A fairly new sport in India, surfing is fast gaining popularity with adventure seekers and it’s on its way to become a mainstream activity. With 7,500km of coastline, it’s a wonder that an amazing sport like surfing has not always been a part of Indian life-style, and has only been recently introduced. Thankfully, many surfing schools have popped up along the coast in the last three years, and Indians are slowly roughing it out on the blue waters.

Surfing is highly addictive and a passion-driven sport. The techniques aren’t very hard to pick up – it will take you just about five days of practice to get up to speed. However, if you’re planning on becoming a pro, it’s your dedication to the sport and the hard work you’re willing to put in that will count more than the precision of your technique. It’s fairly simple – the more time you spend in the water, understanding and loving the ocean, the better you will become at surfing.

I have been surfing for about two years now in different parts of the country. My first stint with surfing was in Mangaluru during a pre-monsoon swell, which was quite daunting as the waves were absolutely merciless. After getting smacked around by the rough-and-tumble surf for an hour, I finally got to body surf a few waves. I knew then that I was going to fall in love with this sport. After my stuttering start, I grew more confident and surfed in different parts of Karnataka, getting better each time.

Courtesy The Holiday Studio
A surfer heads towards the sea with her board in hand
A surfer heads towards the sea with her board in hand

It was in 2016 that I visited Kovalam in Tamil Nadu, a sleepy fishing community located about 40km south of Chennai, where the famous Covelong Point Surf Festival is held every year. The festival is affiliated with the Surfing Federation of India and hosts surfing competitions, which witness participation from surfers around India and the globe. The festival also has music, yoga, kayak races, volleyball, amongst other beach-side activities.

I stayed at the beautiful Surf Turf, which is located right at the beach. I had the fortune of meeting Murthy Meghavan, the founder of the Covelong Point Surf School, and the reason surfers flock to this small hamlet today. My coaches, Shekhar and Sharni, are the children of fishermen from the very village I was staying at. They are now pro surfers, who represent India in surfing championships abroad. They guided me through my lessons exceptionally. Although my basics were in place, visiting Covelong has improved my skill immensely.

Surfing isn’t easy, but if you want to learn the sport, there are a few things that you need to have in your arsenal. The first amongst these is a love for the ocean, because if you fear water, you obviously will not be able to learn the sport. You can’t wear a life jacket even while learning, so remember to not panic when you wipeout (and this is going to happen a lot initially). You also need to be an excellent swimmer, and need to be able to hold your breath underwater really well. You need to be in great physical shape and have good stamina – surfing is not just about balancing on the board, but you need a lot of upper body strength to paddle out to sea, catch a wave, prop yourself up on the surfboard in one smooth motion and then, finally, ride the wave. But once, with practice, you learn to surf, I promise that you will be hooked for life!

Luckily, the waves of Covelong are great for practising surfing. The beach here is an excellent destination for beginners as well as professionals. The Bay of Bengal provides gentle and calm waves, which helps the adventure sport thrive here. Although I had surfed before, surfing in Covelong gave me a new perspective on the sport and made me more determined to become a better surfer.

Surf Turf organises two-hour beginner courses (₹1,500) for those visiting the beach for a short period of time. They also have a 10-day complete training course (₹13,500), which you can opt for. You can learn everything from surf techniques, ocean currents to reading the waves and changing tides, during this course.

Covelong3_TI

Covelong2_TI

The thrill of riding the waves and conquering them will make anyone smile
The thrill of riding the waves and conquering them will make anyone smile

Unlike regular sports, adventure sports require you to connect with nature, and try to negotiate natural forces that are far beyond your control. You perform feats under highly unpredictable circumstances, and that is what gets the adrenaline pumping. Performing these sports makes you a more dedicated and driven person. I used to be a woman with a hundred fears and, today, I am stronger than I was two years ago. Surfing helped me work on myself by strengthening my body and building my endurance. But more than that, it has helped me become stronger both emotionally and mentally. Surfing has also helped me develop a deeper love for nature and the ocean, and that is definitely the need of the hour. If you have the chance to learn surfing, I urge you to jump at it. I promise that it’s going to change your life!

Tip If you are a beginner trying to surf in Covelong, avoid the period between June and August.

Where to Stay & Eat

In Covelong

Stay at the Surf Turf (Tariff: ₹2,500–4,400) when you visit Covelong Point for surfing. On offer are clean and spacious ocean-facing rooms. Standard rooms come with a common bath while the deluxe and suite rooms have attached bath. Tents can also be pitched at site. Surf Turf also organises activities such as stand up paddle, kayaking, wind surfing, fishing and catamaran rides amongst others. A stay at a fisherman’s house (Tariff: ₹800–1,000) can also be arranged here. For food, you can either eat at the restaurants attached to your hotel (Surf Turf has a nice cafe) or eat from the shacks at the beach.

In Chennai

You can stay in Chennai as the city has many choices for accomodation. A few medium budget options include: Savera Hotel (Tel: 28114700; Tariff: ₹7,000–12,000) and The Residency (Tel: 28253434, 42121122; Tariff: ₹5,800–6,380). The YWCA International Guest House (Tel: 25324234; Tariff: ₹900–2,400), on Poonamallee High Road, has AC and non-AC rooms and is popular with foreign tourists. For a budget stay, try Sabari’s Nest (Tel: 28115111/222; Tariff: ₹2,000–3,300), Hotel Maris (Tel: 28110541; Tariff: Rs 2,200–2,900) and Hotel Kanchi (Tel: 28271100/9000; Tariff: ₹1,130–1,870).

When to go The best time to visit Covelong is between November and February

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Chennai’s Kamraj domestic airport (40km/ 1hr) is served by flights from major cities. Taxi with a state permit costs ₹11–14 (min) per km

Rail Chennai’s three railway stations Chennia Central, Chennai Egmore and Tambaran Station are well connected to the rest of the country

Road The scenic East Coast Road of­fers good connectivity by bus and taxi to Kovalam, 40km away from Chennai