Sunday, 13 May 2012

Surfing with the Swamis - I caught my perfect wave :)

28th & 29th April 2012

“Is this your room?” a man yelled at us, when 5 of us were busy ROFLing at around 1 a.m. in the bus after which we decided it was time for us to go to bed. It was around 8:00 a.m. the next day morning, when swami Gaural welcomed us into the blue colored surfing swami Ashram in Mulki. All of us freshened up, ate a fruit and played TT till one of the swamis called out to us. He led us to a raft which was parked on river Shambhavi and the eight of us hopped into the raft. We headed diagonally to our left and we passed an area where they were dredging and then another area where they were fishing and after around 10 minutes, the swami parked the raft on the shore.

The Ashram :)

All of us hopped out of the raft and carried the surf boards lying down and walked on to the other side of the sand stretch and hit the ocean :) It was beautiful :) I was tempted to run and jump into the water, but I waited till the swami taught us the surfing technique instead. The swami introduced himself as Satya. He was a lean sun burnt teenager with a pony tail, who looked very calm and had a smile on his face.
The Surf Boards

The front part of the surf board was the nose and the rear was called the tail. The tail had a leash attached it, the other end of which had to be tied to our not so strong leg. We were instructed to stand on our feet and lean forward enough to fall off and the leg which we used to keep the step was our strong leg. Mine turned out to be the left leg, so the leash had to be tied to my right leg. We were now instructed to lie down on our stomach with the hand next to our shoulder, lift our chest and then sit up with the strong leg in front and the other leg in line with it at the back. We did this a couple of times and then four of them headed to the sea, while the rest of us sat to watch and learn from their mistakes :) I saw all of them just enjoying lying on the surf board the first few times and then just fall off from the board the next few times. I really didn’t think it would be that hard, as I had gone for an aqua camp a year ago and I had managed to balance myself on the surf board in a dam.

Swami :)
It was now my turn to surf! :) I put on a life jacket and tied the leash to my right leg, carried the beginners surf board with my right hand and headed to the sea with Satya. I had made up mind to just stand on the board the second I catch a wave. It was taxing to just walk into the sea with the waves hitting me and Satya told me to drop the surf board (SB) on the water to my right, with the nose against the waves, and to press the tail every time the SB hits a wave. This made it easier for me to maneuver my way into the sea with the SB. Once we were in the calm zone between two waves, Satya asked me to get onto the SB. Once I did, he held the tail and waited for a wave to pass us. Once the next wave was near, he asked me if I was ready and I sure was and he let go and asked me to stand on the SB. I was able to sit on the board for a second or more and then I fell off :) I was pleased with myself for being able to sit on it in the first attempt and I made up my mind to stand on it in the next few attempts. The second attempt was almost as good at the first one and Satya told me that I did pretty well and we should head to our left.  We came back to the shore, then went to our left and then got back into the sea. This time Satya took me further away from the shore. We were in the calm zone and I guess it looked like it would take longer to catch a wave here, so Satya suggested we head a little more to our left. While he was swimming, I lay on the SB enjoying paddling parallel to the coastline. We were close to catching a wave and Satya asked me to stop and held the tail. Once I caught the wave, I managed to sit for a second or so and then fell off. I repeated this couple of times, till I landed hard on the sand and decided to stop for the day.  Satya told me that the waves were breaking hard that day and it wasn’t really my fault that I couldn’t stand on the SB. Surfing in the sea was definitely much harder than surfing in the dam and if not cut across the waves by standing on the SB which was my initial goal, I was determined to at least stand on the SB the next day! :)

