Splashed at the 4th India Surf Festival in Odisha

For three days in early February, the sun-washed stretch of Odisha--s Puri-Konark witnessed surfing, water on yoga and many other activities
Splashed at the 4th India Surf Festival in Odisha

A chilly early morning wind blew across the ocean, making the crowd on the beach shiver, as wave after wave crashed on the beach ahead of us. A quiver of multi-coloured surfboards was lined up on the sand. Beside them were a bunch of tanned, lean men &mdash all leaders of India&rsquos growing surf scene. &ldquoMy boys have been winning this for the last three years,&rdquo says Murthy, who runs a surfing school for the local fishermen at Covelong Point, Chennai. &ldquoNo drugs, no drinks, only surf that&rsquos our motto,&rdquo he nods and grins.

Every so often, a group of surfers rushes out, paddling their surfboards furiously to avoid the whitewash, turning into the waves, and riding them to shore. On the beach, Tim Hain, General Manager, and Tipi Jabrik, President of Asian Surfing Championship (or ASC, Asia&rsquos apex professional surfing organisation), were monitoring the action closely with laptops, cameras and a bunch of scorecards.

For three days in early February, the sun-washed stretch of Odisha&rsquos Puri-Konark coastline had more than 60 surfers from Brazil, Singapore, Spain, Italy and Morocco trying out their hand on the surf breaks.

The presence of over 2,000 visitors at the India Surf Festival signalled that Odisha is transforming into an epicentre of surf tourism, with Ramchandi beach at the heart of it all. This year&rsquos event (the fourth edition of the festival) was partnered by ASC, and it won&rsquot be long before the Odisha coast enters the global surfing scene.

A four-member kite-surfing team from Sri Lanka is giving demos on the sport for everyone. In the background, &lsquoWe Don&rsquot Need No Education&rsquo seamlessly segues into &lsquoGirls Just Wanna Have Fun&rsquo and as if on cue, a kitesurfing jeep rolls by with &ldquoISF Girl Power&rdquo painted in a rather unfortunate pink. Incidentally, the theme this year was &lsquoGirl Power&rsquo, with a workshop with women surfers from Portugal kicking off the event.

&ldquoStand with your feet planted firmly and wide, hips should be coming up. That&rsquos it, there you go,&rdquo says Mohammed Reza, instructing visitors on the basics of surfing and paddling at the Stand-Up Paddling (SUP) workshops. The cheerful and tall Reza is based in London, and is qualified as a structural engineer. He works for the UK-based Active 360, an outfit dedicated to developing SUP across the UK, which offers lessons, coaching, group trips and SUP Yoga in London. The paddling workshops are followed up by an SUP Championship trials and a finale race the next day. India is the third country in the world to host the game &mdash after the UK and Australia.

The fest organisers have also lined up a rigorous retinue of workshops, live music sessions, yoga, art visual artists, DJs, musicians, jugglers, fire dancers and a cosy area with hair braiding, tattooing, designer clothes and a very Goa flea market atmosphere. Lipsa Hembram is putting up a line of eye-catching blue outfits for display and sale. Hembram&rsquos a designer and her label is called Galang Gabaan. &ldquoIt&rsquos Saonthali, and means to create something with love.&rdquo

Early mornings are taken up with relaxing &lsquoYoga on Water&rsquo sessions and solar clay therapy. As the sun sets and evening falls, live music takes over with a new band every day &mdash like the Nova Collective, a group of four designers and musicians, who held a live painting session to the sound of waves and music. The screening of Ocean Monk, a film about a group of friends who stumble upon surfing and their search for enlightenment, adds to the surfing bonhomie. People walk by with T-shirts whose messages reflect the spirit of the fest &ldquoEat. Surf. Sleep&rdquo or &ldquoEat. Kite. Sleep.&rdquo

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