express news service
Chennai: From a fringe, recreational activity to an Olympic event, surfing has become one of the most exciting sports in recent years. It all started on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where some boys took the tourists on a wave ride. Those waves had reached every shore, and did not leave Indian waters when he collided with new surfing champion Ramesh Budihal at the third edition of the Indian Open of Surfing in Mangalore last week.
Being the champion of a sport like surfing in India is no small feat. Born in Goa, Ramesh’s family shifted to Kovalam in Kerala at the age of three. He started following tourists and enrolled himself in SISP (Sebastian Indian Social Project), the educational arm of the NGO Kovalam Surf Club. The school encouraged children to surf on weekends and get an education during the week.
“My mother, who sold imported handicrafts from Bombay and Delhi, found it difficult to enroll in a private institute, so I followed tourists and enrolled myself in SISP. Paul, a tourist from Belgium, was one of them and he opened my eyes to surfing. But, I was not good in school,” Ramesh recalled with a laugh.
“When I was a kid of 5, I started surfing for a few months, during the weekend with another Belgian Jella, who had a surfing teacher. The teacher also taught me how to play the off-season with good boards. How to Surf, and that’s how I fell in love with surfing.” But it was not easy for her to convince her scared parents. However, she sealed the deal by coming third at the Spice Coast Open in 2013. “I still remember they were very proud and happy when I finished third.”
When asked what surfing meant to him, he said passionately, “When I enter the ocean with my board, it shows me who I want to be. Surfing gives me a lot of peace.” And I enjoy surfing. I had days when I didn’t go back to my parents’ house and slept on the beaches.”
“I had to enroll in surfing courses and become a surfing instructor, which didn’t help with my training,” said Ramesh, “To lead a steady life as a surfer, he needs good training and sponsors. And when the pandemic struck, he lost one of his sponsors. “During the lockdown, I was completely disappointed. I couldn’t surf, and as a result I lost my balance. I thought it was the end of my surfing journey,” recalled Ramesh, who tried to sustain himself by watching surf videos and dreaming of riding those waves.
As Ramesh maneuvered through the waves, impressed the judges and fans, and finished first in Mangalore with 16.33 points from Tamil Nadu’s Ajesh Ali (15.67) and Satish Saravanan (13 points), it was heartbreaking. There was a kind of redemption. Was in the last Mangalore incident. He remembered that incident and returned nothing but broken planks and broken heart. His will remained untouched, and he came back with the intention of winning, and he succeeded in style. Not only that. Ramesh also achieved a “race of expressions”, adding to the crown of his national champion. “This event in Panambur is special for me as it is my home holiday. It was important for me to win it.”
Ramesh touched on her hopes and dreams of representing India at the Olympics. “I think it is too late for me to represent in the Olympics in 2024. This will require a lot of money and training. However, I would not say the same about representing India in the World Surfing League events and the 2028 LA Olympics, which has surfers from all over the world.
He also acknowledged the overwhelming support he has received from his team, Kovalam Surf Club and Shaka Surf Club, Kodi Bengare, Udupi for their efforts in making him what he is today – the Surfing Champion of India.