Wind in my sails
Comfort zone is a very interesting concept. You seek it all the time, and every time you find your comfort zone, you want to get out of it. Or at least you should. It is the essence of life: pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, being adventurous, testing your boundaries – it is the kind of stuff that makes life very interesting. Over the past few months, I have tested my boundaries along with that of the Triber all across India: from the mighty snowcapped Himalayas to the rainforests of Goa. And now I think I might have pushed some boundaries quite literally.
But as most adventures pan out, the start to this adventure was rather unadventurous. I left Chennai in the Triber and headed down south via Madurai to the outskirts of a town called Rameswaram. The roads all the way to my destination were wide and smooth. No speed breakers, well-marked lanes, and even lane discipline. The further I drove away from Chennai, the better it got, and I was enjoying sustaining triple-digit speeds in the Triber all along the way. Over 500km of driving was done and dusted in a little under eight hours, and what surprised me was how well the Triber did on this drive. It is a compact 7-seater packed with not only my bags but also those of my crew. We even had all our photo/video equipment stowed in the boot. Yet, we managed some serious pace. The 3-cylinder motor chugs along at a fair clip when presented with an open road and just as the sun set, we were at our night halt.
Rameswaram is a quaint little town famous as the birthplace of one of the world’s most celebrated aerospace scientists, APJ Abdul Kalam. This one town has given more to science than so many countries combined, and so it’s understandable that the tourism in this part of the country isn’t for the stunning beaches and landscapes. But that needs to change.
The next morning, we drove to Land’s End, the end of the road in Dhanushkodi, a needle-like extension on the map from the island of Rameswaram and beyond Dhanushkodi, is the sea. Beyond the sea is Sri Lanka and that meant, I’d reached the point beyond which the Triber couldn’t be driven. There’s where my adventure started. As I drove back up the road, the sun was right on top, the turquoise waters revealing the sea bed and the white sand beach on both sides of the road were most welcoming. I hadn’t seen a road flanked by the sea on both sides before, and the clean beach on either side only made it that much prettier. A little ahead, I spotted the dilapidated ruins of the old railway station and a church on the other side of the road.
Before I learnt my next adventure sport, I just had to pay my respects to mother nature. Back in 1964, this area was hit by the worst cyclone India had ever seen. Wind gusts of 280kmph destroyed the land and 1,800 lives were lost. Such is the power of wind, when it’s at its destructive worst. A new railway line is being constructed to re-connect Dhanushkodi to the mainland but until then, you can only get there by road. The Triber has been my partner on several adventures until now, but little did I know it would be leading me to my most memorable adventure yet, a place where I would learn to harness the wind.
The straight highway back took me to a settlement between Ramanathapuram and Rameswaram. You have to cross the above mentioned railway line to get to a property with a bright blue door, tucked behind acres of palm trees and beach sand. On the other side of the door is Quest Adventure Sport Academy. QASA is a school, it’s not your regular tourist destination. People come here to learn water sports, and my plan was to try to learn a sport in the few days I was visiting. Jehan Driver runs the academy along with his partner Upasana Mody. Jehan has over two decades of experience in a range of water sports, and he’s also a guy who loves a good adventure. Just the right person to teach me a cool water sport, then.
I’m presented with two sports to train, a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) and windsurfing. We are a couple of hundred metres away from the beach so the equipment had to be transported to the water. We quickly loaded up the Triber with the sails and the boom from the rear. I flipped the left seat in the middle row down and the third row flat to toss in the 7+ feet long equipment and then close the bootlid. On the roof, Jehan helped me place the SUP, and we held it in place with the help of harnesses tied to the roof rails. The roof rails are of excellent quality in the Triber. The tips are of plastic and the main bars of metal to firmly hold anything you mount on the roof in place. It’s the first time I used the roof rails. The Triber looked very cool with the SUP on the roof, ready for the adventurous day ahead of us.
After a short drive to the beach, we unloaded the kit and I was ready for my training lesson. Learning to windsurf was quite the challenge at first. Balancing on the board while gripping the boom of the sail felt like an intricate dance with the wind and water. The initial attempts were wobbly and frustrating, as I struggled to find the right posture and control the sail’s movement. Countless splashes and near-falls tested my determination. But with patient guidance and persistence, a breakthrough finally came. The moment I caught that first gust of wind and glided across the water’s surface, the struggle seemed worth it. The rush of adrenaline, the sensation of speed, and the sheer joy of harnessing nature’s forces made the training absolutely exhilarating.
Unlike the adventure sports I had attempted before, I was attempting a level 1 training course here. Once I learnt how to do it right, I could progress to more lessons in the course. After my windsurfing lesson, the SUP was rather easy, but a proper workout. The sea is tougher closer to shore so building momentum is a challenge. But once you get moving, the SUP is a lot of fun. As I stood on a paddleboard in the sea, the horizon in sight, it brought a smile to my face.
Paddling to the rhythm of the waves, I felt an intimate connection with the sea. The ocean breeze talks to you and you train your ears to befriend it, and use it as your ally instead of fighting it. With every stroke, my worries faded, leaving only the symphony of my soul and the sea.
I drove back to the hotel in pin-drop silence. The lessons of the day ran through my mind, the quiet cabin allowing me to reflect on the things I did right and the improvements I had to make. Such is life on an adventure, always teaching you something. I shifted the gear lever to manual mode for the drive back to time my shifts, to make the drive as smooth as possible while I captured every memory of the day in my mind.
The next day, I got on the board and didn’t fall. Muscle memory had developed, I could adjust balance on the board and the sail could catch its wind. The board moved forward instead of just staying in one place and all just fell in place. It’s like learning to drive a car. You take your lessons, you focus on not making mistakes and then one fine day, you realise driving comes to you naturally. The body relaxes, the mind is at ease, it’s just you and the car on an open road. The thing is, I wasn’t there yet. A gust of wind came, swung the sail and I fell in the water. The pole knocked on my head, but I was thankfully wearing a helmet. You can only learn so much in a few hours. The boys watching me train had a nice laugh, but as I fell in the water, I made up my mind, I was coming back for more. Windsurfing was the sport I didn’t know I wanted to learn until I did. It’s why all of you out there must step out of your comfort zone, you don’t know what might just interest you, but you will never know until you try it.
I’ve told you so much about how the Triber drives and the tiniest of details about the car on each of my previous adventures. What I haven’t mentioned before is that sometimes a car needs to be your silent partner, the wind on your back when you are learning something and be reliable in a fuss-free way. The Triber on this trip was just that. The music worked well, the suspension ironed everything out, the compact dimensions took me to the narrowest of beach lanes and the engine helped the car do triple-digit speeds all day. Without making a big deal out of it. The adventure sport became the hero, the car played the perfect supporting act, and I, well, might have just found the adventure sport I would want to play for the rest of my life.
Special thanks to QASA. You can book the adventure sport of your choice on quest-asia.com or connect with them on +91 8657195551 for further details.