A ‘SWELL’ ADVENTURE
Words: SHARMEEN HUSSAIN
Photographs: JYOTHY KARAT
GREAT FROM Chennai
GREAT FOR Catching some waves
When you think of Mahabalipuram, ‘temple town’ is probably the first thing that pops into your head, right? But World Heritage temples and stunning stone carvings aside, this sleepy little town is also a secret surfers’ paradise. The clean stretch of coast near the little fishing village, known simply as Mahabs Beach, offers fabulous waves, and, from January to March, they’re gentle enough for even beginners to come and give it a go.
Mahabs, as it’s known locally, has slowly been gaining prominence among the surfing community, largely thanks to one young chap who goes by the name of Mumu. A local boy raised in a fishing family, Mumu (or Mukesh Panjanathan) was out on the water from the age of four. When a couple of Australian blokes introduced him to surfing, it quickly became his passion and now, not only is he a surf instructor, he’s also a Rescue Scuba Diver and a PADI-certified Divemaster. He runs the unassuming Mumu Surf Shop, which offers surfing lessons for beginners and also rents out boards. Beginners start with a theory lesson, where Mumu will have you read some of the dos and don’ts of surfing and also explain to you how the tide works. With the technical stuff out of the way, you’re ready to get wet. The beach is a short walk away from the surf shop. The coolest thing about this little village is that the locals are so used to seeing people walk about in the tiniest of clothes, they don’t give you a second look when you shimmy by in your swimmers. So don’t worry about having to hide yourself behind the surfboard.
The objective of Mumu’s lessons isn’t to get you standing up on the board as soon as possible. Instead, he encourages first-timers to get a feel for the water and the waves before they attempt to stand. Each wave you catch is met with an encouraging thumbs up or applause, and a flash of his million-watt smile. And when you finally do stand up, there’s nothing to beat the feeling. Aching muscles be damned, you’ll be wanting more.
And once you discover just how much fun this sport is, surfboards will surely intrigue you. Just down the road from the beach, you can take a peek into what’s probably India’s first surfboard factory. Temple Surfboards makes custom handmade boards for the avid surfer and is home to ‘shapers’ – skilled sculptors who fashion surfboards out of slabs of foam. You can watch them at work and perhaps even buy one if you’re so inclined.
When your muscles protest from that watery workout, head down to the India Seashell Museum for a gander. It’s India’s largest museum of its kind and houses a staggering 40,000 specimens of rare and common shells. This giant assortment belongs to one Raja Mohammed who spent 33 years travelling the world to add to his collection. Do look out for the bigger conches and heart-shaped shells. There’s also a small aquarium that’s worth taking a peek into, if only to see the clownfish and parrot-fish.
Evidently, Mahabalipuram is more than just a temple town, as this altogether cool place is a new addition to the Kingdom of Backpackistan with plenty of 20-something hippies with dreadlocks and tattoos sharing a beer by the beach.
From hotel options to loo stops, find all the practical information you need to plan this trip now – in LPMI’s January 2015 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter