13 Photos From One Of India's First Surf Schools

Photographed by Allison Joyce.
In 2007, Ishita Malaviya tried surfing for the first time and fell in love with the sport. She founded the Shaka Surf Club in Kodi Bengre, India, with boyfriend and fellow surfer Tushar Pathiyan in the same year.

"We couldn’t imagine moving back to the city, doing a 9-to-5 job and being unable to surf every day," Malaviya, who was previously living in Manipal, India, told Refinery29 in an email. "We wanted to live the surfer’s dream."

Since then, the couple has made the club their second home and imbued countless students of all ages with their love of surfing. As for Malaviya, she's undeniably a trailblazer in a very male-dominated sport, which is still pretty new to India.

"For the longest time, I was the only woman out in [the] water," she said. "It was definitely intimidating for me at the start."

As India's first professional female surfer, Malaviya has made it her personal mission to get young girls from the surrounding villages "stoked" about surfing.

"The ocean is mostly considered a place for the men," she explained. "The women stay at home while the fishermen go out to sea...I feel so blessed to be able to share the joys of being in the ocean with my fellow womenfolk."

To get a closer look at all of the cool things Malaviya and the girls of the Shaka Surf Club are doing, we sent a photographer to Kodi Bengre to capture them in action. Click through to see the photos and read more from Malaviya.

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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
When they began, Malaviya said she and Pathiyan shared a board, since they couldn't afford two. When they started the club, one of the first things they realized was that they "would need more boards."
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"Knowing how difficult it was for us, we didn’t want the locals to miss out on the opportunity to surf due to financial reasons," Malaviya said. "Hence, our surf school supports the free surfing of all the kids in the village."
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"Initially, our parents were quite apprehensive of our unconventional decision," Malaviya (pictured) said. "However, the universe kept sending us signs, showing us we were on the right path and that motivated us to keep following our passion."
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
When asked what she loves most about surfing, Malaviya said, "It makes me feel like a child again."
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"I feel like as a woman in India, you’re sometimes forced to grow up too soon," Malaviya said.
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"Surfing brought back that element of play in my life and gave me a sense of freedom and liberation that I didn’t know I was seeking, but desperately needed," Malaviya (pictured) said.
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"I encourage people to surf for its immense potential to bring joy and healing by developing a deep connection with the ocean," Malaviya said.
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"I go to the sea for silence, solitude, and reflection. The greatest lessons I have learned from the ocean are that of humility, patience, oneness, and learning to just go with the flow," Malaviya (pictured) said.
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"It’s important to not let yourself be limited by fear," Malaviya (pictured) said. "Whenever I’m out in scary surf conditions, I always take a moment to visualize myself riding the wave perfectly from start to finish. It helps me calm down and believe in myself."
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"When I started surfing back in 2007, you could literally Google 'surfing in India' and nothing would show up," Malaviya (pictured) said. "There were so few surfers, we could count them all on our fingertips. Even now, we have a relatively small surf community here in India. We’re a tribe of a few hundred surfers, scattered all over the east and west coasts, but it’s our love for the sea that brings us together."
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"With more and more people starting to surf, I just hope that the spirit of aloha and brotherhood is never lost and people continue to support one another in and out of the water," Malaviya (pictured) said.
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"It’s in the expanse of the sea that I find me and my worries to be very small," Malaviya (pictured) said.
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Photographed by Allison Joyce.
"Keep on paddling, even if it means facing defeat every once in a while, because I know there will always be another wave coming," Malaviya (pictured) said.
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