MANGALURU: Ramesh H Budihal, 19, a four-time national champion, recently shifted base from Kovalam in Kerala to Udupi. He is now an instructor at Shaka Surf Club, Kodi Bengre.
Budihal is one of the best surfers in his age group - one who can do most challenging manoeuvres with ease. With surfing now an Olympic sport, the surfer community in Mangaluru has taken up the cause of getting Budihal the world-class training he needs to compete at the highest level.
He hails from an economically backward family.
Tushar Pathiyan, co-founder, Shaka Surf Club, said Budihal was introduced to surfing at th e age of five and was spotted by Jelle Rigole from Bruges, Belgium, a surfer and mentor. Though he hails from Karnataka, his parents run a beachside shop selling souvenirs in Kovalam. "Sebastian Indian Social Projects (SISP), an NGO, got Budihal enrolled at their school. The children who enroll themselves for academics are taught surfing and skateboarding as a reward. Indi Surf Board, from Auroville , is sponsoring his equipment. But he needs to travel abroad and surf, if he has to qualify for the Olympics," said Pathiyan.
When Budihal started surfing, there was no foreseeable economic benefit in the sport. He did it just for the pure love of it. He has now established himself as one of the best surfers in the country, Pathiyan said.
"I was selected to participate in an event at Sri Lanka recently, but couldn't make it because I did not have a passport. Now that I have one, and with backing from the surf community, I hope to put India on the world map by winning international competitions. Surfing is my life and I cannot think of one outside water," said Budihal.
Nico Erni, master shaper, Indi Surf Board, said, "We know Budihal for many years and started sponsoring him about three years ago. We have seen him surf in Kovalam and Pondicherry . Surfing equipment can be expensive but all his kit is sponsored by us. Now that surfing is an Olympic sport, he definitely needs international exposure. He needs to participate in more global events to improve further. Together with friends around the country, we are trying to set up his portfolio that will help him get more sponsors for travel, food, accommodation, photos/videos, clothing and the like."