Jack Hebner is a Swami who surfs! The waves and the internet. Hailing from Jacksonville, USA, Surfing Swami as he is now known has been surfing for more than 50 years. He was lured by the traditional Indian spiritual spirit back in 1972 and that is when the swami got attached with surfing. Surfing is not at all popular in India and this is what Jack wanted to change. With one of the longest coastlines and innumerable spots to surf during different seasons, Jack found it very strange that the surfing culture was completely missing in India.
In 2004, he got a few young boys from the south of India and setup a small surf club in Mangalore. One of these young boys is RamMohan who was only eight years old when he started to learn surfing. We interacted with him for this interview to learn more about the first Indian Surf Club- Mantra. RamMohan has also picked up surfing photography and his pictures have been used by magazines across the globe. “We used to go to Chennai to surf initially. Feeling the need to find a base, Surfing Swami picked Mangalore and the Mantra Surf Club was setup to help people experience the ‘surfing ocean life’,” says RamMohan.
The Mantra Surf Club is an ashrama, a place for spiritual enlightenment- “We wake up everyday at 4 AM and after hitting the showers we begin our mantra-meditations. At 6:30 AM there is a group chant and after that we do what in India is called ‘the puja’. The main mantra for our meditations is called Maha Mantra or the Krishna Mantra,” writes jack on their website. Post this, the surfing begins! Mantra Surf Club is open for guests who can stay at the premise and take surfing classes or they can just enroll for the classes.
The Mantra Surf Club can hold 6-8 guests at a time and around 15 if one considers only the Surfing classes. Jack and his crew also carry out activities like web design and selling coconuts to sustain the club. “Our website has become popular and we also have an eCommerce store where we stell surfing goods,’ says RamMohan. “We setup the SurfingIndia.net website in 2004 and it has been very good. The site has gained in popularity and being the first surf club in India, we continuously get requests from people who want to experience the real ocean life.
The Mantra Surf Club has a floating crew size of around 5 people who maintain operations. Surfing Swami keeps traveling but maintains Mangalore as his base. The cub also hosts a lot of events with respect to surfing and surfers from other countries also gather in Mangalore every year to participate. Respecting nature is also a big part of the way of life. “We teach people to respect the environment as a manifestation of the Supreme and to be conscious of the Supreme Being. We teach people to be custodians of the environment and not to pollute the rivers, mountains, forests and the ocean,” says Jack.
Mantra Surf Club has gained in popularity and now has a constant flurry of visitors. They have started a new project in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. The name of the project is called Huasteca Encantada referring to the region, which is called Huasteca Potosina and Encantada means “enchanted” and people can indulge in activities like kayaking, rafting, rappelling, trail biking, etc.