After spending three days at the waveless (unfortunate) surf competition in Pondicherry, and searching other beaches in the area for waves, I finally got a ride to Mahabalipurum late Monday evening. As the cab turned into the town I immediately noticed less trash and cleaner streets. All the shops were cute, a little touristy, but nice. The road dead ended into the ocean. I looked out through the front window to see clean 3-4ft waves, coming in so consistently you could set your watch by it - in NC it would be a perfect day. It was beautiful, and the water looked clean! Much to my surprise, it got better. After leaping out of the car with gear in tow, I saw it: the point. Walking onto the beach, your eyes are drawn to the right by a large temple protected from erosion by boulders. I've never surfed anywhere but NC and I've never seen a point break like this in person. Holy crap. It broke perfectly and rolled from right to left all the way to shore, a solid 15+ second ride. I didn't know such amazing places existed!! I ran though what felt like hundreds of brightly painted fishing boats to where I unpacked my board and paddle. It felt great to get into the water and to feel the ocean rise and fall beneath my feet. As I took my place in the back of the surfing lineup, they all missed the next amazing wave because I got the normal gawks. I am standing up on my board, I am white, and I am a girl. The shock wore off quickly and surfing resumed. I could hardly wait my turn, but finally it came. The sun was setting fast as I caught the first best wave of my life. It seemed to go on forever as I carved up and down the face, paddling hard in the middle through a slow spot to stay out front, finally ending all the way at the beach over 100 yards away. I had the chance to do this 5 times before I was out of sunlight. I packed up and got a room at a beach front hotel for 1000 Rupees (around 20USD). The entrance was guarded by seahorse statues, so I knew it was a great place to stay! Throughout the night, I kept waking up to check my watch to see if it was time to get up and surf again.
Finally, the hour came. There was barely enough light to navigate the courtyard of the hotel out to the beach through the fishing boats. Sometimes the boats lurched right for you if picked up by a wave or their lines, which were very hard to see at dawn, would whip up out of the sand when pulled taught by a receding boat, nearly decapitating the sleepy surfer. I was the first one in the water, by a long shot. Barely awake, I caught two wake-up waves that I wiped out on. The third went extremely well, there may actually be cell-phone video evidence somewhere of it, if I can dig it up. As I turned off the wave to paddle back, I was hit by a little side chop and fell off the board. No big deal. I fall all the time, I don't always make it off the wave and back to the lineup without getting wet (although, it makes me happy when I do!). No big deal. In North Carolina the waters are littered with jelly fish: moon jellies, cannonball jellies, thimble jellies, and the occasional small sea nettle. I've been a Marine Scientist for 6+ years now, and I know my jellies. Moons and cannonballs are completely harmless. Thimbles are often misidentified as "sea lice." Their larval form is so small you can't see them, and when they get stuck in between your skin and bathing suit they get pissed and give you little stings that look like bug bites. Some people may experience a mild reaction with some nausea or drowsiness, but nothing extreme. The sea nettles are responsible for the "biggest" stings. People come out of the water with lines or strips where the tentacles have brushed across their skin, leaving behind irritation caused by little toxic harpoons from the jelly's cnidocytes. It stings, then later it itches, some people feel ill. Small potatoes.
I fall off my board in tropical waters in southern India, and right before I climb back on I feel as if a million fibers of the softest silk are wrapping around my legs and feet. That feeling lasts for 0.00001 seconds, long enough for my mind to go, "shit."