Surfing as a fun sport is catching on in India, and its aficionados are discovering that it’s great for mental and physical health as well
Catching the waves of the ocean or river, or even man-made waves, and gliding across the surface of the water is proving irresistible to so many that it’s no surprise that surfing found a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The sport is gaining momentum in India too.
It’s not just celebrities like Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koechlin and Lisa Haydon who are getting on surf boards - many ordinary young Indians have taken to the adventure sport too. Getting in tune with nature and mastering a physically demanding skill is proving beneficial for mind, body and soul.
"Surfing is a very young sport in India. It started on the tourist beaches where a few of us got attracted to it. And once you realize how much fun it is, and that the ‘playground’ comes free of cost, it’s hold strengthens. Every surfer starts feeling the thrill and freedom of becoming one with the ocean,” says Anudeep Andy, Founder and Chief Instructor at the Lonely Surfers School in Visakhapatnam.
The surfing industry has seen a boom during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Surfing has been in India for the last two decades, but it has grown exponentially during the pandemic," says Rammohan Paranjape, Vice-president, Surfing Federation of India.
The therapeutic benefits of riding the waves are also coming to the fore. Surfing helps with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and sleep problems. "Surfing has taught me a lot of things when it comes to living life. It improves mental and physical health and inculcates patience, focus, determination, dedication, and more," says Nikhil Pratap Singh, Founder, Planet Trotter, Adventure sports center.
"Surfing is a very liberating and joyful experience. A lot of surf schools around the county are offering great lessons for those who are non-swimmers too," says Rammohan.
HEALTH ON A HIGH
When you surf, you feel stronger, fitter and happier. Being active in or near water is therapeutic. Your shoulders and upper body get a workout while you're paddling, while your legs are exercised while you are balancing and guiding your board; your core muscles are working hard throughout.
"It is like meditation. Spending a week with the ocean helps you deal with anxiety and depression and is a way to wipe out the stress that one deals with in day-to-day life," says Nikhil Pratap Singh, adding, "Early morning surf sessions lighten your mood for the whole day and boost daytime energy."
BOOSTS HEART HEALTH
Surfing is a great cardiovascular exercise. The mixture of paddling, standing on the board and working your core muscles builds up heart strength.
IMPROVES MENTAL HEALTH
Surfing requires complete focus and concentration, so is a great way to wipe away the effects of stress. The concentration and awareness demanded by surfing can be seen as ‘mindfulness in action’ and it’s a great way to meditate. "Surfing feels like meditation, because when you catch a wave, the only thing that's going through your mind is the wave, your heart beat and the surfboard. You forget everything else for those few seconds on a wave, which is very healthy for your mental and physical wellness," says Anudeep.
The great thing about surfing is, it doesn’t feel like exercise - you will sleep better by doing something you enjoy.
Research suggests that the cross-training effect of surfing makes it a brilliant full-body workout.
Surfing burns roughly the same amount of calories as football, rock climbing or a session at the gym. It is also low impact, and therefore, much better for your knees and hip joints than exercises like running.
BEST PLACES TO SURF
"The best spots are Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu and Kovalam, Kerala, as the waves there are fast as well as shallow, which is best for surfing. And my city Visakhapatnam is best for beginners and intermediate surfers," says Anudeep. Rammohan adds, "Mulki in Mangalore was where the surfing movement began. Then there are other beautiful places in India like the Andamans, as well as Bali, Sri Lanka and the Maldives outside the country."