Stand up paddle or SUP is still very young in India when compared to regular surfing. There are very few people practising it and hence it hasn’t caught up yet. Meet the radical woman who’s changing that. Tapashi Devchoudhury is one of the only women in the country who surfs SUP, regular surf boards and co-handles a surf school/shop, Waterwalk India where she and her husband give lessons in SUP, surfing and SUP yoga down at Mandrem, Goa.
1. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, how old are you and what were doing before you found surfing?
I grew up very close to nature in the hills and plains of Assam in northeast India. I am 28 and I had travelled and lived in different parts of the country, mostly by myself, before I enrolled myself in a business school and got into a public sector job. At the age of 25, the saltwater fever got to me, and I couldn’t have been more thankful for that.
2. How did you find surfing in a place like India and what got you into it?
Ironically, it was my mundane desk job that failed to fulfil my adventurous self and pushed me to look for a new challenge. I was posted in western Orissa and I literally dug out the details of a school in coastal Orissa to get my introductory lesson. I would travel overnight every weekend, first to Konark and later to Vishakhapatnam to practise surfing only to reach home on Monday to get back to work. Then I realised that every day could be the weekend I was living for, and gave up the comfort of a regular job, to be in the water.
3. How did SUP start for you and how long have you been doing it now?
My introduction to the sea was a paddling lesson in October 2012 with an Australian surfer who calls himself JC. It has been three beautiful, salty years since then.
4. When did you get involved with Waterwalk and how has that worked out for you? What’s a typical day like?
I got involved with Waterwalk at the end of last year during the season-time in Goa. Now my husband and I together run the ‘Waterwalk India’ centre. It has been an enriching, soulful journey for me in more ways than one. I often have lessons in the morning. I absolutely enjoy introducing people to the healing experience of what I call a ‘saltwater therapy’. On other mornings, I usually paddle out for a little swim with the dolphins. When the waves start to pick up in size, I choose a paddleboard or a surfboard, depending on what I’m in the mood for. The rest of the day is variable, but usually with some emails to answer and working on a few projects for the future. My day usually ends early.
5. What is the SUP scene in India like?
Stand up paddle boarding is the fastest growing sport in the world, but I don’t see many Indians being enthusiastic about it. Almost all my clients are foreign students from different parts of the world. But I’m certain that paddle boarding will catch on pretty soon with more Indians being aware of the sport. The safe and inviting beaches of Goa are perfect for beginners’ SUP or surf lessons!
6. Do you have any favourite surfers?
I enjoy different styles of surfing, but if I have to name a favourite, it would be my friend Liz who surfs in Mahabs in Tamil Nadu. I see a surfing spirit unfazed by people’s ideas of how to surf, as long as she can ride a wave. She surfs on her knees, and enjoys every single ride like her first!
7. Are you currently working on any projects?
Yes, there are a few projects I am working on, but they are still in a nascent stage. I can shell more details once they are a little more defined.
8. What’s your favourite trick on a board?
9. What is the future of SUP in India?
Looking at how fast it is growing around the world, I can only imagine SUP growing as a sport in India. We already have a lot of fitness enthusiasts, and it’s only a little time before they see the incredible benefits of paddling and SUP Yoga. Also, riding the soft rolling waves in most beaches along the Indian coastline can be much more fun on a stand up paddle board!
10. Any shout outs to the community?
Keep with the spirit!
Author The Holy stoked Collective