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View from India: riding the waves in Karnataka

An unlikely and forthcoming activity is expected to elbow its way into the water sports initiatives of Karnataka. Surfing is an upcoming attraction this summer and is hoping to attract the worldwide community of ocean-loving, adrenaline-pumping lifestyle sports lovers. For the locals in Karnataka, this is something they hope will popularise the state as a surfing destination.

Karnataka will host its first-ever surfing festival, titled the Indian Open of Surfing, to be held May 27-29 at the Sasithithlu Beach in Mangalore.

As a long term measure, it’s intended to promote Karnataka’s beaches as a water sports destination. Appropriately so, because Karnataka’s coastline extends over 320km comprising lagoons, bays, creeks, sand dunes and long beaches, among other attractions.   

The recently announced surfing festival is one of the programmes initiated by the Government of Karnataka. It’s to do with the fact that 2017 has been declared as the “Year of the Wild” for Karnataka Tourism. The new TV campaign is in sync with Karnataka’s tag line of “One state, many worlds.” The state has a variety of unexplored terrains now being showcased to the contemporary world traveler.

Appropriately, the state government has come up with a slew of initiatives to holistically promote wildlife and eco initiatives, the package complete with adventure sports and geographical highlights. In December 2016, the tourism department teamed up with the forest department to chalk out nine eco trekking routes in the Western Ghats region which would be open to tourists and trekkers. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Western Ghats is one of the world’s eight bio-diversity hotspots. 

There’s already a Western Ghats Natural Heritage Management Committee (WGNHMC) formed under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment of Forests (MoEF), Government of India, to focus on conservation and livelihood options of the forest people. Now with the recent Karnataka campaign, it’s obvious that there will be a great thrust towards conservation and preservation of the Western Ghats, its flora, fauna and the people living in its vicinity.

The upcoming Karnataka surfing festival is expected to be a hive of activity, grabbing eyeballs at the national level. This is the time to unveil safe and sustainable measures and throw in a host of eco friendly options. Plastic is a prominent contributor towards ocean waste and, in all fairness, surfers wouldn’t want to surf in waters where pieces of plastic material are found floating around. Therefore, this is really an ocean of opportunities to make the place as eco sensitive as possible, beginning with eco friendly boards. Other value-adds include eco fins made of recycled, reused and renewable material. All this points to the fact that one can use organic, natural resources and put to use local talent by opening channels of income generating activities in locations around surfing areas.

Surfers themselves can come forward and create hubs to spread awareness about surf conservation, educated in understanding the recycling chain and tweaking ideas to recycle boards and lessen surf waste by converting them into biodegradable and industrially compostable material.

The idea is to retain the cleanliness of the land and marine environment surrounding the oceans. Environmentally friendly garbage disposal bins should be made available in these places. With this, comes awareness programmes related to solid and liquid waste management and the many products which can be recycled.

For surfers, the ocean is their playground and they have a sense of bonding as they connect with the ocean, waves and beaches. Let’s hope the tides will be favourable for positioning Karnataka as a surfer’s paradise.

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