Former combat sport athlete and entrepreneur Navya Rao first found her love for surfing in 2015, which is when she chanced upon the kids of the community – and within a few months, struck a quick bond with them. “That’s when I realised that for most of these children, it’s very easy to drop out of school and indulge in other activities. They needed an activity that would give them more purpose — hence, I co-founded the surf club, Sea Sharks, along with a 16-year-old teenager Nithish Varun. We made it clear to the kids that they had to stay in school and graduate in order to be part of the club, which is something they love. Some of them are as young as seven or eight years old. They participate in tournaments and surfing fests across the country, and I’m involved in helping them improve their lifestyle too,” she explains.
Navya adds that she’s also teaming up with her friend Vithusha Rameshan to take up surfing on a bigger scale, bidding to larger players next.
For now, the Chennaiite, who is also involved with body activism (she was part of Wilbur Sargunaraj’s ‘Beauty beyond size, and Dark is beautiful’ campaign) is planning a series of public speaking sessions — to reach out to girls in schools, colleges and local neighbourhoods – and spread awareness on the same. “My aim is to use my love for surfing and body positivity to influence lives for the better. The children from Sea Sharks are talented enough to reach even bigger highs – and here’s hoping I can push them towards it,” she says.