Okha Madhi is a calm-looking beach.
I’ve travelled 1,200 km by car from Bombay to Dwarka, with an 18-foot-long kayak, a cycle, two parents and a girlfriend, to take on the West Coast of India by sea, alone. No Indian has done it so no one knows what I’ll be up against. Neither do I. This is day two into the expedition.
Okha Madhi is a calm-looking beach. On the face of it, all the beaches in Gujarat are. But what they don’t betray is the sharp sloping gradient under the surface or the line of hidden rocks that cause huge waves. It’s 6 am. I stow away my gear in the kayak. An emergency bag in the front compartment, strap on the Go-Pro in the waterproof casing and don my newly earned Coast Guard cap courtesy Harish More, the commanding officer at Okha.
Kayak in one hand, paddle in the other, I wade confidently into the cold water. At knee height, I sit in, swish my legs over and into the cockpit and paddle fast for the incoming wave. And before I can yell ‘breach’ a massive wave hits me and turns my kayak upside down. I’m washed out of my kayak and scramble for the paddle. I laugh it off, and get everything together. Go pro is still filming when I jump back in. Another wave hits me, drags me back to shore and flips me before I can get my feet out. I’m tasting salt and it burns.
I pull my kayak back to shore. It’s filled with water. I compare notes with others. Snap on my Go-Pro for one last time and launch. I can’t recall how big the wave was. Or the noise it made when it broke, green water on a white kayak. But I remember being thrown into the air, while the front of the kayak is lifted right up over my head. I jump out just in time for the 18 kg kayak to land behind me. My Go-Pro casing has been snapped open and the 40 k camera breathes its last.
There’s much I can say about attempt 4, but it can be summarised as thus — same result. I attack the waves the 5th time, yelling as I do it. And I breach.
Now all I have to do is kayak 25 km today. And launch another 75 times over 2950 km over the next 3 months. This is day two..
(Kaustubh Khade is an IITian, Asian Silver Medalist in kayaking & a Limca Book Record holder. He recently kayaked the 3,000km west coast of India solo)