Tanvi Jagadish knows how to dream big. Now she’s set her sights even higher.
At just 19 years of age Tanvi Jagadish has become a leader in the Indian StandUp Paddle community, working to spread the sport in the world’s second most populous country and, more specifically, breaking down gender barriers to get more women involved in ocean sports.
When Tanvi was 16 she grabbed headlines with her historic participation in the 2016 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship in Fiji, forming part of the first Indian team to ever compete in an ISA World Championship. Tanvi’s gutsy performance in the grueling 17km distance race inspired the international competitors, as they greeted her with cheers at the finish line.
Building off that momentum, Tanvi went back to India with a goal to introduce more Indians to the joy of StandUp Paddle and Surfing. She held workshops to introduce the sport to more girls, as well as continuing her personal training to compete at the national and international level.
Despite the positive milestones and new media attention, the road was not exactly easy. Tanvi had to overcome gender stereotypes, cultural norms, and reluctance from her family to let her practice the sport due to fear of teasing and sexual abuse. Even with the tough road, Tanvi was able to paint a new picture for what is acceptable for a woman in India’s oceans, breaking down gender stereotypes that had previously kept women out of the water.
Having already accomplished so much at such a young age, one would think that Tanvi’s had enough, but she’s not done.
Tanvi has set an even loftier goal in her mission to spread the SUP in her home country. Tanvi, along with fellow standup paddler Rohan Suvarna, are setting out on a journey to spread SUP to all corners of India. Tanvi will hold SUP camps in all 29 states of the country, plus a few union territories, with the goals of promoting the sport in India, encouraging more youth to get involved in sport, creating awareness around the health of India’s bodies of water, and empowering women to participate and spread the message all over the world.
With Tanvi’s journey just getting underway, the ISA caught up with her to dive into the bright, young mind of India’s most dedicated, inspirational standup paddler.
Here’s what Tanvi had to say about her mission:
ISA: Why do you want to bring SUP to all states of India? How long will this take?
India is a diverse country with 29 states and 9 union territories, with vivid language, culture and traditions. Not only that, India has 7500km of coastline and amazing inland water bodies too. That makes India a great potential country to explore via SUP.
As the youth of India, it is our dream to give this opportunity to everyone. I want others to discover and learn how to SUP through our DesiSUPStars – SUP camp and SUP pop ups. Our main goal is to spread awareness about Mother Ocean.
This whole journey will take 18 months.
ISA: This seems like quite the task, what challenges does this present for you?
There are lot of challenges in India to do a SUP Camp and introduce the sport. Here are the main ones:
- SUP is a new water sport many don’t know about
- Permission to access the unexplored, most remote water bodies
- Funds for our travel, stay and food at the places where we set up the camp
- To spread awareness about the camp
- Security, emergency response at our campsite
- Shipment of our accessories to unexplored and remote places
- Encouraging more girls and women to come to the camp
- Educating people about taking care of our Mother Ocean / water bodies
ISA: How many states have you been to as of now? Which state are you most looking forward to visiting?
We have started with our camp at Karnataka and presently we are in Tamil Nadu. We are also excited about Rajasthan, Kashmir, Lakshadweep and Andaman Islands. Rajasthan and Kashmir have many beautiful lakes. Meanwhile Lakshadweep and Andamans Islands have pristine seas with coral reefs.
ISA: What can SUP bring to Indians, both inland and on the coast?
Our life after doing an ocean sport like Stand Up Paddling and Surfing has totally changed, which made us respect nature, the ocean, and our body, all while learning so much about teamwork.
StandUp Paddle gives self-confidence to each and everyone on the water and gives them an opportunity to experience life on water. StandUp Paddle helps to keep mentally and physically fit. And whoever we have taught Stand Up Paddling with our camps always said “wow” for how beautiful our Nature looks from Mother ocean.
ISA: Has SUP started to become more widely accepted as a sport gaining popularity in India?
