The sixth edition of the Malabar River Festival took place July 17th and is South India’s only extreme adventure competition. The event, held in Kerala, the south-westernmost state of India, has gained a lot of attention the past few years, and for good reasons.
India is a country, which hasn’t been explored a lot by the kayak community yet! But it has lots to offer, as first descents are pretty much around every corner. The Indian culture is unbelievable. They say that the people make the destination and that’s true. The friendliness of the locals was evident the moment I left the plane.
Arriving in Kochi, we hustled into the traffic and headed south. Travelling overland in India is no easy feat. A journey of 180 km can easily take eight hours of hectic driving. The flat plans slowly made way to mountains coated in dense jungle with river valleys hidden in the trees.
Being in India for the first time, it was an event of new experiences. It was great to compete and race against the local talents who were just buzzing the entire time. Their energy and fire for the river life is addictive!
The stands were packed with people, and it was necessary to duck past a wall of umbrellas to get the best view from shore. Phones were on display, the numerous locals fighting battles of their own on the muddy path as they tried to take photos with their favourite racer.
The racing kicked off with the Freestyle. Three surfable waves on a flooded Kuttiyadi River made for a unique and dynamic competition venue. Athletes could use any of the three features in their forty-five-second rides, as well as incorporate a variety of downriver moves, leaving choice as to how to score the maximum amount of points.
The next races were held on the Chalipuzha River. The course was friendly yet challenging, with roadside access for the incredible crowds who gathered to show their support. A field of forty international paddlers and constantly changing water levels meant competition was tight!
The fifth and final event of the 2018 Malabar River Festival crowned the Rapid Rani and Rapid Raja, as well as a significant cash purse. When you get the chance to go to a place like this the results come second, but it is a bonus on top of your experience.
The skies cleared just in time for the ladies to start off the day. We had two runs, of which our best single time would count. Clean lines put me on top after the first lap, but it was Nouria Newman who put on the gas in her final run to take the Rapid Rani title.
Cheers erupted as New Zealand’s Mike Dawson came across the finish line to claim the win and the Rapid Raja title ahead of young German Adrian Mattern, with the USA’s Dane Jackson in third.
The impact of an event like the Malabar Festival is undeniable. The scale of the event is something to behold, and while many walked away physically enriched; clutching checks for thousands of rupees, the wealth that comes from taking part in something special and the joy of discovering a new place was shared by all.
A massive thanks goes out to the organisers of this awesome five festive days of paddling, competition and camaraderie and for looking after us and making this journey epic. Cheers to Jacapo & Manik!
Check out Bren’s report of this year’s Malabar Fest here.