Surfing Yogi - Sanjay Samantaray

Surfing Yogi - Sanjay Samantaray

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Founder of the Surfing Yogis, Sanjay Samantaray aims to blend India’s eco-tourism aesthetics with the thrill of surfing and stand-up paddling as he dreams to see a wave of surfing enthusiasts converge on the country’s blissful shores.

When was your first ride on the waves?

I started surfing in 2006 when a friend lent me his board, but he soon left with it, which made me quite sad. But I later went on to get myself a second-hand board from Vietnam, and there was no looking back after that.

Can you tell us something about Surfing Yogis and of how the team has grown over the years?

Surfing yogis was founded by 3 members namely Yogi, Justine and myself- the ‘tri-murti’ so to speak; and now we have grown to be a really big family. Driven by a passion to do something on India’s long coastline and on its water bodies; I decided to take the country’s tourism infrastructure story through the ‘yogic’ way of surfing. The ‘yogic’ approach to surfing involves training the mind to be neither positive nor negative, but to be in a neutral state. This approach also strives to maintain a close relationship with the ecosystem of the natural environment. There is a radio station in Florida called SUP radio that has broadcasted about us in the past, and is continuing to discuss us every now and then, so I think we have surely come a long way.

What inspired you to organize the India Surf Festival?

After many of my friends from different parts of the world came to me and said, “Sanjay we want to work with you, we want to help you,” and realizing India’s lack of resources, expertise, and on the ground knowledge about surfing; got us to plan for the India Surf Festival. And it was with these friends that I did my homework.

Despite having taught people surfing earlier, it wasn’t a satisfying experience because of the lack of proper equipment for surfing in India. This is why we invited companies that make good surfing equipment to the festival.

Now we hope the festival will prompt the authorities to provide a platform for companies to develop surfing equipment in India. Currently, people in India have to wait for two months for a surf board delivery from Australia or Thailand. That should not happen! Sometimes when a fin breaks then people wait for 15-20 days, but this would never be the case if the equipment was to be available in our major cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai or atleast in the coastal cities.

Were you looking to promote stand up paddling more than surfing at the India Surf Festival?

We wanted to promote both as we feel that there should be a balanced approach in promoting the two. With stand up paddling, tourists who have come from far and wide would not have to waste their precious time waiting for the right swell.

Where the swells are not so powerful, the traveler can take up stand up paddling and not be bored. However, this is all considering the temperament of the ocean.

Surfing Yogis are ready to give states like Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and others a design plan for stand up paddling by which the states would benefit a great deal.

How does Surfing Yogis aim to contribute in improving India’s tourism infrastructure?

Well first of all, people should not picture Surfing Yogis to be ‘babas’ as we are a team of pro surfers who are trying to Indianise the approach to surfing in the country. Basing India’s surfing guidelines exactly as those found in Hawaii or in Australia would be a recipe for disaster.

Considering that India’s waves have been mapped and studied only by a few isolated surfers, developing surfing in India will be a distant dream unless we have a more systematic form of mapping our coast. We need satellite connectivity and the latest weather charts to help us achieve this.

But stand up paddling can make our country an attractive destination sooner than surfing would, as stand up paddling allows people to be on the water at any given point in time unlike in surfing, where you would have to wait for the right waves to come. Seeing the vast opportunity presented by India’s rivers and lakes, we therefore decided to introduce stand up paddling at the India Surf Festival this year.

In fact, I have a friend from the United States who paddle surfed from Rishikesh to Varanasi two months earlier. Being a cancer patient, she did this to discover a spiritual side to life.

So to help the many tourists who really want to surf in India, we need to do a lot more to develop our tourism and surfing infrastructure.

How would you sum up the India Surf Festival experience?

The India Surf Festival is a dream come true! I would call it a ‘grafted festival’ more than anything else! The festival’s message to every Indian adventure enthusiast is to read the word ‘impossible’ as ‘I m possible’ and we want to show that everyone at the festival is a hero.

We hope everybody present at the festival promotes surfing in India in their own way. We hope the media, my fellow surfers and everybody here promote our message far and wide as we look forward to catching the big swell in the sport’s popularity soon!