Rammohan Paranjape has been documenting Indian Surf Culture for the better part of the last decade via his lens. It all started in 2005 when he was introduced to the godfather of Indian Surfing, Surfing Swami. Just about then, he had started documenting the early days of the surf scene on a portal called surfingindia.net. As the site slowly grew in popularity, someone had to keep the photographs coming, and Rammohan jumped at this opportunity to do his bit in evolving this very particular culture, and hasn’t looked back since.
2007 was the first time Rammohan was part of a serious surf photography expedition with professional camera equipment. He realised that he was in a unique position in the middle of the Indian Surf explosion to become the (un)official go-to guy for anything surf related and it wasn’t something he was willing to shy away from despite the well-known challenges of such a specific space within the image-making world. Surf photography in general is action-packed and difficult, both technically and logistically speaking, especially while shooting in the water. The risks involved are huge when you take into account strong currents, fatigue, marine life and the surfboard itself, but this adrenaline rush is precisely what keeps him going.
Rammohan’s photographs over the years have helped put India on the global surf map, and as Vice-President of the Surfing Federation of India, he is also responsible for taking the sport forward and helping it spread to other parts of the country, along with many others. When he is not spending time at his surf club in Mulki (near Mangalore), surfing and interacting with surfers, Rammohan is working on his new project. He plans to launch an affordable surf gear brand to be able to cater to the growing demand of the sport. We caught up with him to both score a few of his favourite images, while understanding better where India’s surf culture really stands today, and what it stands to become if its evolution continues at an accelerated pace.
Scroll on for excerpts from our conversation with Rammohan Paranjape…
KK: How would you broadly describe the current Indian surf scene?
RP: The Indian surf scene is still at a very nascent stage when you compare it to the likes of Australia, USA or even Europe for that matter. But, I have to say that the surf scene here has come a long way in the last decade. There has been a lot of media coverage for surfing in India over the years, which in the long run has helped the sport grow amongst the urban youth.
One of the other positives that has come from the growth of the sport is the positive impact it has had over the fishing communities.Surfing has also helped adventure tourism in a big way, by pitching India as an unexplored surf destination.
KK: What do you think was the most iconic moment for surfing in India?
RP: Personally, I think the best is yet to come for surfing in India, but there have been a couple of iconic moments that really changed the surfing scene in India. One being when we (Surfing Federation of India) signed up the legendary former South-African cricketer Jonty Rhodes as the surf ambassador for India. Jonty loves the thrill of riding new waves. Another iconic moment for us was to host the Asian Surfing Championship last year in Chennai. Hosting the best surfers from the continent really put us on the map.
KK: What do you think changed in 2015?
RP: My involvement with the Indian surf scene does not end with me being a photographer and being affiliated with the Surfing Federation of India, I also work with Mantra Surf Club and India Surf Tours. This helps me keep a tab on the holistic development of the sport.
I see every surf club/school doing a good job of promoting the sport in general and its health benefits. They are also helping the local communities with ocean conservation, employment opportunities and to keep the beach clean.
We have certainly grabbed the attention of the International surf community and there have been numerous features, films and collaborations helping bring the Indian surf scene into the limelight. One of the major projects being the Rip Curl Search, that happened last year with some of the best surfers and cameramen travelling to discover virgin surf spots along the country’s coast.
KK: What are the best surf spots in the country, according to you?
RP: Lakshwadeep and the Andaman Islands both have world class surf breaks that help attract some of the best surfers around the globe. Karnataka, Kerela, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh all have some amazing surf spots along the coastline too, though a lot depends on the swell season.
KK: Do you think surfing will ever be as big in India as it is internationally?
Maybe not as the big as the USA or Australia, but surfing will definitely become the mainstay water-based adventure sport in India. We are really excited to see how the coming generation of teenagers interact with surfing. India sure has the potential to be a huge market for the industry with many international surf brands coming in. There are also going to be a considerable amount of surf competitions, collaborations and developmental programs that hopefully pushes the sport to higher tides.
Words: Karan Khosla
Photographs: Rammohan Paranjape