“If you want to be part of the festival, you have to become friends with me. OK?”
That was Sampu aka Sanjay Samantray talking to a company representative who wanted to be have a stall at the India Surf festival that was held between 7th and 9th February in Puri. It clearly led to a long silence on the other side of the line from what I could gather. But that incident told me why the first India Surf Festival got off to a start without much noise.
It was not the usual sponsored festival. It was the creation of one man and his network of friends. Surfers, artists, musicians and Odisha Tourism. Odisha Tourism because, they were there as friends too.
The main reason for this very non commercial attitude was because of the nature of the sport. Surfing. It is at its infancy in India. There are only a few dozen hard-core surfers in India. Sampu was afraid that if the sponsors and the entertainers come in, they would demand a bigger audience and once the janta comes in, the surfers would be lost in human wave. That’s one wave they will not risk taming.
Since it was the first time such an event was held, he was not sure how the surfing experience would be. So he relied solely on his friends to organise the festival.
Sampu and Surfing Yogis.
The Director of Odisha Tourism calls Sampu, a Dreamer. Sampu, who runs an tiny restaurant, and a resort with a few rooms, surfboards and camps, 20 minutes walk from a protected beach with surf, is a lone ranger. In fact, his resort is called Rangers. The Director thought that the Surf festival was not a good idea. But then, he had nothing to lose, so he agreed to play along.
The surfers who hang out at Rangers and with Sampu are called Surfing Yogis. There’s usually someone from around the world there at any time of the year. Many of them came back last week to be part of the festival. To surf, to set up the stage, decorate the place, sun around and spread the word.
I was there too as a friend. I met him first in some BB or Chat room over a decade back. However, I only surf the net. He wanted me to come so that I could document what was happening and since I had never met him before, I thought this could be the best reason to go meet him.
Hands and minds.
The surfing community is a very small one and Sampu is not the pioneer of surfing in India. He is also not the main propeller of growth. That title belongs to a group of young boys from Karnataka called Surfing Swamis and supported by the boys from Chennai called SWAT.
They are all friends. At the ISF, they all got together and chalked out plans for making the recently formed Surfing Federation of India. Setting up of state groups, the necessary steps of setting safety standards, etc.
It was a great place to see the birth of a new sport in India.
If they succeed, you will see surfing and surfers a lot more in India. Especially in what the TN boys call the Bay of Life, south of Chennai up to Pondi. Kovalams in Kerala and Chennai, Mulki and Gokarna in Karnataka.
There was a team of art directors, artists and volunteers from Mumbai who decorated the whole place in an eco friendly manner. (more about them soon)
There were musicians from Mumbai and Israel to add magic every evening and Odisha Tourism sent a troupe of traditional dancers too as their contribution.
And there were the local boys. Led by Sampu himself and the first local Surfer boy named Prathap who made the whole event happen.
And yes, The Broken Scooter was there too.
The ISF was proof that in a world where large is beautiful and money is everything, friendship has a place of its own. It only took a circle of friends to come together to create magic. Like Sampu and his friends.
Glimpses of ISF 2012
Article and Photos Courtesy : MS Gopal aka Slogan Murugan
M.S. Gopal aka Slogan Murugan lives in Mumbai and tells stories through his iconic photographs. Currently, he is chronicling life in Mumbai, especially the life on the streets of the city. You can read his stories at Indian Road Romeo and Mumbai Paused
PS : We have decided to release the stories of ISF 2012 in various parts due to the variety of stories and people whom we came across.India Surf Festival was not just a surfing event. It was a place where various people came together, old stories were exchanged and new stories were written.