Mumbai to Goa, on a kayak

Kaustubh Khade finished a solo expedition from Mumbai to Goa in a kayak in 17 days, setting a record in the process

A couple of months ago, Kaustubh Khade was all set to get a promotion. However, for that, the 28-year-old IITian would have had to forego the sabbatical he was planning to take from work. The reason — Khade wanted to prepare and go for a solo kayaking expedition from Mumbai to Goa, and needed at least three months off from work to sort everything out and train. “When I told my parents about the promotion, they were really happy, but later, my mom pointed out that promotions can happen later. For now, I should do what my heart really desires,” Khade tells us.

Kaustubh Khade
Kaustubh Khade plans to kayak across the coastline of India

He did end up going for that expedition. Starting his journey from the Gateway of India on February 14, Khade covered a distance of over 410 km to reach Morjim Beach in Goa on March 2, and in the process, receiving a nod from the Limca Book of Records as the Longest Solo Kayaking expedition by an Indian.

Training time
Khade’s interest in kayaking sparked off, five years ago when he took a double kayak out with his friends to go dolphin-spotting with his friend at Goa. “The waters were choppy, the wind was blowing and I fell in love with the sport,” says the young man, who went on to represent India at two Asian Championships. At the Asian Dragon Boat Championship in 2012 in Thailand, he won two silver and one bronze medal and in 2013, at the Asian Sea Kayaking Championship in Krabi, he finished fifth out of 17 participants. “That’s when it struck me that somebody should kayak across the Indian coastline, and that could be me. For that, I needed to set a precedent. The Mumbai-Goa kayaking expedition was always meant to be a pilot project,” he says.

Khade took off from work at the end of October last year to prepare for the event, which he knew would be mentally as well as physically gruelling. The kayaker was hosted at Mandwa for two weeks by the Bombay Sailing Association. “I would do endurance training for three-four hours in the morning and would practice balance and speed in the afternoon, when the winds and tides are the strongest,” he recalls. He also went to Kolad to practise kayak rolls — the act of righting a capsised kayak by use of body motion or a paddle — and ended up seriously hurting his right knee. “The doctor said I would have to rest it out for three weeks, but I just rested for three days instead,” he grins.

Such a long journey
On the morning of February 14, Khade — cheered on by his family and friends, as well as the children from Magic Bus, a non-profit organisation working with underprivileged children with the help of sports-based curriculum — set off for the big task. With only a safety boat by his side, the 17 day journey saw him paddle across Kihim, Kashid, Diveagar, Velas Beach, Murud, Anjanvel, Velneshwar, Ganpatiphule, Ratnagiri, Godavne, Devgad, Tarkarli and Vengurla to reach his destination.

“Out of the 17 days, I paddled for 14 and rested for three,” says Khade. On some days, he would paddle in the mornings, and on some, in the evenings. “During the Tarkarli to Vengurla stretch, there was a constant wind blowing in my face, with waves coming right at me. My 19 foot kayak would have turned turtle even if I would have stopped paddling for ten seconds. So in such times, you just need to keep moving,” says Khade, whose parents accompanied him on the safety boat.

Now, the sportsman’s ambition is to kayak across the 7,500 km long coastline of India. “Despite the awards, there is hardly any recognition of the sports in India. Maybe this will make people sit up and take notice,” he says. But for that, he’ll need a longer sabbatical from work. “Yes, that’s true,” laughs Khade, “But my bosses have been really positive about my ventures and I hope they continue to support me.”

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