The fifth edition of India Surf Festival was a beautiful amalgamation of arts, sports and tourism that attracted water athletes and visitors from around the globe
By Ananta Prasad
Kneeling on the surf boards, putting the paddle in front and focusing while standing up gently with both legs apart, bending the knees slightly and pushing forward on the water, taking on the ripples with the focus of a yogi – this was the most common scene at the India Surf Festival (ISF) at the Ramachandi Beach in Konark this year, be it sunrise or sunset. It was as if everyone was meditating on water amidst the gentle blue waves and surrounded by the shining white sand.
The fifth edition of ISF ignited the swell and the sands with surfing, music and art as it brought together not only surfers from across the country and abroad but also artists, musicians, designers and famous lens-men. More than 200 water athletes from across the world apart from thousands of the daily visitors added zing to an interesting event in the state’s tourism calendar.
However, the name “India Surf Festival” is a little misleading as the festival features way more than just surfing. Organised by the Surfing Yogis (a group of like-minded people who combine surfing, yoga, and nature), it’s an eco-friendly celebration of oneness that provides a creative platform for freedom of expression encompassing adventure, music, dance, art, and photography.
ISF is a joint effort of Rangers Adventure Foundation (RAF) and Surfing Yogis, held at Ramachandi beach in Konark for the last five years. “The festival is an eco-friendly approach to surf for the cause ‘Carbon negative, Earth positive’,” said organiser and RAF Founder Sanjay Samantaray. “This year, ISF left no stones unturned to offer a variety of learning sessions and workshops to all its camping residents and visitors,” added Samantaray.
While Puri is traditionally known for being a temple town, over the last few years, devotees of a different kind have been thronging its shores, courtesy the India Surf Festival. The fifth edition too made a splash in November over a weekend devoted to the art of surfing, with activities for both enthusiasts and newbies.
“This festival is really impressive. I have never been to such a festival that has so many interesting elements to it. I have not been doing wave riding for long and I am really looking forward to visit this place again,” said Stephen, a surfer from Austria.
“I am a biker and I love to travel unexplored places. This Surf Festival has given me a reason to come out and explore these beautiful beaches of Odisha,” added Bulgarian tourist Mark.
ISF has always given special importance to workshops and this year too, the ‘Walk on Water’ workshops were one of the major highlights, which witnessed experienced SUP surfers coming together to try out their skills. Like every year, Alina from Spain conducted the workshop for stand-up paddle. As she mentions, stand up paddling is something that gives you peace of mind. Beyond the festival days, Alina did workshop for local residents near Kusabhadra river with 12 stand-up boards. Worth mentioning is the fact that the ISF SUP cup, which is one of the major attractions of the India Surf Festival, witnessed a few competitors who had been trained by Alina at ISF itself!
The event featured skim boarding for the first time along with various other water sports. Four participants from Philippines experimented and also taught skim boarding to beginners at the beach. Dundoy, the skim boarding expert from Philippines said, “This time, skim boarding came to ISF and India for the first time and we were happy to see that people were so much enthusiastic about it. Skim Boarding is beyond sports. It’s adventure and also an art.”
15 participants from Active 8 Sports Association of Pune and 22 participants from Long Board Crew India of Mumbai took care of the skating workshop at ISF. Long boarding and skating has been an integral part of the festival and it attracts more and more children to join the sport.
More than being a surf community celebration, ISF is a melting pot of ideas and creativity utilising art, music and ocean adventure and attempting to promote and encourage the use of self-sustainable and eco-friendly ways of living with the Mother Nature. It’s a congregation where everyone inspires each other through their ideas, artwork, designs, adventure, music and sometimes conversations, contributing to a cleaner ocean and beach.
This year, ISF saw some excellent art installations that hogged the limelight for all the right reasons.
Orifice: This art installation was the most clicked element during ISF 2016. Almost every moment, visitors were seen taking selfies and photos in front of the installation. Named as Orifice, it was literally created out of nothing! Dibyush Jena, a resident of Bhubaneswar and volunteer at ISF created the magic out of some bamboo, dried twigs and branches of a tree.
