Six months somewhere thats not guaranteed to have good waves is a gamble. Weighed up against 6 months of definitely no waves in London and it being winter, it was a bet my girlfriend - Tara and I were willing to take. Add on a month in Sri Lanka and a couple of weeks in the Maldives and the gamble of work in India was not a bad bet at all.
Being surf photographers allows us to travel and work with surf schools and camps. France, South Africa and Morocco have already been ticked off, it was time to see more of what the Indian ocean had to offer.
We arrived in India in November. The first thing that hits you when the plane door opens at Trivandrum airport is that it's hot, damn hot.
The drive to our destination of Varkala is a little over an hour and is visually amazing. The route is flanked by palm trees,huts and glimpses of the Arabian sea. Everything has that tropical feel to it.
Our season was spent with Soul & Surf, a surf and yoga camp that has a dreamy chilled out vibe which makes you feel right at home as soon as you step through the gates. It really has a family feel to it and is one of our favourite places we have ever spent a season, without doubt.
We live in a modern world, the days of actually looking over swell charts are over. We have the world at our finger tips, from a little device in our hand we can predict when the swell will hit. How big it's going to be. How long it will last. There is a app for everything, some even boast “the most powerful forecasting tools in the world” Well, scrap that, here in India and indeed in Sri Lanka there is a better tool. They have a name… your eyes.
The best spot in the area is just a short ride from Varkala. Its a fantastic super glassy left hand point break that has barrel sections and the most fun slashing walls you could ever wish for. Its downside is that it's far less of a secret spot than it should be. From a photography point of view, it could not be more perfect. A photographers favourite time of day is what's called "the golden hour". Roughly the first hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. At this particular spot, from my view shooting in the water, i had the added bonus of the sunlight being diffused amongst the palm lined shore. A dream…
Most of the time the swell was fun, which in turn led to fun surfs on fun boards. If you could ride a longboard well, you had the pick of the waves on most days.
Stylish longboard riding fitted in well with temperature in the high 30’s. We were graced with former U.K and European longboard champion Sam Bleakley, who along with our resident head surf coach, Nick Kelly showed that riding the plank can be about big top turns, heaps of spray and even barrels that complement walking to the nose in-between.
A good selection of beach breaks can be found along the Southwest facing beaches in Kerala during the dry season which runs from November - April. To the south of Varkala is the surf mecca of Kovalam, a gateway to further secret spots to the south. India has never been a mainstream surfing destination but don't let that fool you in any way. Many people underestimate the power of the beach breaks and end up with dings on both board and body.
When most people think of India it is of the sheer hectic frenzy of the north. However Kerala is known as “Gods own country” and for good reason.
Kerala is shaped by a lush layered landscape. From its world famous tranquil backwaters to the tea and spice covered hills of the Western Ghats. Ayurvedic treatments and yoga to soothe the body after the surf, and some of the most taste bud pleasing food that defies the price.
A magnificent mixture of cultures, religions, languages and wildlife will keep you busy on those flat days.
Where to stay: www.soulandsurf.com
Part 2 - Sri Lanka coming soon