Rahul Malaney–professional kite-surfer, adrenaline junkie and all-round life-liver–recently set up his own alternative water sports village / Art residency in Goa along with his partner, Jill Ferguson. We visited the bubble they call ‘VAAYU‘ just a little over a month ago and returned determined to spread the word about their inspired initiative, not to mention their deep-seeded need to show people how to live a simpler, more meaningful life.
A couple of months ago, we had featured ‘A Rising Tide: India’s First Indigenous Surf Video.’ The video featured above marks its makers’ (Mosambi Juice Productions) second water-soaked adventure ‘Pursuit’
as they follow this small group of people as they make their way to a gorgeous little lagoon in South Maharashtra for the weekend. They attempt to simplify their philosophies as the lifestyles they have embraced unfold, all the while answering the karmic call of the next big wave.
At the end of the day, Pursuit is a story about hunters. The ones without an endgame or tracking devices; armed with nothing but an instinctive need to discover.
We also managed to catch up with Malaney to talk waterman legends, the vision for VAAYU and everything in between. Read on for the full story.
I. Tell us about your professional & personal background?
My family puts a lot of emphasis on education, so I went to Bombay International School before I moved to Pune and then spent 4 years at an IB school. Unfortunately, we felt like the Indian systems lack the analytical elements of an education so I went to ASB, which we thought would prepare me for University in the US. By then I was dying to leave Bombay and head to the beach where I could surf everyday so I was super stoked to go to The University of San Diego, where I majored in Surfing, Philosophy, Visual Art and Kite surfing.
To be completely honest, the most empowering learning experience I had was working in the adventure sports industry while I was here as well as the numerous trips I took to explore the outdoors. I just graduated from University last year so I am pretty new at the whole real life thing but I did work at the Kitesurfing and Wakeboarding company Liquid Force while I was in School. I also worked at Naish, while I was in Hawaii and found that I really enjoy retail. I guess I like talking to people about the how much fun it is to Surf, Kite, or SUP and make sure they get what they need to enjoy themselves on the water. Around that time I headed to the world’s most renowned Kitesurfing and Windsurfing spot, Hood River, to get certified by the IKO (International Kiteboarding Organization) to train new students in a safe, efficient and fun way. Since I moved back home to India last year I have been working on a new project called Vaayu with a whole bunch of my friends. It’s based on Aswem Beach, Goa and i’m so excited about it.
II. Describe your relationship with water and how it’s evolved over the years?
Ever since I was born my parents took me to the beach and the forests. My dad was an avid Windsurfer back in the day so I was pre-destined to be a water-man and I’m pretty sure I was swimming in the ocean by age 4. When I was a kid I loved fishing and Kayaking when my family went camping but I didn’t catch anything for the 8 years before I began sailing. When I lived in Bombay, my focus was sailing the optimist class competitively for the BSA. I really loved being out in the ocean and the feeling of moving with the wind. As I grew into my teens I really wanted some more excitement and adrenaline so my dad got me a brand new windsurfer for my 16th Birthday. I was instantly hooked on the speed of flying over the lake with the water skimming under me. Since that time I feel like I have been searching for new ways to experience the rush, through Kitesurfing, Surfing, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Wakeboarding, Snowboarding, Skateboarding and Free-diving. My life has pretty much revolved around it because it makes me feel alive.
I am really grateful to my parents for always supporting me and encouraging me to do these fun things as well. When I was 16 I learnt to kite-surf in Italy, which is a super place if you like good food, wind and pretty girls. Living in California was pretty nice too, I lived on the beach and went out everyday while I was in College. Half way through college I just really wanted to be a pro-kiter so I left and headed to Maui, Hawaii, which is where it all began. Maui was an amazing experience because it gets solid 20-ft plus swell in the winter and 30 knots of wind everyday. Everyone is obsessed with the ocean and loves to play all day so the fun just never stops there. I lived on the hill overlooking Jaws, which has some of the biggest waves in the world. Other than that, I love to travel so I’ve kited in a bunch of places around the world like Oregon, Baja Mexico and Jamaica. But to be quite honest, I moved back home because India is the most exciting place to surf and kite in the world right now. Pretty much every other place has been conquered and exploited but the Indian-Subcontinent and its outer islands offer some of the most amazing spots and most are yet to be discovered. I’m super pumped to explore the coast with the rest of the Indian crew.
III. Tell us a little more about your association with Liquidforce
My relationship with Liquid Force began when I was in University; I was an intern at their San Diego office. I started out fixing kites but soon I figured out my interest lay in sales and marketing. I really loved representing LF at trade shows and Expos since I’m a bit of a gear geek and enjoy getting people stoked on equipment that works for them. My connection with LF and the crew becomes stronger every year; they have always supported me throughout my career as a kite boarder and I am so proud to have gotten the opportunity to represent them as a regional team rider in my own country.
Besides my personal relationship with Liquid Force and the amazing people behind the brand, I have always admired their unwavering focus on relentless innovation since they began in 1995. This factor has always been evident in their approach and the gear they bring to kiteboarders and wakeboarders all over the world. Vaayu is so exited to bring LF to India for this particular reason besides the fact that Liquid is one of the only companies our there that delivers top quality product and after sales service at a mid-market price. But most importantly, they really want to assist the growth of the Kite and Wake community in India, which for developing countries like ours is the most important factor in a brands commitment to its community.
IV. You speak a lot about the term waterman, could you shed some light on what it means?
Its meaning is self-evident in the word itself. Instead of a Hu-man, a Water-man in the simplest sense means a person of the water. A human being that feels completely comfortable in the ocean no matter what the conditions are like. People tend to identify themselves with a particular lifestyle like being a surfer or a Kitesurfer and we find that these identities can sometimes create walls between us when what is really important is that we all just love playing in the ocean. As a result, we are much more interested in exploring a lifestyle that binds us. I guess that the basic idea is to have fun everyday regardless of what the conditions are. As water-women and water-men, we surf or SUP when the waves are good, Kitesurf when its windy or freedive when there’s nothing. But most importantly, we respect the ocean for its beauty, admire mother nature for her bountifulness and do our best to protect the future of this selfless entity.
V. Vaayu sounds like a really special venture; can you give us some insight into where the idea came from and what you plan on achieving through it?
Like a fish or a dolphin a waterman cannot exist without the ocean. Through the amazing experiences I have had with the ocean and nature in general, my relationship with it has grown far stronger than any human relationship. It’s the reason I get up in the morning so I know it is my Dharma to honor and protect it in whatever way I can. I think this purpose goes beyond my own interest, if you believe we are all dependent on our environment for existence and are aware of how we collectively destroy and disrespect it everyday. When you surf a wave you become a direct link in the flow of energy that begins with the sun, heating the earth’s atmosphere; this causes wind and waves. Surfers sync with that energy to propel themselves over the face of the wave and deep inside the barrel. When you’re in the barrel, time stops and there is no separation between you and the ocean, that realization of oneness is what defines the waterman and their relationship with the sea. Vaayu is about giving everyone the opportunity to experience this connection whether it is through Kite-surfing, surfing, Stand UP Paddle boarding or Kayaking so that were all on the same page.
Like a piece of art, Vaayu is an expression of the identity of the artist. In this case, it’s a group of nature-minded people . The word Vaayu is Sanskrit for the deity of wind or the flowing of Prana (life force). We draw our inspiration from this meaning and intend to support the flow of life through our project. Our team of passionate, professional and fun-loving adventurers have all been really inspired by our experiences of the natural landscape of India and we just want to share that opportunity with everyone. We strongly believe that these experiences and the relationship they foster are at the core of a constructive environmental ethic as well as individual and community well-being.
VI. Since you’ve set up base in Goa for the entire season, what can we expect until March?
So we started an adventure center in North Goa, where our internationally certified instructors get you on the water, whatever your intereses. We also rent everything you need if you’re comfortable playing on your own and offer a bunch of exciting, guided adventure excursions in Goa and all over India. To make it easier for Indians to adapt to this lifestyle, this season we are opening the doors to the Vaayu Flagship store, which will be India’s first comprehensive watersports retail outlet bang on the beach in Ashwem. We’re really exited to be stocking the highest quality and largest range of equipment, accessories, spare parts and fashion for Surf, Kite, SUP, Wake, Kayak ad Skate.
