Ishita Malaviya and her boyfriend, Tushar Pathiyan, sold many of their belongings to buy a surfboard together. They had no idea how to surf, but after a lot tossing around in the waves and coming back to shore bruised and beaten, they learned. And Malaviya became India’s first female surfer.
“I would have never in my wildest dreams ever imagined that I would be the first female surfer in India. It’s a country of 1.2 billion people,” she said in the above video co-produced by Storytellers for Good and Brown Girl Surf, an organization dedicated to fostering a diverse, alternative women’s surf community.
Malaviya pushed against the cultural current.
“When the fisherman saw me surfing, I think it was just like shock,” she said. “First it was like, ‘Whoa, is that a girl in the water?'”
When she began surfing, her friends noticed how dark her skin had become in the sun. Lighter skin is coveted in India.
Malaviya was supposed to be studying journalism, not surfing. Her parents weren’t happy when she told them about her passion. But, Malaviya and Pathiyan went on to start a surf school, teaching many young Indian girls how to surf, and Malaviya’s mother came around, even getting on a board herself.
“With surfing, you develop such a nice relationship with the ocean, and I think even the women here need to experience that,” Malaviya said. “Don’t let your fears stop you from doing something.”