Surfing the global wave: Spotlight on Tamil Nadu as inaugural International Surf Open launches on Mamallapuram’s shores

The Surf Open was inaugurated by Tamil Nadu Sports Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin at the Covelong Classic Surf Festival in Mahabalipuram.

ByJoshua Eugine

Published Aug 14, 2023 | 3:00 PMUpdatedAug 14, 2023 | 3:00 PM

As a World Surfing League (WSL) event, this surf open will witness top surfers from across Asia and Australia battling it out in the waters of Mahabalipuram from August 14 to 20.

Following an exhilarating weekend of sun, sand, and surf, Tamil Nadu’s Covelong Classic Surf Festival has kicked off India’s inaugural international surfing competition — the International Surf Open Tamil Nadu Qualifying Series (QS) 3000.

As a World Surfing League (WSL) event, this surf will witness top surfers from across Asia and Australia battling it out in the waters of the historic town of Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) from August 14 to 20.

This groundbreaking event owes its existence to the dedicated efforts and support of the Surfing Federation of India (SFI) and the Tamil Nadu Surfing Association (TNSA). It has enabled India’s burgeoning surfing scene to venture onto the international stage.

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Breaking into the global scene

With a shoreline stretching across nearly half the country, surfing has held a special place in India for numerous years. Schools like Kovalam’s Surf Turf, Varkala’s Soul and Surf, and Udupi’s Shaka Surf Club have paved the way for newer establishments emerging in various coastal towns across southern India.

These schools familiarised the local crowd with the sport. They also introduced surfers from around the world to the numerous surf breaks that are strewn across India’s beaches.

Evolving into both a professional sport and an activity cherished by adrenaline enthusiasts, surfing has firmly established itself within India’s water sports industry. Thanks to surfing, water sports have now diversified into other water-based activities like skimboarding and kite-surfing.

Also Read: Riding new waves: How the pandemic helped create India’s first skimboarding community in Kochi

Coast to Coast at Covelong Classic 2023

The Covelong Point Surf Festival took its inaugural step in 2013, spotlighting the budding surfing community of Kovalam, Tamil Nadu.

Hosted annually by Surf Turf Surf School and TT Group, the festival has blossomed into India’s Premier Surfing Event.

This year’s festival, held on August 12 and 13, featured the inauguration of the International Surf Open by Minister of Youth Welfare and Sports Development, Udhayanidhi Stalin. Additionally, it featured the third round of the East Coast Pro Tour 2023, where the victors secure a qualification for the Surf Open.

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Dubbed the ‘Covelong Classic – Surf, Music, and Fitness Festival’, the weekend was an exultant celebration of the surf culture.

Local village stalls offering delectable seafood dishes lined the beach, acquainting international visitors with local cuisine. Furthermore, restaurants, cloud kitchens, and caterers from around the nation found space for their pop-up stands at the venue.


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Free for all to relish, the festival maintained its integrity by encouraging Kovalam’s street cart vendors to set up shop alongside international companies and sponsors like Red Bull and Jawa Yezdi.

Attendees from as far as Hawaii mingled with the locals of Covelong Point, uniting in their shared affection and dedication to the sport.

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Sports Village

“Everyone’s got a board now. It is elevating the performance level of surfing here,” surfer and Kovalam resident Rajasekar Pachai, popularly known as Kutti Surfer, shared with South First.

“In Kovalam, sports are highly popular. Everyone gathers to play cricket, football, and more. The village is recognised by many as the ‘Sports Village,'” he said.

“That’s precisely why Kovalam has gained recognition in the international surfing scene,” he added.

Beyond the diverse food stalls, the festival boasted a fitness zone hosting an array of health and well-being workshops over the two days.

Attendees sampled everything from meditation and yoga to parkour, strength training, and bachata.

Groups like simpleSTRONG, Chennai Parkour, Salsa Madras, and others guided these sessions.

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A beachside fusion

Accompanying the sound of the sea was an electrifying lineup of musicians dominating the two stages. The crowd, with shakas in hand, revelled in performances from favourites like Avial and When Chai Met Toast, to pioneering artists like the jazz-rock quartet Jatayu and India’s first all-female hip-hop collective, Wild Wild Women.


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Wild Wild Women conveyed, “This is an entirely new and distinctive experience for us. We’ve never participated in such a prestigious festival, especially one with an entirely different culture like surfing.”

They eagerly looked forward to their performance in Chennai, particularly Jacqulin Lucas, a member hailing from the city.

“This marks our first major gig in Chennai, and I’m filled with excitement because I believe my words will resonate with my fellow Chennaiites.”

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Surf’s up 

The following six days in Mamallapuram are dedicated to the Surf Open, anticipating over 50 international surfers vying for prizes and points to enter the WSL Championship Tour.

The competition will unfold at the Marmoris Beach Lounge and welcomes all to witness the exhilarating contest on the global stage where Tamil Nadu and India’s surfing culture have firmly established their presence.

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Sporting phenomena

“Recently, in a competition in Maldives, surfers from here came in third position! Knowledge of surfing is growing among the villagers and the local surfer boys,” Kutti Surfer shared, testifying to the impact created by the local surfing scene.

As waves continue to unite enthusiasts and athletes alike, Tamil Nadu’s surf legacy continues to surge with boundless recognition and promise.

To be part of the wave, visit Instagram @tamilnadusurfing @sfisurfing