Vaayu is the official distributor of the brands Liquid Force, Dakine, BOGA, Surftech, FCS, Sticky Bumps, Volcom and Hippy Tree; so we also get to upgrade our school and rental fleet with brand new gear every season for you to try before you decide what you need. If you need some help, we’re happy to share our experience from using these products everyday. If you want the whole Vaayu experience, our adventure center now offers beach-front cottages and Teepees. It features a skate ramp, water-sports school, a wakeboard boat and a roof top chill out area, which overlooks the river and the ocean. The river is perfect for SUP touring, it flows into a lagoon, which is a solid kite-surfing spot before it empties in to the ocean and forms beautiful sandbanks and a reef for epic waves. This is reason there are no bad days at Vaayu.
VII. There’s a huge focus on positive environmental impact within the organization, could you shed some light on that?
For all these amazing presents that mother nature provides, Vaayu is so grateful and stoked to do whatever we can to help her flourish. Besides supporting eco-friendly and responsible lifestyle activities, we have a pretty ambitious CSR program that is driven by Jill. With her experience and masters in Human Rights, Development and Environmental policy, she plans on organizing a number of community beach clean ups, an educational outreach program and creating a waste management system for our area.
Inspired by organizations like Patagonia, we are driven by the belief that a business can offer its customers a high quality product, have a positive social and environmental impact and love life.
VIII. And what of the Vaayu House also doubling up as an Art Residency?
Actually the Vaayu Waterman’s Village does have an art gallery focused on supporting the visionary art culture in India. A lot of the art is created at the Vaayu’s Vision Collective Art residency program, which is in Arambol, Goa. Back in the day an intelligent guy called Terrance Mckenna said “Nature is the greatest visible engine of creativity”, this sentence is always in the back on my mind. At Vaayu, we connect with nature as art every day, when the conditions are not great many of us communicate what we learn in the ocean through various forms of expression like photography, painting, building stuff etc. The main function of the Vision collective is to create opportunities for visionary artists to create and showcase their work. We have an amazing artist by the name of Miles Toland from the US coming down this season to spend a few months with us. He will be doing live painting sessions at Vaayu as well as some festivals. This season, the Vaayu art gallery will feature shows by Poorna Bhodh, Miles Toland, Mikela Atman and myself so come down and visit us when you’re around.
IX. With India having so much coastline to play with, what are your personal projections of where the water sports industry/ sub-culture might reach? Additionally, do you see Vaayu playing a vital role in that?
I recently went to the outdoor retailer show in the US and there was a talk by an the editor of the first Indian outdoor magazine called The Outdoor Journal Titiled “Exploring the Indian Adventure Market, the most unexploited adventure destination in the world”. This defines the environment of the adventure potential in our country today. New breaks, lagoons and adventure playgrounds are discovered in India everyday, creating new surfers, Kiter’s and water people all over the country. Needless to say the potential is massive, as Indians we really need to break through a few cultural barriers like being afraid of the ocean so that we can enjoy our natural landscape to its fullest. I think the most important aspect we need to focus on is maintaining a collaborative ethos for the entire spectrum of individuals involved in this lifestyle. Relative to our population, the adventure community is still quite tiny and we really need to work together to elevate each others ability and reach our potential.
X. Finally, we know you studied philosophy in university, has that had any role to play in the way you live your life today?
Studying Philosophy and Art had a really meaningful impact on me, Vaayu is a natural progression of that learning, reflective and expressionistic process. In University, I focused on analyzing and applying the ancient eastern philosophical school of thought. This became the content pool from which I began to draw my artistic inspiration from. It’s quite a beautiful process of understanding a piece of information, applying it to ones personal life, observing the effect and finally expressing it in a new form. In this way, Vaayu is intended to be a piece of art, inspired by the past and expressed as our collective view of the future. The most amazing and unexpected aspect of it is the dynamic nature of creating something with a group of creative people. And that is what we believe the future holds for all of us.