Sekar Pitchai from Kovalam, Gayatri Juvekar from Pune share their surfing journey and rise to success
Sekar and Gayatri showed off their skills at the Palkbay Standup National Paddling Championships as well, where they dominated the proceedings, winning six medals combined in Rameswaram
Growing up in Kovalam, Sekar Pitchai was always surrounded by the sun, sand, and sea. One day, as he strolled on the shores, he laid eyes on some foreigners surfing the sea atop a shiny board. This was Sekar’s introduction to the sport.
The foreigners even gave him their board to play on, eventually leading to a climb in his interest in surfing and paddling. He took to the sea when he dropped out of school at the age of ten. “I was never interested in studying. Once, in class 5, when I had not done my homework, my teacher hit me with a stick. Seeing the marks on my body, my father got angry and quarrelled with my teacher the next day. That was my last day as a student,” he recalls. This resulted in Sekar picking up nets to join the fishing industry, like everyone in his family.
When TT Group’s chairperson and managing director, Arun Vasu, came to know of Sekar’s passion and talent, he decided to help him. Arun Vasu and the champion fisherman-turned-surfer, Murthy Megavanlater, are founders of Surf Turf — established as Covelong Point in 2012 — a club for local surfers and paddlers. The objective of the club is to discover the hidden gems in the rural communities, who if groomed right, could become top-level athletes. Surf Turf impacted the lives of those in Kovalam who majorly rely on fishing for their livelihood. Especially Sekar, who became the first Indian surfer to compete in an international competition — FIJI ISA World Surf and SUP Championship in 2016.
But Sekar was not the only one who found his passion with the help of Surf Turf. Gayatri Juvekar, a 22-year-old paddler and freelance photographer from Pune, has had a fairytale journey since she came to Surf Turf a couple of months ago for a photoshoot. After witnessing the sport through her lens, the founder of Balance magazine wanted to give it a try. Ten days before Stand Up Paddling Women’s Nationals, she started her stint in water sports — with guidance from Sekar and other Surf Turf members — and finished third in her first-ever competition.
Sekar and Gayatri showed off their skills at the Palkbay Standup National Paddling Championships as well, where they dominated the proceedings, winning six medals combined in Rameswaram. Sekar bested the Men’s Technical (12 km), Distance (12 km), and Sprint (200 m) categories, while Gayatri became the national champion for Women’s Technical (2 km) and Sprint (200 m).
“I am excited to have won all three races here. The races were tight and I had to maintain my stamina and endurance throughout the race in tough conditions,” shared Sekar, number 18 on world ranks. He has, so far, participated in 20 championships and won over 40 medals. For Gayatri, the win was rather unexpected but felt great, as she puts it. “By conducting more competitions and tournaments, people will know more about the sport and surely it will grab many eyeballs around the country,” she added.
Arun said that this year was one of the most competitive National Championships. “I am happy about the improvement that the seasoned paddlers showed and also excited about the future of the sport,” the president of the Surfing Federation of India said. SUP is the world’s fastest-growing sport currently and the Olympic committee has also included paddleboarding for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Sekar aims to qualify for these Olympics and bring glory to the country.