When the Indian god Vishnu sought immortally he convinced the devas and demons to heave and haul the heavenly ocean to churn up Amrita, the nectar of immortally. Today Indians are waking to a new dawn of the benefits of life in the ocean and Rammohan Paranjape, India’s leading surf photographer, is there to capture and encourage their new path.
How does it feel to be India’s number one surf photographer? Is it a heavy mantle?
It’s an amazing feeling and I am very fortunate to have that distinction of being India’s first surf photographer. More than that, I am very glad that over the years my images have put India on the global surf map, to have led some amazing surf expeditions in India and to have worked with quite a few visiting pro-surfers, it’s been quite an incredible journey so far.
At first, when I began surf photography it was all about shooting my friends surfing, creating some good content for the websites.
In no way it’s a heavy mantle but I feel there is always a huge learning curve involved at all times and I just want to get better and better and produce the best surf images from India.
What was it like working with the Rip Curl crew? How was the trip? How would you rate the guys (Dillon Perillo, Pat Curren & Luke Hynd) – who was the funniest, ate the most, punted highest, carved the hardest etc?
The entire RipCurl crew were amazing bunch of guys. I could easily rate the RipCurl Search as one of the best surf trips I have ever done with a professional team of surfers. In the past I have done a number of trips with pros and magazine crews but this was the longest and hardest one in terms of logistics and securing permits but the trip went amazingly smooth.
Ted Grambeau, the legendary surf photographer from Australia was like the father figure throughout the entire trip and he made sure everyone behaved. For me as a surf photographer, it was a great experience shooting alongside Ted, Dave Sparkes, another genius surf photographer and Tom Jennings an upcoming talented cinematographer.
The trip had it’s logistical challenges with a couple of days delay in securing permits, extensive travel which included flights, fishing boats, ships, buses and Tuk-Tuks but everything went so well that the entire crew felt it was true to the spirit of RipCurl Search. Watching Dillon Perillo, Pat Curren and Luke Hynd surf was indeed a sheer pleasure.
Their surfing was another level which I don’t get to see much often in India. Dillon is a seasoned surfer who’s travelled well, also a longtime QS surfer and now entirely focused on Search trips with RipCurl.
Luke and Pat Curren were two exciting young surfers to watch, who were good all around surfers. I would love to see what their future holds for them, especially Pat since he carries his father’s legacy which is incredible.
Dillon was definitely the funniest with a great sense of humour and had a voracious appetite amongst all for Indian food, he had so much curry that by the end he was curried out. But, all that good food produced some great surfing, since he carved the hardest. Pat and Luke were all about progressive surfing with big airs, power snaps and huge rotations.
The India coastline is vast and seems like an untapped resource as far as the surf world goes. Is it?
Yes, India has a vast coastline of 7,200 kms and most of it is a bit untapped resource as far as surfing goes. Exploration has been going on and new surf spots are being discovered but still there is a long way to go and some of the coastline hasn’t even been touched yet. Apart from the mainland’s coastline, there are outer islands which possess some of the best hidden reef breaks.
Why do you feel it’s taken so long to turn up on the surf radar considering it’s been poplar with tourist for decades if not centuries?
Good question, but I am not sure why it didn’t catch up like how it did in Bali in the 70’s but then India isn’t exactly like Bali for sure. Things are much more complex here. I recently heard from Wingnut, from Endless Summer II that they had landed in Mumbai while they were exploring new destinations and filming and they were keen to explore surf in India.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t since the Indian Customs didn’t let them bring their surfboards in! Things would have been very different if India had been featured in Endless Summer II.
Your home has a rich and ancient culture; does India have a strong link to the ocean?
India has an amazing history, culture and heritage and throughout it’s history it’s had strong trading relations with many great civilisations around the world. A lot of naval and shipbuilding advancement was done in India. But, Indians themselves never had that strong individual connection with the ocean in terms of recreation or sports nor any vibrant beach culture. Only now, there seems to be a massive interest in ocean sports and beach culture amongst young Indians.
Who are the up and coming Indian surfers (guys and girls)?
I am part of Surfing Federation of India (as its vice-president) which is the national governing body for surfing in India. We have been successfully hosting number of competitions and surfing events across the country. There seems to be an exciting crop of talented surfers who are doing extremely well.
There is a fishing village called Covelong, on the east coast of India near Chennai which has some of the best surfers and the entire village as now sort of become a surfing village known for producing the best surfers in the country. On the west coast, where I come from and where our surf community is where we have a couple of exciting girl surfers who are doing really well and probably could go on to make a career out of it.
What’s your favourite spot?
As a surfer my home break Mulki, Mangalore on the west-coast of India will always be my favourite place to surf and hangout with friends. We get gentle waist high to shoulder high swells often and monsoon happens to be the time for some big overhead swells. I have also enjoyed surfing on Goldcoast during winters with less crowd and few places around India. As a surf photographer, most of the surf breaks around India are photogenic and provide some stunning images.
What are you riding now?
Currently I’m riding a 7.10 fun board which kinda works perfect in all conditions. Long boarding is also quite fun at times, but I suggest you may wanna bet on my surf photography skills rather than my surfing skills.
How do you see the Indian surf scene developing?
The surf scene has come a long way in a decade in India, there’s a lot of buzz and excitement around surfing in India. There has been huge media coverage for surfing in India over the years, which has helped the sport get a lot of attention amongst the urban youth population.
The unique thing about surfing in India hasn’t just been the lifestyle, but the positive impact it has had over fishing communities, during natural calamities, ocean conservation and promotion of India has an international surf destination attracting quite a considerable number of people from around the world to come and surf and explore the coastline of India.