India Surf Spots
Namaste. Welcome to Surfing India, your ultimate surf trip destination. The sub-continent of India has 7,000 kilometers [4,349 miles] of coastline. The greater portion of that is still unexplored in terms of locating surf spots. But with that much exposure to the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal and with nothing off the southern tip of India for thousands, and thousands of kilometers except Antarctica- with that much ocean out there, you know there are going to be some great waves when the conditions are favorable.You're right, there are!
There are waves in India all year round averaging 3 to 5 feet but the season for big waves [8 feet plus] is May through September. This is the pre-monsoon and monsoon season. At this time the surf will range from 8 to 15 feet and bigger — often blown out and messy but sometimes the conditions are fantastic — super glassy and offshore winds, at which time you can expect some world class waves.
But before continuing about surfing in India there is one little bit of information that you might find interesting — the word 'SURF' came from India.
If there is any one word that surfers use the most it is probably ‘SURF’. After all, where would surfing and surfers be without surf? Surf is everything. But did you ever stop to wonder where the word ‘surf’ came from? I did and what I found out from an Etymology Dictionary was that the word ‘surf’ came into use in 1685. The word 'surf' was derived from the Indian word 'suffe' meaning the coastline. This word was picked up by Portuguese sailer's in the 1600's and 'suffe' soon became 'surf'.
Is that far out or what? India, one of the last countries in the world to take up surfing actually gave surfing its name! India may be the last to get into surfing but the surf potential in India is already proving to be amazing! Mother India does it again.
On the westcoast the swell direction is usually best when coming from the south or west, although an occasional north swell does get good. On the east coast the swell is almost always from the south or slight southeast direction. Along the 7000 kilometers of coastline in India there are at least 200 surfable river mouths. River mouths usually have distinct and consistent sand bar formations created by the river flow and these make for very good breaks — like beach breaks but with a lot less close outs.
Straight long beaches are also a dominate feature of the India coastline. There you will find your usual beach break waves — closing out when it gets big but lots of fun on smaller days. Then there are the bays, coves and points on the coast. How many are there? Too many to count and most have never been surfed.
October through December the big swells decline and it gets back to normal (3 to 5 feet). From January through April,there are sometimes bigger swells both on the east and westcoasts created by small storm systems and somedays we will get waves up to 6 and 7 feet, depending. Mornings are almost always glassy until about 10:30 AM and many mornings have off shore winds, sometimes lasting the whole day.
The biggest swells of the year are most always on the west coast from Dwaraka [extreme northwest] to Kanya Kumari [extreme southern tip]. June of 2007 saw outside breaks up to 20 feet at our home break and at the Mungaluru Jetty [breaking one kilometer out to sea]. Yes, India really does get some big waves during the monsoon season. Big waves and lots of rain!
Kiran Kumar aka (Kirtan) surfing a massive wave
Govardhan paddling for a big one
However, there are obstacles to finding your way to most of the surf spots in India. The biggest obstacle is that there are no accurate maps or roads to get you there. You have to be stubbornly determined and prepared to walk and paddle if you want to find the waves. A trip to India can be a surfers dream come true or your worst nightmare depending on how you approach it and how much you know before you get here. And don't forget that there are at least 13 different languages spoken in India, one of which is English or what we call Hinglish [English with a heavy Indian accent].
Culture shock can also be an obstacle for many western surfers on their first trip to India. Although you will find India's larger cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai leaning towards modern trends in morality and dress- the rest of India [the remaining 95% of the people] are deeply set in their ways, old fashion ways. Except for a few beaches around Goa, Gokaran, Varkala, Kovalam, Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram, chastity in your choice of surfing trunks or dress in public places can make the difference in how you are treated. This is especially true for women. If you are used to putting out those sexy vibrations while at the beachback home then expect the worst. The standard Indian beaches are not what we would call your typical 'blanket beach party scene,'at least not yet. So play it safe and dress modestly.
Another thing is tolerance. You could say that Indians tend to be tolerant to a fault. Almost nothing that breaks gets fixed and whatever happens just happens, that's it! Hey, that can be a problem when you are trying to go somewhere or do something important like getting to the beach to catch some waves. But it is what it is and you will have to call on your tolerance [to keep your sanity] unless you enjoy running around pulling your hair out. Things in India happen in their own way and in their own time -if you push it you get only resistance. There are greater forces of nature in control here than you or me. So, be mellow, keep smiling and you will get there sooner of later [probably later].
And when the surf falls flat, as it does sometimes, there is plenty to do and see to keep you busy. In any direction you chose to go you will find a culture awaiting you that is rich in music, architecture, food, drama, dance, temples, palaces, gold, silver, silk, arts, crafts and more. You may also like to checkout the tropical jungles and mountains, wild elephants and tigers or even go up to the Himalayas and take in the sites of Nepal [really a worthwhile trip].
If you are coming to India, for whatever the reason, bring a camera, [with lots of film or memory cards] and you will never regret it. And if you don't bring a camera then you will kick yourself forever because friends and family back home will not believe what you have seen and done unless you have a photo to prove it! "Hey Mom look, there I am at the beach getting run overby a herd of water buffalo!"
