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Into the wilderness of Kerala-Malabar River Festival

By Banani

6 August, 2016

Kodenchery Kodenchery
  “To stay the course, sometimes you have to make waves”, one of the kayakers said. The adrenaline rush was high, the participants were all set to get into the water with their colorful Kayaks. I could see yellow, green kayaks matched with the colorful helmets sported by the adventurers.The eyes of the locals were filled with excitement and enthusiasm. We passed a portion of the dense vegetation surrounding the area, with the aid of big rocks and lean passages.Finally, somehow, we managed to reach the base of the stream. The loud sound of the gushing water broke the silence of the environment. The visitors were geared up with their mobiles and cameras to capture the best. Manik Taneja, co-founder of the festival seemed busy walking around with a walkie-talkie, helping the cops by keeping a check on the safety of the incoming tourists flooding on the slippery rocks to have the best glimpse. The executive photographers were waiting in patience with their cameras clung to their hands. The competitors were receiving attention from the police, media professionals and the locals, of course- young enthusiasts, men and women of all ages came to support the festival. The whole environment was full of life, energy and enthusiasm.
On the way to the Malabar River Festival On the way to the Malabar River Festival
Doesn’t it sound interesting? Let me de-mystify the above scenario. This picture we’ve been trying to describe,is from the Asia’s biggest whitewater Kayaking festival, Kodenchery, Kerala. Situated between the lush green Wayanad and Malapuram districts, Kodenchery is a small town in Kerala, which is blessed with 3 rivers. It is for the first time ever India has celebrated an event like ‘TheMalabar Kayak festival’. Kayaking is an adventurous water sport and participants from all over the world have come to glorify this amazing festival. As Kodenchery is blessed with rivers like Iruvanjippuzha and Chalippuzha, it makes a perfect eight to 15kms kayaking course, which is least seen elsewhere in the world.
The Kayakers The Kayakers
The Start: In 2012, JacopoNordera and ManikTaneja, the founders of ‘Malabar River Festival (MRF)’found Kodenchery to be the perfect place for Kayaking due to the presence of white waters, with an intent of promoting the place in the International Kayaking Community. The festival started in 2013 and witnessed many national and international Kayakers joining in. The locals showed much interest and even participated in the festival with enthusiasm. For over 3 consecutive years, this place had been welcoming Kayakers from different parts of the world, such as the U.K, U.S., Russia, Germany and Poland. Experienced Kayakers from Rishikesh, India has also seen participating in this adventurous sport this year.
Manik Taneja ( co-founder) Manik Taneja ( co-founder)
Founder’s View: Kodenchery is already quite famous for its spices- pepper, cardamom and ginger. The monsoon being the off-season in Kerala, this festival draws many tourists/visitors.This helps the locals, who heavily depend on tourism for their livelihood. JacopoNordera, founder of the event, said, “The crowd funding campaign has been an important result for us. Our well-wishers have given us the confidence to carry on this amazing festival. This has become an important annual event in the Malabar region with the help of local authorities and all white water lovers. We are really thankful for all the people who believe in us and has supported us so far.”
Locals with their cameras and mobiles Locals with their cameras and mobiles
The Festival: This July, Kodenchery had celebrated its 4th edition of the Malabar festival. It is an annual festival and this time it was held between 29th and 31st July, 2016. The festival draws white-water and adventure sports lovers from different parts of the world. This year alone, eight countries had participated with almost 50 Kayakers competing across four different events, Kayak Slalom, Boater Cross, Downriver Time trails and Super final extreme race. The paddlers were a mix of both professionals and inexperienced. The best part of the festival is the welcoming of both the genders and promoted equality in its own way.
A Kayaker with his Kayak A Kayaker with his Kayak
Today, the festival is a big success and is growing bigger because of the locals’ support. The event has also made the locals understand the importance of promoting the water sport in India. Several famous kayakers have participated in the event too and have added to the memorable moments of this festival. The international Kayakers appreciate the beauty of the river and they get mesmerized by the amazing experience in the foothills of Wayanad.
All set to go! All set to go!
Winners of 2016: Joe Rea-Dickins and Beth Morgan were announced champions of Malabar River Festival 2016. They both were crowned ‘Rapid Raja’ and ‘Rapid Rani’ respectively. Joe Rea-Dickins had an absolutely smoking run down the “fire-alarm” finishing with a course record time of 2:13:15, 3 seconds faster than the runner-up.
On interviewing Beth Morgan, she expressed her happiness on her second time visit to India. She loved the people in Kerala, their hospitality and food. "The festival this year was really good again. It was very well organized and seemed to run really smoothly. I was really happy with my performance this year - I improved on all of my times from last year and got through to the super final. It's a really proud achievement to have done that and to have won the rapid Rani title 2 years in a row", she further added.
The winners of MRF 2016 (source: Malabar River Festival) The winners of MRF 2016 (source: Malabar River Festival)
The Sponsors: For the event to happen and reach success, indulged are many supporting hands. Organized on the behalf of Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Society by Kerala Kayak Academy and Madras Fun Tools, the festival is growing successively. Participants were provided free water-proof watches by SF from Sonata, colorful T-shirts to athletes and volunteers by Woodlands and Jelly Fish Water sports provides monetary support for the execution of the festival.
Loved his expression!  Loved his expression!
The Funding:The organizers opted for a crowd-funding platform, known as “Ketto” for raising funds for this festival. Fortunately, they were able to raise an amount of around 4 lakhs which they used for the expenses of the festival. ‘Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Society (KATPS)’had planned to release an amount of Rs.5 lakhs,to be used for prize money and other expenses in the festival.
The Future:The aim of this festival is to create awareness on kayaking among the masses. The organizers and locals feel that everybody should know about this annual water sport event and patrons should spread the word throughout the country.India as our country has so many resources to offer in the form of rivers and streams. The goal of the organizers would like to use this festival as a platform to help in growing the Kayaking Community by providing opportunity to the paddlers or the Kayakers from all around the world. This in turn will help in promoting the local community and thereby tourism in the Malabar region.
Malabar River Festival (Source:MRF) Malabar River Festival (Source:MRF)
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