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During her her childhood, the one place that Ishita Malaviya wanted to visit was California. "I knew all about California's surfing scene through magazines and television. I kept telling myself that I'd go there one day and learn to surf," she recollects. At 24, she hasn't fulfilled her dream of visiting California, but has bagged the title of the country's first female surfer. This apart, she has founded The Shaka Surf Club in Manipal, Karnataka, along with her partner Tushar Pathiyan, while also becoming the first and only Indian athlete to be featured in a swimwear campaign for the international apparel brand Roxy.
"Last year, I had met with a team from Quicksilver, a sister brand of Roxy. Soon after, I was offered the chance to be part of a three-day shoot in Spain. I gladly agreed because it allowed me to mix both glamour and sport. I even met with other amateur surfers from Europe and it was a great experience," she explains. In addition to sponsoring her wardrobe and surfing equipment, the brand has also provided her with the infrastructural support to help pursue her dream of becoming India's first professional surfer.
Malaviya's journey into the world of surfing started six years ago when she moved to Manipal to pursue a degree in journalism. "Within six months, Tushar and I had discovered a place called the Ashram Surf Retreat in a sleepy town nearby called Mulki. It was then that I realised that there is a lot of scope for surfing in India. We hit the waves almost every other day from then on. By the time I was done with my course, I knew I wanted to stay on in Manipal and continue surfing," she states.
The Shaka Surf Club was the outcome of the need to stay put. Initially, they even used the surf school fees to fund their surfboard purchases. Her family — mother is a baker and father is a banker — was nervous about her plans to take up surfing full-time. "But when they saw me run this venture and actually make a living out of training people, they were happy that I had found my niche. Now they indulge in surfing too," says the Mumbai-born girl.
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