India's first female surfer takes on more than waves

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Marco Werman: We're headed now to a small fishing village on the west coast of Karnataka in India. The Indian Ocean waves pound the shoreline around here. That's fine with Ishita Malaviya. She's a surfer, and not just any surfer. She's India's first and only professional female surfer and when she's not competing, she's busy teaching Indian kids how to surf at the Shaka Surf Club. How are the waves today, Ishita in Karnataka? Ishita Malaviya: Unfortunately not so good because we're in the middle of monsoon season over here on the west coast and we actually can't surf for another month or so. Werman: So you not only teach at this Shaka Surf Club, you co-founded it with your friend Tushar Pathiyan. What was the idea behind it? Why did you want to start a surf school? Malaviya: It's a very long story. It all started like 7 years back when Tushar and I discovered surfing when we came to Manipal, which is like the university town where you came to study. We ran into a group of surfing swamis, some surfers from California, and they pushed us on our very first waves and ever since then our lives changed. We just fell in love with surfing so much and we had to try and make it work because surfing is so unheard of in India and it was pretty out there for us to try to start a surf school but we just love it so much and we basically wanted to spread the joy of surfing in India and spread the stoke, so that was our biggest motivation. Werman: You're in India and you're a woman. What did your family think about that? Malaviya: My family was definitely apprehensive at first. From day one, they just didn't get the whole idea behind it. They were like "First of all, what is surfing? You want to do this? You just went to college, why do you want to surf?" So, it took them awhile to understand that it was more than just a sport, more than a one time thing, it was a lifestyle. Now they're really supportive because they get it. After I took my parents surfing, I think they started getting it. Werman: Your parents went surfing? Malaviya: Yeah, I take my mom and dad out sometimes and they really love it. Werman: So it sounds like you're pushing cultural barriers as a woman surfer in India. How does that actually play out when you're in the waves? Do guys ever drop in on you as if you're not even there or is it kind of friendly? Malaviya: There is a lot of cultural barriers in terms of women not being allowed to surf. When I see other women and other girls who want to pursue surfing, their families are apprehensive about them getting dark - skin color is a big issue, so it's not considered beautiful to be dark. Naturally, when you surf you get tan. In Western countries, that's looked upon as a good thing. But in India, it's like suddenly you're not suitable for marriage or things like that. And in India, just generally there's a major fear of the ocean. People just don't feel safe in the water. So just encouraging women to get into the water has been quite a challenge. I feel like it's slowly changing. Werman: What do you tell Indian kids, especially young women, to get them psyched? Malaviya: I just try to be a positive role model and just try to get them in the water and the ocean takes care of the rest. I don't have to do much. Just have to persuade them a little bit and be supportive and warm and welcoming. Werman: So you're saying surfing keeps childhood lasting longer? Malaviya: For sure, definitely. It's my biggest playground, the ocean. Werman: What do you prefer, competing in professional surfing events or introducing Indian kids to the sport? Malaviya: Definitely spreading the joy of surfing, hands down. I'm a pretty new surfer. I've only been surfing for 7 years and so far I've only been competing within the country and just representing. I spend most of my time at my surf school, teaching all the local kids and girls how to surf and people come from the big city, so. I've seen people go from being terrified of the ocean to just loving it and feeling so confident and empowered. To be able to give that, share a feeling with someone, it's really special. Definitely, spreading the stoke. Werman: You've picked up on some of the west coast lingo, "stoked," I see. What about some surfing lingo from India? Anything you can share with us? Malaviya: I don't think we have any. Werman: You need to start making some words up then. Malaviya: Tushar and I came up with a word called "namaloha," which is a combination of namaste and aloha, which means the same thing. Werman: I'm going to so use that. Namaloha. Malaviya: We have a surf camp called "Camp Namaloha" and I think it goes really well. Werman: Ishita, namaloha to you. Thanks very much. Malaviya: Namaloha, shaka.