Meet Ishita Malaviya, India’s first female surfer

“I wasn’t doing it to be a role model, I wasn’t thinking about breaking barriers,” says Ishita, reflecting on the years passed since then. “I just enjoyed it.” Now a sponsored athlete and running her own surf school with Tushar, she’s frequently in the international spotlight for challenging the traditional path expected of Indian women – consisting of education, marriage, pregnancy – and choosing the road less travelled. She stands out, literally, with a deeply tanned complexion in a country where “everyone glorifies fair skin”. Refusing to be offended by the criticism levelled at her, she laughs at it. “Surfing saved me,” she says. “It changed our lives completely.”