“Sustainable sport” kitesurfing is rapidly establishing itself in India: Arjun Motha
Kitesurfing, where you harness the power of the wind using a kite to steer your board, is a brand new sport in India, only about three months old. New to be recognized in any case, it was practiced by a handful of professionals on the coasts of Tamil Nadu for ten years. Arjun Motha, 33, is one of them. He is also the founder of Aqua Outback, which teaches the sport to wannabes, including tourists.
He is an “environmental athlete”, according to his Instagram profile. He talks about how growing up with the ocean in his backyard fueled his desire for sustainable sport. How diving, swimming and snorkeling brought him closer to marine life and the pollution that threatens it. Kite surfers mobilized local residents to go green and transformed Tamil Nadu into a hub for water sports. While kitesurfing will make its debut as a sport at the Paris Olympics in 2024 and India has already started organizing professional leagues, the sport has officially gone from “fun” to “viable career”. With Hindustan Times Digital, Motha discusses what lies ahead
Your Instagram profile says you’re an environmentalist. tell us more
I grew up by the ocean as a child. My father studied zoology and showed us different species around the ocean. As I grew older, I began to see a decline in these species. So I started creating environmental awareness programs for kids in school about marine life and ecosystems. I have also done many beach cleanups with young people and local communities about how plastic affects ocean life. In 2015 a group of friends and I kayaked 160 km from Rameshwaram to Tuticorin, we cycled for the environment, educating locals and fishing villages about ocean life and its importance.
Growing up by the sea made me sensitive to the ocean and its protection, as some of my fondest childhood memories were by the sea. I would like to share similar experiences with future generations before it is not too late.
So how did an environmentalist become a kitesurfing champion? How did the trip start?
It all started with swimming and snorkeling. Eventually, I learned about sustainable fishing, which taught me a lot about tides, marine species, and the seasons of the ocean. Through it all, I have noticed a decline in species in recent years. But I also saw marine life thriving in some places, which gave me hope. The only way I could help was to get locals to switch from unsustainable fishing to alternative livelihoods like kayak guides and snorkeling guides. Over time, I got into scuba diving and snorkeling, which brought me even closer to understanding marine life. I saw how serene the underwater world was. All the while, I wanted to be part of a sustainable sport that allowed me to explore the ocean and stay connected to the elements. Kitesurfing did just that for me. Soon I became a professional instructor and athlete, thanks to Tuticorin, TN, who surrounded me with the best conditions.
It must be a brand new concept in India?
Yes, it was exciting! When I first saw it in Tarifa, Spain, I wanted to try it immediately. When I started in India, many people were as fascinated as I was in Spain and wanted to try this new sport.
Focus, freedom, adrenaline and being one with the elements of nature
How was kitesurfing introduced to India and when did it become a competitive sport?
Ten years ago, only two or three of us practiced kitesurfing. Jehan (driver) was one. We explored some of the best kitesurfing spots. Pretty soon more people joined us, we got better and started competing.
The Yachting Association of India (YAI) and the Premier Kite Boarding Association organized a kiteboarding event last month. So does that mean kitesurfing is officially a sport now?
Yes. We had many fun kite competitions but learning the rules of sailing racing was a first for all Indian kite surfers. In a few months, our levels have improved a lot
How has the reach of the sport increased?
It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. India is now aware that it is a sport and it can be played here. Now many students want to pursue it and become athletes and instructors
So which institutes teach kitesurfing? How long does a lesson last?
Aqua Outback, Tuticorin (www.aquaoutback.com) and Quest Academy are the best schools in India, with professionals who help you learn quickly and get in the best shape
Kitesurfing will make its debut at the Paris Olympics in 2024. How inspiring was this news for Indian kitesurfers?
It’s very exciting. India actually jumped into the sport quite early, which gives us a good chance to represent our country and win medals.