Kovalam Beach: surfing in India's most consistent wave

December 13, 2022 | Surfing
Kovalam Beach: the surfing capital of India | Photo: Klavins/Creative Commons

Kovalam Beach is one of the most popular surfing destinations in India and the epicenter for wave-riding in the world's second-most populous nation.

The west-facing Kerala state on the southernmost tip of India is mainly about straight beach breaks, punctuated by regular river mouths and the occasional headland.

They provide the perfect setting for the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea winter swells arriving between October and April in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The south of India is one of the first impact zones of these long-period wave trains.

And as you start rounding Cape Comorin in the southeast state of Tamil Nadu, you'll find some playful pointbreaks that take advantage of larger south swells during the May to September period.

This west-east combination provides the flexibility to score fun, warm, uncrowded waves for most of the year while experiencing the kaleidoscope of culture that defines India.

Kovalam Beach, India: a surf spot that shines to life with south and southwest monsoon swells | Photo: Rammohan/Surfing Federation of India

Getting to Kovalam Beach

The lively surf town of Kovalam is located in the state of Kerala in southwest India.

It is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, and about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) from the Trivandrum International Airport.

The local vibe is also very surfy and welcoming.

Kovalam Beach is surrounded by tropical forests, giving it a unique and beautiful backdrop.

Its warm waters make conditions ideal for surfing, and the sand strip is also known for its stunning sunsets.

The waves here are known for their consistency and size, making it an exciting spot for both beginner and experienced surfers.

Nevertheless, the main peak can be found at the south end point break shaping off Edakkallu Rock Garden.

Kovalam Beach is easily accessible from nearby cities, and accommodations can be found for all budgets.

The best way to get to India's famous surf spot is by bus.

There are regular buses from Trivandrum, Kochi, and Kozhikode that run to Kovalam Beach.

You can also take a taxi from any of these cities and reach Kovalam Beach in a few hours.

Surfing in India: Kovalam Beach has extremely consistent waves all year round | Photo: Surfing Federation of India

What to Expect

Kovalam Beach is a great spot for beginners and experienced surfers alike. The surf break is home to entertaining waves ranging from 1 to 6 feet.

Additionally, the crystal-clear waters create a magical and tropical surfing experience.

The beach is also close to many of Kerala's attractions, making it a unique place to enjoy a day of sightseeing, wave-riding, and coconuts.

The surfing capital of India has shops where you can buy and rent surfing equipment and book lessons.

Kovalam Surf Club, Quick Paddle, and Coco Surf School will provide surfboards, wetsuits, a wide selection of surf gear, and other accessories at reasonable prices.

It is important to be respectful of the local culture and environment.

Don't leave rubbish on the beach or in the water, and follow local laws and regulations.

Best Time to Surf

The best time to surf at Kovalam Beach is from October to April when the waves are most consistent due to the monsoon season.

During this period, the southwest monsoon brings strong winds from the Arabian Sea, which create larger and better waves.

The summer months from May to September typically have smaller and weaker waves due to the lack of wind.

The water temperatures range from 80.4 °F (26.9 °C) in August to 85.8 °F (29.9 °C) in April.

Kovalam, Kerala: an Indian Ocean surf break surrounded by wildlife and palm trees | Photo: Hibathulla/Creative Commons

Types of Waves

Kovalam Beach offers a variety of waves for surfers of all levels.

Beginners can find small and gentle waves, while intermediate and advanced surfers can find bigger and more powerful rollers.

There are also a variety of reef and point break waves, as well as beach break waves, making Kovalam Beach an excellent spot for all types of surfers.

There are more right-hand waves at Kovalam due to the prevalence of swells that come from the east and hit the beach at an angle.

The surrounding area features several alternative surf breaks, including Varkala, Grove Beach, Hawa Beach, Lighthouse Beach, and Poovar.

You will not need a wetsuit when surfing in Kovalam Beach, as the waters are always warm.

Also, choose the right surfboard - a longboard is the best option for beginner surfers at Kovalam.

Interestingly, the surf break was home to a failed attempt to install an artificial surf reef in 2011 using geotextile bags.

The project led by Nick Behunin sank along a similar unsuccessful structure created in Bournemouth, England.

Kovalam Beach: there are plenty of waves and alternative surf breaks in the surroundings | Photo: Kovalam Surf Club

Local Wildlife

There is a variety of wildlife to look out for a while enjoying the waves in India's ultimate surfing region.

Dolphins are a common sight in the waters off Kovalam Beach and can often be seen swimming close to the shore.

The area is also home to various birds, such as kingfishers, herons, egrets, and parakeets.

Sea turtles can also be spotted in the waters around Kovalam Beach, a significant nesting area for the endangered Olive Ridley turtle.

You may also see sea snakes, such as the small-eyed snake, in the waters around the beach.

Vizhinjam Mosque: a popular site for tourists looking to explore the culture and history of India | Photo: Arun Jr./Creative Commons

Cultural Attractions

Kovalam Beach is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. It is known for its stunning beaches and its activities.

There are several cultural attractions near Kovalam Beach, including:

  1. Vizhinjam Mosque: This mosque was built in the 18th century and is one of the oldest in Kerala. It features a distinct style of architecture and is a popular site for tourists looking to explore the culture and history of India;
  2. Valiyathura Pier: Built in 1878, the Valiyathura Pier is a popular spot for fishing and sightseeing. It is a great place to observe the local fishermen and learn more about their traditions;
  3. Kovalam Lighthouse: This lighthouse was built in 1932 and is situated atop a hill overlooking the Arabian Sea. It is one of the most famous attractions in the area and provides breathtaking views of the coastline;
  4. Kovalam Art Gallery: This art gallery displays unique artworks created by local artists. Visitors can see a variety of sculptures, paintings, and carvings that reflect the culture and history of Kerala;
  5. Neyyar Dam: This dam is located just outside Kovalam and is a popular spot for bird-watching, boating, and picnics. It is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature;

Surfing Events

Every year, the town hosts local and national surfing events, including the Spice Coast Open, which takes place in March and features contests, beach parties, and live music.

Additionally, there are several other competitions throughout the year.

These events attract hundreds of avid surfers from around the world and are an excellent opportunity to experience the beauty of local surf breaks and the surrounding areas.