer, and we quickly became good friends while shooting in Sri Lanka for GoPro.
Sri Lanka, the small island country off of the coast of India felt like an intro to India, a teaser. As a frequent traveler with the entire world on my bucket list, I've really wanted to visit India, but had been waiting. My friends who have traveled to India all have had both warnings and praises to share about the colorful and chaotic country, so I was reluctant. Having made an amazing new friend in India, I felt comfortable booking a trip there, and I couldn't think of a better first trip to India than to spend it on the beach in mellow South India at Ishita's surf camp.
I have been learning to surf on and off for pretty much my entire life, with long breaks of a year or ten years between sessions. My dad grew up surfing in Hawaii, and hoped to pass his passion of surfing on to my sisters and me, but the cold, dark and unforgiving waters around San Francisco didn't exactly instill a longing to be one with the ocean. In the last few years I have made more frequent efforts to learn to surf, but still I'm just a beginner who can hop up on a board and then tips over a few seconds later.
Just before New Years 2017 I flew to Mangalore, a city in South India from where a taxi drove me an hour north to Kodi Bengre, a very long thin strip of beach that is a busy village home to many families, fishermen, and Ishita and her boyfriend Tushar's surf camp, The Shaka Surf Club. My days at the Shaka Surf Camp consisted of yoga, morning surf sessions, afternoon naps in my tent under the coconut trees, afternoon chai time, boat adventures to nearby islands, and trips to the nearby towns of Manipal and Udupi for massages and to sample various South Indian dishes, and at night we would gather around the campfire with the visiting travelers to the camp.
At times I easily felt like I was in Hawaii, but certain things were distinctly Indian- rickshaws buzzing down the road, curry for three meals a day, and the sunrises and sunsets made beautifully dramatic by India's dense haze.