Surfing India - make your dream come true. Here (Map and photos below) are some places and information to help you on your next journey to India. For the ultimate India surf trip, check out our Ashram Surf Retreat and join us for an unforgettable experience.
Surf Spots in India
Shivas is a popular Hindu holy place situated on a small peninsula jetting out into the Arabian Sea at Murdeshwara.
As with all of South India the place is intensely tropical with thousands of coconut, mango and banana trees growing along the beach.
On the peninsula is a huge statue of Shiva. Everything that happens at Murdeshwara happens under the watchful eye of Shiva, the master of meditation.
On either side of the peninsula there are large sheltered bays that make for ideal surfing conditions even during onshore NW or SW winds.This place breaks from one foot to 10 feet depending on the time of year. Murdeshwaraha's great hotels and several vegetarian restaurants, one of which is built on pilings raising out of the ocean. This also makes for a great place from which to do some surf photography on big days.
Kapu Beach Lighthouse is a great spot that breaks best at low tide with a four feet and bigger swell. The stretch of beach runs for about one kilometer and there are several places where nice shaped peaks with lefts and rights swell up.
“At the north end of the beach is the Kapu lighthouse perched on a huge granite boulder. On the south side of the rocks is a right-hander that is a short but fast ride. Watch out for the rocks under water!
Ten Thousand Peaks has got to be one of the most unique surf spots on the west coast of South India at Maravanthe.
We call this place "Ten Thousand Peaks" -once you have seen it you will know why.The beach stretches for about six kilometers creating all sorts of wave possibilities. There is one section of the beach where a two lane highway runs parallel to the ocean within 15 meters of the water's edge and on the opposite side of the highway is a big fresh water lake.
In the lake are several islands with villages on them and there is an ancient 2,000 year old temple of the Sri Narasimha avatara, the incarnation who destroys evil and protects children. Surf until your arms are ready to drop off and you can't stand up anymore, then wash off in a fresh water lake and visit an ancient temple - all in one stop. What a fantastic place!
KanyaKumari is the southern most tip of India. It could well be one of the windiest places on Earth. The swell gets big here but is usually blown out. An occasional offshore wind comes along from time to time and then you get some good waves. If you know any wind surfers then tell them to head to Kanya Kumari and they are sure to get some big windy waves. There is an island just off the tip and on it is a massive statue of the Tamil saint and poet, Tiruvallur. I wonder if he surfed?
Kovalam Beach is probably the best known surf spot in India. Not because it has the best surf but because it has cheap hotels and places to hang out if you are on vacation— and the surf is decent there most of the time.
There are two local surfers there and it is sometimes possible to rent a board but better play it safe and bring your own. The spot is a beachbreak but when it gets around 7 feet it breaksout toward the lighthouse and begins to worklike a point break. Nice lefts at that time. Otherwise inside waves are short hollow lefts and rights — expect to get plenty of sand in your ears.
Alwars is potentially the best surfing spot in India [southeast coast] at Manapad Point. It is far off the beaten track and not so easily to find.
The point is beautifully formed by a millions of years old lava flow that extends into the water. When the rights are working you can expect up to a 400 meter ride [or more], so be prepared for some long walks back to the point.
In front of the point there are some good hollow lefts and when it really gets big [and it does] the break starts in the center of the bay and starts to look like some of the spots on the north shore of Hawaii. This spot gets a lot of south wind but when the wind is offshore it produces waves that will make you howl!
Rameswaram is about as out of the way as it gets on the India surf tour. The place gets its name from the epic Ramayana where in Sri Rama camped here before proceeding to the island of Lanka to conquer the demon king, Ravana. An amazing temple was built here in ancient times.
The surf is usually not that good in this area but there is a gnarly shore break that will test your skills. If you get there on an offshore day then you will have some good surf.
The water is as good as it gets on mainland India, clear and clean. There are plenty of offshore islands that have yet to be explored for surf. Maybe you will be the first to do it.
Shore Temple is well known on the India surf tour for some great hollow rights located at Mahabalipuram.
The World Heritage Foundation has piled granite boulders around an ancient Vishnu temple [built by the Pallava Kings] at the beach to keep it from tumbling into the sea and this has also developed into an awesome break.
The break is over sand but at low tide you can easily break a board or your neck if you are not careful. The ride is up to 150 yards long and expect to get barreled as often as you like. Surf until you can’t paddle for another wave then rent a cozy beach cottage, rest up and do it again tomorrow!
Tiruchendur is a temple town and has some good little waves breaking over a rockshelf just 200 yards south of the temple.
Pilgrims gather at the beach near the temple to have a dip in the ocean and to them this is a spiritual experience, a cleansing of the soul. We hope they never find out about surfing since tens of thousands of temple pilgrims take the sacred dip in the ocean every day.
If surfing ever caught on in India [with a one billion population] it would make the crowds of Malibu Beach look deserted! The town has several good hotels and this is a suitable place to base if you have come to surf Manapad Point only eight miles south.
Varkala is not far to the north from Kovalam Beach. The spot is a beach break but when it is working it gets exceptionally hollow rights and left. The ride isn’t that long but its fast!
