The first national Surfing and Stand Up Paddle (SUP) competition got under way on Kovalam beach near here on Friday.

Jonty Rhodes, South African cricketer, inaugurated the Spice Coast Open being organised by Surfing Federation of India and supported by Kerala Tourism.

PIONEERING EVENT

An avid surfer, Rhodes called the Spice Coast Open a pioneering event that could shape a new generation of international surfing stars from India.

“This is a chance for India to get its youngsters interested in a sport that is thrilling and fun, and keeps you healthy and fit,” he said.

“Surfing has got something that cricket hasn’t and that’s the ‘cool’ factor. Everything about surfing is cool, from the outfits to the style.”

The 43-year-old is the fielding coach for the Mumbai Indians IPL cricket team. He finds surfing a welcome break from the stresses of cricket.

CHIILING OUT

“Cricket today is more than a career; it is also serious business and demands hard work.

“But surfing as a sport has yet to reach those levels of competitiveness. So it lets you chill out and loosen up.”

Rhodes was all praise for the beaches in Kovalam and said they were fantastic spots for surfing.

The three-day event here features surfing competitions and SUP races across groms (under 16), junior (under 21), senior (under 28) and masters (over 29) categories.

International surfers will take part in the open category and there are separate competitions for girls.

BIGGER EVENT

More than 100 participants from State surfing associations, clubs, surf schools and enthusiasts from around the country and abroad are taking part.

Kishore Kumar, president of Mangalore-based Surfing Federation, said he hoped to make the competition much bigger next year with more participants.

“Despite having an extensive coastline, excellent beaches and young talent, surfing is yet to catch on as an adventure sport in India.

“We hope that this first edition of the Spice Coast Open will signal the elevation of surfing as an adventure sport in our country,” he added.

vinson.kurian@thehindu.co.in

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