Ngathingpei Khayi

You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis

Taming the Waves

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From a country which has 1.24 billion populations with 7517 km coastline, Ishita Malaviya is the first home grown woman surfer. Surprising, but true!

Never did Ishita Malaviya dream in her wildest dream that she will become a surfer one day as she was never much into sports. “Six years ago, I and my friend Tushar Pathiyan met this group of surfer from California who call themselves Surfing Swamis in a small coastal village Mulki (Karnataka). That was the turning point of my life when they said yes to teach us surfing when we requested them. I remember the first wave, it was just magical, that very moment I realized what I am going to do the rest of my life” says this 24 years old girl who came down to Manipal (Karnataka) for further studies from Mumbai. As they say you don’t know what life has in store for you.

“I think I would have been a journalist or a writer as I have done journalism in my college. Above that I was not that much into sports but, when I started surfing it changed my whole lifestyle upside down. It was more active and met lots of people with healthy and positive attitude towards life.” But like any other parents her family also wanted her to be serious and finish studies. “They were also worried about my security as a girl and as a surfer you have to hang around the beach. Also, everybody gives me that surprise look when I go out with surf-board in the street. But later my parents realized what I was after and what made me so passionate about it when I made them surf with me,” giggles Ishita.

After her graduation she didn’t go back to her busy city life but stayed back and started The Shaka Surf Club along with Tushar Pathiyan in Kodi Bengre in Karnataka. “Kodi Bengre is a small fishing community, surprisingly many of them didn’t know how to swim. Above that we wanted more people to have the experience of surfing, that’s how the club started. Initially, we had a tough time as our parents said clearly that they are not going to give any money if it is for surfing. We started teaching surfing in the weekends and make some money, even shared our surfboard as we could not afford to have two. Only two years ago we are into this full time.” Today her school is supported by Quicksilver and she is the first Indian athlete to campaign for Roxy, a popular beach wear brand. She has also worked in film-maker Dave Homcy’s documentary – Beyond the Surface.

Talking about her trade, “All seasons are good for surfing except monsoon as it gets a bit stormy. And we in India can do it anywhere as we have a long and beautiful coastline, like in Karnataka and Kerala. I was really surprised to know that I am the first woman. And more surprising, not many know about this sport and thinks that it is an extreme sport. It’s a healthy living life style and a way to connect with the nature.” Ishita Malaviya also knows that things have just begun and she got a long way to go. “It is very new in India; officially India has just formed the federation for surfing. In Kerala recently we had the first competition and now there is a national surf team. I would love to see India in global map of surfing but it will take some time to grow. Hope to represent India one day and win some medals also. But right now I am not thinking much about it. I am just enjoying what I am doing and it will also come with the time,” says the surfer.

For the beginners, surfing is a water-sport where surfer rides on the wave which is moving towards the shore, with the help of a surf-board made of wood or Polyurethane. “There are two types of surf-board, long-board which is like 9-10 feet, it is used for calmer and relax surfing. And there is short-board, which is 6-7 feet for fast movement. You can just cut and snap with this one. To start with, one should go for long-board as it is more stable. But I can’t say which one is better as each has its own fun. I can’t just explain but you have to try out by yourself to understand what I am talking about.” So everyday must not have been a smooth ride on those roaring ocean? “One day after giving surfing-class, I was just having sometime for myself in the water. Suddenly I heard people running out of the water screaming, Shark! I paddled for my life and never did I think to look back but when I did just to find out that it was not shark but a dolphin.” Well indeed that was scary.

“My normal day starts early in the morning with yoga and a walk with Marley, my dog. Then there is surfing class around 8 to 12. Take a break, lunch, a nap and then again class. I live a very simple life which revolves around beach and surfing,” laughingly says Ishita. Though everything looks like going well on her side, what’s the plan for future? “I would love to try out the beaches around the world like Hawaii, the home of surfing or let’s says Mali to name some. Also I want to make people understand that it is not a one-time sport rather with practice it gets better. I have been surfing now for six years; every time I go into the water I learn something. But most important they should have fun!”

(Published in Society July ’13, Page No. 122)

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