India’s first national surfing team has departed for the ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador. The four-member team will represent India in the tournament from 30th May to 7th June, which has been contested since 1964 – and serves as a qualifying event for the Paris Olympics 2024.
Ajeesh Ali, Sanjay Selvaman and Sivaraj Babu hail from Tamil Nadu while Ramesh Budihal is a native of Karnataka. Springtide got to chat with the team after they attended a 14-day training in Sri Lanka, training under India’s surfing coach Patrick Renaud. Renaud is a former South African professional surfer who coached the English Surf team which finished fourth in the European Surfing Championships. The team’s performance will heavily influence the surfing scene in India – where we have already been taking great strides forward. The south of the country especially has seen great progress and is home to some of the country’s best surfers.
In August, India will host its first-ever World Surfing League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 3000 event – for which the state government of Tamil Nadu has reportedly sanctioned Rs 2.67 crore. The first-of-its-kind event opens the gates of India to surfers from all across the world and also puts rising Indian surfers on a global stage. The event will take place on the coasts of Mahabalipuram, with a prize pool of USD $45,000.
Arun Vasu, the Chairman of the TT Group and president of the Surfing Federation of India said, “The focus is on getting a team qualified for the 2028 Olympics. Our focus at SFI will be on increasing awareness among children and getting more women into the sport.” The federation also plans to send a team for the Asian Surfing Championship in Maldives, which will happen in July. TT Group, through the non-profit Covelong Arun Vasu Foundation, is the federation’s lead sponsor.
Team India’s Head Coach Patrick Renaud is confident that the Indian team selected will match international standards to compete with the world’s best surfers including past and present World Surfing Champions. Speaking on the occasion he opined, “The ISA World Surfing Games is the world’s largest and most prestigious surfing event which will see the top athletes from over 30 nations competing to acclaim a position on the podium and selection for the 2024 Olympic Games. We have worked hard and remained focused throughout our training camps in India and Sri Lanka in preparation for the big stage, are super excited to be competing.”
Surfing made its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020, with two medal events: men’s and women’s shortboard. Italo Ferreira of Brazil and Carissa Moore of the United States won gold medals in the men’s and women’s events, respectively. Meanwhile, 48 athletes will compete in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, 24 in the women’s category and 24 in the men’s. This is eight more than the number of competitors in Tokyo 2020.
You can witness the ISA tournament via a livestream at isasurf.org.