Sam Bleakley – MultiKulti
The first in our series of guests posts from pro surfer, explorer and author Sam Bleakley takes us on a history trip of surfing in India and explores the vast coastline and all it’s surf potential.
With nearly 1.3 billion people, India is the world’s second most populous nation, has over 7,500km (4,700 miles) of coastline, pretty much every type of landscape under the sun, is usually pepper-hot, and culturally-speaking, has to be one of the most kaleidoscopic places on the planet. Holy cows, Hindu deities, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and industrial post-modernism all have voices here – transient life and the permanently sacred tangle in a symbol war that multiplies on the eye. Pomp and poverty intermingle, sweat and thirst are inevitable, strict religious codes meet free will and stunning scenery, while elephants hold up the traffic. In Hindi, tomorrow and yesterday are the same – cul, and so are hello and goodbye – namaste. This tells you everything you need to know about travel – stay in the moment. And surf travel is a great wave to experience the present of India.
Both the east and west coasts of this vast sub-continent receive consistent swell from the Indian Ocean, as do two well-placed archipelagos: the Andaman Islands and the Lakshadweep Islands. Although still small, the local surf culture is vibrant, and growing fast, with clubs, grassroots surf-brands, young rippers and the Surfing Federation of India (SFI) organising surf instructor courses through the ISA (International Surfing Association). Indian surfers have a lot to celebrate. Turns out that even the word ‘surf’ has a link to India: over time, the mixing of dialects and languages through trade with India gave rise to a unique ‘pidgin’ language. The Portuguese coined the word ‘surf’ in the late 1600s, from the Sanskrit ‘suffe’ meaning ‘the coastline’. This intermingling that cultures, languages and traders shared along the Indian coastline led to a common ground in the form of the beach – where cultural habits had to be re-invented in the name of exchange.
It also turns out that an engraving by John Hassell (copied from a sketch by Charles Gold – who served with the Royal Artillery and was stationed at Madras on India’s southeast coast in the late 1700s) entitled ‘Cattamarans’ and printed in London in 1800 (the original stored at the Australian National Maritime Museum) is currently the earliest known image of stand-up wave riding! One Indian fisherman rides a three-log catamaran, parallel stance, holding a paddle. Two men are further out on a second wave. A ‘masula’, a local surf boat with a crew of six, is heading over the third wave, transporting freight for the ships of the East India Company, awaiting off-shore at the Madras Roads. Although the earliest illustration of a surfboard being paddled was sketched in Hawaii, it was not until the 1830s that illustrations of stand-up rides began to appear from the Pacific. ‘Catamaran’ was the anglicised version of ‘kaIfu-mar-am’, meaning ‘tied logs’, widespread on the Tamil coast of south India and still in use in the surf zone for fishing today.
A good selection of India’s best breaks can be found along the shores of Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, on the southern tip. Most of the spots on the southwest-facing coast are beach breaks, best during the dry season (November to April) when you can usually score clean dawn patrols. Mahé, Varkala and Kovalam (Lighthouse Beach) are three of the better bets on this stretch. The southwest monsoon (May to October) brings bigger swells and southwest winds; a good time to head to the opposite coast, where you’ll find more beach breaks and a decent right point at Manapad.
The huge landmass of Sri Lanka prevents many southwest swells reaching far up the east coast, but southeast swells are regular during the monsoon season, periodically lighting up the region of northeast Tamil Nadu and Andra Pradesh. July and August are usually the best months. About 80km (50 miles) south of the city of Chennai, Mahabalipuram Shore Temple is a sand-bottom right point which peels for 100 yards alongside a 1,400-year-old Vishnu temple. On a solid swell, Mahabalipuram offers powerful, sand-sucking tubes at low tide, and softer waves at high. Beach cottages are available to rent and there’s a friendly nascent local scene. Just north of the industrial city of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, on a clean southeast swell, Lawson’s Bay and Mangamari offer very long right points, generally ridden only by local fishermen returning to shore in their wooden boats, loaded with tuna.
