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Vol. XXXIII No. 8, August 1-15, 2023

Wave Hello to the International Surf Open Tamil Nadu

-- by Varsha Venugopal

This year, Chennai will add another feather to its sporting cap by becoming the first city in India to host an official event of the World Surfing League, the governing body for professional surfers that showcases the world’s best surfing talent. The International Surf Open Tamil Nadu – a WSL QS (Qualifying Series) 3000 event – will take place in Mamallapuram between the 14th and 20th of August this year.  The WSL QS series is a qualifying event where surfers will be able to gather points that will gain them entry to participate in the Championship Tour. The sporting format is straightforward. Upto 4 surfers will compete in heats lasting upto 30 minutes, where they will attempt to catch waves and demonstrate their surfing skills. A 5-member panel of judges – one a chief judge – will assess each surfer based on the dexterity and complexity of the manoeuvres showcased. 

Every surf location in the world is unique, because the size of the waves and their speed are invariably different. Mamallapuram, chosen for the consistency of its waves, will pose a fresh challenge to competing surfers.“The sand bar that is formed because of the rocks half a kilometre out makes it one of the best surf points in the India,” explains Arun Vasu, President of the Tamil Nadu Surfing Association (TNSA) and Surfing Federation of India (SFI). “Waves can vary in size from 3ft to 8ft. It is a right-handed beach break.” 

Surf’s Up, Chennai: Earlier this year, Surf Turf regulars Kishore (left) won the Sri Lankan Groms Open and Tayin (right) finished fourth.

As a run-up to the WSL QS 3000 event, SFI is presently conducting 4 events across India. The East Coast Challenge will cover Pondicherry, Mahabalipuram and Covelong. The top ten ranked Indian surfers will win a wild card entry to compete in the WSL QS 3000 event, which is expected to attract around a 100 international surfers from Asia and Australia. The event has a total prize money of $45,000 and 3,000 tour points. Arun expects the local surfers to have a meaty home advantage as they have worked hard to hone their skills over the past few years. “The top Indian surfers to watch out for in the men’s league are Ajeesh, Sanjay, Ramesh, Kishore and Sivaraj, while we’re keeping an eye on Sugar, Shristi, Kamali and Sinchana in the women’s league,” said Arun.

The Tamil Nadu government is throwing its support behind this landmark event. The media announcement was attended by the Minister of Sports Udhayanidhi Stalin, who expressed confidence that the city would clinch a place on the world surfing map. “By hosting esteemed international competitions and cultivating local talent, we are reinforcing our status as a capital for surfing and stand-up paddleboarding,” he said. Adding that Tamil Nadu is “determined to secure a medal at the 2028 Olympic Games,” the Minister announced a pledge to deliver cutting-edge facilities and coaching programs to train homegrown talent. 

“What started as a drop in the ocean 10 years ago in Kovalam has now put Tamil Nadu and India on the world map for surfing,” glowed Arun, a passionate surfer himself. In fact, the TT Group – of which he is the Chairman and MD – has been sponsoring most surfing events and athletes over the past decade. Arun is also the founder of Surf Turf, Chennai’s first surfing school that celebrated its tenth birthday this year. “Our focus for the next 5 years will be to train promising young kids and establish India as a force to reckon with on the world surfing scene,” he promises.

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