Slowly yes, but it is quite familiar only in few states of India with coastline. We are trying our best to give everyone the opportunity through our SUP camps and pop ups which we want to do with collaborations. StandUp Paddle is one of the world’s fastest growing water sports and still many people don’t know about it.
ISA: How do you introduce SUP to people who have little experience in the water and may not know how to swim?
We tell our participants briefly about the venue of the sport, give them lifejackets and also do one-on-one sessions so we are always with them in the full session. If the individual panics a lot about the water, we personally sit behind the SUP and accompany them throughout the session. We also make them swim in the waterbody wearing a life jacket so that they will feel comfortable on the board.
ISA: Tell us about your SUP Camp ‘Desi SUP Stars’. How did you start it?
Last year August 2018 when I was getting ready for the SUP and Surf National championship and I had a bad wipeout on my race board. I ended up hurting my stomach and it caused me to have internal bleeding. It didn’t show up so much for 5 months and it became so bad on the 6th month that I was told not to compete for a year or more. My heart was broken because I have trained so many days alone in the ocean chasing my own time limit to reach my SUP racing goals. Rohan kept joining me for a lot of SUP sessions and he told that we could do a SUP camp at his hometown Malpe. So that’s what we did, a SUP camp collaborating with a team and that’s when we inaugurated Desi SUP Stars because I felt so close to my sport while I was teaching so many people and seeing them smile. And after that there is no looking back for us!
ISA: How has SUP played a hand in promoting gender equality in India?
I have to thank the ISA for giving me an ISA SUP and Surf Instructor certificate which allows me to teach any individual how to SUP, especially girls and women. I am India’s first female to receive ISA SUP Instructor Certificate.
SUP is an excellent sport in which any individual with proper guidance can do the sport.
I feel really empowered when I pass on the knowledge to more girls and women about StandUp Paddle. This would encourage more girls and women to participate in our camps.
Our intention is to promote more girls and women to participate in SUP, through ladies only camps and building strong Girls ‘badass’ SUP teams .
ISA: In addition to spreading the sport of SUP, do you see this as a personal journey as well, visiting new places and meeting new people in your own country?
Yes, but our first preference is always to promote SUP wherever we travel. Meanwhile we also love traveling, meeting amazing people, hearing their stories of travel and life experience and exploring new places. It will be a new and thrilling experience to travel around this diverse country with our SUPs.
ISA: For those that want to join, how can they sign up?
ISA: What are your future goals beyond this SUP tour?
It’s been our dream to cross from India to Sri Lanka with our StandUp Paddles and create a world record. We badly wanted to do it this year, but because of unavoidable reasons, that didn’t go as planned.
Secondly, we want to conduct more SUP camps around the world and spread the love and knowledge of StandUp Paddle.
The International Surfing Association (ISA), founded in 1964, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing. The ISA governs and defines Surfing as Shortboard, Longboard & Bodyboarding, StandUp Paddle (SUP) Racing and Surfing, Para Surfing, Bodysurfing, Wakesurfing, and all other wave riding activities on any type of waves, and on flat water using wave riding equipment. The ISA crowned its first Men’s and Women’s World Champions in 1964. It crowned the first Big Wave World Champion in 1965; World Junior Champion in 1980; World Kneeboard Champions in 1982; World Longboard Surfing and World Bodyboard Champions in 1988; World Tandem Surfing Champions in 2006; World Masters Champions in 2007; World StandUp Paddle (SUP, both surfing and racing) and Paddleboard Champions in 2012; and World Para Surfing Champions in 2015.
ISA membership includes the surfing National Federations of 108 countries on five continents. The ISA is presided over by Fernando Aguerre (ARG). The Executive Committee includes four Vice-Presidents Karín Sierralta (PER), Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), Casper Steinfath (DEN) and Barbara Kendall (NZL), Athletes’ Commission Chair Justine Dupont (FRA), Regular Members Atsushi Sakai (JPN) and Jean Luc Arassus (FRA) and ISA Executive Director Robert Fasulo as Ex-officio Member.
Its headquarters are located in La Jolla, California (USA).