imagine - you are lying on your bed with
your head in your pillow dreaming of glassy
waves, well formed barrels, long lines, slightly
off shore winds and nobody out but you and
your friends. Then you wake up and find out
- Hey! You're not dreaming - you're in South
India and the surf is great! More than 5,000
miles of virgin Indian coastline and lots
of great waves with nobody in the water -
that's surfing in India. You just have to
be here at the right time to get the waves.
Our last surf trip [July 2006] to the southern
most part of the sub-continent was the right
time and we got some really great waves.
Nobody out because nobody surfs in India
except a handful of guys and one girl. Not
only does nobody surf in India - people don't
even swim in the ocean. Can you imagine -
thousands of miles of beach all to yourself?
Nobody swims in India because of the danger
of sharks, right? Wrong! There are no sharks
along the coast of India. At least I haven't
seen one and I've been surfing here for the
past 30 years. People don't swim in India
because they simply don't know how.
In fact being alone for so many years finally
got to me and so I decided to teach a few
local kids how to surf just so I would have
someone to talk to and share the fun with.
Meet the kids: Kunja, Kirtan and Satya.
Baba [Rick Perry a 20 year surf-vet from
Hawaii], who has been surfing here in India
for the past 5 years, was also on this last
two weeks we hit many good spots along the
coast between Chennai [Madras] and Kanya
Kumari [Cape Comorin] but by far we got the
best waves in Mahabalipuram [Bay of Bengal]
and Manapad [Gulf of Mannar]. Actually that's
a lie and I shouldn't tell lies. The truth
is that we found several
previously unknown spots on this trip never
surfed before and with some really great
waves [right and left point breaks over shallow
decided to keep these spots a secret just
in case India ever gets inundated by vacation
surfers. If that ever becomes a reality
then we will at least have preserved a
secret spot or two for ourselves. Remember
what Confucius said, "Keep smiling and keep
the best surf spots secret for just you and
your friends." Was that Confucius or
was that Buddha? Anyway, you know what its
Satya [13 yrs old and 4 ft 5 inches tall]
was fearless wherever we surfed. Even the
smallest waves were head high or overhead
for this little guy but he never haired out,
even when he should have!
and Kirtan [Satya's brothers, 19 and 18 yrs
old] got great waves wherever we went out
and by the looks of it only time separates
them from becoming national surf icons here
young men [Velu and Shankar] from Pondicherry
joined us for a day at Mahabalipuram and
these guys also got some good waves. In fact,
Velu kept taking off so close to the rocks
that we thought we were going to have to
come out at low tide and pull him out from
the crevasses. But remarkably he made every
wave [well almost every wave] getting lots
of fantastic rides!
[a goofy-foot] also got some really terrific
rides that day. Prakash and Shankar are probably
the two best surfers in India but 'surfers
beware' because the little guys are coming
up fast and they have that competitive look
in their eyes!
spot we surfed at Mahabalipuram is a right-hander
called "Shore Temple".
The spot gets its name from the imposing
temple of Visnu that stands on the beachhead.
The temple was built over 1,000 years ago
by the Pallava dynasty of kings. The best
spot in the lineup is just in front of the
rock wall that protects the ancient shrine.
Making the first section you barely miss
scraping the side of your board on the rocks
[This spot reminds me of Point Panic in Honolulu,
Hawaii]. After that it's a nice hollow wall
that peals off for about 100 yards - fast
sections and plenty of room for radical maneuvers
depending on your capabilities.
A remarkable feature of the beach at the
southern side of the Shore Temple is that
you can dig down about 5 feet in the sand
and get pure drinking water when the ocean
is just 60 feet away. That's got to be unique.
At Mahabalipuram we rented an air-conditioned/thatched
roof cottage on the beach for less than $40
per night and everyone pilled in. This was
great surfing and comfortable living at its
best. In and around the town there are many
massive stone carvings from antiquity to
wonder at. You get the feeling in Mahabalipuram
that you have come to surf in some kind of
never-never-land. Did Peter Pan ever surf?
If so he would have loved this place.
At Manapad Point and all points south it
was just the five of us and although the
wind conditions those days could have been
better we still had all the waves we wanted.
But when is enough surf really enough? Never!
Manapad and other spots that we surfed were
all point breaks that emptied into fishing
harbors with quaint villages on the beach.
Fishing from small boats with hand held lines
is a way of life for many coastal people
in India, a way of life that they have been
following since hoary antiquity. Each village
has lots of friendly locals, especially the
kids who are more than stoked to watch the
surfing but who are mortified at the thought
of swimming far out into the ocean. Oh well,
someone had to do it and it happened to be
While surfing Manapad and the other nearby
breaks we stayed nights in the little temple
town of Tiruchindur. This was the best place
to base our party because between Tiruchendur
and Kanya Kumari there are no hotels.
there are fishermen's huts that you can rent
- provided you don't mind sleeping with the
smell of rotting fish. We didn't like that
idea so we opted for a nice inexpensive hotel
in Tiruchendur with an attached vegetarian
restaurant. A good meal and a clean place
to sleep is all that any surfer could ask
the drive down to Manapad from Mahabalipuram
we turned due east at Madurai and headed toward
for a couple of hours we then crossed the
Indira Gandhi Bridge with Palk Bay on our
left and the Gulf of Mannar on our right.
The long bridge took us to the island of
Rameswaram. From there we proceeded across
a finger like peninsula of sand to a place
called Dhanushkodi. From Dhanushkodi on a
clear day you can almost see the island of
Sri Lanka - it is a distance of about sixty
miles. The narrow channel between these two
countries is connected by an underwater chain
of reefs, sandbanks and islets. Legend tells
us that the monkey warrior Hanuman threw giant
boulders into the ocean at this location to
make a road for Lord Rama to march his armies
to Sri Lanka and do battle with the demon
king, Ravana. Rumor also has it that out there
on those reefs known as Adam's Bridge are
some great cloud breaks just waiting to be
discovered. [Maybe next trip.]
few miles out onto the sand peninsula we
abandoned our 2-wheel drive SUV and rented
a 4-wheel drive truck to get us, and our
equipment, across the dunes to Dhanushkodi.
The waves were not that great when we got
there but the shore break was massively suicidal.
So everyone hit the water and had a great
time until we had all been pounded nearly
to death! As the old proverb goes, "Surfing
isn't a matter of life and death, its more
important than that!"
The island town of Rameswaram, where we
stayed the night, is home to one of India's
most famous temples, the Rameswaraswamy Temple
[dedicated to Siva]. The temple is a fine
example of Dravidian architecture and its
four magnificent corridors lined with elaborately
sculptured pillars is an awe-inspiring experience.
The last stop on our tour was the very southern
most tip of India, Kanya Kumari [Cape Camorin].
The waves were huge and the wind was near
hurricane force. Nothing really to ride that
day so we turned our wheels north again and
headed back up the coast to hit all those
great spots one more time before heading
last day and the last wave of the trip [at
the Shore Temple] Rick cranked a hard bottom
turn on a medium size wave, caught the fin
of his 8 foot nose-rider on the bottom and
came up with no fin and the back of his board
broken in half - a heartbreaking ending for
an otherwise terrific fourteen days of surfing.
King Neptune on the left
and the author on the right