Photo: JS Callahan/surfEXPLORE
Situated 400km (250 miles) off the southwest coast of the mainland, the Lakshadweep Islands are a string of coral atolls which are part of the same undersea mountain range as the Maldives. They’re some of the most exotic and beautiful islands you’ll ever see, with flawless white beaches, swaying palms and giant turtles wallowing just a few yards offshore. The Lakshadweeps have yet to be fully explored by surfers and many new spots are sure to be found, although permits are required for travel here. Dave Rastovich scored an impressive hollow right with filmmaker Taylor Steele when they were in India shooting Castles in the Sky in 2009.
India’s other offshore territory is the Andaman Islands situated on the far side of the Bay of Bengal, northwest of Indonesia. In 1998 photographer John Callahan became the first to document a surf trip here with Sam George (then Surfer editor), Chris Malloy and Jack Johnson, following a gruelling 70 hour dive-boat charter from Phuket, Thailand, riddled with visa hassles, to Port Blair. Callahan had researched all the potential set-ups on British Admiralty nautical charts. The trip appears in Thicker than Water (1999) shot on 16mm by Chris Malloy and Jack Johnson. Johnson at the time was studying Cinematography in California, had brought an acoustic guitar on the boat, and played songs that later appeared in Thicker than Water and his first album Brushfire Fairytales (2001). Callahan has since made two more projects in the Andaman and the Nicobar Islands (strictly off-limits to any non-Indian passport holders). “I’m probably the only human on earth, Indian nationals included, who has been from the top of North Andaman Island to Indira Point at the southern tip of Great Nicobar Island,” says Callahan. Today you can fly direct to the Andamans from India, as tourism has taken a foothold. A small number of charter boats offer trips to Little Andaman Island, home to a number of quality Indo-style reefs. The best of these is Kumari Point, a speedy righthand reef-point which will peel for 200 yards on a big south swell, with sizzling tube sections. But it’s a fickle spot, fully dependent on early season southwest monsoon swells (April or May).
Making a Tropical Christmas Wreath
Although feeling festive can be a bit more of a challenge in a tropical climate without the traditional Christmas jumper, roaring fire and mulled wine we still like to keep some customs going. This week we turned our hand to floristry making a Tropical Leaf Christmas Wreath. Our HoV in Kerala, Siona, along with some of our wonderful creative guests spent a fun afternoon making a piece to hang above the entrance to the Kerala house.
You will need:
Gardening secateurs or good scissors
Gardening wire cut in to 5cm pieces
A wreath frame
A Christmas playlist (optional)
- First gather your foliage. With a pair of gardening secateurs or a good pair of scissors prune a variety of leaves in different lengths and colours. Thicker more rubbery leaves hold better in this heat as they retain moisture. Thinner more delicate leaves may look pretty but will wilt quickly. Once your basket is full lay out your cuttings in front of you so that you can see what you have.
- Next select 4 or 5 different leaves in varying shapes and colours and layer them in a neat bundle, starting with the widest, longest leaves at the back and the most delicate foliage at the front.
With a length of gardening wire, pinch the ends all together and wrap them tightly.
- Once all of your bundles are done, we used around 20 for a small frame, start to weave them in to the wreath. Work in a clockwise motion so that all the foliage goes in the same direction. Secure each set of leaves to the wreath frame with wire, making sure that all fastenings are
hidden by foliage.
- Hang your wreath in your chosen place. These look great on doors and over entrances. Once hung and secure fill in any gaps with single pieces of foliage remembering to work in the same clockwise direction. Spray with a water spray every day to keep it fresh.
Stuff We Like – A Million Waves
A Million Waves is a portrait of 19-year-old surfer Kadiatu Kamara, the only woman surfer at Bureh Beach, south of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Beautiful work from Daniel Ali and Louis Leeson.
