15-year-old surfing sensation Kishore Kumar to represent India at International Surf Open
Indian teen surfer Kishore Kumar sat down in an exclusive interview with The Bridge to open up about his journey riding the waves.
Fifteen-year-old Kishore Kumar is the future and the present of Indian surfing. He is India’s wildcard entry and the competition’s youngest entry in the 2023 International Surf Open, a part of the World Surfing League, at Mahabalipuram from August 14.
The same Kovalam village boy who was afraid of getting into the water a few years back is now making waves in the international realm of surfing.
Kishore’s father, Anbarasau is a fisherman and life-guard at Surf Turf school. It was this daily visual of his father at work that lit the spark within the curious boy from Tamil Nadu. Kishore was merely ten years old when he was spotted surfing with a bodyboard by his town’s locals. He started out on a boogie board but soon after was handed a surfing board by the locals.
Little did they know this would be the first stepping stone for young Kishore to embark on a record-breaking journey.
Kishore dominating the waves at the 2022 Covelong Classic Surf Championships
Kishore’s game is constantly evolving
Kishore’s talent has been groomed under the guidance and mentorship of surfers like Dharani from Kovalam village, Ivan, a Spanish surf coach from Bali, and Samai, a coach from Auroville. Over time, the young surfer has evolved his surfing game, adapted to the challenging conditions, and continues to dominate waves wherever he goes.
Looking back, Kishore said, “At the start, in 2018, when I was participating in various tournaments, there were so many good surfers around me. Although I was placing second. I wanted to take my performance to the next level. I went for some training, I learnt various new techniques and I started to implement them in my game and saw the difference.”
Kishore’s manager, Akin Melnic who has had a first hand view of Kishore’s rise through the ranks, has noticed this change as well. “Not only has he improved as a surfer, but he has also grown as an individual, exhibiting a positive attitude and a winning mindset. His dedication to the sport and his relentless pursuit of improvement have been remarkable to observe,” stated Melnic.
Emerging triumphant, one wave at a time
It didn’t take long for Kishore to grab the spotlight and turn heads.
In addition to numerous other local competitions, he ended up winning the 2022 Covelong Classic Surf Championships, 2022 Surfing India Open and the 2023 Surfing India Open. Kishore recently dominated and placed first in the Boy Groms (Under-16) and Open Men categories in the latter.
He might still be a teen but when one witnesses young Kishore ride a wave, you can't help but think he is at one with the sea.
When asked about how he dealt with the pressure of being the youngest competitor, he stated, “There were very good surfers from Sri Lanka and Maldives and I must admit, I was a little scared [smiles]. But after some routine yoga, deep breathing, and turmeric, I calmed my nerves and gained some confidence before heading out.”
One step closer to achieving his ultimate dream
Kishore’s dream is to represent India at the World Championship and Olympics. But for now, the young maestro is set to partake in The Asian Surfing Championship in Maldives, in early August. Here, the conditions are quite different. The waves in Maldives are shallower than those back at Tamil Nadu.
To provide exposure and ease his transition into unfamiliar or turbulent conditions, Kishore has gone to numerous training camps organized by the TT Group, to the extent that Macaronis Mentawai in Indonesia has become Kishore’s favourite surfing spot which he holds dear to his heart.
“I’ve trained in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Maldives and that has helped me overcome any difficulties adjusting to various conditions,” added Kishore.
Melnic elaborated on how the best possible care has been meted out to the surfing prodigy. He stated, “Kishore receives significant support and assistance from the Surfing Federation of India (SFI) through their president, Mr. Arun Vasu, who sponsors and supports Kishore through his company TT Group…This support includes sending him to rigorous training camps to enhance his skills, providing him with top-notch resources, and ensuring that he has the necessary tools to compete at the international level.”
“The SFI's support has played a crucial role in grooming Kishore's talent and allowing him to pursue his passion for surfing,” Melnic added.
The surfing sensation admitted that the support system, in the shape of his family, coach and the federation has rallied behind him and that has been pivotal to his success.
The Class X student is a SFI future talent programme scholar and seeks inspiration from reigning surfing World Champion, Gabriel Medina.
The need for local tournaments to magnify talents
A surfing revolution has started to gain traction in India, with more kids picking up the surfing board every day and local surf competitions gaining more popularity. Especially, in India’s surfing capital and Kishore’s home state of Tamil Nadu, there has been a plethora of surfers hailing from local fishing communities. Interestingly, the Covelong competition and those alike, end up being dominated by surfers like Kishore from Tamil Nadu.
The current Indian team which is competing in qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics has three male surfers from Tamil Nadu - Ajeesh Ali, Sanjay Selvamani and Sivaraj Babu.
When asked about the future of Indian surfing, Kishore re-iterated the importance of local surfing tournaments and surf schools to magnify the surfing prowess of India. He stated, “There are really good surfers in India and so many kids are starting to surf. Surfing will certainly grow. There may be a lot of untapped potential and more local tournaments will provide a platform to spot talent.”