Guess what a young, international tourist packs alongwith his pair of sunglasses and camera, when he comes to the ancient Tamil coastal city of Mahabalipuram? A surfboard. Turquoise-blue waters shimmering under brilliant sunshine, whipped into big, long waves by savage winds make for a fantastic surfing experience. In the recent past, Mahabs (as it is fondly called) has been a big draw for foreign tourists.
That is precisely what the Government of Tamil Nadu wants to capitalise on. The State is organising the first-ever International Surf Open, as part of the World Surf League, between August 14 and 20, this year.
Mahabs, with its plentiful coconut groves that let you hammock yourself for a cold beer and a nap, lots of white sands and tiny hillocks, has thus far been known for its relics of a glorious past — the rock-cut temples built 1,600 years ago. But from August, it might just as well become known for the surfing events, for, the 100-odd surfers who are expected to mill in from a dozen countries are sure to take happy memories back home.
Some of them will gather enough points to enter the Championship Tour, because what is due to happen in August at Mahabs is a qualifying event. Portugal, the US and Japan are the other countries that are hosting similar qualifying events.
This event is happening thanks to the efforts of the Surfing Federation of India, the Tamil Nadu Surfing Association and the TT group.
Two locations – Kovalam and Mahabalipuram – have unleashed a good surfing talent pool over the past several years and the state has the highest number of national surfers in the country.
“I think we have come a long way,” says Arun Vasu, President, TNSA. What started as a social project a decade ago at the nearby fishing hamlet of Kovalam, surfing as a sport has seen a tremendous growth over these years. Now, TN has emerged as one of the “compelling surf destinations” and hosts most number of surf tourists, he says.
Funding from TN Govt
The State government has also been extending its support the surfing events. To give further fillip to surfing as a sport, Tamil Nadu Sports Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin has announced a funding assistance of ₹2.67 crore towards the conduct of International Surf Open event at Mahabs.
Currently, there are 15-16 surfing schools in the state and Vasu felt Tamil Nadu has good potential to explore new surfing spots along the coastline. “A a lot of places are unexplored in the State – there are some points near Puducherry, some points towards towards Kanyakumari, while Rameswaram is also another potential spot,” he added.
July and August months are the best time to ride the waves in Kovalam and Mahabs. While surfing is growing in other States such as Goa, Kerala and Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Mahabalipuram has become a good choice as a surfing destination.