The area is alive with tourism and people coming to India to recuperate their health at one of the local nature cure clinics and mineral water springs. There are also several ashrams in the area if you are into meditation and there is a very ancient temple of Sri Janardhana [Vishnu] to visit just off the beach. The locals are quite friendly and if the surf is up you will have great time at Varkala.
Mahe is a place in Kerala that we used to surf in the 70s and 80s but we have not been there in sometime. From Madayi Point, north of Mahe, to Talakkolattur river mouth, south of Mahe [ a distance of 60 kilometers], there are numerable good breaks.
Finding them on a road map is very difficult. You will just have to rely on your sixth sense to get you there. But when you find the waves you will be stoked.
Big Rock [south of Chennai] is located off the point at Fisherman’s Cove. The point itself is the most consistent break in that area but when the wave height is there and the tide just right then a submerged rock shelf in the cove produces one really awesome left barrel.
The ride isn’t long but hang on for dear life because this wave gets as hollow as they come.
There are a few local surfers in Pondicherry and a few European surfers who also live there permanently. If you go to Auroville the locals will point you in the right direction for some waves.
Vizag (Visakapatanam) – If you are traveling or staying on the east coast of India then you should definitely check out Vizag — a place with big beaches, good hotels, a commercial harbor and some really nice point breaks with good surf— about five in number.
This surf spot was explored a couple of years ago by Anthony Yep Colas [publisher of the popular book “World Storm Rider” and an operator of Surf Tours in the Maldives] along with his friend and accomplished photographer John Callahan. Anthony says they got “epic waves” at Vizag and he has some photos to prove it [see the next edition of “World Storm Rider”]. So this spot is certainly worth a visit.
Dwarka is the quintessential experience of the Arabian Sea. At Dwarka you will find some of the clearest water along the India coastline. The town is very ancient and is said to have existed for the past 5,000 years. Parts of the old city are now submerged below sea level and can be seen while scuba diving.
Famous for its temple of Sri Krishna, Dwarka receives several million pilgrims each year. Just north of the temple is a small point break that produces a nice left-hander when the swell is strong from the south. Unique to Dwarka alone, hundreds of pilgrims wander the beaches every day looking for gold nuggets — and they find them! I guess that’s one way to finance your next surf trip!
Jagannatha Puri: The beach at Puri is uneventful except for the throngs of pilgrims that gather there each day who have come to see the temple of Jagannatha. Jagannatha is the tallest temple in India and is several thousand years old. Puri is a beach break that stretches for as far as the eye can see with some nice outside peaks. On bigger days [6’-8’] getting through the shore break and strong currents can be a challenge. Getting past that, Puri offers some good waves with absolutely nobody out!
Gokarna is India’s latest hang out spot [just south of Goa] for back packers and surf wanderers.
The place is beautifully situated with a foreground of coconut trees and a backdrop of the Shyadri Mountains. Cheap hotel and camping are available. Waves get good here several times a year but watch out for the shore break or we will have to come out at low tide and dig you out of the sand.
Exactly — there is no surf in India at that time, especially in Goa. But go to Goa at the end of May or the beginning of June and its all together a different story. Surf at that time gets between 5 feet and 10 feet plus! So check out Goa during the right season and you will certainly get some waves.
The Maldives are not politically part of India, but they are our very close neighbors [just a short flight from Kovalam Beach, Trivandram].This is vacation paradise and surf paradise combined. The best swells run from March to October with the June, July, August and September session getting some really awesome waves. The water is warm, crystal clear and there are plenty of coral reefs to surf. The Lohifushi Resort has some great surf and caters to surfers. The resort also operates a boat that takes surfers to other spots on other islands every morning and afternoon.
Without a doubt, two weeks in the Maldives and you are guaranteed to catch some world-class waves. If you are interested in a live aboard boat trip in the Maldives please contact us for details. We know the best in the business (best boats, guides and prices).
Diego Garcia Island is a very tiny U-shaped atoll that just barely rises above sea level somewhere out there in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The place is home to some of the best surf on the planet and it used to be home to a few thousand people — that was until the British hustled everyone off the islands on the pretence that they wouldn’t be able to live there because there wasn’t enough freshwater. One wonders how the people lived there in the first place?
Although a restricted area it is still possible to get a clearance from the CO Navy Support Facility at Diego Garcia. But check this out— if you enlist in the US Navy and are stationed at Diego Garcia then you might get the chance to surf some of the best-known waves on the planet. Is it worth it? Talk to your local recruiter and find out?!
The Andaman Island Archipelago is engulfed by the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean and although far from the mainland is owned and governed by India. The outer Islands of the Andaman Archipelago are the real find for true adventures, holding hidden treasures for surfing enthusiasts during February, March, April and May. These are some of the best waves the planet has to offer and they remain un-ridden except by a few blessed surfers who have had the guts and the bucks to go there. This happens to be about the most remote surfing place in the world. Many of these islands are inhabited by primitive peoples [some are headhunters]. Happy surfing in the Andamans and try to stay out of the ‘soup’, literally!