Surfing in India: Kallialay Surf School, Pondicherry

kallialay surf school at pondicherry serenity beach

Serenity beach sunrise pondicherry

Serenity Beach, Pondicherry

I see him abruptly leave our surfing lesson in between and pace towards the seashore. He picks up a diaper lying on the beach before it can be swept by the waves and throws the same into a trash bag.

“Diapers are the worst things you can throw in the sea, people need to be more respectful towards the environment.”

Juan is one of the co-founders of Kallialay Surf School located at Serenity beach, Pondicherry. Kallialay was a chance discovery. I stumbled upon it during my solo backpacking trip to Pondicherry. Being an impromptu plan, I was totally unaware of the existence of good surfing schools in India. But as luck would have it, I overheard the interesting story of Juan and Samai (co-founders of Kallialay Surf School) from some strangers at a restaurant and decided to give surfing a go.

kallialay surf school at pondicherry serenity beach

Young Juan and Samai first came to Tamil Nadu, (Auroville to be precise) in the year 1995 when their parents decided to try out the Aurovillian way of life. They never went back.

Being at Auroville allowed them a lot of freedom and time to explore the beach, which was located just a few kilometers from Auroville. Spending time with the local surfers there kindled the passion for surfing in their young hearts.

kallialay surf school at pondicherry serenity beach

It was in the year of 2008 that Juan decided to start a professional surfing school at Serenity Beach – The Kallialay Surf School (Kallialay literally translates to ‘Rock-Waves’ in Tamil). With his endeavor gaining traction in Indian surfing circles, Samai decided to join the operations of the school full-time in 2010. But it wasn’t until the year 2012-13 that they saw a steady stream of surfing enthusiasts coming in to take one or five-day surfing lessons at the surfing school. However, most of these were European travelers who had prior experience with surfing.

“Off-late, most of the tourists that come to try their hand at surfing are Indians from cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi. The surfing scene in India has transformed in the last decade, especially due to a rising interest in the sport amongst Indians”, says Juan.

  • kallialay surf school at pondicherry serenity beach
    Shot during a surfing lesson at Kallialay Surf School

What makes this transition even more spectacular is that Kallialay never went ahead with any form of marketing to promote its courses, and has mostly relied on word-of-mouth marketing through surfing enthusiasts like me.

Each day, usually between 2-3.30 PM, you can see a group of surfing students trying to ‘catch a wave’ under the guidance of a Kallialay instructor at the Serenity Beach. And you can’t help but cherish the smiles on the surfer’s faces as they try hard, fail, but try again, to ride the devious waves.

Surfing is, it seems, a lot like life.

IMG_0781Serenity Beach, Pondicherry


-Vibhav Bisht

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