Surfing the Unknown [An India Surf Travelogue] Day 9 – 11/3/10 – Jaws !!
Waking up early in the morning, I was very surprised to discover how well I had slept that night. I may have woken up a couple of times but given the conditions (the heat, bites, cramped conditions in the tent, and hard ground) it wasn’t too bad at all. Kunja and Kirtan got up early also and walked across the bay to see how the surf was on the other side. They returned after 40 minutes, a little amused at what they had seen but they didn’t tell me much about it. They just told me to get ready with my camera gear.
Initially, they just wanted to go and surf this nice left that they had seen the day before. I was still curious to find it what they had come across when they had crossed the bay. I was ready to shoot and the light was at it’s best and the surfers were ready with their boards. It took us some time to reach the very end of the bay. The surf was okay, but it wasn’t anything great and it was a bit inconsistent too. We walked a little further away from the bay and then I suddenly understood why they had such an amused look on their faces earlier.
I saw a perfect, fast, 8ft hollow tube coming and breaking with such consistency – it was actually mesmerizing for all of us. How often can you see that in India? There is certainly good surf in mainland India, but we hadn’t come across anything like this anywhere. You could easily compare this to any of those waves that you often see in magazines and surf movies. This would definitely test the skills of the boys. They had outside surfing experience already in places like Bali, Maldives, and Seychelles, but these waves were really different and looked much more challenging.
Kirtan got into the water, but Kunja stayed back to shoot some video footage. It was a shame that we only had two surfers on this trip and one of them also had to shoot video. As Kirtan paddled out by himself I could see the amount of hesitance on his face. He certainly took his time to get out and it wasn’t long before he caught himself a couple of waves and had some wipeouts but we all knew it was either ‘make it or break it situation’ that we were in. We were only here for 2 days and this was our last day. We hoped that we could squeeze in at least 3 sessions before we had to leave the next morning. Kirtan was trying his best to get used to these waves that were serious and required pro skills to ride, and it wasn’t long before Kunja went out and joined him.
However, not long after that, I could somehow sense from where I standing that something wasn’t right… Maybe it was the waves that were intimidating them. But, just when it looked that they would be surfing some of the world’s best waves, both of them started to quickly paddle back. As they walked out of the water they both had an expression as if they had just across a tiger. I was close – they had just seen a shark in the water! Considering where we were, it was pretty serious. We were not with another 50-60 surfers, there were no medical emergency facilities, no way of communication and if anything went wrong we were well and truly screwed! We were coming from India, with it’s friendly, shark-free waters. We had zero experience with sharks.
Naturally, somebody could question whether they had actually seen a shark – perhaps it had been a dolphin. We have all had experience with dolphins in India, and the boys were very, very sure – this was no dolphin! We have read and watched a lot about sharks (thank God for Discovery Channel and Animal Planet!). The water here was clear and clean and what you see is what it is…WOW! What a change of luck! We had finally found exactly what we came looking for and also found something that we had not come looking for – sharks! For a moment we just stood still, looking at each other faces wondering what to do. Should we go back or not? We all turned our heads towards the ocean, looking at all those perfect waves pumping in one after another. I think we made a wise and mature decision in the end. We decided to leave. We were in the middle of nowhere and the nearest village was 4 hours away by boat, where I am sure they had no proper medical facility. We hung around there for some time, looking at all those waves, taking a lot of pictures and video footage. Then, turning away, we returned to our camp.
It was midday and the sun was beating down on us. It made no sense to remain in the tents or even on the beach and since I hadn’t been into the water for a long time I got my boogie board and flippers to walked into the water. Beautiful pristine waters……. Being in the water was much better at this time of the day. There were some good size waves that were coming into the bay and me and Kunja had a blast catching them for nearly 3 hours. Kirtan was definitely feeling bad about the shark incident and from the ocean, we could see him simply hanging around the beach. I saw a couple of stingrays beneath me and although it was nothing to panic about, it still made me feel a bit uncomfortable. We continued for another hour or so and scored really good with our bodyboarding. Later, as the swell decreased, we decided to return to the beach. By then, there was a pleasant late afternoon breeze blowing which made our stay on the beach a lot easier. We lay under a shelter left by some fishermen that morning. The boys planned to hit another surf spot in the evening, where they had surfed the previous day. They had liked it because it was a perfect right, fast and not that hollow (and they hadn’t seen any sharks there…yet).
After a little rest and some granola bars, it was time for us to go and get that last session on this part of the island. The swell had gone down a bit, but it was still pumping in some good size waves and the boys started to score some good ones. I wished that it had been early morning, but the sun was behind them and I still managed to get some good shots of them. They nearly spent 3 hours surfing while I sat on the beach, capturing their session on High Continuous burst mode, playing with compositions and different settings. Our last session….. That evening was not like the previous one when we struggled with the heat and the bites. We started cooking early and also had a big campfire going to keep away all the bugs and mosquitoes. Apart from a few granola bars, we hadn’t eaten anything all day. We were famished and I was very keen to have a good meal. It didn’t take long us to prepare the meal and very soon We were relishing noodles which were so delicious and satisfying. We were still talking about sharks and those perfect waves. The fact that the fishermen told us that these waters were infested with sharks and that they could actually name a few species of shark came as a shock to us. We went back to our tents, wondering and thinking about the events of that day and how we were supposed to leave early next morning back to Campbell Bay.