Surf Ashram Life
How I managed to train some before the WPA Championships while living in India:
Although I’m sure it is enjoyable to train for events while living abroad in countries with a well-established SUP scene; my training in India started out as a nightmare. The nightmare of no water bodies, no board, and no friends to paddle safely with was solved by the Surfing Swamis and their Hare Krishna Surf Ashram.
Let’s face it; I was hesitant at first. No alcohol, no meat, and no bikini. I didn’t think I was going to last. It ended up being one of the best times and best training scenarios possible.
A typical day at the Ashram started with a 5am Hare Krishna meditation, but sadly, I’ll admit I didn’t often make it to that. After meditation it was off to surf. I would paddle across a river with the boys, and sometimes out the inlet, to the beach where, depending on the swell, we would surf for 2-4 hours. Sometimes the paddle back included more than enough effort for the entire day if the tide happened to be going out! Sometimes I opted to SUP-waterski from the back of the Mantra Surf Club’s zodiac they used for guests. Hooray for guests! They never put the zodiac in the water just for me; they made me paddle or swim! Once back in the Ashram, breakfast was served. Every day another delicious vegetarian dish cooked with consciousness. I’ve been enjoying vegetarian food ever since!
Afternoon workouts consisted of multiple obstacles.
Paddles posed new hazards such as water snakes and low hanging power lines. Some challenges like avoiding dead animals that collect on your fin were not welcomed, while a few others like maneuvering through a group of men bathing their water buffalos were more than entertaining. There was never a lack of village children along the riverbanks waving and smiling, after only a week, they all knew where I was from.
Jogging on the beach was also very different than back home, mainly in that for many miles I was the only person. I would talk to Brahminy Kites and Marsh Harriers, and when starfish had washed up too far as the tide receded I would do sprints down to pick them up and place them back in the water amidst my run. One day I ran a little further than usual and encountered a fishing village at low tide. This brought an all-new running experience. At low tide the beach was scattered with fishermen squatting and doing their business, the tide would come in soon and wash it away... I didn’t really know what to do, so I just kept on moving, waved politely, and made sure to watch my step extremely carefully. It’s one thing when I paddle past them, but running through them was a slightly different story!
One thing about India compared to back home, is that when you step in poo (not if… just when), you are praying it is from a dog or cow.
In the evenings after paddling or training I was sometimes lucky enough to be joined by one of the local girls, Nranghita. At 6 years old, she was starting school and learning a lot! When she would come over we would play on the slackline, which usually meant that I was there to spot her as she walked back and forth for half an hour. One day I brought out a guitar and we played some “music” and then we sang the “ABCs” I learned a few words in Kannada, and hope to learn more. Her favorite phrase was, “Beach? Yeah!” which I finally figured out meant that we were going to go paddle. I told her she had to ask her mom first! On my last day I went out for an afternoon paddle and when I came back there was Nranghita and her mom. She plopped down on the front of my board and we went for a spin. She seemed entertained, but I think she was hoping it was a little more exciting. When I go back, maybe we’ll go for a longer ride.
Aside from starfish rescue sprints, low power-line paddles, slack-lining, buffalo buoy turns, poo runs, and ABC singing; I acquired the most amazing mental training! While at the Ashram, I had the chance to meet some very interesting people passing through amidst their travels in India. One in particular, Colette, was on break from a natural medicine school in Switzerland. She read to me from her mental conditioning book, and then did a few exercises with me. For “Con-centration” training she had me lay down on the cold hard floor as the light flickered. At first, all I could hear was my breath bouncing off the plaster walls in my hollow room. Then, in the distance, I could hear Muslim evening prayers echoing down the river from a loud speaker. I could smell all of the fires from the village drifting in and out of my nostrils. Colette broke the silence with her very soft but serious words, and started to help me concentrate all of my energy for goal achievement. After we did an exercise where I actually found my energy (it had to be in there somewhere!!), she taught me how to draw from my concentrated energy when I most needed it. Whether you buy into that sort of stuff or not, it was pretty cool!
At around 8pm each night, everyone would convene for dinner. I have to say, I have never eaten such tasty and healthy food in my entire life, and I now direct you to THE COOKBOOK that I can now not live without. I loved the food so much that I bought 2 cookbooks; I don’t know why that would matter, but it’s true.
Out of all of our fun-filled days, I’d have to say that my favorite was the day we took a paddle out into the open ocean to some rocks. Not only did they help plan the route and secure the chase boat, Kiran, Druva, and Shamanth paddled the whole way with me. I didn’t just end up with a roof over my head, a 12’6” NSP, delicious food, fun surfing, and an awesome training scenario; I ended up with a group of really great friends.