I will be honest, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with competitions. I have never really enjoyed rules and I struggle to wait around all day to kayak for a just a few brief minutes. However, I do love the challenge and motivation that a competition provides, the chance to hang out with friends old and new and to be given a reason to travel to a new destination. So with all that being said, when I got the opportunity to travel to India and take part in Malabar River Festival, I jumped at it!
This festival has risen from a small local event to one of the bigger and more well-known events in the kayaking world through a combination of its destination, the collective stoke from the Indian kayaking community, enormous cash prizes and many years of hard work from the organisers Jacopbo, Manik and their team.
The first day we travelled three hours away to Kuttiyadi River to take part in the Freestyle portion of the event. I was honestly pretty dubious as to what the wave would be like but it was actually really good, there where in fact three good waves to choose from and the organisers allowed you to take your rides on any of them and to swap between them during your time limit, which I think made for an awesome event! I took home third place just behind Dane Jackson and Nick Troutman and my Palm teammate Martina Wegman won the women’s class!
Next up was the slalom race which, due to high water levels, was held on an easier stretch of whitewater close to town. Full-time Slalom athlete and whitewater ninja Mike Dawson put on an absolute masterclass and won by several seconds, I was pretty happy with my lines and speed down the rapid but getting around the poles tightly and quickly put me outside of a top five finish. There was some really solid racing in the women’s category and it was awesome to watch Nouria and Martina battling it out.
The boater-X at Malabar river festival was honestly one of the best I have ever taken part in. Everyone raced hard but clean and the atmosphere provided by the hundreds of excited spectators was electric, unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of the inevitable argy-bargy that takes place in these races and didn’t advance into finals.
The final event of Malabar river festival was a ‘Pro’ only event at the infamous Malabar Express rapid. This is a long, continuous rapid with many, many chunky holes to contend with. It was an awesome race course and I was personally stoked on my race lap considering I didn’t really get much practice time beforehand. However once again Mike Dawson took home the win with his trademark smooth and powerful racing style.
The festival ended with a closing ceremony by the side of the river with hundreds of people in attendance, rounding out an awesome couple of days of competition!
Congratulations to all of the competitors, a huge thanks to the organisers and thoroughly looking forward to coming back next year! – Bren
Check out Martina’s report of this year’s Malabar Fest here.