Mangalore (Karnataka), Oct.19 (ANI): The world's first surfing swami has set his sights on popularizing the pursuit across the Indian subcontinent, a land he claims has waves as attractive as those in the surfing mecca of Hawaii.
Swami Bhakti Gaurava Narasingha, 64, an American Hindu monk who has been living in India for four decades, has opened the country's first surfing ashram - religious community - near Mangalore, reports The Times.
Set near the beach amid rice paddies and coconut groves, the commune has already attracted a handful of global surfing superstars, hundreds of Western amateurs, and scores of curious villagers.
"For some people, surfing is almost a spiritual thing," Swami Narasingha said, explaining the link between the sport and his interpretation of Hinduism.
"It's to do with a very mellow connection to the ocean," he added.
Life at the ashram does not conform to the all-night party culture often associated with surfing, nor does it fit the common preconceptions of monastic life.
Swami Narasingha - who also goes by his given name Jack Hebner - does not drink or smoke and is a strict vegetarian. His followers are expected to live similarly abstemious lives. He took a vow of celibacy three decades ago and couples who stay at his ashram are requested to refrain from sex during their stay.
The monks who live at the ashram awake at 4 a.m. to chant "Hare Rama, Hare Krishna", but they do not beg for alms. Instead they earn money by doing freelance web-design work through a contractor in San Francisco and by running a local bottled-water company. Swami Narasingha also owns an art gallery in Bangalore.
The "Surfin Swamis", as the community has become known, also rent boards and rooms to visitors.
Swami Narasingha believes his is the only surfing ashram in existence - a claim that appears credible. (ANI)