Soul People – Hayley
Name: Hayley Mia
What is your role at Soul&Surf? I teach people how to bend and how to breathe 🙂
How did you come to be at Soul & Surf?
One of my dear friends shared a post with me on Facebook a few years back that Soul and Surf were looking for a Yoga teacher. I initially only came for 2 months but just like most of us, couldn’t wait to come back again.
What does Soul mean to you?
Soul to me is the part of us that is our truest form, its the person we aspire to be, its our passion, our warmth, our vitality our inspiration and our emotion. Its the you that’s always smiling from within even when you’re having a tough day.
What inspires you about your work?
Everything! I teach simply because it is the most satisfying, heartwarming job to connect with your students and, ultimately help them to lead a healthy, positive, fulfilled life.
What’s next for you?
I keep asking myself that question at the moment and i’m yet to come up with an answer, as soon as I have i’ll let you know 🙂
Stuff We Like – Beyond the Break
The story of a group of pro surfers who have left the international surfing circuit in order to grow organic vegetables on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Mat, Fergal, Mitch and all the crew are creating a sustainable community that focuses on taking care of the earth, sharing the crops they grow and surfing really really good waves.
Great work from the Perennial Plate
Soul People – Tom & Jen Harvey
We love all of our guests and hear a lot of incredible stories around the villas both in Kerala and Sri Lanka. We wanted to bring these to the Journal, starting with Jen and Tom (a.k.a. “Stretch” – he’s 6’6”)
Jen and Tom came to Soul & Surf in Sri Lanka to take a break from their busy schedules as full time yoga instructors and business owners. They are currently undergoing a design build of their brand new yoga space and home in Cornwall. We talked to them about how they started their business; what it’s like working together as a couple; what inspires them; and other fun bits about this dynamic, and gracious couple.
What do you guys do?
We both teach yoga full time at our studio Oceanflow Yoga and run an online yoga clothing (and accessories) shop.
Newquay, Cornwall in the UK
How did you come to be at Soul & Surf?
We were looking for a trip that would be fun, sociable and included our favourite hobbies – surf & yoga! We’d never visited Sri Lanka before, so to have the guides take us around to different breaks and share their knowledge of the area was invaluable.
We believe in the importance of making time for yourself and doing the things you love. Travel is a high value for both of us, so what better way to travel than to combine a visit to a new pace with our favourite pastimes!
How did you first get interested to start surfing and yoga?
Stretch has been surfing since he was 3 years old! He grew up on the surf beaches of North Cornwall so not too hard to learn at a young age! Jen started practicing yoga 15 years ago and fell so in love with it. Becoming a teacher seemed natural to share it with others. Stretch quickly following suit, so we can work and play together! In both practices, there is the moment where the whole world falls away and time becomes still. Whether it’s the focus on the caught wave or mastery of a pose – the experience of ‘now’.
Give us a brief overview about what you’ve done to get yourself to where you are today?
We had a big epiphany about 4 years ago where we were both living to work in jobs that didn’t fulfil us, and actually living in a lot of stress that we didn’t truly recognize until we left it. Our bodies and minds were exhausted and failing health is always a sign that you’re not living your purpose. It took a lot of faith and courage to trust the signs we were getting to move on but SO glad we did. We had no idea what it was we were supposed to be doing but we let a higher force guide us in our decisions. We set up our own yoga businesses that have proved to be highly successful, building a huge yoga community in the space of 3 years and this is just the beginning.
What inspired or motivated you to start your own yoga business?
Knowing how much yoga has helped us in the past with body issues, injury recovery and dealing with mental and emotional challenges, we were incredibly motivated to create a space where we could share that with others. Creating our own studio provided a sanctuary where people can come to classes, workshops or private sessions with us to learn what it is they need.
How is it starting a business and working together as a couple?
