Features Tuesday, April 07, 2015 - 05:30
Nayantara N| The News Minute| November 13, 2014| 13.45 pm IST For Jack Hebner aka Swami Narasingha Maharaj, India was just more than a spiritual destination. Leaving behind his American roots, he landed up in an ashram in Mysuru 40 years ago. The vast coastline along the country gave him the opportunity to revisit his old love for surfing. But he was astonished to find that people in India had no knowledge about this sport. Thus he took it upon himself to introduce this water sport to small kids, earning himself the name – Surfing Swami.  Since 2000, a bunch of teenagers who were Swami’s disciples at the ashram began training for surfing. In 2004, the surfing pioneer started what they claim is India’s first surf club – Mantra Surf Club near Mulki in Mangalore. The team reached out to more kids in and around Mulki. They built facilities and bought surfing boards. “He convinced us that surfing was a great form of exercise to stay healthy. More importantly, it was one way of staying close to nature.” Ram Mohan, the Vice-President at the club, recalls. Incidentally, he is also India’s first and only surfing photographer. Now ten years later, the club has expanded with a steady increase in members. In 2011, they established the Surfing Federation of India (SFI), a national governing body which is recognised by the International Surfing Association, a world governing authority for surfing. The objective was to promote surfing and serve as an umbrella organisation for over a dozen surfing clubs that have mushroomed across the country over the years. Even the trainers are internationally certified, he says. They organised three competitions last years which saw international participants. These competitions were organised in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and was backed by Ministry of Tourism of the respective states. They have received a little aid from the government although they have no tie-up with the government officially. “A lot of youngsters are taking part in these competitions who want to experience surfing. We have also seen a rise in participation of girls although it just a handful. But we teach them the best surfing techniques,” he admits proudly. They also have an e-commerce store for surfing equipment. However, their financial crunch does not allow them to participate in international events as they have no one to sponsor their trips. They are currently gearing up for events in Tamil Nadu and Manipal in January. A surf workshop is also in the pipeline. Hope the club scales new heights just as they scale waves. (Photo credits: Ram Mohan)

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