Welcome to the 5th episode of the third series of our podcast.
Today with us from India, first Indian female surfer and co-founder of The Shaka Surf Club, Ishita Malaviya!
We discussed with her about surfing in India, her current and future projects and much more!
You can find the episode on all major podcast platforms (Spotify, ITunes, YouTube, Amazon) or read the interview here on our website!
TTOS: Aloha Ishita, welcome to the show! Where are you today?
I'm in California right now.
TTOS: Wow! Everybody would have expected you to be in India while you are in California … what are you doing over there?
I'm here visiting family, I think 2020 was quite a difficult year, I was pretty isolated, so I needed to change. I wanted to get out and visit family and go surfing in the California winter. Oh my God. It's so cool. But I've been trying to challenge myself!
TTOS: That's nice. I'm glad that you take the first occasion to fly and and just to be with your family…. good times. Today we're going to talk about many things, but first thing that I would like to ask you is, in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?
Oh, having fun for sure, if you're not having fun, why are you surfing? You know for me, surfing just makes me feel like a kid again.
I would also say giving respect, you know, Aloha goes two ways, respecting the people that came before you that taught you how to surf and giving it a spectrum, the lineup to other people and looking out for each other, sharing waves, smiling, having a good time. That's what it's about.
TTOS: Respect is a big component, it still can be a very dangerous sport, making sure everybody goes back home safe and with stoke and happier and better than before….
Just to make sure that everyone's a good time, you know, so you look out for each other in the water and you do that by giving back.
TTOS: Definitely, I agree with you. What was your first surf board and do you still have it?
Oh my God. My first should not even be called board, it was like a eight foot big board, it was made by Bic in plastic…..it was a big board and it was a serial nosedive, it had an inward it rock almost like hold it up in the water, as you can tell, it has taken me really long to learn how to stand up , but I still do have it. I started surfing with my friend and for our first board, we pretty much sold everything, it was like 10,000 rupees and we were broke college students back then. For two years we shared one board and yeah, watched each other.
Thought of this story, you know, it's part of the original story and that's what inspired us to start getting surf lessons and make more money to buy a proper board
TTOS: Surf today in India and surf back then. Have you seen an evolution?
Oh yeah, definitely. I started surfing back in 2007. And back then, if you literally googled surfing in India, nothing would show up, I think that we're only about 13 surfers in the whole country of 1.2 billion people, we had only heard of surfers like on the east coast, it was non-existent. Even when I decided to start surfing, no one understood what surfing was, people thought we were crazy to move from the city to a small fishing village.. people were like, oh, they've lost the plot in life. They wasted their life become beach bums. Now things are better, surf is more popular, at least one or two surf events happen every year.
Now you have parents sending their kids to start surfing just so they can compete, there’s been a shift in the perception towards surfing….it's just nice to see people actually like being interested in it and getting in the water. Surf culture and beach culture is kind of like non-existent in India, because most people live in fear of the ocean, most people don't know how to swim….we have a long way to go, but it's nice to see people getting in the water because I feel like the more people get into the water and interact with the ocean, the more they will have a respect for it and want to protect it. Because right now it's kind of like people look at people don't even consider the ocean.
I'm talking about it in terms of global problem, oceans are being persecuted, people don't really have that awareness; “where does go your trash?” there is you so much sewage being pumped into the sea, look at a city like Bombei, there are like 26 million people. And that sewage is just going unfiltered into the ocean…..we actually feel inspired or motivated to actually address these concerns, you know? and then we'd actually see like more positive change happening. I feel like something can contribute in such a positive way to any community. So yeah, that's how I want to see more so in India. Definitely.
TTOS: More surfers will be, more they will talk about and hopefully preserve the ocean
I was reading a lot about you also in your website, Instagram and I read about the petition for 30 by 30, right?
I support it because in the future, kids are gonna be reading about fish in textbooks, that's a shame, we need to be working towards combating climate change and demand governments to take action towards these things. So I definitely want to support, especially the surf community that is being active in the mission. It means a lot to me,
TTOS: Definitely, you know, a minimum 30% of the water of the ocean, it should be clean, but we should really go for hundred percent….
Protect 30% of our oceans and then even safeguard the rest of the 70%, you know, that's the minimum we can do. I don't think that's a goal that cannot be achieved. I think we can do it.
TTOS: Exactly. Achievable goals are actually sometimes very meaningful because then when you reach it, you're happy and you want to do more. Right. So so talking about achieving goals you said it before about your surf club, the Shaka surf club, are you happy about the results that you obtain in today? Yeah.
The Shaka Surf Club is a passion project I did with a friend. When we started surfing, you know, no one in our friends, was as excited about it as we were, when it was quite surprising, but when we discovered this small fishing village that we're now based in, we would go surfing and all the kids would sit on the rocks and watch us, you know, and they would like cheer for us and clap and we call away. So when we went there, like, I bet they'd never even seen a heard of surfing, you know, but they were so stoked about it.
