New Delhi: For Ishita Malaviya, moving from metropolis Mumbai to Manipal in Karnataka was an impulsive decision, given the crowded and polluted spaces in the big city. Little did she know she would be living her dream and emerge as the India's first woman professional surfer.
Malaviya, who co-founded The Shaka Surf Club with school friend Tushar Pathiyan in a small fishing village of Kodi Bengare, some 20 minutes from Manipal, has also initiated change in the lives of the local community through a symbiotic alliance with them.
The club currently offers customised packages to people seeking a getaway or training and provides camps to stay right at the beach while outsourcing the food to local families who get free surfing lessons in return. Malaviya is part of the industry, little heard of in India and belongs to a growing number of surfing enthusiasts.
The 26-year-old said she was in her the first year of university pursuing journalism when she and Pathiyan had a chance meeting with a German exchange student and was awestruck by his surfboard.
"I always was in love with water. I always dreamed of surfing... but like many others, I wondered where do we have waves in India?" Malaviya said.
The student told the two about 'surf gurus' and a 'surf ashram', where one could learn surfing besides indulging in a complete 'ashram experience'.
They gradually received training there on weekends by sharing a skateboard, which they bought second-hand for Rs 10,000. Interestingly, the urge for a separate skateboard led them to establish a club that is now fully equipped for 16 people.
At the 6th edition of the 'Adventure Stories' held here recently presented by Taj Safaris in association with 'The Outdoor Journal' and Ibex Expeditions Malaviya shared stories about her journey.
With almost 7,000 km of relatively unexplored coastline in south of India, Malaviya urged people especially women to take the plunge.
The surfer said her personal experience of growing up in India, where many girls are forced to limit their interaction with boys after reaching puberty, made her want to break the barriers all the more.
"Surfing for me is meditation. As long as I have that sense of peace and satisfaction, that is my purpose in life," she told a gathering at The Taj Mahal Hotel that included people from all walks of life, including businessmen, naturalists and architects.
Malaviya was joined by Bengaluru boy Dhillan Chandramowli, who switches between his passion for rock climbing and his freelance work as a music specialist in radio.
As a just-turned father, Chandramowli, said he looks forward to experimenting with outdoor-friendly parenting that can change the way people in India think about travelling with their children.
"We make it such a big thing, travelling with children. I want to make my child travel from such an initial point in life that he does not even remember exactly since when he has been travelling," he said.
Chandramowli, who has eight years of experience in satellite, terrestrial and Internet radio, said the whole idea was is to make the nature more appealing to the next generation right from the beginning so that they protect it from the challenges of global warming and climate change.
Hari Dang, a renowned educationist, conservationist and a mountaineer, who was awarded Padma Shri in 1976 for contributions to youth services also spoke about his experiences.
Dang achieved repute as headmaster and rector of some of India renowned schools, including St Paul's in Darjeeling, The Army and Air Force Schools and as a teacher of the Doon School.
However, it was in the mountains to the north of these school campuses that he truly defined himself, as an old school mountaineer who climbed for the fun of it, for the joy of getting up high, of exploring wild places and vast open spaces, according to a release by the organisers.
Dang trekked climbed and explored virtually every hidden valley and peak from Kashmir and Himachal, from Uttarakhand's high peaks and ridges, through Nepal, and across to Sikkim and Bhutan, further east to Arunachal and down south to the high lands of Nagaland and Manipur.
"Human beings have an imagination to explore. They just need a tool for it - it can be anything... from a stick, a sword to a boat or may be a surfboard. It is about enjoying life," he said.
The 'Adventure Stories', that are an initiative of the Taj Safaris, India's first luxury wildlife travel circuit, in association with The Outdoor Journal and Ibex Expeditions, are a quarterly exchange of stories from the wild and have given many lesser-known explorers a platform to narrate their experiences.
"The 'Adventure Stories' offer a blend of adventure, passion and exploration that has inspired our audiences with some incredible speakers," said Apoorva Prasad, Founder and CEO, 'The Outdoor Journal'.