So, during our annual trip to Goa this year, my wife was adamant about breaking away from our usual cycle of eating, drinking, partying and lazing in a shack. Her idea of breaking away was so extreme that it ended up being one of the most pivotal experiences I've had since I turned eighteen! I know what you're thinking, and drinking beer was not one of 'those' experiences. That was much earlier. 😂
Anyway, bowing down to her interest and riding the fitness high that I found in 2020, we decided to head down to the southern tip of Goa to indulge in some seawater kayaking. But to understand why this was such a big deal for me, allow me to share some context.
I am not a guy who actively seeks any physical activity
I don't particularly like getting drenched or even slightly wet
I can't swim to save my life. Obviously, I haven't tried!
So with all that context, we set out for Palolem beach to locate an instructor, who I had looked up through a couple of travel blogs. His name was Deva, and he probably was the living embodiment of Shiva, at least in one significant way. 😁✌🏼
When we met him, this guy was so baked that a half-decent cafe with fresh croissants couldn't have managed to keep their customers from heading in his direction. 😂 His instructions could not have been more simple. Kayaking is about three things -
Maintaining your centre of gravity in a neutral position
Holding the kayak perpendicular to an oncoming wave
Of course, I added the fancy vocabulary to keep the text concise. Deva's exact words were 'let your arms do the rowing and not your back. Don't lean left and right as you row. The kayak will tip over'.
Damn. I wasted that precious word count, after all!
Anyway, we ran into a slight issue. There were four of us, and Deva had two single-seater kayaks to spare and one double-seater. The girls, who had kayaked earlier, were hell-bent on kayaking solo, so we, the guys who had never kayaked before, deciding to double up. Big mistake!
Remember the two simple instructions that Deva shared in the beginning? Now, one can only imagine that the task becomes, at least, twice as difficult with two people in the same kayak. Wrong. It becomes four times more difficult because we've got to centre our body weights AND synchronize our paddling action to ensure a clean progression. And there are no rewards for guessing this, but we obviously learnt this the hard way! 🤣
Three attempts in, and we still hadn't managed to cross the first wave without toppling ourselves back into the sea. Then began the onerous task of dragging the kayak back to shallow waters so that we could board it in peace. Now, when I signed up for this activity, I expected the upper body workout - your arms for rowing, the core strength for maintaining your body balance, and your neck due to the shear stress of the incoming wave! 😅 But I had not anticipated the lower body workout that contributed to the whole process of dragging a double kayak back through the water, where if you weren't careful, it'd constantly bang against your sides thanks to its self-sustained buoyancy!
Also, the constant coordination that both of us needed to make it into the open sea added to the immense mental fatigue that was miraculously absent if you were doing this alone. But we figured all of that, and while acting as the navigator from the rear seat, I finally managed to steer us into a calmer sea. And this is where the other half of the workout began - getting a decent picture! And this photo was important, not because my Instagram followers needed to see this, but because I HAD to have a keepsake of a task accomplished with such pain!
And if you think finding the perfect shot is difficult on land, imagine trying to do the same on a double-seater kayak without a selfie-stick, where the constant fear of dropping your brand new phone into the sea renders your hands even more slippery! It wasn't easy, but we managed a few good ones. And when we had just begun to settle down into a false sense of calm, Deva pointed towards the setting sun and motioned us to head back for the shore. 😖
Damn. Now we needed to ride those waves again, and this time with our backs turned to them! Also, the fact that we had lost some sense of direction meant that we drifted off further south than intended and landed about two hundred metres away from Deva's shack. Which meant what? Yeah, dragging the kayak across the shallow waters back north! 😅
By the time we reached our grouping point, the solo riders had already taken their vests off and were draining out all the excess water from their clothes. I dropped the kayak at a location where Deva pointed and just crashed down on the beach. Phew! If I had ever imagined that this hour and a half would be all about peacefully rowing into the sun, I stood corrected. Sorry, I sat corrected.
And now, it all made sense. Why was Deva so fit and primed despite literally spending half his life on the beach, smoking pot! Why he felt the need to KEEP himself in a semi-baked state for half of his day! And why, even after exerting every ounce of his strength for ten hours a day, he had an ear-to-ear smile on his face that mirrored the crescent-shaped beach where we had just kayaked! Kayaking was a full-body workout, but it did so much more than burn a few calories.
The water gives as much fresh energy as it exhausts you. The act of balancing yourself inside a floating vessel teaches you to connect with your body in almost an eerily similar as yoga does. You are devoid of any other thoughts in your head because your first and foremost thought is to avoid drowning! And by the time you cross the thrashing waves into calmer water, you reach a state of zen that is nothing short of active meditation. The setting sun in the background is just the cherry on the cake.
So, will I do it again? Hell, yes!
But, will I double-up with my wife? Heavens, no!