Kovalam star surfer Murthy Megavan opens new surf, kayak and stand up paddle school
After almost 35 years of surfing the waves, surfer Murthy Megavan is opening a new surf school in the coastal fishing village known for its young talents
Murthy Megavan fondly remembers the first time he touched a surfboard. The year was 2001.
“It was Surf Swami [Jack Hebner, one of the pioneers of Indian surfing] Advice. I was fascinated.” Two years later, he bought his very first surfboard. The story of the fisherman turned surfer – at the age of 10, just before dropping out of school, he jumped to the top from a broken wooden door to surfing the waves – has caused a lot of ink to flow Growing up in Kovalam, a seaside fishing village known for its curvaceous coastline and relentless waves, Murthy and the ocean go far back.
Chennai’s booming surf culture was started by Covelong Point Surf School (now Surf Turf), run by Arun Vasu of TT Group, one of India’s leading windsurfers. It was here that Murthy – who worked with them from 2013 to 2020 – became an instructor. Visitors, tourists, and children in the village quickly took to his guardianship.
Now, after 35 years of surfing the waves, Murthy finally stands in front of his own surf school. With his signature toothy grin, he says, “It’s nothing short of a dream come true.”
As one negotiates the bumpy road to Covelong Point beach, Murthy Surf School stands out between empty plots of land; a white building, parts of which are still covered with scaffolding. At the entrance, the American 12 times world surfing champion, Kelly Slater seems to have caught a wave; although as a projecting mural.
Inside, surfboards of every possible color are lined up in a storage room while another mural of a large wave taking shape catches the eye. Next to this “council room”, where minor repairs can also be done, is the kitchen where Murthy and his wife Sarala plan to whip up homemade coastal delicacies for students and customers. He lists: “Shrimp curry, fish curry, coconut chutneys, dal…it will be simple and homemade. Upstairs, a thatched roof will complete the now open terrace where people can feel the “ocean breeze and relax”.
At the entrance, Murthy also plans to set up a small surf shop where basic gear like t-shirts, caps and sunscreen will be sold. But what excites him most is the office, which will also serve as a counseling center for residents of Kovalam and neighboring villages. It was during his time at The Banyan, Kovalam as Community Outreach Manager that he realized the importance of addressing mental health within his community. Sheena Ramanalukkal, his ex-boss, joined the offer to lead these sessions. She is also associated with the school.
As for surfers, adds Murthy, “For us, a good wave is enough to clear your mind.” Whether it is surfing or advice, the services will always be offered free of charge to the inhabitants of the village.
Murthy’s team consists of 10 instructors: while five of them are national level surfers, the others are young surfers with a knack for teaching, and all are from Kovalam. The instructors, who have trained with Murthy, who himself is an International Surfing Association (ISA) certified instructor, will prioritize individual lessons.
In addition to surfing, kayaking and stand-up paddle lessons are offered. However, Murthy wants to make sure students learn more than technique at his school. “I want to give people the experiences I had in the culture I grew up in. While kayaking, we can observe dolphins. I will also take them fishing! I know all the good places,” he says, adding, “Another place that few know is in the backwaters of Muttukadu where there are mangroves. This way, students can strike a balance between learning and exploring.
The self-taught surfer’s professional journey with water sports has not been without its challenges. But he said with a laugh:Neraya enjoying pannanen (I enjoyed it very much)! I really learned a lot about life through surfing. In 2020, his decision to go independent was not easy to make. He remembers: “I believed in three things: in me, the ocean that looks like my mother, and my client.
Murthy is clear about his goal for the school. “I want to teach many more children from our fishing village. In the village, there are many boys who have dropped out of school to go fishing. They should be able to learn to surf and open their own schools in the future, and earn a living. Currently, the village has seven surf schools, a push led by Surf Turf.
Now Murthy is starting over. As his school was set up, for almost a year and a half, Murthy continued to attend classes with the help of his jeep, a tent and a Syntax tank. He would drive to Covelong Point beach, pitch a tent, and begin his lessons early in the morning and late in the afternoon. “I bought a tank and prepared water for my students because I didn’t have a shower room or a toilet. However, many of them joined me. It was very encouraging,” he smiles, adding, “I would tell them the ocean is my office.