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High-end Adventure Sports with former Elite Special Force Veterans

High-end Adventure Sports with former Elite Special Force Veterans
Major Vivek Jacob, Director and Founder, Project CLAW, Photo Credit: Labanya Maitra

Project CLAW (Conquer Land, Air and Water) brings the specialised skills of elite Special Forces veterans into the realm of high-end adventure sports, survival training and self-defence

Labanya Maitra
May 03 , 2020
03 Min Read

Why did you decide to join the Indian army? 
I come from a military family. My grandfather and father were in the army, my uncles were in the army, my aunt was married to a naval officer. But that is not the reason why I chose to join. I wanted to join the merchant navy, I wanted to travel. But my personal circumstances were such that I had to shoulder the responsibility of my family early, and the army was my second option. So, I joined the NDA in June ’98. 

What inspired you to come up with CLAW?
I was doing a combat freefall course, that’s like military skydiving, in Agra. That’s when I got in an accident, the parachute got wrapped up over my leg and my spine got injured. Around this time I met this guy, a disabled air force officer. He came up to me and asked if he could also scuba dive. I looked at him and I said, “Yeah, why not? Let me come back to you on this.” I went back home and started researching on Google. And I came up with this video of a lady in a wheelchair. She had cylinders on the back, propellers, and a wing attached. And she was scuba diving. So, I showed him that. This was in 2015. 

How did it go from idea to realisation?
The thought that came into my head was this: if I want to help this man, there would be so many others who would want to lend a hand too. If I put this case out there on the internet, people would contribute, right? Other scuba divers like me, you know. From just trying to make that one guy scuba dive, the idea of a scuba diving network came into my mind. With that in mind, I realised that this year, 2020, we ought to dedicate ourselves to people with disabilities. 

What is Operation Blue Freedom?
Operation Blue Freedom is not just about scuba diving, it is about adventure sports. It is about opening up adventure sports, this so-called inaccessible field for people with disabilities. What we are saying is that if you have the heart, if you have the mind, you can cross this barrier. A disabled guy can scuba dive. A lot of people are afraid of diving, they’ve seen Jaws or whatever, and have inhibitions in their mind. These are very natural fears. But when they see a person with a disability scuba diving, they become icons, or leaders, to follow. As of now, people with disabilities are considered vessels of pity, and that’s not what they need. What they need is respect. What they need is for people to recognise what is inside them and to feed off of that. We want to create the world record for the largest number of people with disabilities scuba diving together in the open sea. That’s 50 people. The previous was 29. 

What does the training look like?
We are training them in four cities across India, and going to Lakshadweep for the open- water dive. So, that’s Chandigarh, New Delhi, Mumbai and NCR (Noida and Gurugram). We have finished the training and now we are headed to the open seas. We will go and plonk ourselves down for a month and gradually get them accustomed to everything. The world record attempt will happen a month later, with all the weather conditions and the entire medical back-up team. We want to show people that this is what is possible. 

How does your Special Forces background come into play?
It’s about expertise. After a certain point, it comes to heart. We are the experts in scuba diving. Professionally, we have 15-20 years in this field. Each of our instructors have got anywhere between 25,000 to 30,000 hours of diving. Even in our team, we have people certified in dive medicine; they have studied the physiology of diving and related subjects. Every Special Forces soldier is qualified in medical skills, and basic emergency first aid. That is our unique selling point. Recreational diving happens in clean water, you can see fishes, etc. We have done combat diving, which happens at night. There is minimum to zero visibility, you can hardly see your compass and we feel our way through the dives. That is our level of expertise, which comes into play. 
 


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