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Get amped for India’s first surf festival in Orissa
NIDHI GUPTA  29th Jan 2012

A member of Surfing Yogis surfing in Puri

he surf's going up this February on the pristine beaches of Orissa, with the country's first surfing festival being organised here. Surfing Yogis, a collective based in Puri, are hosting the India Surf Festival 2012 from 7 to 9 February. The three-day festival is a bid to promote surfing in India, as a destination for sport enthusiasts the world over.

The festival will be held on the Marine Drive stretch between Puri and Konark, and will feature, along with workshops on surfing and pedalling, music concerts by Argentinian band I20DUB, Tribal Flora from Mumbai and folk musicians from Orissa, among others. They will also be screening two movies — Mother India, Father Surf' by Kevin Perree and Ocean Monk by Sanjay Rawal. The hosts have also invited artists from all over the world to showcase their art and be inspired by the waves.

In flat-water surfing, using a Stand-Up Pedal board, one can cruise along streams of rivers or coast the still waters of any lake, without harming the ecology.

"People are wrong when they view surfing as just another sport, a niche one at that," says Sanjaya Samantaray, founder of the Surfing Yogis. "It is an entire lifestyle — it inspires a lot of music, cinema and art the world over." While surfing is more popular in other parts of the country such as in Tamil Nadu (near Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry) or in Goa, the Yogis brought this to Orissa only about a year ago.

Samantaray is excited about a novel form called flat-water surfing, which eliminates the necessity of waves. With the help of a Stand-Up Pedal board, one can cruise along the stream of rivers or coast the still waters of any lake, without harming the ecology. "The Chilka Lake has 150 dolphins, with 200 steam boats chasing after them. This is promoted as 'eco-toursim'," says Samantaray, with obvious disdain. "With the flat-water surfing technology, no state in the country can feel left out either."

Debabrata Das, spokesperson for the festival, says they have had an enthusiastic response. "We have over 42 confirmed participants from abroad and most of India's small surfing community are in too," he says. With India being accepted as a member of the World Surfing Association recently, the land's beaches are beginning to attract much-required attention. "There's a mystery about India — it is very appealing because its waters are uncharted," says Das.

Orissa Tourism ministry is supporting the event by contributing Rs 3 lakh. But the Yogis can only wish there was more government support. "There is a non-acceptance of technology in our bureaucratic setup — they don't invest in research and development for these simple things," complains Samantaray. "Also, the few initiatives that have been introduced have drowned in ignominy because they don't involve the local community. But I'm optimistic. Things always come late to India, but once they do, they boom."

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