A band belted out rhythmic music, the stalls were busy, and the competitors got ready for yet another foray into the waters.

Jonty Rhodes too was in the swing of things at the Covelong surfing, music and yoga festival, 20 km off Mahabalipuram. A carnival atmosphere prevailed.

A sense of adventure shines through this fielding legend from South Africa. These days Rhodes tangoes with the waves. “I find it relaxing and challenging,” said the man who has made a habit of overcoming roadblocks.

Bungee jumps

Rhodes had this fear of heights. He put that behind by bungee jumping from the Bloukrans in South Africa. Remarkably, Rhodes had done it at the highest bridge bungee jumping point in the world.

“It was scary at first but turned out to be an incredible experience,” Rhodes said, the sparkle in his eyes unmistakable.

Rhodes is a bit of a roadie as well. “If I am in Mumbai, I try to take a Royal Enfield and go out on the roads. I have also been picked up by the Jaipur Riders and been taken out.”

He said, “In South Africa, it’s all very fast. In India, sometimes the roads are congested and it’s fun.”

Rhodes first journeyed to India in 1993. “I have seen both the good and the bad here. But India is a spectacular country.”

When visiting Chennai, Rhodes stays along the ECR where he is close to both the sea and the road. “In Mumbai, I try and go to Lonavla. But Jaipur is special.”

Travelling on a train in India is on Rhodes’ wish list. “I want to do that next,” he said.

Interestingly, Rhodes dreaded the ocean at first. He conquered his apprehensions by surfing. Now, the sport is a passion for the man who is still fit, flexible and travels to surf in the waters of Sri Lanka and Bali among other places.

Rhodes observed, “There are a lot of similarities between cricket and sailing. When you are batting, every ball is different. It’s the same in surfing. No two waves are ever the same.”

Praise for Hayden and Steyn

Talking about cricketing personalities and surfing, he is appreciative of Matthew Hayden and Dale Steyn. “Matthew has grown up surfing in Australia. Dale is a keen surfer, I see him surfing from time to time in Cape Town.”

The affable Rhodes is never short of stories. “The year was 1996 and we travelled to Pakistan for a tri-series. We also journeyed to the rugged Khyber Pass. There were guys who fired their AK-47s in the air for fun. I was scared of the guns though!”

He may be wary of the guns but put Rhodes in the middle of nature and he is as brave as they come. A blithe spirit, Rhodes is so full of life.