Akshay Kumar has proved his mettle in skiing, river rafting and mountaineering.
Akshay Kumar is a man who likes challenges. When asked what inspires him to indulge in adventurous sports and activities, he replies thus, “I come from a family of mountaineers and adventurers. My father Col. (Bull) Kumar is a renowned mountaineer and was the deputy leader of the 1965 Indian Everest Expedition that put 9 men atop Everest. He also did the first world ascent of the Kanchenjunga from the North Eastern Spur and is well-known for being the first to explore and map the Siachen Glacier, leading to India claiming it as an integral part of the country. In fact, the main base camp on Siachen, 'Kumar Base' is named after my father.”
He adds, “My sister is an accomplished skier and was the first Indian to represent the country in the Winter Olympics in 1985 in Calgary, Canada. So as you can see, I had little choice! I started skiing when I was three years old, I was the youngest rafting guide in India at the age of 15 (1985). I also started trekking at the age of 10. I am almost 50 now and still feel there’s so many adventures waiting to be explored!”
His love for adventure is so much that he says, “I have known nothing else. I was skiing while in school and rafting at every opportunity I got in college. I finished my graduation from St. Stephens College Delhi but my heart was always in the rivers and mountains. Even though today I spend a lot of time working on government policy and tourism issues, my mind always tends to wander off to the beautiful rivers of the Indian Himalayas.”
Akshay's achievements are many. He says, “ I was the youngest skier to attain speeds of more than 100 kmph at the one and only speed skiing event held in India. This made me the fourth fastest skier in India in 1983. Today, my singular aim is to teach Indians how to ski.”
He adds, “I started off as a river rafting guide and that continues to be a driving passion. I did the first world rafting descent of the Brahmaputra river in 1990 when we covered more than 1,700 km over 35 days; a record yet to be broken.”
Whether he did the first-ever descent of a river or simply walked in his father’s footsteps, each of these adventures have helped him mould his life.
Talking about skiing he says, “There is nothing that even closely compares to the rush you get while negotiating a black run down from 14,000 feet on slopes that are covered with fresh powder. Similarly, rafting gives me an immense sense of control.” He adds, “All these activities are not without some elements of danger and the training I have received makes me careful, which ensures my client's safety. Always go with the people who have safety protocols in place and the required knowledge and experience.”
Talking about our nation in terms of adventure, he maintains that when going on adventure trips, one must always choose the operator carefully. He recommends tour operators with ATOAI membership.
“India is seeing 40 per cent annual growth in the number of people trying adventure sports. However, this has led to an unorganised pattern of growth that relies on big footfalls and low prices. The ultimate result is an Indian adventure travel product that is destroying our natural heritage and at times, compromising on the safety of clients. My mission going forward is to work with the government to bring in a uniform licensing and training mechanism across the country.”