Live Report From Chennai's Covelong Point Surf and Music Festival

Live Report From Chennai's Covelong Point Surf and Music Festival

India’s first surfing village, the district of Covelong in Chennai, sounds like it’s raring to go, with the Covelong Point Surf and Music Festival kicking off today. The three-day festival is developing a unique surf culture in the country that is flourishing in the picturesque South Indian coast. Homegrown’s Aditi Dharmadhikari caught up with one of the festival’s founders for a live report on everything this weekend’s shaping up to be. 

A collaboration between TT Logistics, EarthSync and the Surfing Federation of India (the national governing body for surfing in India), will feature a national level surf contest with surfers from all over India, Maldives, Sri Lanka and more. Yotam Agam, one of the co-founders of EarthSync, sounded quite pumped for the event as he told us, “It’s beautiful, glassy water out here and the energy is great. There are already 300 people on the beach and the first day is just beginning. Everyone’s just setting up their stalls and doing their sound checks and prepping for the festival. I’d say we’re looking at about 5000 people over the next three days, it’s much bigger this year compared to the last edition. There’s a lot more participation.”

Indicative of a burgeoning surf culture in the country? We hope so.

[In case you missed it, this is their 2014 teaser video below:] 

Participants and festival-goers are going to find themselves quite spoilt for choice at Covelong Point Surf and Music Festival this year, with a plethora of beach-side options vying for their attention.
Kicking off today with a celebrity run with Milind Soman, non-surfing activities include yoga and meditation classes, a skateboard ramp, food and drink stalls, and volleyball matches happening each day in the afternoons. There will also be a participatory art installation called ‘Let Go’ by Mumbai-based artist, Shreya Naik, and exciting catamaran races amongst 20 teams on Sunday, with cash prizes for the winners.

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But however much in love we are with the activities, the ethos of this festival is almost more compelling; their ultimate aim being to use surfing as a catalyst for rehabilitation and community development in Covelong. The festival is also a shot in the arm for the economic growth in the village community because of the business opportunities it has created for local vendors, not to mention the community issues that are being addressed simultaneously as well.
“There is heavy engagement of the local community at all levels, with women from the village coming and designing the boards for us, bringing their old saris and signing their names on the boards once they’re done,” shares Agam. “The boards are made from styrofoam in the village, and then wrapped, with design elements like recycled saris and kolam paintings (rangoli) used to decorate them. Surfing workshops started a couple of days ago, with the Australia-based NGO ‘Boards for Billions’ teaching about board shaping and surf tourism. We’re also holding free health camps for kids from the village, a beach clean-up and an educational camp on drug and alcohol abuse.”

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Various celebrities have vouched for the cause by showing their support, one of them being cricketing legend Jonty Rhodes, who hit the waves earlier this week with other participants at the festival.
“He’s been the Surfing Ambassador for the Surfing Federation of India for several years, so he was the natural choice to make an appearance at the festival’s official Press Conference, along with renowned musician TM Krishna,” Yotam explains.

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In addition to the surf competition, the event will also feature performances by musicians from India and around the world, the line-up spanning a range of genres, with an emphasis on local folk musicians of Tamil Nadu. It includes (hold your breath) mandolin maestros Padmashri U. Srinivas and U. Rajesh (Chennai), folk rock act The Raghu Dixit Project (Bangalore), reggae artists Delhi Sultanate & Begum X (Delhi), singer songwriter Nischay Parekh and percussionist Jivraj Singh (Kolkata), Mauritian blues troupe Tritonik (Mauritius), folk master The Kutle Khan Project (Rajasthan), downtempo electronica duo Klypp (Bangalore), and fusion duo Filter Coffee (Mumbai) to name a few.
EarthSync is an independent music label and award winning film production unit, whose Covelong Point social project, a documentary on fisherman-turned-surfer Murthy Megavam and the rise of surf culture in Covelong, is where the idea for this festival originated from.

Murthy catches some waves. Images courtesy - Rammohan Paranjape.

“We’ve spent eight years filming that documentary,” says Agam. “We’re looking at a television and theatrical release in December but we’re still figuring things out since getting a theatrical release for a documentary is quite difficult. But we hope to see it screened on Discovery, so that more people can know about the beautiful surf culture exists here.”
The surf documentary ‘Beyond The Surface about Ishita Malaviya – India’s first female surfer – will also be screened at the festival.
Looking to the future, Agam remarks upon how well-suited the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean are for surfing and hopes to see participants from India ‘taking over in South Asia and South-East Asian surf competitions’ soon.
If you’re already there, we envy you. And in case you’re not, be sure to make it a part of next year’s itinerary.

Words: Aditi Dharmadhikari