And you were like, we have to take these kids surfing and they didn't know how to swim. And we put just some life jackets on them. And I remember the day we took his two kids out, the whole village came onto the beach to watch themselves because they couldn't believe, you know, that these kids were surfing, we didn’t actually speak the local language, the way we were communicating with the locals was through smiles, shakas and the joy, the pure joy of surfing. That's how we got to know the people in the community through taking the kids though thing, it's amazing because we didn't know how to speak the language, but it allowed us to, they welcomed us into the community, you know, just because of surfing, just cause they saw how beautiful it was.
This exchange is interaction and, from day one, the Shaka Surf Club has been a community project, primarily where surf school, we have people coming from all over India and around the world coming to learn the stuff, but us, we have a campsite and we also work very closely with five families in the fishing village. One family makes breakfast, one makes lunch on, makes dinner one is making chai, one is housekeeping. Basically all the kids the grand moms of the kids that surf with us, they work with us the mothers and the cats. This is really beautiful community that we've built, you know, through surfing. And when people come there, they really get to interact with the locals in a way that that's very genuine, you know? Whereas I feel like sometimes when you go to a touristy place but over here you really get to like meet the people you interact with them on a one-on-one basis and actually get a feel of what daily life is like in the village. I really liked that
TTOS: Wow, well done!!
TTOS: Let's talk about women's surfing, a lot has been achieved, but a lot still is pending, you know, in terms of the equality, inclusion what do you think is the next objective to be achieved if you were sitting on top of the Federation and you could make a choice….
I would just say that we're already getting there, we're heading towards a more inclusive future for sure. I think women's surf is definitely getting a lot of attention lately. I would say, we need more events where women can gather, we definitely need to build a sense of a surf-sisterhood.
I would say where women are just organizing women's circles, a big sister program where you go into communities and just it's such a broad topic, but at least talk about increasing the number of girls so far, say in my local community, you know, because I think surfing is so popular. A lot of women are getting into surfing, but in the smaller rural communities in India, for example there's still a disparity, you know, like girls are still not in college to go get into the water because of so many reasons like they get dark or like, you know, families don't want them to interact with boys, but there's so many factors, but girls, I feel generally lack a sense of self-confidence.
They'll compare themselves to boys and they think that, “oh, I can do it” “I'm not strong enough or it's not for me”….. I've struggled, encouraged other girls to start surfing, and I feel like we need way more women to get together and encourage girls to get into the water. Kind of like the more number of women they see that they can relate to, then they're like, “oh, okay, I can do this” because otherwise girls tend to, you know, be like, oh no, I can't do it, shy away. We need more women out there.. and show that even in mainstream media, we need more visibility of women doing these things, you know, so other girls can grow up seeing that because growing up, I never saw images of, you know, strong water, at least Indian water women. It was not existence. So it's all about like, they'll see it, then they believe it, you know?
TTOS: I agree with you! What are your future projects that you're working on?
As of now, I don't really have anything in particular in the pipeline also with COVID, you know, it's kind of been things have just come to a stand-still. So just writing it out right now, but definitely in the future, want to engage in more community work in the community we're living in. That's kind of like my lifelong project. We have certain goals, you know, for example, in the future, we'd like to make that village power or you know, definitely want to create a more structured program when it comes to environmental education in the village. I'm personally the one to organize more of those camps for local girls, I was telling you like outdoor and ocean surfing and water safety camps for girls….
TTOS: we're going to finish our interview with a short Q/S session, please answer the first thing that comes up to your mind. The best surfboard you have ever ridden…
that's a tough one because I don't like to stick to one board, I like to try different boards. I really like my long board, my nine, six long board that was like my first customer board. But I also love a good natural fish, you know, like a five, six fish. That's always fun to ride.
TTOS: Your favorite shaper
That's tough one, because like I said, I've never really had a shaper, whatever board comes into my life, because in India we never had access to, but in terms of longboards, I definitely want to try stuff, but you know, even Campbell Brothers, you know, they have these really interesting bonzer shaped boards.
TTOS: your favorite song,
Well, it would have to be something with Bob Marley for sure. Let's go with mellow mood.
TTOS: Your favorite surf spot, I guess this one is easy, right?
Oh, it has to be my home break, home is where the heart is, home is where the waves are, but also Hawaii was kind of like a rite of passage for me, you know, I think every surfer needs to go to Hawaii. It's like the pilgrimage.
TTOS: Favorite surfer..
Ooh, that's a tough one, I have so many favorites, but definitely, up there would be my friend, Liz Clark. I really look up to Cassie Meadow. There's so many….how do I pick, like in longboarding, Kayla Mooney's I love her style of surfing, also Lauren Hill…..
TTOS: The last question is a bit unusual, nothing to do with surf, we want to know your best relationship advice….
That's a good question, I would say easiest relationship advice is, If you are in a relationship, I would say, never go to bed, angry, you know, solve whatever you have.
Before you go to sleep, don't go to bed with resentment. That's never good. And also I think sometimes when people are so in love, they tend to kind of go into their own little bubble, you know, that relationship bubble, and it's like the outside world doesn't matter and you kind of isolate yourself, but I feel like you need to maintain your relationship outside of your relationship as well. That's very important. Have your network, a support system outside of their relationships, not depending only on your partner