Surfing Makes Debut In World's Second Biggest Country

The world's second most populous country is about to hold its first ever surf competition.

India's Spice Coast Open will be held in Kovalam in the southern state of Kerala this weekend and is expected to draw more than 150 surfers and stand up paddlers, according to SurferToday.

With about 4,700 miles of coastline and 1.2 billion people, you'd think India would have its fair share of the world's wave riders. And yet, outside of a few surf clubs in south India, the sport is almost non-existent there. Empty breaks are the rule, leading some, like our own Chris Burkard to mistakenly conclude that Indians just don't surf. (See his photo essay, Slumdog Surfers.)

Well, they do—just not very many. The number of subcontinental surfers (not counting tourists) is likely in the neighborhood of 150, according to a November story in Surfer Magazine.

The event is sponsored by the Surfing Federation of India, a two-year-old governing body that's recognized by the International Surfing Association. (That means Indian surfers are eligible to compete in international competitions.)

Not bad for a country whose oldest surfing organization, Kovalam Surf Club, was founded in 2005 by an NGO as a way to entice poor children to stay in school.

Kovalam, part of Kerala's capital city Thiruvananthapuram, has become what passes for a surfing hot spot in India, especially after the 2010 installation of an artificial reef created a consistent break 150 meters offshore.

While it's unlikely that we'll be seeing any Indian surfers on the Tour any time soon, this is an exciting first step.