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Tarp surfing

Making waves in the city

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A new adventure sport allows people to surf even where there is no sea.

There was a time in Bollywood when the hero would profess his love while driving a car that bounced up and down even though the road seemed fairly smooth. This road - always lined with trees and mountains on both sides - was, of course, merely a stock video played to make you buy the illusion that the actor was driving. In a way, what some men attempted inside the courtyard of a popular mall in South Mumbai recently was reminiscent of these simulated driving sequences.

Egged on by the appeals of a woman with a mike, these men, including some in leather shoes, mounted a skateboard and prepared to cruise over the sheet of what appeared like blue plastic that had been laid out.

All they had to do was cross over to the other side before the two boys holding on to either side of the sheet could pull the tarp over them. In the course, some slipped and drowned midway while some emerged comfortably from this giant, blue sheet that looks like a wave, at least in photographs.

That's the USP of tarp-surfing - the newest action sport to be introduced in the country. It allows skateboarders, even beginners, to act like surfers.

"It's a great adventure sport alternative for cities that lack waves or have no beaches, " says a spokesperson for Quiksilver India, an action sport lifestyle brand, which organised this first-of-its-kind workshop for tarp surfing in Delhi and Mumbai. "Since we already have a strong community of skateboarders in these cities, we will now introduce tarp surfing workshops once a month to begin with as it's also a great group activity, " he says, adding that they plan to conduct workshops in schools in Mumbai and Pune too.

Though it was born in California in the mid-1990 s, it is the recent spurt in Facebook photos and YouTube videos showing various skateboarders attempting the sport that has given this quaint marriage of skating and surfing the aura of an action sport.

In the videos, the sport looks easy but it isn't. "Even if you aren't a skateboarding expert, it's important to know how to balance on the skateboard, " says 19-yearold Mazda Nargolwala, a skateboarder from Mumbai.

Also, it is equally important to learn the technique of drawing the tarp simultaneously from both ends. Though it can be pulled by one person as well, the one drawing the tarp has to know the right technique to be able to create the wave.

Even so, skateboarders - the target audience for this sport - don't seem too impressed. "Firstly, the cruiser (the type of skateboard used) is heavy. So you need to apply a lot of energy and you can't attempt skateboarding tricks such as the olly, " says Nargolwala, who is capable of doing headstands on a skateboard.

Secondly, "the joy of tarp surfing is to recreate the feel of surfing, but on a flat surface, the skateboard won't cruise on its own like a surf board, " says Russel Lopez, another skateboarder from Mumbai. "The ground won't work for you unless it is an incline, " he says, adding that it is hard to concentrate when the onus is on just getting out before the sheet engulfs you.

Besides, what's the point of experiencing surfing when you don't have anything to compare it to, Lopez asks. "We don't know what surfing feels like in the first place, " he says. 

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