Swami on Surf Board :)
I went and sat next to Subbu and Jitha on the shore and soon the three of us were having a sand ball fight! Once I was covered in sand from head to toe, I went into the sea to wash myself up and enjoyed playing in the water. It was around 12 in the noon when all of us headed back to the Ashram.  I quickly washed up and then sat flipping through a surfing magazine, while waiting for lunch to be served. Once all of us were sand free, we went to have lunch. I gulped down the delicious watermelon juice and had huge helpings of kichadi with papad and some sweet upit. Once we were done eating, we washed our plates and I watched some of them play TT for a bit and then decided it was time for me to catch up on some sleep and woke up after around 2 ½ hours at 4:30 p.m.
Arti and I took our cups of ginger tea and sat on the stairs leading to the backwaters. The water level had risen. There were a lot of coconut trees on either side of the river and hills of sand here and there on the opposite side due to dredging. It was beautiful and calm here. Soon we were joined by Neelima and the three of us enjoyed our evening tea chatting away to glory :) After a while, everyone were there (including a few local kids who were being thrown into the water by the swamis and all of them were having a great time) and Subbu went surf board paddling and all of us had a good time watching him trying to balance on the SB and Jitha was eagerly waiting for the perfect shot :) I went kayaking to and fro to the other side of the river and enjoyed the quietness all around me.
It was now time for us to head to the beach to see the sunset. Due to the cloudy weather, we could hardly see the sun, but I thoroughly enjoyed the pleasant weather, by first talking a stroll on the beach with Arti and standing in the spot where the sea met the river next to a few Sanderlings and later on jogging along the shore till the sand hills. I was soon joined by Subbu, Priya, Bhatta and Jitha. Initially Priya and I wanted to make a gubbachi goodu and shake hands below it, but it soon became a magic box when Subbu and Jitha dug in, to form roads perpendicular to ours and all of us shook hands under the road and then together broke open the road. “The best things in the world are free - and worth every penny of it” :) We then covered Subbu in sand from head to toe and Bhatta was did a palti over him! :) It was time for us to head back and I again enjoyed the jog on the beach :)
"... wind in my hair and the sand at my feet ...." :)

I told Subbu that I would like to kayak back to the ashram and after he and Satya warned me that it was upstream and that it would be hard, due to my persistence, they agreed :) I walked with Satya till the kayak and happily hoped on to it and started to kayak immediately as it was getting dark. Satya told me to kayak to the other side of the river first and then kayak my way upstream right next to the shore (instead of kayaking diagonally to the ashram) and that he would come back for me if I hadn’t reached by the time he came to pick the other  half of the group. I happily kayaked without stopping, humming songs in the twilight, enjoying the serenity :) I kayaked for around 15 mins, enjoying paddling. It was dark now and Satya came back to get the other half of the group and on his way, asked me if I was okay and I told him I was fine and that I was loving it :) He told me I was very close to the ashram and went to get the rest of them. I continued to paddle and after around 5 mins I stopped for a second, only to be pushed back by the current.  I decided I will stop only at the destination and after a curve, I heard Subbu call out to me :)
I could hear tabla, manjira, kanjira and kids singing :)  Priya, Neelima and I washed up quickly and joined the kids who were singing bhajans. An idol of lord Krishna was kept in the middle of the mantap, which was lit with lamps. These lamps lit the entire room and it looked beautiful :) There was a positive vibe in the bhajan room and I enjoyed putting tala with the tala and singing with the kids :)

