Soul People – Freddie
Next in our Soul People series is Freddie who has been with us for the last few months working in our reception. Her happy smiley face is the first to welcome guests to Soul & Surf and her yoga lessons get you bending and stretching in all the right ways! We caught up with her for a little chat:
What’s your name? Frederica Fernandes Valente Perfeito (Freddie)
What do you do? I’m receptionists and replacement yoga teacher.
Where’s Home? Home is where I feel good. I can’t say it’s where I grew up because I haven’t lived there for 12 years, nor Lisbon where I spent 13 years always moving from house to house. I adapt very easily, so every place I live, I feel I’m home.
How did you come to be at Soul & Surf? I heard about S&S when I was working in Sri Lanka for Lapoint. While I was in Costa Rica working for Lapoint, I decided to search more about S&S because I knew they had a hotel in India, place that I wanted to go back to. So I asked a friend of mine, Linnea, for their email adress and think she gave me Ed’s email and I applied for yoga teacher job. I got a reply from Joe and then things happened.
What does Soul mean to you? Soul is what we are, what we are made of, truly inner self, that we are not completely aware of and that we can spend a lifetime searching for.
What inspires you about your work? I love yoga, I love surf, I love India and Sri Lanka, good food, good music, getting to know amazing people, being in chilled and beautiful place. That’s what I love about working for S&S.
What’s next for you? I still don’t know but for sure, more yoga, more beach, more Soul & Surf!
Soul People – Jamie Johnstone
We love hearing our guests stories about what they’re doing in life and consider ourselves super lucky that we get to meet so many amazing people from all over the world! Jamie Johnstone, owner of Dick Pearce & Friends bellyboards and his family stayed with us in Kerala over Christmas and New Year so we took the opportunity to sit down with him and find out about the revival of this legendary brand.
Where’s home? Newquay, Cornwall
What brought you to S&S India?
We came for a big family Christmas all together. We like surfing and we like belly boarding and some of us like yoga. We go away most years for Christmas, always somewhere new. We’ve been to Sri Lanka and Indonesia but we’d never been to India and as all of us love curry this seemed like the perfect fit.
What do you do when you’re not surfing and stretching?
I own a company called Dick Pearce and Friends who make bellyboards and I work for Wavehunters who are the biggest surf school in the UK. We do sea safari ribs to see dolphins, run surf schools etc. and that’s all year round. My real passion though is bellyboarding and surfing. Dick Pearce & Friends has been making bellyboards since the 50’s. When he died in 2010 my friend Andy and I took over the company and are now helping people to fall in love with the sport again. The production techniques are the same but we’ve revamped the branding and the finishing. It’s going really well and is all really exciting!
Bellyboarding is still so underground so we want to bring it into the mainstream, get people off the rubbish polystyrene boards and using proper sports equipment that’s good for the environment. When we were kids we started on bellyboards, it was how we learnt to read the waves. It takes skill but it’s still so much fun and we just really want people to fall in love with it as much as we have because it’s a way of being in the water that’s accessible to everyone. It’ll be the World Bellyboard Championships down in Cornwall this summer so we’re hoping to be involved with that.
What does Soul mean to you?
Soul means having fun with those that you love who love you back.
Jamie was kind enough to donate not one but three Dick Pearce & Friends bellyboards to us when he left India which are available for all of our guests to use. For more information see www.dickpearce.com
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).
Waves for Water in Varkala
Soul&Surf India is situated on beautiful cliffs overlooking the Arabian Sea in the small coastal town of Varkala. This area is known to be one of the cleanest and most beautiful regions in India. However, access to clean water is still a significant issue for many people in this region of India. Most of the water in this area comes from the government run water system but many people have wells that supply their water for drinking, bathing and cooking. Although the quality of the water is unknown, there is a high potential for bacterial contamination and transmission of waterborne illness. Those that have money in Varkala either buy bottled water or install their own filter systems. However, the vast majority of people cannot afford these systems and therefore they do not have clean water.
Waves for Water is a non-profit out of California that distributes water purification systems around the world. These systems provide clean water for up to 100 people for 5 years. W4W’s “Clean Water Couriers” program is a “do it yourself distribution network” that empowers travellers to bring these small, water filters to communities that they visit and connect with locals to get the filters installed in areas where they are most needed.
Last year, Soul and Surf got involved in the W4W Clean Water Couriers program by supporting volunteers who fundraised and donated their own money to buy water filters to distribute to the Varkala community.
S&S volunteers began with one water filter. The first water filter installation was at the school right next door to S&S. The school didn’t have clean water for the students to drink. Instead, each student brought one bottle of water from home which was supposed to last them through the whole day in a very hot and humid climate.
Coordinating the installation of the water filter at the school next door took a little more effort than we initially imagined (it was not as simple as just assembling the filter and dropping it off for the students to use). A group of volunteers from S&S worked on getting permission from the principal, redoing the piping and then coordinating a time that we could install the system and show the kids and teachers how to use it.
The day we installed the filter at the school and showed the kids how to use it, everyone – students, teachers, and S&S staff – was stoked about the project. At first it was mass chaos with the kids all wanting to fill up their water bottles. Then one student took charge and got everyone into a line to fill their bottles one by one. They were quite excited to say the least. After we left the school, the S&S staff started talking about how great it was to do something positive for the school next door and new ideas started circulating about other ways we could connect with the school and local community.
After a few weeks, we went to check with the principal to see if the filter was working properly and to see if it was actually being used. She told us that it was working well and she asked if we could install another one in a nearby school where she was also the principal.
We started brainstorming ideas on how to raise money for more filters and our head surf coach, Nick Kelly donated the money to buy 10 filters and get more S&S staff, as well as the local surf club, involved in the project.
So, in the beginning of 2016, the Soul and Surf staff and the Varkala Pirates Surf Club spent about a month setting 10 filters at various spots in the community. Water filter locations included three schools, a Hindu temple, the community where S&S chechies (local women staff) live and the fishing village at Edava where we always surf. These filters are providing clean drinking water for 1,000 people for at least the next five years. Kids can fill up their water bottles throughout the school day. The fishermen can fill up their water barrels to take with them out to sea. The chechies will have clean drinking water for their families.
There were many different people that were involved with bringing these filters to people in need. Many of the S&S staff, as well the local guys from the surf team, were involved with setting up the filters; asking around within the community to see where we should install the filters; and teaching people how to use the filters once they were installed.
It’s called Waves for Water because the act of providing one filter to a community in need can build energy, like a wave, and bring people together to work toward achieving a greater collective impact.
While these filters aren’t a perfect solution, it’s definitely a start. Hopefully someday India will be able to provide clean water for everyone across the country. But these water filters will make a difference for some of the people in the Varkala community.
All Photos : DTL Photography