‘Surfing Swami’ Jack Hebner aka Swami Narasingha- the Godfather of Indian Surfing is No More
‘Surfing Swami’ Jack Hebner aka Swami Narasingha- the Godfather of Indian Surfing is No More. He was the Founder of ‘Mantra Surf Club’ in Mulky, founded in 2004.
Mangaluru : “Surfing Swami” a.k.a Swami Narasingha, with birth name Jack Hebner born in USA, departed from this world on 2 Jan 2020 amidst his dear disciples, followers, and well-wishers at his spiritual dwelling near Mysore. “Surfing Swami” established India’s first surf club – ‘Mantra Surf Club’ in 2004. Swami was one of the early members of North Florida’s first surf club, Oceanside in 1963 and was among the pioneers of surfing on the East Coast of the United States. Forty years later He pioneered many aspects of surfing movement in India along with his students with the aim of making surfing a recognized sport in the country.
Those who knew Swami, know him as a person who was always enthusiastic about surfing, ocean and holistic living. His energy in water was infectious and He always carried the spirit of Aloha. He deeply cared about the ocean and well-being of surf communities. In 2014 Surfing Swami single handedly began the work of the Surfing Swami Foundation [SSF], funding all its activities personally.
‘Surfing Swami’ has immensely contributed towards the growth of surfing in India by establishing the surf club/school model [Mantra Surf Club] back in the early 2000’s, he was also instrumental in establishing of Surfing Federation of India, the National Governing Body of Surfing in India and created other ventures such as Surf Adventure Enterprises, Thunder-Monkey Surf Gear Pvt Ltd, India Surf Tours Co. which setup the template for surf industry in India. Surfing Swami and his work has been widely recognised in over 300 news publications and magazines around the world from The Washington Post, BBC, Surfer Magazine, India Today, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Sports Illustrated, Der Spiegel, The Inertia, Redbull Media, Economic Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph UK and many more.
Photo taken during an interview with Swami in 2017 at Sashihithlu Beach
Surfers trained under Him are saddened by His untimely demise, and it will take them a long time to come to terms with it, since Swami was friendly, Jovial and interacted with everyone, whether he knew them or not. He has left a great void in the lives of these surfers which will probably never be replaced. His legacy will be honoured and continued by all his followers and well-wishers at Mantra Surf Club & Surfing Swami Foundation in the near future.
Yours Truly of Team Mangalorean had the privilege to meet Jack Hebner aka “Surfing Swami”, the founder of “Mantra Surfing Club-Mulki” during the “Indian Open of Surfing 2017″ organized by the Tourism Department in association with the Mantra Surf Club and Kanara Surfing and Water Promotion Council from 26 May to 28 May 2017 at Sasihithlu beach, near Mukha. In an exclusive interview during that event, Team Mangalorean asked “Surfing Swami” as to When and where did he start surfing, and what were some of his earliest experiences riding waves? Swami replied saying, ” I caught my first wave on a rented board in 1963 at Jacksonville Beach, Florida. I was 16 years old. Before that, I had ridden waves at Padre Island, Texas on an air mattress, but it wasn’t the same. Standing up in a little white water and I had discovered the love of my life”.
“Those early days of surfing are embedded deep in my psyche. Practically each and every time I go for a surf session at sunrise, I experience something like deja vu. It’s like I am there again, back in time, 16 years old again. The still morning air or slight offshore is an atmosphere like no other, something normal beach goers never really experience because they commonly get down to the beach around the time the surf gets blown out. In those early hours when the sun is rising and the waves are glassy and peeling off is what I like to call “the morning enlightenment”. It sticks with you for life “ added Swami.
Team Mangalorean had also asked about his “surfing ashram” in India, and how did this ashram come about and what is the daily life there? Swami replied,” In 2004 after having lived off and on in ashrams in India since 1976, I decided to open an ashram named “Mantra Surf Club” in Mulki where surfing was part of our daily sadhana (practice). The day begins early at 4 a.m. At 4:30 there are various forms of meditation such as aratika, kirtan, bhajan and chanting the Maha-mantra on meditation beads (japa): This is followed by a session of Hatha yoga exercises and then a light fruit breakfast at 7:00 a.m., followed by a surf session (swell permitting) that lasts until it gets blown out or your arms fall off. The rest of the day is spent in devotional service such as cleaning, cooking, fixing dings, etc. In the late afternoon, there is usually a volleyball or a cricket match. In the evening, we again repeat the morning’s activities and sometimes catch the evening glass off. Dinner is at 8:00 p.m. and consists of varieties of vegetarian preparations both Asian and continental, followed by a surf film or catching up on the internet”.
Speaking more on the founding of Mantra Surf Club, Surfing Swami said, “The Mantra Surf Club [India’s first surf club] is dedicated to the pastime of surfing — introducing surfing in India and introducing India to the international surfing community. The Mantra Surf Club was started in 2004 by me and Rick Perry who as kids begun surfing ourselves in 1963 at Jacksonville Beach, Florida, USA. Back in the old days both I and Rick were members of North Florida’s first surf club, Oceanside, and were among the pioneers of surfing on the East Coast of the United States. Surfing as a pastime, or as a way of life generally promotes health and spiritual well-being – helping to make one a better individual”.
“As they say, “Surfing isn’t just about getting in the water and catching a few waves, it’s about something much deeper than that. It’s about a spiritual experience,” For many surfers the spiritual experience of surfing led to seeking higher enlightenment, a type of surf yoga and for some of us that search led us to India where yoga and spiritual enlightenment has been an all-encompassing way of life for thousands of years. The ancient wisdom of India speaks of the oceans and seas of our planet as parts of an organic spiritual dimension, as manifestations of the Cosmic Being and all living beings [surfers included] are spiritual sparks of conscious light floating eternally in the Cosmic Ocean. In that ‘cosmic’ scenario enlightenment is compared to progressive ‘waves’ of consciousness — each getting higher and higher until ultimate enlightenment is achieved”.
“Surfing ocean waves in India, however, is a new experience. In a country with more than 1.2 billion people, there are only a few Indian guys who surf, of which bunch of them are members of the Mantra Surf Club. Today at Mantra Surf Club we offer all varieties of exciting water sports. If you are looking for fun in the water, this is it! Wake-boarding, body-boarding, surfing, kayaking, surf school, surf lessons, jet skiing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), snorkelling, and more can all be done right here at India’s original surf and yoga retreat. The members of the Mantra Surf Club are totally stoked and would like to invite you to join the club and feel the difference. You will love it!” added Swami.
In his words of wisdom to the readers of Mangalorean.com, quoting words from Bhagavad Gita the Swami had said “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”, Swami said, “Keep your head down, your mouth shut and learn to hold your breath for a long time – especially if you are charging big waves. In other words, a little humility, please! Three things: Utsahan, niscayad, dhairyat – enthusiasm, confidence and forbearance. For success in any endeavor, one has to master these three qualities. Personally, I am also a strong believer in keeping fit and avoiding taking anything into this body that alters the mind such as alcohol or that disturbs one’s internal organs such as animal flesh, eggs, junk food, processed food, etc. A wise man once said, “When wise men speak, Wise men listen.”
MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE!