Sport still in its infancy in Kerala, despite the State having 44 rivers and 560-km of coastline
Close on the heels of Kozhikode hosting the Malabar River Fest (MRF) in which renowned enthusiasts from around the world participated, Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district has become a venue for whitewater kayaking — an adventure tourism-cum-sports activity.
While participants enjoy the thrill and challenge it poses, viewers gather to witness the kayaks negotiate the cascading waters.
The Cochin Paddle Club has been spearheading the training programmes in whitewater kayaking like rescue technique, river running and rolling practice.
“The activity is getting popular as days pass by, with even school students getting trained in the Muvattupuzha river. Many of them, including me, began with whitewater rafting that is popular in many tourist destinations in northern India, and graduated to whitewater kayaking,” says Nommy Paul, trainer, who has participated in international kayaking events.
It is also a life-time hobby. The Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Society and the State-level whitewater kayaking federation are helping popularise this activity in Muvattupuzha river.
“Foreign participants who visit Kerala are often amazed at whitewater kayaking being still in its dormancy in Kerala, despite the State having 44 rivers and a 560-km coastline. The monsoons are the best season for this in Kerala since waterbodies get good river streams then. Even otherwise waterbodies here have warm waters during much of the year. This is unlike in much of the West when one has to wait for glaciers to melt. Still, it needed an Italian national who participated in MRF to discover Kerala’s potential,” Mr Paul said.
“Kerala must take the plunge into such adventure activities to attract more tourists and enthusiasts. Sadly, only 6% of people in Kerala know open-water swimming, so much so that even youth had to be rescued in huge metal vessels in chest-deep water during the 2018 floods. Incidents like drowning can be prevented if people learn swimming, venture into unfamiliar waters after wearing protective gear and if they are not in an intoxicated condition,” he added.
“The fear and risk can be mitigated once trainees master the escape tricks. There are plenty of opportunities in the adventure activity,” said Anna Naveen, whose two school-going daughters recently joined the training programme.
Siby Mathai of Cochin Paddle Club said that watersports have as many medals in the Olympics like athletics. It is apt for Kerala which has pleasant waters since cycling, running enthusiasts encounter traffic, air pollution, bad road conditions and even stray dogs. Many medical professionals, chartered accountants and entrepreneurs have taken to whitewater kayaking. This will in the long run help overcome the fear of water and develop love for water, deterring people from using waterbodies as a space to dump garbage, he said.
Source: The Hindu