A bright Sunday morning and a calm sea — that’s what Adi Godrej looks forward to the end of a hectic week at work. And once he gets the combination, its action time. Dressed in a dark wetsuit, you can track the 73-year-old’s swift movements through his shining yellow life-jacket in the never-ending blue sea. For someone who took sailing as a course during his undergrad days, the passion for water sports has only grown over the years for the chairman of the 117-year-old Godrej Group. “I’ve always liked water as it makes me feel fresh. Every Sunday afternoon feels like a holiday, which makes Mondays more endurable,” smiles Godrej, sitting in his swanky new office at Vikhroli.
Barring the monsoon months, Godrej makes it a point to go water skiing every weekend whenever he is in the city. Though on occasions he goes water skiing on foreign jaunts, Godrej is most comfortable surfing along the bay of Mumbai. “I have my own equipment and my own boat, so I feel in complete control,” explains Godrej.
While November to December is a good period to go skiing as the sea is usually calm, by April, the sea starts getting rough. “By end of May, I stop the activity,” says Godrej, adding that the sport first began on lakes where the water is calm through the year. The Dal Lake in Kashmir is one such place where Godrej went skiing, but that was a good two decades ago.
Reminiscing the 70s, the father of three — two daughters and a son — talks about his first boat that was built in the garage, as imports weren’t allowed back then. “I imported wooden planks and other parts from the US and got them assembled here,” recalls Godrej. Since then the family has brought two Regals (an American boat that can accommodate 10 people) and a Ferretti (yacht), which is anchored at Chowpatty. The Regal can hit a top speed of 50 miles an hour.
“Good boats should have a good power to weight ratio to pull you,” says Godrej, who skis at a speed of around 30 miles an hour.“In water skiing, the speed of the boat is transmitted through your body to the skis. This means you need to be in complete control of your body posture and that demands acute concentration and discipline,” adds Godrej. What makes it worth the effort is the fact that water skiing is a sport that burns up to 800 calories an hour.
“The only other sport where you can expend such energy is squash,” reveals Godrej. Much of the energy expended depends on how long and also how the skier surfs. In Godrej’s case, a 75-feet rope is fastened to the boat. The length of the rope ensures that you can criss-cross on the waters which gives the skier that additional burst of speed.
“I usually ski at a stretch for 10 to 15 minutes, but one can always go up to 20-25 minutes,” says Godrej, pointing out that calmer the water surface, the easier it is for the skier to criss-cross. But a lot also depends on how you effectively communicate with a pointsman on the boat besides the pilot. “While you’re water skiing, you need a pilot and an observer to understand your status. We have signs for going fast, going slow and just alright,” he says depicting the signals.
Though exhilarating, just like any other sport, water skiing can also be a risky affair. Godrej had to undergo an operation, some years back, when he twisted his foot while skiing. “It’s important that the skis come off when you fall as you could get injured very badly if your foot stays stuck,” says Godrej.
But despite the unpleasant experience, Godrej never gave up on his passion — he was back in action when the doctors gave him the go-ahead. “My wife [Parmeshwar] was reticent, because she does not ski but I continued,” says Godrej with a grin.
While his son Pirojsha no longer skis because of a back problem, daughter Nisaba has stopped the sport following the birth of her son. But Godrej has passed down the sport to his grandsons and close friends. “I am usually accompanied by my younger grandson whom I had taught water skiing,” remarks Godrej points to couple of photo frames adoring his office that show him water skiing along with his grandson.
“It’s basically a balanced sport and if kids are serious, it takes about two-three weeks of training. I’ve taught actor Sanjay Khan’s son and Anil Ambani’s son too,” he reveals, adding that he prefers to drive the boat when he is not skiing.
Godrej has always been a sports enthusiast and has been involved in activities like wind surfing, parasailing, riding horses, trekking and now water skiing. “I love to walk all the time. On an average I walk around 10,000 steps a day. Even while watching television at home I’d prefer walking to sitting,” he says. On how water skiing helps him otherwise, Godrej says, “One, it sustains your dedication and the other, it helps me to do things quickly, efficiently and also improves concentration.”
Eager to hear about the next sports activity that he might want to take up now, Godrej mentions that he is done for now. Once an avid Bridge player, Godrej says that the only two things that keep him going are the daily 10,000 steps and his weekend ritual at the sea. “I won’t even trade one for the other,” sums up Godrej as he gets ready for his next meeting.