Gear up for Covelong Classic 2023 with surf action, amidst music performances, pole dancing and a barefoot beach run!

Asia’s biggest Surf, Music & Fitness Festival is back with a healthy dose of Vitamin Sea, and will launchpad the World Surf League that will be hosted for the first time ever in India
Gear up for Covelong Classic 2023 with surf action, amidst music performances, pole dancing and a barefoot beach run!

With 20,000 people expected to descend upon the shores of Kovalam for Covelong Classic 2023 — tomorrow and day after  — they weren’t kidding when they branded it Asia’s Biggest Surf, Music & Fitness Festival. This is alongside competing crowd pullers like the International Kite Festival and much-awaited ‘Rahmania’ celebrating 30 years of AR Rahman at his Marakkuma Nenjam live concert, both happening this weekend as well. Can you feel that rush of adrenaline even though you’re sitting down reading this? It’s that heady sense of tingling anticipation ahead of what promises to be one of the most epic weekends of the year. 

<em>Surf's up!</em>
Surf's up!

Wave of opportunity
For Arun Vasu, president of the Surfing Federation of India, founder of Surf Turf and managing director of the TT Group, the excitement is just beginning, as he tells us “plenty of firsts are in store for surfers this year”. On the heels of India winning the bronze at the Asia Surfing Championship in Thulusdhoo, Maldives, last month, August brings not one but two international events, which means visibility and a gateway to a host of opportunities for serious athletes. “The first is a tri-nation series between India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, which will happen at Kovalam, during the festival,” says Arun. And the second, which is slated for August 14 in Mahabalipuram, he goes on, is the World Surf League (WSL). “This is the first time India is hosting WSL,” he tells us with enthusiasm. Ten countries are expected to participate, including Indonesia, Maldives, Madagascar, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Japan, the latter brings the largest contingent of 25 surfers.

And all of this is apart from the 80 odd surfers who will be riding the waves at Kovalam for a series of national level events that will start as early as 7 am and continue till 3 pm, each day, depending on the wind and waves. The national championship is a culmination of precursor events that took place in Mangaluru, Puducherry and Mahabalipuram and includes championship titles for Men’s and Women’s Seniors (Open to 17 and above) and the Groms (Under 16 Category) for girls and boys. Incidentally, the youngest surfers in the competition are brother-sister duo Prahlad and Dhamayanthi Sriram from Chennai, who are nine and six years old respectively.

<em>Korean corn dogs by Hygge </em>
Korean corn dogs by Hygge 

Prawn in 60 seconds!
Meanwhile, for those in shorts and tees, minus a surfboard in tow, a wander of the shoreline promises a marathon line-up of 60 food stalls with offerings like Korean Corn Dogs (Hygge), Savoury Puffs and Cereal Custard Cruffins (Pastry Kadai) and, of course, from the local fishing community, generous plates of Seer Fish Fry and Kovalam Prawns, with delicious homemade masala blends. If you’re looking to cool off, which is expected given the crowds and the salty beach air, look out for Little Loco Pops, which is an ice cream shop that was a hit last year, with their preservative-free frozen pops in flavours like Mango Cream, Spicy Guava and Sitaphal.

<em>Sign up for the first Barefoot Beach Run at the festival</em>
Sign up for the first Barefoot Beach Run at the festival

Parkour to pole dancing 
Things to do with your crew range from  beginner classes in Parkour to Pole Dancing, Sound Immersion to Silambam, Breathwork and Yoga to Animal Flow to a workshop by Surya, which has our curiosity piqued, courtesy the promise in the name — Bulletproof your Knees. 

Fitness enthusiasts can also sign up for a 3K Barefoot Beach Run by Wild Warrior, complete with sand dunes and pits to navigate; with a 1 mile kids race for the little ones in your family to join in the fun. If you’re up for a race that is even more intense, you can try Encounter 4.0, their signature fitness challenge where the fastest finishers on a short course of five fitness tasks and five obstacles compete for prize money! 

<em>The stage is set!</em>
The stage is set!

Ready to rock?
Wrapping up with perhaps the biggest highlight of this edition of the festival are headliner music acts — Avial and When Chai Met Toast. “It has been a while since we did something at Chennai. So we are really pumped as well!” says lead singer of Avial, Tony John. Expect a power-packed set list of their hits from over the years, like Nada Nada, with choreographed LED lights to up the ante on excitement and thrill.

These bands will join a line-up featuring over 15 bands, including Sri Lanka’s The Soul, who will make their first stop in Kovalam, as part of their India tour. Other highlights are Wild Wild Women, India’s first all-female hip-hop collective and community of rappers and in stark contrast, The Indian Choral Ensemble, which promises diverse choral soundscapes in Tamil and harmonies of 40 voices through a magical set. Malayalam rock to hip-hop to a regional choir — talk about a wave of diversity on stage. “In the midst of all the action, people sometimes forget that they’re in the middle of a fishing village on the Tamil Nadu coastline!” says Arun. He adds, “I think that’s my favourite part of the festival, theres no barrier, no class; Covelong is for everyone.”

On August 12 & 13. At Surf Turf. Entry free.

New music alert

LYTS rock
When Chai Met Toast who gave us earworms like Firefly have had a pretty exciting few months with tours in the US and the UK. “We haven’t played in Chennai in the longest time after our last tour and have always wanted to play at Covelong, can’t wait to sweat all the fast food from America off!” says frontman Ashwin Gopakumar with a laugh. But that isn’t all, fans can look forward to new music that will be a part of their set list like songs from their recently released EP, LYTS. “We haven’t performed it in Chennai yet so we are looking forward to it.” Also, he adds, “Covelong has always been one of the coolest festivals in India. We’re looking forward to jumping and grooving with our Chennai fans; it’s going to be mad!”

Soul food
Sri Lanka’s The Soul is gearing up to bring their special island flavour to Indian shores this weekend. The band members, Dave, Khazim, Uvindu, Sarani and Divanka, tell us that this isn’t the first time they are performing in India, and they love it every time. Given that they are working on a possible ‘double album’ this year while en route a six-city India tour, Dave tells us to expect a debut of new music alongside some of their best hits. “We will be playing more recent compositions and a couple of fresh ones barely heard before.” He adds more seriously, “It’s been three-and-a-half years since we were last here and we, along with Sri Lanka, have a lot to say.”

Vocal adrenaline
The Indian Choral Ensemble, directed by Kalyani Nair and Karthik Manickavasakam,  tell us the dynamism of their set list is sure to surprise as their 40-member choir and five-piece band playfully explore various genres (soft jazz, blues, funk), techniques and soundscapes to take you through different experiences and moods, over the course of a 40-minute set. “It will include our latest releases like Nam Tham (which will be presented in an a cappella style) and an English track titled, Love Yourself. We also have some unreleased tracks from our upcoming EP in store,” shares conductor Kalyani Nair. She also teases a brand new song called, Speed Breaker, which would be performed for the first time at the festival!

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