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Surfing to her own tune

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For most people in their 20s, an average day kicks off with the daily trudge to office, tea breaks and ends with the crowded journey home possibly followed by drinks and dinner or a movie - but Ishita Malaviya's day begins and ends with one thing: surfing. Unofficially crowned 'India's first female surfer', the 23-year-old is seen more in the water than on land. She and co-founder Tushar Pathiyan are the proud owners of The Shaka Surf Club, which is creating quite a ripple in India. TOI-Crest recently caught up with her to know why she lives to surf.

From a journalism degree to surfing - how did that happen?

I grew up in Mumbai but came to Manipal five years ago to study, and I also met Tushar. When we heard of the Surfing Swamis (a religious community that lives in Mangalore) we decided to approach them. But it was too expensive for us to live there so we would travel with our 8-foot long second-hand surfboard in the auto and then a bus every Sunday for an hour. But I was hooked and there was no turning back.

Were your parents always on board?


No way! They were okay with it till it was a hobby. But when they realised I was serious about surfing as a career, they said, 'Buy a board if you want but we won't pay for it. ' So Tushar and I sold off our things to buy one - sewing machine, shoes - anything we could. And when I finally got mom to try it she loved it. She said she'd be the first woman surfer had she had a chance.

Speaking of which, how awesome is it to be the first one?


Honestly, I didn't believe it. We covered the complete south coast and everywhere we went I would ask, 'Are there any girl surfers here?' and the answer was always no. So finally I believed it - I was the first girl surfer in India indeed. It felt really good.

Being students, was it difficult to open The Shaka Surf Club?


On the day Tushar graduated, we got in touch with Quiksilver (merchandise retailer for surfing products) who agreed to sponsor us. We put up posters in Manipal and our Facebook page received a tremendous response from people. We haven't spent a dime on marketing but thankfully we received ample media coverage. And the surf lessons pay for the boards so it hasn't been difficult at all.

What's a regular day like?


We surf from 7:30 am to 10:30 am. Then we rest for a while and have lunch which is followed by another surfing session from 3 pm to 6 pm. After that it's dinner or drinks with friends and then we sleep. Surfing takes up most of my day and I love that.

Doesn't being cut off from the city get to you?


If I had my way, I would never return to the city. Every surfer dreams of a life like this. Both Tushar and I are outdoor people and we want to make a lifestyle out of this. Surfing is it.

Tell us about the humanitarian work you do.


Ever year, we collaborate with Project Swim International to train us and the people here in surf rescue, first aid and CPR. We educate local communities and schools about water safety. We work with an organisation Swim for Development to teach children swimming and surfing. There are frequent beach cleanup missions as well.

What has been the high point of your surfing career?


Honestly, every day is as exciting as the previous. But yes, getting support from Quiksilver was one and the day we bought our first board was pretty amazing too. And another when for the first time, we took two kids from the village to teach them surfing and the whole village was there to watch! It was so thrilling.

Anyone you would love to see surf at your club?


You mean a film star? (Laughs) No, but I would love to see Jack Johnson - he used to be a pro surfer a few years ago but he suffered an injury. He still surfs but has found his calling as a singer, and a great one at that!

Will Ishita still be surfing in the next 10 years?


All my life, if possible! I want to be recognised as the face of surfing in India and get more people in the water, especially girls! I am not a very ambitious person - I just want to travel and be able to live like this forever.

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