“This is our little secret! My grandfather and I would often say. But little did I know at the age of nine that our little secret would materialise into a passion, setting me on the news for representing India in Stand Up Paddle (SUP) at the 2016 & 2017 ISA World Cup.” Inspire Crew in a hearty chat with the 18-year-old victrix, Tanvi Jagadish.
It's only been a few weeks since she brought home the Bronze medal from the Singapore Ocean Cup 2018, the youngest candidate to compete. She placed third last year as well in the same event, but this year she beat her own timing by an hour. Tanvi Jagadish has won 6 nationals consecutively starting out at Covelong Point in 2015.
Just 3 years and we are all starting to lose track of her victories. The world’s buzzing over the news of her wins, but Inspire Crew was a little more curious to know the girl herself, responsible for India’s international debut in the SUP category (being her first international debut as well).
When asked why she prefers SUP over Surfing Tanvi addressed, “I surf a lot, and I am very passionate about it too, but I have an obsession for speed and stand up paddling allows me to cover more distance into the sea while racing. Least to mention the view is simply breathtaking. I also love the quest of finding my way back to the shore. It is my ‘Christopher Columbus’ moment at sea.”
Before Inspire Crew could ask, Tanvi already knew the obvious question. How did it all start?
“I was always spontaneous and full of energy and it was difficult to spot me sitting in one place. On weekends I used to visit and spend time with my grandparents. My grandfather used to work in the ships, he’s the coolest being I’ve met and has travelled way more countries than the entire family put together.”
She continues to mention, her grandfather was a man of good judgement. He immediately recognised the familiar free spirit in her that he knew if channelled in the right direction, she would yield great success. Tanvi’s obsession with the sea sparked an idea in her grandfather’s mind. One day he drove her to the Mantra Surfing School, introducing her to the love of chasing waves.
The encouraging school had set-up a foundation called Surfing Swami Foundation to motivate more youngsters to explore and learn the sport. Tanvi considers herself fortunate that they sponsored all her lessons and still support her today in many ways.
April Zilg, an athlete from North Carolina was spending her days in Mulki then. She met Tanvi and immediately took a liking for her to see her connection with the sea and how natural she was in the sport, and introduced Tanvi to SUP.
So here, Tanvi’s mom Kavitha was under the impression that she was visiting her grandparents every weekend and spending time before their eyes, and there, her grandparents were a willing cover-up story for her spending hours learning and perfecting surfing and SUP. When Tanvi returned home, she often found her mom staring at her with confused eyes asking, “Why is your hair turning blond and skin turning dark by the week?”
The unforeseen storm hit the Jagadish house when Tanvi’s mom found out. For two years Tanvi and her grandfather hid the fact that every weekend, she was gambling her life with the sea. Tanvi was barred from all water sports, in those two years she tried many different rebellious acts at home which went pretty much in vain. Seeing Tanvi’s desperate need to be back in the sea her cousin Nihal and a best friend Prajul came to the rescue. They finally convinced Kavitha to let Tanvi resume her practices.
A surprising fact, Kavitha has still not been able to bring herself to go watch her daughter surf or stand up paddle. She worries if she watches Tanvi do what she does, she may ground her again.
This is a common phenomenon often seen in Indian homes. Even till this day, many Indians struggle to face their fears cause their concerning parents don’t set them free.
“The silent cheerleader of the house, my dad, Jagadish.” Tanvi continues to narrate, “He’s my role model. He was highly skilled at maintaining the peace at home between mom and me. He used to stand by mom when she found it necessary to draw the line for me, and later alone he used to part encouraging thoughts and ensured I knew he was proud of what I was doing.”
A little emotional, Tanvi shares, “Ever since my grandfather passed away a few years ago, my dad has been the oil in my lamp, keeping my spirits burning.”
Conversations with Tanvi lead us to the thought why having the support from her family was very important. She comes from a place where women are still not treated equal and the mentality still conservative. “I have often been pointed out by relatives and villagers for not behaving the way they think is acceptable and also taunted me for wearing shorts and t-shirts, ‘chaddi-baniyan’ they say”. Tanvi breaks into giggles. “Thankfully at home, everyone says not to be bothered by their comments cause one, they don’t understand it and two, they are jealous!”, this time laughing aloud.
The sport still being very new in India, in her nationals debut, Tanvi competed only against two other women in 2015. In 2018, the number of women competing in the SUP category has gone up to 7. A surfing and stand up paddle instructor herself, with much enthusiasm and belief she exclaims, “It will grow! The number will grow!”
Tanvi mentioned that a lot of people come to experience the sport cause it’s a new thing to try, but to find serious athletes in this discipline we need the support of the sports federations in our country.
Sharing her thoughts, she continues, “Our country needs to understand, we are surrounded by water on three sides. There is a lot of scope in water sports. Our fishermen for an example, they are like fish themselves. They are natural at sea and the potential they have is beyond compare. The more sports the country supports, the more categories the country participates in, the more glory the country brings home.”
Due to lack of funds this year Tanvi could not participate at the ISA World Cup. She is usually dependent on crowdfunding and support from home. April promotes her worldwide to lend a hand.
Inspire Crew is awed by her confidence and the zest with which she leads her career in stand up paddle and surfing.
A thought Tanvi wants to leave the readers with:
“Don’t dream ‘Realistic’. Dream what no one has ever thought of achieving, and start working towards it today. You will definitely reach much further than you imagined if only, you believe. And who knows, you might just end up achieving what you thought was unrealistic.”