Think the coastal areas of India and the plight of the fisher-folk and you do not really think of swanky fishermen in exotic boats. You think more of tiny boats with peeling paint, wooden benches, the traditional nets and the rickety rods. The fishermen are poor folk who live hand to mouth and for many of them, in times of challenges, even daily survival is difficult. For them, a bond with the water is natural though. The sea is their best friend and also their foe. They know the sea like no one else and can make the most of it. Unknown to them, they have mastered the art of taming those waves and at times even riding them. And they do it better than some of the best experts!
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Think of the Indian coastline and while you do think of things like scuba diving and snorkelling, you rarely ever think of surfing as surfing is still not very famous as a sport in India. And if you do think of it, you treat it as an elite sport, something that the people who come to visit India from abroad or members from the upper middle class or adventurous crowd pursue. You definitely do not expect a fisherman to go surfing in the country. Will he even know what surfing is? But then Murthy has proved all the skeptics wrong and has opened his own surfing school in the country! Murthy Megavan, was born in 1970s in Kovalam beach, Chennai and the litte boy was born into a fisherman family. Fishing was his family profession and the way people in their village sustained themselves.
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When Murthy was very young, his father left them and Murthy, now the only male member in the family found himself shouldering the responsibility of his mother, his sister and also his grandmother. However, he loved playing in the water and also wanted to ride the waves. Unaware about the techniques and the art of surfing, the poor boy would play the sport with foam boards and with wooden planks. He only knew one thing – he wanted to learn to ride the waves, it did not matter whether it was a surf board or a wooden plank. He would play and be in the water for hours, which essentially became his training routine.
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He did not have anyone to help him correct his mistakes and had no idea how to even manoeuvre himself. He slowly tried to understand the different types of waves, how they worked and how he could improve his posture. He practiced for hours on end without any breaks and never gave up. he kept trying different tricks on different types of waves till he was able to master them and ace surfing. A chance encounter with Jack Hebner, an American who is responsible for bringing the surfing sport to India made Murthy realise his potential. When Hebner was at kovalam beach, Murthy politely requested if he could borrow his surf-board to practice. And what’s more, he was able to adapt to the board and ride the waves like a pro after just a few minutes!
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Anyone seeing Murthy would never guess that he learnt to surf on wooden planks and till that day had never seen a surf board, let alone ride one! Hebner was completely impressed and gave Murthy his number to contact him in the future as he wanted to take Murthy to his surfing school. However, Murthy, who did not know how to manage the dial-ins and the different codes to conenct to a different region forgot all about Hebner’s offer. Also, the tsunami soon struck and destroyed their village, making Murthy work harder at getting their simple life back to normal. He also enrolled at the local NGO to help the people who were worse off than them and devastated by the Tsunami.
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Murthy has also blown up his family’s little savings in buying a surf board (against their wishes) by then and would couple his social work with his love for surfing. As more and more foreigners came to India to explore surfing, many of them noticed Murthy and befriended him. Soon, he became great friends with surfers from all over the world. Many gifted Murthy surfboards and some even promoted his talent abroad. Murthy received many surfboards and also passed some on to the other poor kids in the village who loved to surf but like him, had no access to proper equipment. Soon, their love for surfing opened up a new business and revenue model for the impoverished villagers who took up surfing as a hobby and soon, began changing it to a profession.
Yotam Agam, an Israeli entrepreneur in Chennai spotted Nurthy and made his video and uploaded it on YouTube where it went viral. Soon, people began to write about Murthy and he became a small celebrity thanks to the media. Soon, more and more people also began to visit Kovalam beach to surf and learn the art from the locals there. Business there began to flourish. For Murthy, he went on to win many awards in surfing competitions abroad and soon, Murthy had a fan following. An investor decided to invest in Murthy and with the backing of Arun Vasu, Murthy set up his own surf school. Today, the school is completely able to support itself and is an inspiration to all the youngsters of the village. Covelong Point Surf School is an example that nothing is unattainable if you set your heart to it!
Main Image Credit: Redbull