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Challenging the seas

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Sea kayaker Sandy Robson paddled from Germany to Australia. Now she is navigating our backwaters

In 2016 Australian sea kayaker Sandy Robson successful retraced Oskar Speck’s 1932 expedition from Germany to Australia, covering 14,000 miles in five years and traversing 20 countries.

For her extraordinary feat and dedication to the sport Sandy was declared Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2017.

Sandy is participating in the two-day Kochi Muziris Paddle that kicks off today. In an email interview she talks about her adventures.

Edited excerpts:

Your Germany to Australia kayaking trip (Retracing Oskar Speck) is an amazing story. What is your driving force?

I wanted to recreate the historic expedition of Oscar Speck who paddled Germany to Australia in the 1930s. It is the longest kayak expedition ever made but is little known as unfortunately it was completed at the same time as World War 11 began.

Your association with Kayaking on India

I was supported by India’s water sports communities right around the coast from Gujarat to Kolkata. This included tour operators, surfers, sea kayakers, whitewater kayakers, lifeguards, stand up paddlers, yacht clubs, kite surfers, turtle conservation groups, coastguard and many more.

I am keen to encourage more people in India to get involved in sea kayaking and other non-motorised water sports as these activities build a connection to the waterways and marine environment and encourage people to make positive changes in their lives for their own health and that of the the natural environment.

I found the groups in Kerala organising ‘Green Paddles’ and spreading their eco-message about cleaning up the waterways really inspiring. They were getting out there as ambassadors for the waterways in the community and in schools, Jellyfish Watersports is continuing this good work .

Sea kayaking is a relatively new sport in India and I have kept in touch with the enthusiasts here and maintaining that connection has allowed me to come back and support their initiatives.

This year I am going to be in Kerala's backwaters reconnecting with friends that I made on my expedition here and promoting kayaking, I feel pretty lucky to have these kind of life experiences.

How popular is the sport worldwide? Why are there fewer women in this field?

Sea Kayaking has a great deal of popularity overseas and is well established in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, UK and US.

I have also paddled with people from small kayaking clubs in Turkey and Indonesia where like India, Sea Kayaking is just getting started.

It’d be great to see more women getting involved in the sport, which started out quite male dominated, but that is slowly changing and I am noticing women coming out more over the last five years. Women tend to have busy lives and are taking care of children and their families.

Kayaking is a sport that you can do as a family and it helps get the kids away from all of the electronic devices they are so hooked on these days.

Your 2020 begins with the Kochi MuzirisPaddle. What other adventures are planned?

In 2020 I am training to paddle longer distances so that I can eventually do some challenging sea kayaking trips in Australia, I'm keen to paddle across Bass Strait to Tasmania at some stage, it does require weather gods to align with time off from work, so I don't have a date set yet. I'm also interested to do some more paddling in Indonesia. I paddled on my expedition for 13 months across the Indonesian archipelago and I was learning the language along the way, so I'm keen to go back there and explore more.

There used to be Makassan traders who paddled and sailed from Makassar to Darwin in Australia, so this is a route I am interested in examining for a kayaking expedition journey.

Do you see kayaking getting more popular in India?

It would be fantastic for all school students in India to have the chance to experience camping in nature and adventure sports such as kayaking as a part of their school curriculum. It would also be fantastic for students to engage with the history of your waterways and to try paddling historical craft if they have these in their local areas.

Parents can encourage their children by bringing them on school holiday activities and camps that include water sports. Getting the skills early will promote the sport as people can fall back on it for fitness, relaxation, stress relief and fun and balance out their work life.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 1:07:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/australian-sea-kayaker-sandy-robson-on-promoting-the-sport-and-her-time-in-kerala/article30501718.ece

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