Wave Rider: Surfing Swami
One of the pioneers of the Indian surf scene talks to us about his time here.
By Abhishek Khan on 17 September 2013 in Redbull
By Abhishek Khan on 17 September 2013 in Redbull
One of the pioneers of the Indian surf scene talks to us about his time here
Surfing Swami a.k.a. Jack Hebner, 68, is from the United States. He grew in the coast of California and Hawaii. He’s one of the old surfers in the country and is regarded by many as the pioneer of the Indian surf scene.
When did you come to India? What brought you here?
I first came to India in 1975 in search of uncrowded waves for surfing. At the time I was also practicing yoga. I was a vegetarian and was looking for a guru to guide me in spiritual matters. In India I found everything I was looking for and more. In 1976 I became an initiated “swami’. Over the years I have trained under three gurus from North India [Swami BR Sridhar, Swami BP Puri Maharaja and AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja]. From then until now I have considered India as my home and I surf almost every day.
Catching a wave!
I really do not have an occupation. It would be more accurate to say that I have a ‘lifestyle’ that revolves around surfing, stand up paddle and cultivating Upanisadic, Puranic and Vedantic knowledge. The later three provide deeper and more meaningful dimensions to everything that i do.
Surfing Swami preaching to disciples
Where have you surfed in India? Can you please briefly tell us what you’ve enjoyed about surfing in those places?
I have surfed extensively on the east coast from Puri in Orissa to Kanya Kumari. On the west coast I have surfed from Kanya Kumari up to Dwaraka in Gujarat. Some of my favorite places to surf are Mahabalipuram, Covelong Point in Chennai, Kovalam Beach in Kerala and Mulki river mouth in Karnataka. There are many other nice spots but those are my favorites.
There are so many uncrowded beaches in India with nice waves. Surfing in India is like a surf dream come true. Not to mention the thrill and excitement of riding 6 to 16 feet waves. What I like best about surfing in India is that when you are out there in the waves and having the time of your life, the only people out there with you are your surf buddies.
Oh and I forgot to mention the Andaman Islands — there is some really, really good surf with crystal clear water.
What was that one moment that made you realize India is the only place you want to spend your life surfing?
That one moment was when I first stepped off the plane in Mumbai in 1976. It was love at first sight. But if you were in Bombay in 1976 then you know it wasn’t so pretty. I could somehow see beyond the craziness of city life and I could sense that here in India, I was going to find my long lost home. It was like I had been here before in some other life time.
When you are really looking for something fulfilling and you finally find it — then you are done, you are hooked. For me it was the combination of surfing and spiritual life that made me never want to leave India. Of course, I do leave India at least once a year and travel to other countries starting Ashrams and teaching people how to enjoy themselves without distorting themselves. That is an important point especially for young people these days who want so much to enjoy and try so hard to enjoy but often times end up destroying themselves with excessive alcohol and drug consumption.
What are your future plans?
My plans are to keep surfing and paddling until I am too old to get out of the bed. Then I might retire but not fully. I will always find a way to be in the water, teaching others, inspiring others, helping others and I will do my little part to try and make this world a better place to live. The more you give in life the more satisfaction you get out of it. That is my motto.
I have several surfing contests planned to be held in 2014 in conjunction with the Surfing Federation of India [SFI]. And I have hopes that Surf Team India from SFI will soon get a chance to travel abroad for international competitions and represent India at the next World Surfing Games.
Additionally I will be promoting in India the style of surfing called Stand Up Paddle [SUP]. This is done on a special type of surfboard and the beauty of SUP is that it can be done on the ocean, on a lake, in a river, on a backwater, or even in a canal. That means that even people in Rajasthan or the Himalayan states can do SUP surfing.
As Swami is getting older he’s taking to Stand Up
Also I have plans for a Bollywood surf movie. I have friends in Bollywood who are interested and when that happens, surfing in India is going to take off like a rocket ship to the Sun!
When asked, my advice to people is to stay healthy, stay fit, keep active, go surfing, help your fellow human beings and follow your heart. Smile and the world smiles with you — get all sad, frustrated, angry and depressed and you are all alone in this world.