Surfing in India is growing in popularity. There are some outstanding spots along the country's vast coastline where you can catch a wave and also learn to surf. The only issue is that the waves aren't consistent and the surf does fall flat at times. You need to be at the right place at the right time!
Waves generally rise between three and five feet most of the year. Bigger and faster world-class waves (of over eight feet), suited to advanced or professional surfers, can be experienced just before and during the monsoon from May to September. You can expect plenty of rain with them though! The big swells decline from October to December, after which conditions return to normal gentle waves.
Covelong/Kovalam Village, Tamil Nadu
About a hour south of Chennai, Covelong (or Kovalam, as it's also known) is an inspiring fishing -- turned surfing -- village. It has a remarkable social surfing movement, many of India's best surfers, and the most reliable waves. There are both beach and reef breaks, and right-hand break points that are more dependable than possibly anywhere else on the mainland.
The annual Covelong Point Surf, Music & Yoga Festival happens every August. Free surfing lessons are provided as part of it.
- Where to Learn: Covelong Point Social Surf School's fantastic new surf facility has a cafe, lounge, and guest rooms right on the beach. Local fisherman Murthy Megavan started the surf school as a social initiative to help transform the lives of locals. Part of the earnings are used to fund social projects in the village. Also check out Ocean Delight Surf School, founded in 2015 by one of the area's top surfers.
Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
About 20 minutes further down the Tamil Nadu coast, Mahabalipuram (also known as Mamallapuram) has right-hand point breaks near the iconic Shore Temple. They're created by the pile of boulders, placed around the temple and jutting into the Bay of Bengal, to keep it from toppling into the ocean. There's a thriving backpacker scene in Mahabalipuram as well.
Do note that the waves depend on the positioning of the sand and they usually fall flat in October and November. There's no point break until May when most of the sand gets washed away from the beach and forms a sandbank. June and July produce perfect waves, and they last quite well until the end of September.
- Where to Learn: Mumu Surf School, headed by the laid-back and friendly Mumu, gives excellent (yet fun) lessons, professional coaching, and has a surf shop. There's also a board shaping workshop, Temple Surfboards, in Mahabalipuram.
The surfing season at Pondicherry is long, with waves of up to 12 feet from June to January. Much of the action takes place at Serenity Beach, where surf breaks were created by two long piers that were built to protect the beach following the devastating 2004 tsunami.
- Where to Learn: Kallialay Surf School is situated at Serenity Beach. It was started by two young Spanish brothers, who discovered their passion for surfing after their parents relocated the family to Auroville in 1995. They shape their own boards and also built India's first skate park in Auroville. Various surfing packages are offered, from single lessons to comprehensive 15-day courses. Surfboard rentals are also possible.
Those who have always regarded Varkala as a close-out beach break not worth bothering about should think again. While this may be true for the main beach, it's still fine for beginners and it does pick up the swell. Besides, there are plenty of other better breaks in the vicinity -- some of which very few people know about.
- Where to Learn: Soul and Surf have been offering surfing lessons in Varkala since 2010. What makes them unique is that they also specialize in yoga, so you can combine the two! Surfing lessons take place seven days a week, at the best spots that they scout out early in the mornings. They're open from the beginning of October until mid May. Accommodations are also available.
Kovalam Beach, Kerala
India's most well-known surf spot is likely to be Kovalam Beach in Kerala. Although it doesn't have the best surf, it's a hot tourist destination with plenty of hotels and places to hang out. And, the waves around Lighthouse Point are decent enough most of the time. They break both left and right.
- Where to Learn: Kovalam Surf Club, founded in 2005, is part of a larger NGO called the Sebastian Indian Social Project. It aims to empower local children and keep them at school by getting them involved in surfing. Surfing lessons are priced cheaper than other surf schools in India as Kovalam Surf Club isn't a commercially-driven organization. One-on-one individual classes are given and surf tours are also offered.
- Where to Stay: 10 Best Hotels in Kovalam Beach for All Budgets.
Goa is known for its parties more than its surf. However, the coastline of this small state does have a few spots that serve up ideal waves for beginners. The Ashwem to Arambol stretch, in the far north, is your best bet. Don't expect great waves every day though. You'll have to be content with 2-3 foot swells once a week or so, and plenty of partying in between. The season runs from October until April.
- Where to Learn: Surf Wala operates out of the Arambol Surf Club at the southern end of the beach. It was Goa's first surf school, set up by a group of international surfers. Lessons and board hire are available, along with package deals for stays of three or more days. Banana Surf School is another popular option at Ashwem. In South Goa, try Aloha Surf at Agonda Beach.
Mulki, a small village about 30 minutes north of Mangalore, is home to what was India's first surf school. The beach is relatively unknown and uncrowded, with waves suited to beginners for most of the year.
- Where to Learn: Two American surfing experts (including "Surfing Swami" Jack Hebner), who pioneered surfing on the East Coast of the United States, started Mantra Surf Club in 2004. The club has India's largest inventory of surfboards, so you're sure to get one that's perfect for your size and skill level. Stay at their Ashram Surf Retreat, operated by surfing Krishna devotees, and add yoga and meditation for a unique spiritual experience. Numerous other adventure water sports are offered as well. Surfing memberships are available.
Pilgrims, backpackers, hippies, and wandering surfers all converge on the picturesque temple town of Gokarna in Karnataka. Its placid beach breaks make it a good place for beginners to learn to surf from October to May. The best waves can be found on Main Beach near Mahabaleshwar Temple in town.
- Where to Learn: Cocopelli Surf School on Long Beach (just north of Main Beach) has a basic guesthouse, with the beach only a minute's walk from the door. Various courses are offered, from beginner to advanced.
Little Andaman, Andaman Islands
If you really want to get away from it all, and are an intermediate or advanced surfer, head to the pristine Andaman Islands. Most of the surfing spots can only be accessed by boat. However, Little Andaman Island has an emerging surf scene, with the best waves around Butler Bay (world class left-hand break). There are reef breaks, so do bring reef shoes to avoid cuts. The biggest waves, created by distant storms, occur from the end of March to early May. Mantra Surf Club conducts guided surf trips to Little Andaman Island.