Surfing the mysterious waves of India
The sub-continent of India has 7,000 kilometers (4,349 miles) of coastline. The greater portion of that is still unexplored, in terms of locating surf spots. There are waves in India all year round, averaging 3 to 5 feet, but the season for big waves is May through September.
This is the pre-monsoon and monsoon season. At this time, the surf will range from 8 to 15 feet and bigger - often blown out and messy but sometimes the conditions are fantastic - super glassy and offshore winds world class waves.
On the west coast, the swell direction is usually best when coming from the south or west, although an occasional north swell does get good. On the east coast the swell is almost always from the south or slight southeast direction.
Along the 7000 kilometers of coastline in India there are at least 200 surfable river mouths. River mouths usually have distinct and consistent sand bar formations created by the river flow and these make for very good breaks - like beach breaks, but with a lot less close outs.
Straight long beaches are also a dominate feature of the India coastline. There you will find your usual beach break waves - closing out when it gets big but lots of fun on smaller days. Then there are the bays, coves and points on the coast. How many are there? Too many to count and most have never been surfed.
October through December, the big swells decline and it gets back to normal (3 to 5 feet). From January through April,there are sometimes bigger swells both on the east and west coasts created by small storm systems and somedays we will get waves up to 6 and 7 feet, depending. Mornings are almost always glassy until about 10:30 AM and many mornings have off shore winds, sometimes lasting the whole day.
The biggest swells of the year are most always on the west coast from Dwaraka (extreme northwest) to Kanya Kumari (extreme southern tip). India really does get some big waves during the monsoon season. Big waves and lots of rain.
The biggest obstacle is that there are no accurate maps or roads to get you there. You have to be stubbornly determined and prepared to walk and paddle if you want to find the waves.
A trip to India can be a surfers dream come true or your worst nightmare depending on how you approach it and how much you know before you get here. And don't forget that there are at least 13 different languages spoken in India, one of which is English or what we call Hinglish (English with a heavy Indian accent).
And when the surf falls flat, as it does sometimes, there is plenty to do and see to keep you busy. In any direction you chose to go you will find a culture awaiting you that is rich in music, architecture, food, drama, dance, temples, palaces, gold, silver, silk, arts, crafts and more.
You may also like to checkout the tropical jungles and mountains, wild elephants and tigers or even go up to the Himalayas and take in the sites of Nepal (really a worthwhile trip). The best surf spots in India are:
Shivas: a popular Hindu holy place situated on a small peninsula jetting out into the Arabian Sea at Murdeshwara. This place breaks from one foot to 10 feet depending on the time of year.
Kapu Beach Lighthouse: a great spot that breaks best at low tide with a four feet and bigger swell. The stretch of beach runs for about one kilometer and there are several places where nice shaped peaks with lefts and rights swell up.
Ten Thousand Peaks: one of the most unique surf spots on the west coast of South India at Maravanthe. The beach stretches for about six kilometers creating all sorts of wave possibilities. There is one section of the beach where a two lane highway runs parallel to the ocean within 15 meters of the water's edge and on the opposite side of the highway is a big fresh water lake.
Cliffs: four consecutive coves, white sand beached, isolated area, cliffs, no sharks, no people, and lots of opportunities - rights, lefts, inside, outside and its all yours.
KanyaKumari: the southern most tip of India. It could well be one of the windiest places on Earth. The swell gets big here but is usually blown out. An occasional offshore wind comes along from time to time and then you get some good waves. If you know any wind surfers then tell them to head to Kanya Kumari and they are sure to get some big windy waves. There is an island just off the tip and on it is a massive statue of the Tamil saint and poet, Tiruvallur. I wonder if he surfed?
Kovalam Beach: best known surf spot in India. Not because it has the best surf but because it has cheap hotels and places to hang out if you are on vacation - and the surf is decent there most of the time. The spot is a beach break but when it gets around 7 feet it breaks out toward the lighthouse and begins to work like a point break. Nice lefts at that time. Otherwise inside waves are short hollow lefts and rights - expect to get plenty of sand in your ears.
Alwars: potentially the best surfing spot in India (southeast coast), at Manapad Point. It is far off the beaten track and not so easily to find. The point is beautifully formed by a millions of years old lava flow that extends into the water. When the rights are working you can expect up to a 400 meter ride, so be prepared for some long walks back to the point.
Rameswaram: the place gets its name from the epic Ramayana where in Sri Rama camped here before proceeding to the island of Lanka to conquer the demon king, Ravana. An amazing temple was built here in ancient times. The water is as good as it gets on mainland India, clear and clean. There are plenty of offshore islands that have yet to be explored for surf. Maybe you will be the first to do it.
Shore Temple: well known on the India surf tour for some great hollow rights located at Mahabalipuram. The World Heritage Foundation has piled granite boulders around an ancient Vishnu temple (built by the Pallava Kings) at the beach to keep it from tumbling into the sea and this has also developed into an awesome break.
Tiruchendur: a temple town and has some good little waves breaking over a rock shelf just 200 yards south of the temple.
Varkala: not far to the north from Kovalam Beach. The spot is a beach break but when it is working it gets exceptionally hollow rights and left. The ride isn’t that long but its fast.
Mahe: a place in Kerala that used to be surfed in the 70s and 80s. From Madayi Point, north of Mahe, to Talakkolattur river mouth, south of Mahe (60 kilometers), there are numerable good breaks.
The Krishna River: enters the Bay of Bengal and divides itself into many streams. The area is marshy and difficult to access but has many good waves in store for those who are determined to get there.
Big Rock: located off the point at Fisherman’s Cove. The point itself is the most consistent break in that area but when the wave height is there and the tide just right then a submerged rock shelf in the cove produces one really awesome left barrel.
Auroville: otherwise known as Pondicherry, is a very unique place, a mix of Indian and French. The spot is your typical beach break with a river mouth that sometimes works just south of the town. The swell is usually blocked by Sri Lanka but the place occasionally does get a few good waves.
Vizag (Visakapatanam): if you are traveling or staying on the east coast of India then you should definitely check out Vizag - a place with big beaches, good hotels, a commercial harbor and some really nice point breaks with good surf - about five in number.
Dwarka: the quintessential experience of the Arabian Sea. At Dwarka, you will find some of the clearest water along the India coastline. The town is very ancient and is said to have existed for the past 5,000 years. Parts of the old city are now submerged below sea level and can be seen while scuba diving.
Jagannatha Puri: a beach break that stretches for as far as the eye can see with some nice outside peaks. On bigger days (6'-8') getting through the shore break and strong currents can be a challenge.
Gokarna: India’s latest hang out spot (just south of Goa) for back packers and surf wanderers. Waves get good here several times a year but watch out for the shore break or we will have to come out at low tide and dig you out of the sand.
Diego Garcia Island: a very tiny U-shaped atoll that just barely rises above sea level somewhere out there in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The place is home to some of the best surf on the planet and it used to be home to a few thousand people. Although a restricted area it is still possible to get a clearance from the CO Navy Support Facility at Diego Garcia.
The Andaman Island Archipelago: engulfed by the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean and although far from the mainland is owned and governed by India. The outer Islands of the Andaman Archipelago are the real find for true adventures, holding hidden treasures for surfing enthusiasts during February, March, April and May. These are some of the best waves the planet has to offer and they remain un-ridden except by a few blessed surfers who have had the guts and the bucks to go there.
Surfing India can guide you through the best surf spots of India.