GADAG : Riding on the waves. That is what she does literally. She has become the talk of the town. Sowmya H S, the only woman jet ski guide in Gadag, hails from Hassan. She is supremely confident, always in control. As she zips on the river or lake, it is a treat to watch.Gadag Bhishma lake is where Sowmya unleashes her skills. Many women are now taking to this watersport, which is something new for the Gadag people. The rider is trained in different levels of riding and rescue.
Sowmya has worked as a primary school teacher and went on to pursue her career in adventure sports. She completed her jet ski training from aqua sports experts in Himachal Pradesh. Before coming to Gadag last month, she worked in Mangaluru as jet ski instructor.“I am one among the first Indian women to complete White water rescue technician training and jet ski instructor course. I have done jet ski rides for several years in Mysuru Dasara adventure sports and National Youth Festival in Mangaluru. In the last four years I have taken more than 16,000 people for a ride on jet skis,” she says.
“I started my rafting career in river Sitanadi in Agumbe. Those days it used to rain heavily. Training in such tough conditions made me a better rescuer. Today women in Gadag are queuing up to take a ride with me. It’s nice to see several young girls wanting to try water sports. Just a few years ago, it was a distant dream for the people of Gadag,” she adds.Sowmya never had any clue about adventurous water sports like river rafting and boat riding before her marriage. She is married to Manjunath, a trekker and river rafter. He works in a firm dealing with adventure sports. After her marriage, she went on a kayaking trip with her husband. The trip changed her life. The next week the trip continued in Kali backwaters. Her journey started here.
Sowmya says, “My journey continued as a learner and an explorer. I didn’t know swimming before. I did an international White Water Rescue Technician course from Rescue3 International, California, in the Ganga river at Rishikesh in February 2007. Later, I did various courses like Wilderness First Responder from Wilderness Medicine Institute of National Outdoor Leadership School. It is an international wilderness course, where one can work anywhere in the world in adventure-related institutes or companies. Then I pursued my basic and advanced water sports courses at the Regional Water Sports Centre, Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Himachal Pradesh. I did a 36-day course and every day, went through training.”
Lakhman Chalavadi, a jet ski rider in Bhishmakere, says, “When she came we thought she was just another rider, but her riding is amazing. Women wanted to jet ski, but there was no woman instructor then. Now, with Sowmya here, women and many teenage girls are learning the sport.”Gadag’s Bhishmakere is a lake which is spread across 103 acres. As this place received good rainfall, the lake has been brimming with water. During December 2017 when ‘Gadag Utsav’ was organised by the district administration, Gadag SP K. Santoshbabu decided to bring jet-skiing here.
Earlier, everybody thought there would be no takers for this water sport. But surprisingly, Gadag people have taken to this sport. They asked for a woman instructor and the then district administration appointed Sowmya.The company, The Ace Paddlers, hadn’t expected such a good response in Gadag. Now enthusiasts come from nearby villages and districts to enjoy a ride on the water vehicle. Earlier, water sports lovers would go to Mangaluru, Udupi, Murudeshwar.(firstname.lastname@example.org