Seeing a standup paddler on many rivers in the US or even Europe might not be that big of a thing these days, but on the Ganges in India? And yet, a former banker turned environmentalist – Shilpika Gautam – is looking to be the first person to SUP the length of the Ganges, a total of 1,553 miles. She started three months ago at the source in Gomukh, and hopes to finish in the Bay of Bengal just after the first of the year.
Gautam is seeking to raise awareness of the need for water quality improvement – the Ganges is infamous for its pollution – in India, but she’s hoping to educate the people she comes in contact with along the way. Plus, if she succeeds, she just may set the world record for the longest single journey via SUP by a female. She quit her successful job in London to do it.
“An extended trip back to India in late 2015 showed me the challenging aspects of water pollution in the Ganga – with the plastic pollution component being the most visible. The extent of the problem not only left me distraught but also angry. However, it also left me wanting to learn more about the issue while indulging in a physical challenge too – at the same time I had just taken up the sport of stand-up paddle boarding. Wanting to combine the novelty of the sport with the desire to explore an imminent and serious environmental issue led to the birth of Gangessup,” said Gautam.
Gautam is paddling a Starboard inflatable and is being assisted by several groups, including WaterAid India.