Ishita Malaviya, India’s first professional swimmer and one of the original sports pioneers in her country, remembers “sailing in India” in 2007, but nothing to show for it.
When she took up the sport at the university on the advice of a German exchange, Malaviya estimated that there were only 13 professional tourists in India – a drop in ocean population of 1.2 billion.
Early on, she and Pathiyan split a board between them before they started fixing broken boards from tourists traveling through the country.
Back home in Mumbai, friends and family have doubts about their food supply.
“The people we grew up with, our friends, were like, ‘What are you doing? You are sacrificing your life, you are becoming a beach basket.’ They think we will lose the plan, “Malaviya said.
“We have no money. Our parents said, ‘You can ride a boat, but do not expect us to buy you a board.'”
Malaviya graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and moved to the coast to focus on her efforts to expand the Shaka Surf Club, which offers lessons, board rentals and accommodation for all ages.
Over the years, she has not only seen the sport in India – with an estimated a few hundred racing riders – but also a shift in attitudes towards the oceans, especially in the boating fishing community. .
“They come from generations who see the ocean as just a place to work, fight, earn – it’s a lot of business,” said Malaviya.
“This is probably the first generation of fishermen in India to travel to the ocean and have real fun.”
“There is a great fear of the ocean,” Malaviya added. “Most people do not know how to swim … for us it is the same, they live in paradise (but) they look at the ocean like this damned place, you know?”
At the Shaka Surf Club, located in the fishing village of Kodi Bengre on the west coast of India, boating and skating are free for children from home.
Club volunteers also teach activities such as yoga, squatting, art or drama at a local school – an initiative that begins when a teacher at a Canadian-speaking school notices that the students on board the boat speak English better than their peers.
Malaviya, “shaka” is a popular gesture among tourists with the meaning of “hanging” or “taking easy”.
“Children who are learning to sail with us, they have chosen to speak English with us.”
“It’s a strange thing,” she said. “I live a civilized life. I live in a village, a simple life, a peaceful life.
For Hill, who travels the world telling the stories of the most influential female tourists, figures like Malaviya have become a staple in sports literature.
“Most of the women I’ve learned are just women I respect, admire and build some relationships with over the years,” Hill told CNN Sport.
“Most of them are my favorite women and I just admire their technical expertise and would like to see them recognized for great athletes and contributed to the culture they belong to.
If you consider the fact that women make up about 30 percent of the tourists somewhere in the United States, representation is nothing like the 30 percent of surf photos.
“Especially if you look at the cover of a travel magazine, it’s still rare to see that one woman actually covered the main magazine.”
‘Importance of playing’
The ferry will be a historic leap forward next year as it hosts the Olympic Games on the Pacific coast of Japan.
For competing runners, it will be an opportunity to showcase their sport on the world stage. But it does come with challenges as well.
“You can not guarantee that you will get surf, that is not how it will work,” said Hill, who competes before becoming a free-spirited traveler – writing and documenting about surf culture and its links to topics such as femininity and the environment.
“The challenge of boating, but it is also the beauty of tourism. You have to stay awake and respond to the events in the world around you. It ‘s not like almost every aspect of life you can plan for into an uncertain eternity.”
“A lot of tourists will say something left over when you have a sport with a perfect mechanical or artistic style that relies on the possibilities and nature of the oceans,” Hill said.
“It’s riding a wave … it’s a different discipline, which it’s interesting as well. I do not think it’s bad, I just think it’s a different expression.”
As the sport seeks to evolve to compete, for some, like Hill, it is a simple stimulus of enjoying nature to attract the most tourists.
“It reminded me of the importance of playing and how often we lose the sense of play in our adult lives,” she said.
“It just reminds me not to take myself too seriously. You’re on a tour, you’re about to fall, you will certainly be thrown from the ocean; it is a powerful force and it is very good at humiliating us at every stage of our lives.”
Thousands of miles off the coast of Florida where Hill learned to sail, it was just as joyful to catch Malaviya as she caught her first wave 13 years ago.
“Growing up in India, it put a lot of pressure on you in general because the population is very competitive. And then as a woman, I feel like you are forced to grow too fast.
“Because of all this stress – to study and do well in school – the idea of playing when playing is gone from my life.
“When I came here and I started touring, for the first time in a long time I felt like a child again.”