Both amazing and terrifying in equal measures really. We put all our energy and finances into this project and had to trust that it would work. It was brilliant to have each other to lean on and we both had different skills to bring in to the business that ended up being quite commentary in making it run. We have to have some rules though about when talking ‘shop’ is off limits so that we can simply enjoy each other’s company, which can be challenging as we work and live at home!
You are currently working on expanding your studio and opening a new space – how has the process of designing and construction being going for you?
It’s turning out to be quite a long process – what’s in your head doesn’t necessarily translate well to paper and there are a few compromises having to be made! We’re just at the planning stage at the moment so until that first brick gets laid, I’m sure Stretch will be trying to change things about to how to get the best design for our home and studios!
Tell us a little bit about your yoga studio and teaching style.
We have converted our home to create the studio – we knew as soon as we saw it that it was what needed to happen! You have to visit to really understand! It’s a 4 story building where the top floor is the vinyasa studio where Jen teaches and she works in quite a unique style. Having training with traditional Chinese medicine, her vinyasa and relaxation classes always have an intention to bring an energetic balance to people, through movement and connection to the environment (the seasons). Stretch teaches beginners up there too with a real passion for alignment in vinyasa flow but with emphasis to be accessible and inviting to people new to yoga. As a surfer he loves teaching surf-yoga, trying to get people to warm up before they hit the waves! We also have a Hot studio down in the bottom of the building where we get the Bikram lovers and we both teach here too. In the building, we also have our shop which we run online mostly, an office, changing rooms and finally our bedroom! We have also started to build our team to reflect the addition of classes and styles so there will be six of us teaching here starting in 2017!
What inspires you about your work?
To help others in our community and to offer guidance whether through yoga, meditation or just simply talking and listening to what’s going on for them. When we work with ethnocentric intention, it is always a joy!
Is there an inspirational moment or something that you’ve learned during your stay at in Sri Lanka and/or at Soul and Surf that you will bring back with you and be able to use in your everyday life or business?
We have enjoyed every single part of our trip here and really can’t thank Soul & Surf enough. The customer service you all have here is impeccable and it has inspired us to take that back to our business. Nothing has been too much trouble, no matter what we’ve thrown at you! Additionally, the special moments – from celebrating birthdays and the first time someone stood up on a wave – have been met with genuine excitement and enthusiasm, even though the staff must see it every week! The authenticity that the staff shows is incredibly inspiring and very moving.
What does Soul mean to you?
Soul is true essence, of feeling deep connection with where you are and what you’re doing. It’s effortless and light. When you are guided by your soul, every experience is sweet and easy.
Check out www.oceanflowyoga.co.uk to learn more about Tom & Jen’s studio and community in Newquay and stop by for a visit or a drop in class if you are in the area.
Photos: Alejo Achaval
Media – Pipeline Magazine
Surfers Against Sewage are leading the way in protecting our seas. We’ve been huge fans ever since their iconic environmental work in the 90s with guerilla style campaigns like the one below.
We joined the 1% for the planet scheme a few years ago and have been supporting SAS by donating 1% of our annual profits to help them keep on fighting the good fight.
We’re super stoked that they chose to feature our work with Water For Waves in India in their latest issue of Pipeline Magazine.
Stuff We Like – Eunioa
EUNOIA from Desillusion on Vimeo.
This beauty comes from the man behind Desillusion , Sebastien Zanella. If only all surf films were shot like this.
Stuff We Like – Loving Lanka
Loving Lanka from Sebastian Linda on Vimeo.
Sri Lanka is undoubtedly one of the most photogenic places in the world. German film maker Sebastian Linda spent some time here last year and produced this epic short covering all corners of the island. Want to come and visit now?!
Happy Guests – Kayla
We get some incredible, beautiful and inspiring people staying with us at Soul & Surf. Some of them even go home and write about it. Kayla came over from the UK and had never surfed before, by the end of her stay she was cruising! Check her story HERE.