Waiting to spot the fireworks :)
Dinner was waiting for us. I gobbled on chapathi with potato curry, rice with dal and yummy chocolate ice cream :) After dinner all of us went and sat on the stairs leading to the backwaters. It was dark, except for the light from a factory far away to our right and the light from the tower next to it which was blinking at intervals. The moon was blurred as it was covered in clouds, but I could see a faint reflection of it every now and then in the river.  I don’t know what occasion it was, but we could see beautiful fireworks in the sky for a while.  The water level had gone down now. Bhatta and Jitha were imitating Anu Malik and the rest of us were ROFLing. We started playing dumb charades with really funny movie names. It was around 10:30 p.m. when we decided to call it a day and went back to our rooms. Neelima made tea for the three of us and we chatted away till 1:30 a.m. and then Neelima, Arti and I decided to catch up on some sleep.
It was around 7:00 a.m. the next day morning when I woke up. I met Dhruva who told me that I could wake the others up and we could go to the sea in 15 mins. Soon everyone were awake and in surfing clothes, busy fighting for fruits! I went and sat on the compound facing the sea relishing a mango and then an orange :) Dhruva called us to the raft and while half of us got onto it, four of them lay on a SB clung on to the leash of the SB in front of them and Priya who was first in line, held onto a rope tied to the raft and Dhruva switched on the motor :) It looked like fun and I was waiting to do that when we would return.
Since the entire beginner’s boards were taken, I took the professional SB and hit the sea :) Satya was not to be seen, so I decided I will try to surf without an instructor. I reached the calm zone, got onto the SB, turned around 180 degrees and when the wave came, I tried to stand, but ended up falling (I guess the surface of the board didn’t have as much grip as the beginners board). I repeated this once more. I then spotted another swami, Shyam close by, but even with his guidance, I was unable to stand on the board a couple of times. Since it was hard to just get to the calm zone, I decided I will conserve my energy to give it a shot on the beginners SB.
Once I got a beginners SB, I got onto it and paddled my way against the waves which was fun and sat on it facing the sea.  Dhruva came to me and then we were hit the calm zone. I got onto the board and turned around to face the shore. Dhruva caught the tail and let a wave pass by and then asked me if I was ready and once I said yes, he let go and asked me to stand on it. I managed to sit on it for a second or so and then fell off the SB. I did this a couple of times and just fell off without standing a couple of times. I was trying to surf a little further away from the shore compared to the rest of them and I asked Dhruva if I should try surfing a little closer to the shore. He told me to try it here, because if I get it right here, then I can stand on the board for a longer time :) This motivated me and I was glad Dhruva was pushing me to try it and showing me a thumbs up every time I managed to just sit on the SB.

In a barrel :)
I cut across the waves, with the SB in my right hand and once I reached where Dhruva was, I got onto the SB and turned around 180 degrees. Dhruva caught the tail and asked me if I was ready. This time, I just knew I was! Once he let go of the SB, I lifted me chest and hopped onto the SB, with my right, oh no left leg in the front and stood on it for a few seconds and then off I fell! :D I had caught the perfect wave! :D I was elated and beaming at Dhruva who was showing me thumbs up and calmly smiling back at me :) There was a small confusion though, why did I put my right leg in front at first? Was my right leg the strong leg?! Dhruva and I headed back to the shore and he asked me to stand straight and gave a push from the back and when I took a step, my right leg was front! So apparently, my right leg is the stronger leg. I practiced the technique of standing on the SB on the SB lying on the shore a couple of times and then went back to the sea with the leash tied to my left leg and the SB in my left hand. Once I was in position, Dhruva let go of the SB and I stood on it! :) I ended up falling in the next few attempts. Dhruva asked me to remove the lifejacket as it was weighing me down. I did so and the next few times, I actually surfed my way to the shore! :) It was amazing and I loved it! :)  In my next attempt, I fell off the board onto the sand landing on my chin. This hurt pretty bad and I could feel the pain all the way to my right ear. I decided to stop and told Dhruva that I was done for the day and surfed my way back from the shallow area to the shore and lied down on the SB. The girls gave me some water and shade and after a few minutes I was fine.
It was now time to head back to the ashram. It was my turn to lie on the SB and be dragged by the raft. I was the first in line and there were four of them behind me. I made sure I was balanced right and gave Dhruva a go signal. Once he started the raft, I realized that the hard part was not balancing on the SB, but was holding onto the raft, as my arms started to hurt! I just rested my head on the SB and it felt good. I felt like I was sleeping on the water surface (with no SB in-between) :) In-between I kept yelling out to Dhruva to stop the raft and after around 10 grueling minutes, when we were around 50 mts away from the ashram, I let go of the rope :) I paddled away to the bank. 
I ran up to the balcony while the others played TT and was soon joined by Subbu. I sat leaning on to a pillar, facing the breeze and enjoyed the view of the coconut trees and the kytes flying around them, the river Shambhavi, the sand hills and the water beyond till the horizon :) Lunch was now ready and I ran down :)  I gobbled on salad and tomato rice, gulped down lemon juice and ended my lunch with Chikoo paysa which was delicious! All of us sat on the sofas in the drawing room, flipping through the Surfing Swami photo diaries. The photo diaries were a few years old, but I could easily recognize all the swamis who were our instructors who were just kids in the album :) They had surfed in Andamans, Seychells …  and at a secret spot (which only Satya knows of) :) Satya was telling me that being in a barrel is the best thing and how it took him a couple of years to master the art :) Satya then played a surfing documentary video for us. It was about surfing around the world, how it was more than a sport and spiritual for some (like for the surfing swamis :) ). Bhatta who was fast asleep was giving background music once in a while.
Swami :)
We all went back to the backwaters now and Bhatta was busy jumping over the raft and budding photographer Priya was trying to get the right shot :) Dhruva then took all of us to the other side of the river near the sand hills on the raft and we then walked across the seaweeds and the area filled with sand from the dredging. On our way to the sea, Dhruva showed us a whale’s bone lying on the shore. I followed Dhruva when he wore a chappal which was washed away on the shore to cross the stretch filled with thorns in-between the seaweeds on the sand. I went into the water, staring away at the sun to my right. I then ran along the shore to my right and sat down enjoying the sunset. I enjoyed the soothing song of the waves :) I envied the bird which was flying above the sea :) I spotted a fish jumping out of water. I just loved my time alone with nature :)