Describing his thoughts on the installation, Dibyush said, “I created this when I was sitting all bored. For me, this installation sends out a strong message that if we focus enough, we will find perfect shape amidst lots of chaos.” Well, his installation did help a lot of people to find their perfect Facebook profile pictures!
Contact: ‘Contact’ was an amazing idea from the festival curator’s mind. Vinay Pateel, the man behind the atmospheric designs of ISF, is the reason why the festival flaunts a beautiful look every year. Pateel’s installation, ‘Contact’, was a creative masterpiece that particularly grabbed eyeballs during the evenings.
With the perfect use of lights along with bamboo, cloth and metal in the shape of three flowers, Pateel had created the pathways to contact aliens so that they too could join the ISF from outer space!
Baba Tower: This was a multi-purpose tower which had the main stage on the ground floor for all performances. Designed by Faustino Canessa from Argentina, the first floor was the DJ stage and the third floor was a Watch Tower. Made completely with bamboos, this tower was looking amazing with the super moon over it on the full moon day.
The Pointer: Shreejit Nayak from Odisha had used bamboo and lights and managed to create the beautiful installation which showed ‘the paths in life’. The installation depicted that despite the hectic lifestyle we have today; there will be these pointers that will show us the right direction.
Apart from all these organic art installations, there were these wooden sign boards designed with lots of colourful arts by Nusha Pchelkina from Russia. Then, there was this projection mapping inside domes, mapping on water and illuminated paddle boards, which symbolised the fusion of art and sports, and which was brought together by Sofi from Colombia and Alina from Spain. The desi bamboo auto rickshaw and ISF wooden cut-outs were the other eye catching elements at the festival, which were designed and executed by Faustino.
If ISF was all about surfing and adventure during the day, the evenings were dedicated to performing artists and their freedom of expression. From folk dancers to fire dancers and juggler; DJs and live bands to Indian classical music and open air concerts around bonfire, ISF this year experienced entertainment of a different kind that jazzed up the evenings.
The famous Thallavatam from Bangalore performed live music which he created from PVC pipes and plastic bottles. His music kept people hooked not to their seats but to the beach till midnight!
The Sitarsonic from France did magic with his fingertip. His fingers were as musical as the sitar strings. He played some awesome fusion with sitar and mouth organ.
Another interesting element of the festival was Ami Shroff, the first female bartender of India doing live juggling with musical beats. She did a lot of tricks with both her hands, which was
exceptional and at the same time creative. The festival also experienced some local artists performing fire martial arts.
With so much happening, the fifth edition too turned out to be an amazing amalgamation of arts, sports and tourism. Visitors from Russia, Spain, Argentina, Colombia, UK, Philippines, France, Germany, Sri Lanka, Austria and Ukraine joined the festival and appreciated the efforts.
Of course, like every year, the festival also had different competitions including ‘ISF Surf Cup’ and ISF SUP Race (Stand up Paddle Race). Dundoy from Philippines won the SUP Cup followed by Chennai’s Apu and M Murthy as first and second runners up. Notably, the SUP Cup is India’s biggest Stand Up Paddle (SUP) competition. Racers from more than 10 countries showcased their skills along a challenging river course. Among its many attractions was the Walk on Water and Yoga on Water events, as well as skateboarding.
In the ISF Surf Cup, Chennai’s Apu stood first followed by Dharani and Satish bagging second and third positions. Surfers from Chennai received four awards in various categories.
That apart, a special ISF outfit known as ‘Girl Power’ had invited children and students from all backgrounds to their sports workshop two weeks prior to the festival, providing immense opportunity to the local community to learn and understand the sports from experts. Focusing on empowerment of girl child across the globe, this initiative of ‘Girl Power’ encouraged many women into adventure sports with special focus on local communities.
The festival came to an end with the promise to remain committed to its motto for better environment by launching community afforestation programme and cleaning the local beach as part of its celebration.
(This article was first published in www.mycitylinks.in )