Thrills

Riding the First Wave: Tanvi Jagdish at the Singapore SUP

An offset of surfing — Stand Up Paddle — is today one of the world’s fastest-growing sport, and an Indian teen by the name of Tanvi Jagadish is morphing into the sport’s biggest poster child. The 18-year-old who greets us with a bright, warm smile has multiple national and international competition wins to her name. Her smile, however, belies an untold story — that of fighting gender stereotypes, career highs and lows which weave the true underdog narrative, as she trains her eyes on the upcoming Singapore Ocean Cup. This is her story.

Scope the clean shorelines of Mulki’s Mantra Surf Club in the early morning hours, and you may well spot a happy group of surfers goad one another to ride the high tide. One surfer taut, confident and of chirpy disposition stands tall on her long wakeboard, leading the charge.

Meet water-baby Tanvi Jagadish, an unassuming girl-next-door who is India’s best female stand-up paddle athlete. Unlike traditional surfing where the rider sits waiting for a wave to come, stand up paddle boarders stand on their boards and manoeuvre themselves through the water.

Competitive Stand-Up Paddling or SUP as its called has grown from its Hawaiian surfer days to shore up global love from as far away as China, Europe and Australia. Keeping with the game’s beachy vibes, a new wave of enthusiasts has sprung up in Mulki — India’s surf capital, over the last few years.

“INDIAN GIRLS DON’T SURF!”

“There is no sport like Stand Up Paddling. You can witness water, sky and land all at the same time — this alone builds up my excitement for the sport,” admits Tanvi Jagadish. The teenager has been riding waves as a professional surfer, since the last 8 years. “I started at 10 when my maternal grandfather first took me to Mulki on one of our visits home,” reveals the surfer. Following in Surfin’ Swami Jack Hebner’s steed and Mulki’s Mantra Surf Club’s beach culture propagation, the youngster soon got hooked.

“Swimming to me was alien at that time, and I suffered from breathing problems, yet the love for the sport was very real,” reveals the young motivator. “I learnt swimming and would sneak out during the next few years to hit the waves on the sly. My mother found it fishy that I was getting tanned and dark with each passing day, and soon busted me. I admitted to going into the deep ocean by myself,” recalls Tanvi with a twinkle in her eye. “My mother who was scared of the ocean got furious. She grounded me for a whole year! Girls don’t go off in the coy to surf waves in India,” she muses.

It was only after her expert swimmer cousins stepped up and took up the responsibility to watch her back as she’d surf that the youngster’s mother allowed her anywhere near a surfboard. With mom’s blessings now received, there was no looking back.

SANDS OF THE WORLD

By 2013, Tanvi started participating in national events and became the biggest surfing upset as India’s first female SUP racer, bagging the first place in the Nationals. Her life followed a cycle — morning surfing, afternoon nap, evening SUP. In April 2014, she participated in the Nationals and won in a repeat of her February antics. Then in 2016, she represented India in the first World Cup event. “I was so happy! Every athlete carries with her/him a bowl of sand from his/her country along with the national flag. During the Opening Ceremony, a glass box is filled with sands from different parts of the world as a mark of unity,” recalls Jagadish. “At 16 years of age, I was the youngest participant in the competition. I ended up ranking 16th on the global standings as well. The best part was how everyone cheered me on yelling “India, India,” to support me, even though they were from other countries,” adds Tanvi.

THE HITS AND THE MISSES

“In 2017, I attended the US Open where I was ranked the third place-holder,” explains the six-time international champion. But not all was glorious. “Stand Up Paddling is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, but it isn’t still recognised by any government-led sports bodies. It is really hard to get funds, and I’ve had to miss out on a whole bunch of world events, even though I’ve been invited,” she rues.

Case in point: The world’s largest competitive SUP convention called Nautic SUP Crossing, held in Paris in 2018. The summit in its 9th Edition witnesses 800 riders cross the Seine river as competitors pass from under beautiful Paris bridges from Bercy to Eiffel Tower. The young maverick was invited to participate as India’s sole hope, but wasn’t able to raise funds in time, and had to sit this one out. “I have taken to public speaking in order to spread the word about the sport and opportunities it provides. I gave a TEDx talk earlier that got some attention to the sport. Still, this is just the tip of the iceberg, a lot more needs to be done,” says the athlete.

THE HOPE AND THE REDEMPTION

Yet challenges are an everyday occurrence for those who live to chase dreams. “You need to face your dreams and make them a reality. I was scared at first, but I was up to the challenge,” says the 18-year-old. “I had attended the Singapore Ocean Open last year, and am representing India here for the second time.” This time, she has pushed herself into a higher gear.

“I am being coached by Hayden Rhodes and I have been training hard. My routine starts at 3.30 am when I wake up. By 5.30 am I hit the waves, and train other enthusiasts for the next two hours. After that, I take a quick nap, before heading to the ocean at 2.30 pm all over again. I have a class once more in the evening, after which I crash to prepare for the next day,” explains the lifestyle sports athlete as she gives us a walkthrough of her daily rigours.

RIDING THE NEXT TIDE

“Competitive paddling excites me as much as teaching others to surf,” adds the athlete. “The Singapore Ocean Cup is the biggest Ocean Racing Championship in South East Asia with athletes featuring from Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, UAE, South Africa and Hungry. I too am headed there with my hopes of making it to the top,” explains the excited young gun.

“We hope to make a good show. At this point, as we focus on our training, we seek better opportunities and support for us to pursue the sport,” ends Tanvi Jagadish on a hopeful note. We at TheVibe too support this urgent call to action and wish that the government support such lifestyle adventure sports that hold the potential to open up a great new sport and cultural revolution in India. Till then, we hope the likes of independent professionals such as Tanvi Jagadish continue to pave the path. It’s their compelling stories that build up the Indian adventure sports narrative.

©️ 2020. Gut and Flow Media Pvt. Ltd.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *