By: Siddharth Seshan 

It was around half past three when we, a team of four finally embarked on our seven hours long road trip to Kodenchery, a small township in the Calicut district of Kerala. But this was not just a regular trip to visit the pristine greenery that is present in ‘God’s own country’. No… We were on a mission. A mission to begin our training as whitewater kayakers. And boy, I couldn’t wait…

We reached the hotel rather late at night, having a quick dinner on the way, gorging on some lovely chicken curry Kerala style with parathas. And of course the beef fry! It was late, but the nervous excitement had set in for the coming two days of kayaking and we called it a night soon needing to be up bright and early to plunge into serious business.

Saturday morning came soon enough and we made our way to the ‘Kayaker’s House’ to load our gear. We grabbed a simple but tasty breakfast at this cute joint run by a lady whom we lovingly call Chechi (elder sister in Malyalam). At the Kayaker’s house, we loaded up our kayaks and the rest of the gear on a tempo and were soon on the road again to the location on the banks of the river Chalipura where the action was about to begin! Even though my excitement was getting the better of me, wanting to begin right away, Manik, our instructor for the weekend took his time to explain the gear in detail, what they are called and their functionality. Attention to detail seem to be a prominent theme in the sport of kayaking having specific terms for everything relevant and the importance of careful preparation before even getting into the river! But coming back to the gear, the five main components of kayaking gear was drilled onto us and in no time we were all geared up and ready to carry our kayaks and paddles down to the river.

All geared up and headed for the river. 

All geared up and headed for the river. 

At first, Manik told us to get familiar with the water and we had a swim, the cool water feeling exhilarating! Then the training commenced… The very most important aspect of kayaking that one must get comfortable with as a beginner, is the sensation of being overturned and underwater when attached to a kayak, a situation that occurs rather frequently. Believe me when I say that it is not a pleasant feeling at first! I was told to flip and stay underwater for as long as I could. As the seconds went by, the more accustomed I got to the feeling resulting in me being able to keep my composure quite easily in the successive flips. The second most important thing we learned was a wet exit, involving the technique to detach oneself from their kayak when underwater.

Having covered all safety related techniques that also increased our confidence, we moved onto practicing paddling. For a beginner like me, it started off as quite a challenge, finding it difficult to even steer the kayak straight! But practice and perseverance is the name of the game, and sooner or later I was able to direct the kayak to where I wanted to go. The key is to pick an object you wish to move towards and concentrate on it! We took a brief lunch break and treated ourselves to some delicious chicken curry prepared by our very own Chechi, all of us rather satisfied with what all we have covered. I wanted to finish up my food as quickly as possible and get back into the water! Soon my wish was fulfilled and we spent a few more hours on the river, this time playing a few fun games such as kayak polo!

The fast and furious game of kayak polo. 

The fast and furious game of kayak polo. 

Evening approached and we were tired but still fired up for tomorrow. I was excited to learn the skills of kayaking further. Manik had also informed us that we will be running a river stretch tomorrow that included the famous Jogi’s hole! After a fun evening together as a group along with dinner, we bid our dues for the night and caught up with some sleep.

I was the first to wake up the next day, ready to go. We had breakfast, picked up the gear and made our way to the river, this time in a section with a slightly stronger flow. But before we begin our training, we had yet another theory session, this time understanding how to read a river. Manik thought us in detail about eddys and various other river properties where with such knowledge, a kayaker can understand the line he/she must follow while paddling downstream. Soon I was in my kayak and was practicing how to paddle in flowing water, entering eddys, moving out eddys and other techniques. After a solid few hours of practice Manik decided we were ready to run the river. Excitement was setting in and I could feel the adrenaline pumping in, little did I know then that this was just the beginning. We had a quick snack, checked our kayaks and drained them, adjusted our gear and made our way down!

Catching eddies. River eddies are sections of relatively slower moving water that kayakers can get into to get out of the main flow to catch a breath and to have a looksy at what's coming up next .

Catching eddies. River eddies are sections of relatively slower moving water that kayakers can get into to get out of the main flow to catch a breath and to have a looksy at what's coming up next .

The experience of hitting your first rapid is like no other. The faster flowing water, ensuring your kayak is straight with the flow and straying away from obstacles, all a reality now. I personally did not fare well in my first rapid having missing the line. But it was just a small challenge and with determination I managed to get myself back on track. The coming rapids were a treat to a beginner like me and was absolutely mind-blowing! I was challenged a fair amount, was flipped, required to perform a wet exit and more. The breathtaking experience of running rapids which involved paddling down drops, steering through bends and enjoying the calmness of the river that existed between rapids while surrounded with lush green vegetation was a true delight. But the icing on the cake was saved for the end, Jogi’s hole!! The nine feet drop turned out to be the most fun to run, with the water rushing upwards as you hit the surface of the river with authority.

Running the in-famous Jogi's hole.

Running the in-famous Jogi's hole.

Our river stretch was done which concluded our first ever kayaking experience. We carried our kayaks to the vehicle and made our way back to the kayaker’s house. While I placed the gear for drying, I couldn’t help but think of the next time I would be putting them on, picking up my kayak and hitting the river once again. The planning, the preparation, communicating among each other and true determination, one can contemplate the importance of such traits in being successful in life. These qualities are truly tested and are forced to adhere to in a white water kayaking trip, from start to end.

We packed up our stuff and were also needed to carry three kayaks back to Bangalore. Manik strapped them onto the top of his car while I sheepishly tried to offer him any help when he asked for it, having no experience in such a feat. Soon we were ready to go. While I sat in the car and as we made our ascend onto the mighty Western Ghats, that give birth to the beautiful rivers, I couldn’t help but reflect on the weekend. An experience like no other, kayaking reminded me of the mightiness of Mother Nature as it humbled me repeatedly. As we traversed the windy roads with three kayaks on top of us, as warriors, sort of wishing that the weekend wouldn’t have come to an end. But one thing is for certain, Mother Nature in its masterful way has displayed its magnificence, for it has yet again acquired another disciple.  

The weekend warriors

The weekend warriors


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