Shamanth Kumar © Rammohan Photography
Article by Surfing Swami on 25 March 2014.
From the age of eight, Shamanth Kumar was destined to be a waterman.
Surfing Swami is one of the pioneers of the Indian surfing scene. Having come to India in the 70s, he's surfed the entire east and west coastline of India. And like his name suggests, he's a real swami with insights in the Vedic sciences with a modern context perspective is priceless.
Surfing Swami: Shamanth, from your social media buzz, you seem like an avid surfer; you do SUP and even wake boarding. How did you first get into water sports and how old were you at that time? How old are you now?
Shamanth: My first time in the ocean was at Kovalam Beach in Kerala when I was eight years old. I went on a bus tour with my brothers and some other kids from the Krishna Ashram in Mysore. We traveled all around South India for two weeks and ended up spending several days at the beach. It was awesome.
I remember looking at the ocean and getting frightened by the water and the waves. I got scared and ran back to the hotel. Later my buddies were trying to convince me saying that it is completely safe and great fun to be in the water. I eventually got the courage and got a real taste for being in the ocean. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment in the water.
Then after a couple of years, I got into surfing at the Surf Ashram in Mulki, Karnataka. There was a Hawai surfer named Babaji [Rick Perry] who helped me a lot. My first wave was nothing spectacular but I was stoked. I paddled for a wave, stood up, rode for a few seconds and then I was down and swallowed some ocean water. I told Babaji, "that was fun but I am really scared." He looked at me and smiled. Soon I got over being scared.
Shamanth Kumar getting air time during wakeboardin© Mantra Surf Club
The Surf Ashram only had few surf boards during those days. Most of the time the older kids who were more experienced would use the boards and I was left with body board. I didn’t know how to swim so I always wore a life jacket. That was the beginning of my surfing career. Now, years later at 20 years old, I am a surf instructor and I surf almost everyday.
For me, being in the water and catching some waves makes my day. Having become a water lover, I was enthusiastic to try other water sports as well. With the opportunity that was given at the Surf Ashram where I lived and worked, I was able to fulfill my passion. Now I have picked up wake-boarding, kite-surfing, stand up paddle [SUP] and occasionally power around on a jet ski.Stand Up Paddle in the river nearby.© Mantra Surf Club
Surfing Swami: I see that you teach surfing. Do many Indians come to learn surfing at the ashram? And do you think that they have a potential to become good surfers by international standards?
Shamanth: Yes, we do get about 70 to 80 Indian people coming to the Surf Ashram every year to learn surfing. These are people of all ages and from many different backgrounds. Some of them are professionals, some students and some from just average middle class families and backgrounds. Some people think that surfing is just for coastal people but that is not true. Our experience is that most of the people who come to the Surf Ashram to learn surfing come from inland, even place as far away from the ocean as Delhi. And they love it. In the beginning the number of Indians coming to learn surfing was low but it has been increasing year by year. It is great to see lot of kids in India taking up surfing seriously. Still our numbers are small compared to countries that have been surfing for many decades, but India are catching up fast.
Shamanth with Paddy.© Mantra Surf Club
Surfing Swami: Do you plan to continue a career with surfing? Why?
Shamanth: I would say, I plan to continue more of a lifestyle as a surfer than a career. Surfing is fun, keeps you disciplined and it keeps you fit. The longer I keep surfing in my life, the healthier I can be. Also it is nice to continue teaching other how to surf. Surfing as a career or as a lifestyle is fun and very satisfying. So, yes I would love to continue with "surfing 'as' my career".
Surfing Swami: If you had any wish, what would it be?
Shamanth: My first wish is to remain connected to the Surf Ashram for the rest of my life. Surfing is important to me and so is maintaining my spiritual consciousness. My dream is to ride really big surf, especially left handers. One day I would like to ride Jaws or Pipeline in Hawaii. But for now I am happy surfing in India and I would like to explore more surf spots in India up towards Dwaraka in Gujarat.
Surfing Swami: Nice chatting with you Shamanth. Best of luck and we hope you will fulfill your dream to ride really big waves.
Shamanth: Thanks Swami. Nice chatting with you too.
Here is a short film about him!