The surfing industry in India took a huge development step forward with running it’s first ever International Surfing Association (ISA) Level 1 Surf Instructor qualification course combined with safety and rescue training and practical instructing in a five day long intensive professional workshop. The ISA is the International Governing Body of the sport of surfing throughout the world and is the authority for stipulating and creating the minimum international requirements to be accredited and qualified as a Surf Instructor.
The course ran from July 11 – July 15th which marked the beginning of the professional growth and development for surfing in India. There were 23 participants in Mahabalipuram, with 21 from India and two from Sri Lanka. The Indian participants came from all the country from as far north as Vizag on the East Coast and from Gokarna, Mulki, Goa, Kovalam, Kerala on the West Coast with a number of locals coming from Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry. There were 4 enthusiastic participants from Lakshadweep Islands too who were part of the course.
The professional training week included the ISA Level 1 Surf Instructor course, a Safety and Surf Rescue Course and finished with two days of free surf lessons to provide the trainee instructors an immediate opportunity to put their new skills and knowledge into practice and to also give the local people a chance to try this exciting new emerging sport for free.
The professional training and week long qualification workshop was organised by the Surfing Federation of India (SFI). The SFI, which is based in Mulki in Karnataka, is the recognised National Governing Body of surfing in India being a member of the ISA.
The SFI has run a number of surfing competitions, along with other contests run by local organizations, in various areas to assist with the growth of the competitive side of the sport but this is the first formal qualification. All participants have either fully finished all the extra training or are very close to it, resulting in 23 newly trained and qualified instructors in the country. The ISA Surf Instructor accreditation is internationally recognized enabling these new Instructors to also gain employment throughout the surfing world.
The workshop was run by Jamo Borthwick, who trains ISA Surf Instructors and Surf Judges and assists the development of surfing around the world. He also has a surf school on the Gold Coast in Australia. Borthwick commented that he was extremely impressed with the progression of the instructors throughout the week. “The instructors have all worked really hard this week, with long days of training with a large amount of information to understand and implement. They have all realised the need now for them to really work to maintain a professional high standard and provide high quality safe surf lessons for all ages, abilities and water competency levels. It was a great pleasure and extremely satisfying week working with such an enthusiastic and motivated group. Surfing in India definitely has a bright exciting future.”
Some of these newly trained Surf Instructors already have their own surf school operation teaching people how to surf in a safe and enjoyable way. Others are working in these surf schools or planning to open their own operation. This is great news for those who are keen to try surfing, feel the thrill and excitement of being out in the waves and experience the exhilaration of riding a wave.
The training taught the new Instructors how to best introduce people to this fantastic new sport in a safe and enjoyable way. Even for those of us who are not the strongest of swimmers, the training demonstrated the most effective way to teach people with maximum safety in shallow water, which is generally no deeper than waist deep, in simple easy to understand steps ensuring everyone feels comfortable and secure throughout the duration of the lessons.
The free learn to surf sessions were extremely well attended and a huge success. Three ladies from Mumbai said it was the best fun and a highlight of their beach holiday. One Swiss family of four extended their stay in Mahabalipuram for two extra nights to take advantage of these sessions. A couple from Northern India also extended their stay in the coastal town to surf both days and be taught by the new instructors delaying their departure also by two days before continuing on an epic bike road trip around South India. They enjoyed their time so much that their next stop was down the road in Pondicherry to continue their surfing at one of the surf schools where three of the newly trained instructors have been operating for a number of years. The gentleman, Sateesh, also has an affiliation with the Swimming Federation of India and expressed the desire to bring a number of the Indian swimmers who are part of the Swimming Federation to try surfing. There were a number of local people, especially children, who tried it for the first time and who will be targeted for continued involvement in the sport due to their amazing natural talent for the sport.
While only in its infancy, there is great potential in India for surfing and the surf industry. With such a vast coastline there are many possible locations throughout India for surfing and with such a big population, there is an extremely large pool to choose from for talent identification.
This is only just the beginning of the surfing industry growth with plans and structures in place to continue this professional development as well as athlete development and expansion of the sport. The 2014/15 surf competition season begins from September to Novemnber. Other plans include offering more free introduction sessions and forming a development squad to begin training with the aim of having a surf team from India representing the country at international ISA contests.
We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Coastal Security Group, Tamil Nadu for their co-operation and sending their men for surf training. We would like to thank Sea Breeze Hotel, Mamalla Heritage Hotel for hosting and assisting our workshop. A big thanks goes to Red Bull for being our energy drink sponsors at the workshop.
For a list of the newly accredited Surf Instructors and the newly licensed and recognised SFI surf schools, please visit the SFI website – www.surfingfederationofindia.com