Friday, 16 April 2010

Surfing in Goa

(For more info, see the next post, here)

My trip around Britain has been temporarily interrupted by a three-week trip to Goa to hang out with Karen, who has been travelling around India while I've been bumming around Britain. Check out her blog HERE. She also took all the photos in this post. Swapping the chilly waves of Devon for the bathwater-warm waves of Southern India has been really tough.I knew from a visit in 2006 that there are very few surfboards in India, and even fewer you can get your hands on, as most of them are owned by individuals who don't want some snotty stranger dinging their pride and joy. There are no surf shops, no surf hire and no surf repair workshops. If anyone is looking for a business opportunity, this could be it. (Not me. As the comments on the post below show, having taken advice from a civil service lawyer, I'm off to become a chartered accountant.) The only boards are big foam things for the lifeguards at the more touristy beaches.The big question is, is it worth bringing a board to India? Along with no boards, there seemed to be no waves (a possible explanation for the absence of boards). A couple of websites hinted there was some swell, particularly in the monsoon season, May to September. I was going in April.

I certainly wouldn't want to bring one of my normal boards. Consigning a board to the hold of a plane is a complete lottery. Mostly they emerge unscathed. When they don't, it's pretty gruesome. And that's before submitting them to the rigours of Indian trains, buses and tuk tuks. Also I had booked a flight with BA, who will only carry boards under 195cms. Or 6'3''. My shortest board is a 6'5'', and I wouldn't want to lose 2" off the end. Either end.

But I once rented a 6' NSP Fish, which was quite a laugh. Plus, being a shell (an injection moulded plastic board, I think), it would better withstand the rigours of the journey. In South Devon I found something similar - a secondhand 6'2" epoxy Southpoint for 160 quid. Basically one step up from a BIC or NSP. They let me rent it for a few days first, and I took it for a test ride in Salcombe. It rode OK, but it isn't really what I was looking for. I was literally on my way to return it, when I found a chat forum on the internet raving about surfing in Goa. What the hell. I might as well take it. It's fairly light, counted as part of my baggage allowance and I could always sell it or donate it to some beach-side orphanage if necessary. Better to have a board and find there is no surf, than to have no board and find there is.I'm staying in a dozy huddle of beach huts stretched around a small bay, about 2 miles south of ( a fairly well-known, fairly busy destination for backpackers in Goa. The bay there is shell shaped, and while the waves are clean and pretty, they are weak and virtually unsurfable at the moment. Here looked similarly unsurfable, with a steeply shelving beach. There are waves, but they rise up abruptly then crash down violently only a metre or two from the edge of the sand. Impossible to surf.

Here is one of the many beach dogs, desperately waiting for the swell to pick up.Here's one who has given up waiting.

The cows have definitely given up waiting.

But at the far end of the next beach, around a short outcrop of rock, there seemed to be something happening. On my first evening, Karen and I went to investigate. Sure enough, it was a surfable wave, breaking on a shallow sandbank at the mouth of a river. The next morning I got up early, grabbed my board, paddled round the rocky outcrop, made the long walk along the beach and dived in. After a winter wearing a thick wetsuit, hood, gloves and boots, paddling in trunks feels really strange. Not just light and free, it feels as if you're going to float away. There was a nice, shapely wave there, rising up to about chest level, peeling nicely.

On the way, you pass the big, fuck-off hotel, an utter abomination which is currently enlivened by a big Bollywood film crew who have built a film set by the beach, and are currently filming. Fortunately, they don't seem to mind me surfing, as there is a better break right in front of the film set schoolhouse. In the mornings, there isn't a breath of wind, so the water is smooth and glassy. Chest-high peaks rise up and peel for twenty metres of so, easy to catch, easy to surf, but closing out rather too quickly, and breaking in shallow water. It's not the most dramatic surfing, but better than nothing, so I've been getting up early and getting into the water for an hour or two every morning before breakfast. By about 11, an on-shore wind picks up, making the already weak waves virtually uncatchable.

But one evening, at low tide, I went for a classic sunset session and managed to catch a few.
Karen was on the beach, and before she got bored of watching me, managed to snap this fabulous action shot. Finally, proof that I can actually stand on a surf board.
Soon after this, I noticed something about fifty metres further out. I couldn't be sure, but eventually I saw it again. A fin arcing lazily out of the water then disappearing under again. I wasn't quite surfing with dolphins, but they were definitely out there. Later we watched it idle slowly along the bay, parallel to the beach:It's not all surfing and lazing on the beach - I've been hard at work on the outline for a screenplay. To prove it, here is a picture of me at my desk!
Now where was that application to become a chartered accountant?


Anonymous said...

Love the picture at the station. Reminds me of Montpellier in 1990 - Jono turns up with nothing but a broad grin (possibly the same one) and a monocycle.... So what happened to the monocycle?


NiegĂ  said...

Tough life indeed!!! I had heard of waves down south in Kerala but i thought that Goa was way too up north to get any proper swell. I'm glad it's not the case at least while you are there!



80waves said...

Mark - you're right, what did happen to that monocycle (or unicycle, as I believe it's more commonly known)? Must have run away to the circus without me.

Felip - the surfing isn't outstanding, it's true. But certainly good enough for a couple of hours of fun every morning - low frequency sets come in at about chest high, sometimes higher, and at low tide they open nicely, with some fairly long rides (40-60 metres). Or there's a nice clean low tide beach break with a hollow, chest-high drop, a clean 10 metre ride, then an explosive close-out. Better than coffee to wake you up in the morning!


kukurusta said...

nice trip Jono! you surfed India, that's something not many people can tell. Funny way of explaining your decisions before the trip, good choice bringing a board! cheers.

Joaquin said...

Hi! I´m Joaquin, one of the guys you´ve met on the train to La Molina, do you remember? I had a look on your blog, and it´s really cool!
You are always travelling, what a luck! I can not surf know, becouse a have an accident at work, and I have a luxation on my left sholder... 1 moth and a half dry...

I wish you had good surf at India, and keep lucky on your long trip!

Excuse my english, it is not very good, but I hope you´ll understand it!

Big regards from Galicia!

Anonymous said...

Temporary? This is nearly a month! Stop slacking.

Your conscience.