The other day, as reported by most newspapers in Goa, lifeguards saved the lives of four kayakers who found themselves in a helpless situation after their kayaks overturned off Agonda beach. To their good fortune, the kayakers were rescued and a tragedy was averted.
These incidents certainly do not bode well for tourism in Goa, and the licensing authority concerned should be held accountable for what occurred. Such incidents were reported in Palolem in the past.
The fact that similar incidents were repeated in Agonda indicates that no action was taken in the earlier incidents. If there had been some action taken, things would have been streamlined and the Agonda accidents wouldn't have taken place.
It is certainly not a good feeling when kayakers, who are new to the sea, find themselves in the water, they will surely panic. Once in the water, it is altogether not a very good feeling because the untrained person is not in a position to think properly because he or she is in panic.
Being a kayaker myself, I can surmise for sure what must have happened when the kayakers found themselves in the water at Agonda. When the kayakers lost hold of their kayaks and paddles, the next thing that must have happened was that they panicked. When the mind panics, fear sets in.
Normally when a kayaker falls in the water, he or she will lose the paddle and is not in a position to get hold of the kayak. So in such a situation, and without any guide around or with no basic training or guidance, the kayaker is left to the mercy of external help.
If anyone falls off a kayak, there are safety procedures to follow, but in Goa, barring just three or four companies, most others do not care to give even basic instructions to their customers. All that they care about is collecting the fee and with just the basic safety of a lifejacket send the customers in the water.
Kayaking is one of the best recreational activities on offer in the sea and backwaters of Goa. Most of the kayaks used by adventure companies in Goa are sit-on-tops, and there is every chance these can flip if a person is new or not trained to handle them well.
Unlike the calm waters of a lake or backwater, sea kayaking can be a bit tricky because of the chances of changes in weather or wind conditions. In most cases, kayakers are not told what they can expect when out in the water. Most of the operators are not professionals and they themselves have no clue about the dos and don'ts while kayaking.
Among the three to four operators that take all safety precautions before starting a kayaking expedition is Adventure Breaks and in the last 10 years it has been operating, there has been not a single adverse life-threatening incident.
The company, which offers kayaing trips of 2 to 3 hours off the Bambolim beach in the early morning (beach kayaking) and evenings (sunset kayaking), ensures that the kayakers are given instructions and demos so that they can navigate well and not panic when the kayak flips over.
Besides giving instructions, the operators ensure that there are trained volunteers accompanying the kayakers’ groups. No kayaker is allowed to go on his or her own, even if he or she claims to know swimming or kayaking.
At Adventure Breaks, the trained volunteers will equip the customers with all the basic knowledge of kayaking so that before setting out you know exactly what you’re doing. These volunteers also keep track of the weather conditions.
Kayaking is one of the lighter water sports and recreational activities in Goa, and there have been no fatal cases reported so far, but the recent incidents in Agonda are a wake-up call.