Surfing Swami: pioneer of surfing in India

Surfing Swami, the founder of India Surf Club and the pioneer of surfing in India, is celebrating 50 years of wave riding. Swami began surfing back in 1963.


He is the inspiration for all Indian surfers. The man who developed surfing in India has completed 50 years riding waves. Jack Hebner, also known as Surfing Swami, 67, started surfing in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, in the year 1963.

Swami says that in those days the surfers were restricted to surfing in a small area just south of the pier and if they strayed out of that area they risked being arrested by police.

In that time, sharks were a regular occurrence in Florida waters but none of the surfers ever got attacked or bitten.

"It might have been the size of our boards that made the difference. We all surfed 9' and 10' boards in those days, so we probably looked pretty scary to a 6’ foot shark", recalls Surfing Swami.

Bruce Brown's iconic surf film "The Endless Summer" boosted Swami's need for searching new waves, in new territories. In 1965, he travels with friends along the Californian coastline, surfing all the breaks between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Later, Swami visited and rode the Hawaiian giants. Ala Moana Bowl, Magic Island, Point Panic, Waikiki, Diamondhead, Makaha and Waimea Bay, but he knew he was "too skinny to handle the wipeouts and big white water. Not that I have any regrets. I just knew my limits".

In 1976, after four years in Africa, and a few months in Mauritius, Swami set out for India - a place he would eventually call his home. He developed a deep interest in Krishna-bhakti (devotional yoga) and studied ancient spiritual texts of India.

He became a Krishna monk and kept searching for the perfect Indian wave. Why Surfing Swami, as a nickname? Out of the tens of thousands of swamis in India, he is the only one that rides waves.

For years, he explored India's 7000 kilometers of coastline, taught surfing lessons to Indian kids and fisherman and found India's first surfer - Muthu. In 2004, with the help of old friend and surfer Rick Perry, Surfing Swami founded the Surf Ashram, a surf school, surf camp and yoga retreat.

Today, India has a surf community of about 150 surfers, numerous surf clubs, surf schools, an India Surfing Magazine, even a Surf Team India under the Surfing Federation of India and Surfing Swami is at the epicenter of it all.

"The perfect wave is the one you are riding. So let's go surfing!"