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Surfing to educate - meet Ishita Malaviya

Image Credit: IBNLive Sports.

Image Credit: IBNLive Sports.

Born in the City of Dreams, Mumbai, Ishita never thought she will be associated with an adventure sport in India but a 2007 meeting wth a German student part of an exchange programme made it happen.

Life without an adventure is boring and it becomes even more satisfying if you combine adventure and serving a cause. Ishita Malaviya - a surfer who teaches fishermen how to ride the waves so they don't drown - is a living example of that.

Born in the City of Dreams, Mumbai, Ishita never thought she will be associated with an adventure sport in India but a 2007 meeting wth a German student part of an exchange programme made it happen.

"Surfing just came into my life," Ishita told IBNLive in an exclusive interview.

And the 26-year-old went on to tell how.

"It was my first year of graduation in journalism from Manipal. One day I ran into a German exchange student who had come down to India. He knew surfing. I saw him riding the waves and tried the sport. It was thrill and pure fun. That’s how it all began."

That was the beginning of a love affair between Ishita and sea waves. "Life had never been so fun. I really enjoy it," she said.

"The other reason is that most of the fishermen do not know how to swim. Due to that we lose several lives every year. Surfing is the way to teach them to save themselves in such situations," Ishita said during a National Geographic Channel’s Mission Explorer event.

With an aim to educate fishermen and their kids by means of surfing, Ishita decided to open a surf club.

"I have a surf school that I run with my boyfriend Tushar. It is called the Shaka Surf Club. It is based in a small fishing village called Kodi Bengre. It is 20 minutes away from Karnataka in Udipi," she said.

"We do not have a fix number but whenever people get time, they come to us and we train them. I have targeted mainly the children of fishermen. Right now, we have 60 children who are training with us regularly. And we don’t charge anything from them,” she added.

Not only fishermen’s children, their mothers and grandmothers too showed their interest in learning surfing. "There is a 65-year-old grandmother who also surfs with us," She added.

Ishita started giving training to villagers but faced initial hiccups in terms of language barrier.

"There was a huge problem in conveying things to them initially. I am from Mumbai and they speak 'Tulu'.

Tulu is a spoken language and can’t be written. So the gestures were the medium to make them understand. Now things are perfect. I have taught them some English words too," she said with a laugh.

Ishita, who is a journalism graduate from Manipal, started visiting this village when she was in college. She used to interact with the villagers whenever she went for surfing. With time she became friends everyone.

“When I was in college, I used to do surfing here only. There is a grandfather in the village. He used to sit on a rock and keep an eye on us. He used to tell us if the tide are high and to be careful. He was familiar with the conditions very well. He used to leave only once we were out of the water. And these kids used to cheer us. So that’s how the connection became so strong," she said.

Despite knowing teaching surfing can offer monetary benefits, Ishita didn’t target tourist spots like Goa or Kerala. She always wanted to be with these kids and their families. The love and affection of these kids didn’t let Ishita to change her mind.

"You are right. Honestly, Goa or Kerala would have been really good for us commercially. But we just fell in love with these children here. I mean, they are the best. They are kind-hearted people and generous. We developed a strong connection with them", she said.

On being asked how she learnt surfing techniques, Ishita said: "There is a place close to my university (Manipal). It is an hour's journey from there. It was something one never experienced before. I felt like a kid again. You learn the techniques and take training and after that it is you and the thrill and lots of fun with waves. It took a lot of time to build my strength mentally and physically. Ocean looks beautiful but dangerous too. People are scared of getting drowned but once you are friends with the ocean, then you forget everything. I believe surfing brings down the fears and anxiety."