Surfing to Victory – The New Indian Express
Express press service
CHENNAI: Growing up in Kovalam, Sekar Pitchai was always surrounded by sun, sand and sea. shiny board. It was Sekar’s introduction to the sport.
The strangers even gave him their board to play on, which eventually led to a surge in his interest in surfing and paddling. He took to the sea when he dropped out of school at the age of ten. “I’ve never been interested in studying. Once, in class 5, when I hadn’t done my homework, my teacher hit me with a stick. Seeing the marks on my body, my father got angry and argued with my teacher the next day. It was my last day as a student,” he recalls. This led Sekar to collect nets to join the fishing industry, like everyone else in his family.
When TT Group President and CEO Arun Vasu discovered Sekar’s passion and talent, he decided to help. Arun Vasu and champion angler-turned-surfer Murthy Megavanlater are the founders of Surf Turf – established as Covelong Point in 2012 – a club for local surfers and paddlers. The club’s goal is to discover hidden gems in rural communities that, if cared for, could become top athletes. Surf Turf has impacted the lives of the people of Kovalam who mainly depend on fishing for their livelihood. Especially that of Sekar who became the first Indian surfer to compete in an international competition – FIJI ISA World Surf and SUP Championship in 2016.
But Sekar wasn’t the only one who found his passion with the help of Surf Turf. Gayatri Juvekar, a 22-year-old paddler and freelance photographer from Pune, has had a fairy tale journey since arriving at Surf Turf a few months ago for a photo shoot. After seeing the sport through her lens, the Libra magazine founder wanted to give it a shot. Ten days before the Stand Up Paddling Women’s Nationals, she began her journey into water sports – with guidance from Sekar and other Surf Turf members – and finished third in her first-ever competition.
Sekar and Gayatri also showed their skills at the Palkbay National Standup Paddle Championships, where they dominated the proceedings, winning six medals combined in Rameswaram. Sekar beat the men’s technical (12km), distance (12km) and sprint (200m) categories, while Gayatri became national champion in the women’s technical (2km) and sprint (200m).
“I am delighted to have won all three races here. The races were tight and I had to maintain my stamina and stamina throughout the race in difficult conditions,” shared Sekar, world number 18. He has, so far, competed in 20 championships and won more than 40 medals. For Gayatri, the victory was rather unexpected but felt good, as she says. “By holding more competitions and tournaments, the people will know more about the sport and it will surely attract many eyes across the country,” she added.
Arun said this year was one of the most competitive national championships. “I am happy with the improvement shown by the seasoned paddlers and also excited about the future of the sport,” the Indian Surfing Federation president said. SUP is currently the fastest growing sport in the world and the Olympic committee has also included paddleboarding for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Sekar aims to qualify for these Olympics and bring glory to the country.