BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Keona Rajani from Goa resolutely retained her women’s Twin Tip title during the recently concluded India’s National Kiteboarding Championship at Junaswaddo in Mandrem. While doing so, she emphasised that the sport cannot thrive just on camaraderie but needs sustained financial support.
“My parents are seeing me enjoy this sport. I have had to go to Tamil Nadu for two months for training because the winds are not always favourable in Goa, and the equipment is not cheap. They work to give me the best, and I have rewarded them with two titles,” muses twenty-three-year-old Keona after having collected her second crown.
Kiteboarding is just three-years-old in India, and Goa has hosted two nationals after the formation of the Premier Kiteboarding Association (PKA), which has Goa’s Derrick Menezes as its secretary.
“The sport has its own thrills like other sports, and the only way we can expect all to at least get a feel of it is by getting people to learn about the sport by hosting competitions, and hence the nationals,” states Derrick, as he diligently observes participants enjoying the evening at the end of the nationals.
“Few were aware of windsurfing when it was first introduced to Goa. We learnt the sport, participated, not just nationally but internationally, and won laurels. Today windsurfing has a following in Goa. We expect kiteboarding to take a similar or even better course,” hopes Derrick, whose tryst with any sport has always met with success.
Unlike the women’s Twin Tip event, the men’s event was a roller coaster ride with the winner unpredictable until the end. Much like the last nationals, this time, too, the last race determined that Varun Narayanan was the winner.
“The equipment for the Olympics runs into lakhs of rupees, but if there is government funding, it is my dream to represent my country at the Olympics. We have the conditions to kiteboard in India, but we need financial backing to be amongst the best,” said Varun, who lost the nationals last year to Arjun Motha by a whisker.
Formula Foil is being introduced in the 2024 Olympics in France, and there were two participants from the Indian Navy participating in the category during the nationals.
Ashish Roy won all the races to emerge triumphant but was modest in admitting that the road to France is not as easy as it might appear.
“At the end of the day, we are going to represent our country and to do that we have to be confident that we are capable of challenging the best,” stated Ashish.
“That India is capable of sending representatives to participate in the Formula Foil is in itself a big achievement. Obviously, our boys will not be going as underdogs. The government is providing the equipment and the best coaches, and just as we did in windsurfing, the road will not be daunting now,” believes Derrick.
“Competition is crucial, and after completing the nationals in Goa, KPA is going to be organising races in Kovalam in Chennai next month. We had our AGM during the nationals and Philip Dartnell is our new president. The whole team elected has an agenda – spread awareness to rope in as many,” confessed Derrick.
Water sports in Goa have touched dizzy heights due to the patronage of Cesar Menezes of Wallace Pharmaceuticals. Cesar, who like most Goans enjoys the salt air and the sea, demonstrates his affinity for sailing through his benevolence, and is, therefore, known as the doyen of sailing in India.
And not far behind is Anil Madgavkar who offers his technical expertise to organise and train youngsters and guides them to aim for international glory.
“We allowed international participants to take part in the nationals because it gave our athletes a chance to compete with the best,” claimed Anil during the prize distribution function.
Alexandre Ostanin from Russia, who finished third, and Marc Bresson from Switzerland were two participants who pushed their Indian counterparts to the fence during the competition. Both, engineers in their home countries, believe that “there is purposeful talent in kiteboarding in India”.
Retired Admiral KB Singh of the Indian Navy and president of the Yachting Association of India (YAI) observed the racers on the last day of the competition and hoped that kiteboarding would soon start winning international laurels for the country.
At the end of the second kiteboarding nationals at Junaswaddo Beach in Mandrem, it was obvious that kiteboarding in India is surfing the waves. From twelve participants in the first nationals to twenty-two in the second, the increase was an indicator of an increase in popularity. When this popularity will translate into pride for India, remains to be seen.