Twilight :)
It was time for me to head back. I reluctantly got up and walked in and out of the water and stood in it. The twilight colors were beautiful :) The sky was pinkish orange and the water was reflecting the color in the sky :) I stood in the beautifully colored water and enjoyed the 360 degree view around me :) It was time to say bye to the sea. I reluctantly walked back, slipping into two slippers which were not matching and reached the raft. The sky was clear today and I could see a few stars. Once we reached the ashram, I hopped out of the raft along with the others. Dhruva was going back to the other side to get the rest of them and I hopped back into the raft :) The motor had been making a noise from noon. I asked Dhruva if we would reach back with the help of the motor or if we would have to paddle our way back. He said it would be hard to paddle back and told me one of his adventurous stories. Once he and another swami were on their way to the ashram upstream and it was pouring cats and dogs at night when the motor gave up. No matter how much they paddled, they were unable to go upstream and hence they went to the nearest land and wait there till dawn. It sounded adventurous only because they were safe in the end! I was sure that even if the motor gave up then, we would be able to paddle ourselves upstream today :) I could see light flashing on and off from the fishing and dredging areas and asked Dhruva if it was our people, but he told me that was the light flashing from the poles just to indicate that it was dredging/fishing area. He now pointed out to our far right and I could see the silhouette of our people. All of them hopped into the raft and we were on our way to the Ashram on the noisy raft which moved even more slowly due to the additional weight and we were going upstream. I turned back and started into the darkness and saw flashes of light here and there. I asked Dhruva if there was a light house there and he said there was. Dhruva was telling us that the dredging was being done mainly to allow ships to move in the river. I had thought it was being done to save the village from drowning if the water level increased. When we reached the Ashram, I was glad we didn’t have to paddle our way to it :)

I had caught my perfect wave :)
Priya and I packed our bags and joined the kids in the bhajan room. The tune was catchy and I hummed along :) It was now time for us to leave. I reluctantly left the bhajan room, put on my backpack and bid adieu to the swamis. As I hummed the bhajan on my way home, I thought about catching my perfect wave – it was the stay in the ashram and getting coached by the humble swamis; “The sun, sand and surf”; the sea and its beautiful song; the kids and bhajan they sang; my time spent alone with mother nature and definitely the perfect wave that I caught while surfing :) Thank you Subbu and Bhatta for the plan to Surf in Mulky :)
Thank you Neelima, Bhatta, Arti and Jitha for the beautiful pictures :)

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