Sofie & I first arrived in Varkala in December 2009. We had been dragging our surf boards down the west coast, by train, from Goa to Kanyakumari looking for a spot to settle and surf for a month or two. Goa was too small, Karnataka too quiet, Kovalam too busy… we were a right pair of picky goldilocks-es ( I know that’s not a word). It was probably just random luck, but when we arrived in Varkala there was a solid swell running, there were waves hoofing into main beach and there was a little corner between main beach and temple beach (Papanasam) where it was peeling for a bit before closing out.
We rented a pink house with a goat. I surfed Varkala main beach every day, almost always on my own. One of the umbrella-men on the beach, Mujeeb, had a couple of battered old surf boards to rent out as well as some body boards and umbrellas but that was it. Main beach, more often than not, is a close-out shallow dump of a wave but there were a few banks here and there that worked and I could see the potential. So I got some bungees and a scooter and explored up and down the coast.
The January day I surfed Edava for the first time, with a super clean shoulder-high swell running off the point was most probably the catalyst for us coming back the next year and opening up Soul & Surf. It was pretty magical, and I surfed alone all morning until the wind came up at about 11am. The fishermen collared me afterwards, examining the board, asking if it had a motor and concluding that it was ‘manual’. I felt like a full-on 60s surf explorer discovering new breaks.
Of course people must have surfed around the area before, but it was rare enough for the local fishing crew not to have come across it before. So I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog post about how to name spots and called this wave Ed’s which to my deep embarrassment stuck around for a while until common sense prevailed.
I kept on the prowl in the following weeks for more breaks and found a few beach breaks and groynes that were better than main beach but that was that before we headed off to Indonesia to continue our trip. Until, that is, a few months later when we decided to start a little guesthouse called Soul & Surf and began taking bookings. With the pressure of paying guests coming to surf with us I began to scour Google Earth for other likely candidates and spent the first few seasons loading our Hindustan Ambassador with boards and checking them out in real life.
This guide is a combination of that research (including a few killer spots I had to name but that have since been lost to coastal development) and a number of new spots that our surf teams have added to the Soul & Surf arsenal.
Now you will need to hand over a couple of details and subscribe to our email list to get the guide – but that just signs you up to even more of this good stuff so we’d call that a pretty good trade…
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