GET­TING BAL­ANCE right is the key. The surf­board has a ten­dency to rock from side to side, or back and forth, de­pend­ing on how it is ori­ented to the waves. The board is in­her­ently bal­anced, leave it to its own de­vices and it will never sink, flip or top­ple. But put an ounce of weight on it and it will rock and if you aren't care­ful, it will cap­size. For­get about stand­ing up on the board, that’s a long way away. Get­ting your body flat on the board with­out it rock­ing vi­o­lently is turn­ing out to be quite a chal­lenge. But I’ve got the en­tire day to fig­ure it out. The beach was empty, the waves weren't go­ing to stop any­time soon and the sun had a long way to go be­fore it tucked it­self be­hind the hori­zon.

When you think of surfing, ex­otic lo­cales like Hawaii and Bali are prob­a­bly the first things that pop in to your mind. And if you're on a bud­get, you might just think of the white sands of Goa or the end­less beaches of Orissa. But I’m go­ing to let you in on a lit­tle se­cret. To those of you who are read­ing this in north In­dia, I can’t be of much help but to all of you in Mum­bai and Pune, here's a quick tip — pack an overnight bag and head down to Alibaug. Ac­tu­ally scratch that, you don’t even need to pack an overnight bag. You can just drive down in the morn­ing, spend the day there and tuck into your own beds that very night. Surfing on a prop­erly tight bud­get, then?

We drove down to Alibaug from our base in Pune early one morn­ing (all you Mum­baikars can take a ferry, but you wouldn't be evo In­dia read­ers if you were con­sid­er­ing that, eh?) to spend a day in Alibaug, try­ing our hand at surfing. And keep­ing with all this talk of be­ing on a bud­get, we were head­ing there in a Dat­sun redi-GO. One look at the redi-GO and you know it’s a proper city car. It’s got a tiny foot­print, a small, fru­gal en­gine and a fair bit of space on the in­side — per­fect for a fam­ily of four to pot­ter about in the city and go about their day-to-day lives. But what if I told you that un­der­neath this shroud of prac­ti­cal­ity, the redi-GO makes for a car that you can have a blast with as well? Last month, we went paraglid­ing in the redi-GO (check out evo In­dia #40) and this month we’re go­ing surfing. Off the beaten track, you say? Way, way off is where we’re tak­ing this lit­tle erm… ‘city’ car.

Alibaug is a sleepy fish­ing town lit­tle less than 150km from Pune, on the western coast of the coun­try. Get­ting there is pretty straight­for­ward. You drive to­wards Mum­bai, take the exit for Khopoli at the sec­ond toll booth of the Mum­bai-Pune ex­press­way and then fol­low the road to Poy­nad via Pen. That is the short­est route, but it cer­tainly isn’t the nicest route to take. The road isn’t in the best con­di­tion and the heavy truck traf­fic makes it a pain to drive on. It’s a sin­gle car­riage­way all the way through and doesn't make for a re­motely en­joy­able drive. In­stead, af­ter tak­ing the exit at Khopoli, I rec­om­mend you take the road to

Off the beaten track, you say? Way, way off is where we’re tak­ing this erm... ‘city’ car

Pali and then turn to­wards Poy­nad. It’s longer by some 30km, but is in­fin­itely more en­joy­able. And be­ing rel­a­tively emp­tier, progress is swift and it takes about the same amount of time.

We man­aged to do the drive in lit­tle over three hours — great time in a lit­tle car like the redi-GO. You’d think it would be like a fish out of wa­ter on a six-laned high­way like the Mum­bai-Pune ex­press­way, but it will sur­prise you. It main­tains a good pace, with­out the small en­gine feel­ing strained. Get it up to fifth gear and it is more than com­fort­able cruis­ing around the 80kmph speed limit. The road to Pali is nar­row, but ex­cep­tion­ally smooth with some gor­geous corners thrown in to it for added ef­fect. At Pali, you turn back to­wards Poy­nad and the good roads con­tinue. Only the last patch right be­fore Alibaug gets a lit­tle rough. On the smoother stuff, the redi-GO holds its own, cor­ner­ing well and keep­ing you en­ter­tained be­hind the wheel. And on the rougher stuff, the soft sus­pen­sion which has been tuned for the

spec­tac­u­lar roads our ci­ties have to of­fer soaks up the bumps re­ally well. The sus­pen­sion is, with­out a doubt, a high­light of the redi-GO.

Once you’re in Alibaug, the sim­plest thing to do would be to park your car on the clos­est bit of tar­mac to the sand, grab your gear and walk to the sea shore. But where’s the ad­ven­ture in that? We were here in a city hatch­back and the whole point of bring­ing it all the way here was to push the lim­its of what it is ca­pa­ble off. On to the beach it goes! Turn­ing off the tar­mac, it squeezed through the dense shrub­bery on the rut­ted path lead­ing up to the beach. And once we got on to the sand, it was a breeze.

But wait! City car? Two driven wheels? Won’t it get beached in the sand? What hap­pened to need­ing AWD!? Well, if the sand is packed hard enough, you shouldn't have a prob­lem. You’ve just got to re­mem­ber a few ba­sic things to min­imise your chances of get­ting stuck — main­tain mo­men­tum, don’t stop on the loose stuff, be gen­tle with your in­puts and don’t turn in too sharply. Let out a bit of air from the tyres be­fore get­ting on to the sand to in­crease their con­tact patch, and you’re good to go. The redi GO is a light car so it doesn’t dig it­self too deep on sand. The weight is also con­cen­trated up front, over the driven wheels so trac­tion is in­creased.

The whole point of bring­ing the redi-GO here was to push the lim­its of what it is ca­pa­ble off

Af­ter I’d had my fair share of hooning around, I parked the car un­der a palm tree and got down to the task at hand — learn­ing how to surf.

I pull out the surf­board from the car. Yes, it fit in­side with the rear seats folded down — this was a short board, not the long­boards that you see glid­ing over those mas­sive waves with pro­fes­sion­als astride them. Guido Bothe had been watch­ing me pa­tiently for a while now, wait­ing for me to fin­ish get­ting my kicks be­hind the wheel. Guido is a friend of evo In­dia, and hap­pens to be of me­chan­i­cal bent him­self. He’s started a com­pany called Chinkara Mo­tors and builds a car called the Road­ster, in ad­di­tion to boats and ships and all sorts of other whacky ma­chines. His work­shops are in Alibaug and he knows the place like the back of his hand. He comes here for his adrenalin fix — surfing, para­sail­ing, jet-ski­ing — you name it. He was go­ing to be my surfing coach for the day.

Bal­ance was the first thing he taught me. Once you were on the board, you have to po­si­tion your body cor­rectly over the board so that it isn’t im­bal­anced. This is slightly tricky, as the board is con­stantly rock­ing to ev­ery sin­gle shift of your weight. Af­ter a cou­ple of tum­bles and mouth­fuls of salty sea­wa­ter, I seemed to have got the hang of it. And then there was

prac­tic­ing pad­dling. Ev­ery time you’ve surfed a wave to the shore, you’ve got to be able to pad­dle back to the sea to wait for the next wave. If you’ve got your bal­ance in or­der, this is fairly sim­ple — pic­ture freestyle swim­ming with­out us­ing your legs and in a much less fran­tic man­ner so you don’t im­bal­ance the board.

The waves were quite a dis­ap­point­ment that day though. Wind was neg­li­gi­ble and that means the waves weren’t as big as we’d have liked them to be. We couldn't re­ally prac­tice stand­ing up on the board — we just had to use the surf­board as a body­board and ride the waves to the shore. But Guido says I did well. I picked up quickly and man­aged to grasp the ba­sics with­out too much of trou­ble. And that I’d need to be back on a day with bet­ter waves to ac­tu­ally get up on to the board.

As for the redi-GO, it did great. I think Dat­sun took a leaf out of a surfing guide book when they made the redi-GO. You see, it makes for a great city car but it is plenty ca­pa­ble of tack­ling the wild out­doors and do­ing some­thing ad­ven­tur­ous. It’s as com­fort­able on the high­way as it is squeez­ing through peak hour traf­fic. It is as com­fort­able slid­ing around on a beach as it is do­ing the gro­cery er­rands. They seem to have got the bal­ance of this small car spot on.

Right: Main­tain mo­men­tum and you wont beach your­self in the sand. Be­low: Enough space in this small car for my surf­board

Left: Who said you can’t have fun in a city car? Fac­ing page, main: The redi-GO is light and that means driv­ing on sand is easy. Far right: Guido was my surfing coach for the day

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