WORDS SHARMEEN HUSSAIN
PHOTOGRAPHS SUPRIYA KANTAK
GREAT FROM Bangalore, Mangalore, Cochin, Trivandrum, Madurai and Coimbatore
GREAT FOR A mix of action and relaxation
Varghese, the resident ‘beefcake’ and surf instructor, has some sage advice for budding surfers: “Remember two things: look straight ahead at the beach, and empty your mind.” Pretty deep for the Indian equivalent of Johnny Bravo, who looks like he could snap a surfboard in half with his pinky. But, at Soul & Surf in Varkala, it’s all about body and mind.
The brainchild of Sofie and Ed Templeton, a couple of Brits who quit their day jobs to do something different, this little property is where you come for a holistic reboot. Early-morning surf lessons on Varkala’s remarkably pristine beaches give your body a rigorous workout, while the twice-daily yoga sessions help ease the mind and soul (although admittedly, they’re quite strenuous and combined with same-day surfing, require a fair amount of fortitude). But more on that later.
Created with the intent of supporting the local community and surf industry, Soul & Surf started out small, but quickly gained popularity. Now visitors come from all over the world to soak up the chill vibe, catch some waves and meet folks of the same ilk as they share a meal at the communal breakfast tables or struggle collectively to hold the Downward Dog position for five breaths.
Perched on a cliff that overlooks the gloriously secluded Golden Beach, the property includes the original 150-year-old Kerala-style home (with a paint job that makes it look like a Mediterranean holiday home), a newer building that houses most of the rooms and the rooftop yoga studio, an amazing garden café overlooking the cliff, multi-cultural staff (and guests), a pista-green jeep and a delightful light pink Ambassador that resembles a marshmallow. All the elements come together quite nicely and, once you’re inside, it’s almost as though you’ve landed in another country.
A typical day at Soul & Surf begins early in the morning with a surf lesson. Everyone grabs a board and climbs down the steps to the beach where, after a quick warm-up game and theory class, it’s time to take the plunge. One of the ISA (International Surfing Association) instructors from the property will show you how it’s done and then it’s just practise, practise, practise till you get it right. Falling flat on your face is a given, but, with enough practice, you’ll see yourself beginning to improve, and, when you do, you’ll be beaming from ear to sandy ear.
Soon after your lesson is over, your muscles will begin to ache (trust us on this) and you might be in need of a massage. The good news, is you can get yourself one and let the masseur work away your pain. In the evening, head up to the terrace of the new building for a sunset yoga class. Depending on what day it is, you could take part in Pranayama, Yin, Slow Flow, Vinayasa Flow or meditation. Soothing music plays in the background as the instructor calmly tells you to contort your body in unthinkable ways. There are varying levels of intensity, and some of the more rigorous poses can really get your heart pumping and your brow sweating. But, as the sun sets in the distance, lighting up the sky and the water in the distance, you really don’t mind the fact that you’re exercising on your vacation because everything seems right with the world.