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India's first female surfer is changing her country's perception of the ocean

November 19, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Despite an abundance of coastline, long stretches of beach and swell on both sides of the country, India has traditionally been a surf-shy nation. But over the past decade, the tide has gradually started to turn.

Ishita Malaviya, India's first professional female surfer and one of the early pioneers of the sport in her country, remembers googling "surfing in India" back in 2007, only for nothing to show up.

Hooked by the sport from the moment she caught her first wave, she and her partner Tushar Pathiyan started the Shaka Surf Club while studying at university in Manipal.

Over the years, she has not only seen the sport grow in India -- estimating there are now a couple hundred people surfing competitively -- but has also witnessed a shift in attitude towards the ocean, particularly among the fishing communities that have taken up surfing.

For Hill, who traveled the globe to recount the tales of the most influential female surfers, figures like Malaviya are overdue a spot in the sport's literary cannon.

If you consider the fact that women make up around 30 percent of surfers in somewhere like the US, representation looks nothing like 30 percent of surf imagery.

"You can't guarantee that you're going to have surf, that's just not how it works," says Hill, who surfed competitively before forging a career as a free surfer -- writing and documenting on surf culture and its intersection with topics like feminism and the environment.

As the sport seeks to evolve competitively, for someone like Hill it is the simple impulse of deriving enjoyment from nature that will always be surfing's greatest pull.

Thousands of miles from the Florida coast where Hill learned to surf, it is the same joy that gripped Malaviya as she caught her first wave 13 years ago.

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