Thiruvanathapuram: India's first national Surfing and Stand up Paddle (SUP) competition got underway at the Sylvan Beach resort of Kovalam near on Friday with former South African cricketing star Jonty Rhodes inaugurating it.
The Spice Coast Open is being organized by the Surfing Federation of India (SFI), governing body for the sport in the country, with the support of Kerala's Department of Tourism.
Rhodes, an avid surfer, called the Spice Coast Open a pioneering event that could shape a new generation of international surfing stars from India.
"This is a chance for India to get its youngsters interested in a sport that is thrilling and fun, and keeps you healthy and fit," said Rhodes.
"Surfing has something that even cricket does not and that's the 'cool' factor. Everything about surfing is cool, from the outfits to the style."
The 43-year-old, who is currently the fielding coach for the Mumbai Indians IPL cricket team, said he finds surfing a welcome break from the stress of cricket.
"Cricket today is more of a career, it is serious business and hard work, but surfing as a sport has yet to reach those levels of competitiveness so it lets you chill and loosen up."
Rhodes also praised the beaches in Kovalam and said they were fantastic spots for surfing. He said the SFI was doing a commendable job promoting the sport and he spent some time riding the waves with the Spice Coast Open participants.
The three-day event has surfing competitions and SUP races across groms (under 16), junior (under 21), senior (under 28) and masters (over 29) categories.
International surfers take part in the open category and there are separate competitions for girls.
More than 100 participants from state surfing associations, clubs, surf schools and enthusiasts from around the country and abroad are taking part in the event.
Kishore Kumar, president of the Mangalore-based SFI, said they hope to make the competition much bigger next year with more participants from all over the country.
"Despite having an extensive coastline, excellent beaches and young talent, surfing is yet to catch on as an adventure sport in India, as it has done in surfing powerhouses such as Australia, South Africa, the US or Brazil," said Kumar.
Spice Coast Open prizes include rolling trophies and cash awards, consolation prizes and certificates.
The opening day's competitions included surfing heats for groms, juniors, seniors and local girls.