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Climb Like a Woman

Gowri Varanshi.
2019 Jan/ Hampi

Climb Like a Woman

Claw or Climb Like a Woman, is the first ever Indian women’s climbing meet up that just took place in Hampi from December 26th to 30th, 2018.

I initiated organizing Claw because for a few years I had felt that in India, and in other countries there is a lack of mentoring and guidance to teach people newly trying this sport. Often when beginners first start they have to climb with stronger climbers to learn. This can be quite intimidating as stronger climbers will teach beginners on one or two easy boulders and then naturally make their way to harder climbs and beginners are left trying things randomly way above their skill level.

Climb Like a Women

It can be especially intimidating for women and so I had wanted to organize a meet where it would be only women creating an atmosphere of positivity and encouragement while trying/teaching bouldering for over two years now. In a male dominated sport it, it would be refreshing to create an atmosphere of positivity, encouragement and a feeling of security to share anything with each other as we were all women facing the same fears on rocks, sharing the same weaknesses or strengths and helping each other while climbing.

So as soon as I decided to stop procrastinating and get it done, I first contacted Prerna Dangi, Lekha Rathinam, Vrinda bhageria and later Dr. Mel Batson and Inspire crew team Kopal Goyal and Zhen Patil to see if they want to join in on making this event happen. It was an event where complete beginners were mentored by experienced climbers and introduced into the sport the right way with knowledge of how to be safe, how to climb, how to spot and so on. We had 25 women participants at the event and most them had zero or a little bit of experience. By the end of the event all the 25 women bonded and climbed so well that most of them climbed highball boulders and did an excellent job spotting when not climbing themselves. We couldn’t believe that majority of participants were complete beginners due to the bravery and determination they showed on every boulder they climbed. We were proud of the spotting skills learned in particular, as it reduces potential injuries/accidents and keeps climbers safe. Apart from bouldering sessions, we did some slacklining, swimming and an exercise workshop where we taught everyone strength and conditioning exercises along with injury prevention for climbing and stretching/yoga.

Climb Like a Woman

We could not have pulled this off without the generous help of our sponsors and our event partner Inspire Crew. Gipfel Climbing Equipment provided us with quality tents and crash pads and we received swag from Decathlon Sports India, Allied Petzl, Climbskin, Deccan Climbing, Organic Climbing, American Alpine Club, The Cliffs at LIC, Adtire, Equilibrium Climbing Station, Godesi, and Adventureworx.

Our hope is to have more women’s events, where experienced women climbers will teach women bouldering, rope climbing, safety standards and more. We need the gap in ratio of men climbing versus women to be bridged and so doing more events where women are introduced in a friendlier atmosphere might grow their confidence in continuing to climb as a regular activity. The main goal though is to create a community and support system for women within the larger climbing community, which will also create closeness and friendships amongst women climbers but also encourage more women to take it up in the future.

Passion Airborne

Avi Malik

The author, Avi Malik, is an ex-IAF fighter pilot and the founder of Temple Pilots, an international flight training school. He is a Qualified and Certified Tandem Instructor, Acro Trainer, XC (Cross Country) Instructor and SIV Instructor, making him one of the most qualified in the country. He is also among the first in India to get their FAI (Federation Aeronotique Internationale) Paragliding Sporting License.

 

8 January 2019:   Flying is humanity’s oldest dream. And paragliding is that dream come true for me. As a recreational as well as competitive adventure sport, there are over a million hobby pilots worldwide enjoying flying in the most exotic of locales on the planet. It truly is amazing for me how you can fit a real aircraft in a backpack, carry it to the top of a hill, soar in the sky for hours together, land next to your car and drive back home with a smile on your face.It truly symbolises our deepest urge for freedom and joy in its purest form. Even after 20 years of flying paragliders, the serene delight of floating thousands of feet over a splendid landscape still inspires wonder and amazement in me.

But let’s go back to the basics first. A paraglider is a lightweight, foot-launched glider aircraft with a flexible wing. The pilot sits comfortably in a harness suspended below a wing made of nylon polyester fabric. The wing’s shape is maintained by the suspension lines, static pressure inside the cell openings and the aerodynamic forces over its surface.

Passion Airborne

This sport, like all others, comes with its share of history. Paragliders have evolved from parachutes. Improved parachute designs led to cut outs at the rear and sides that enabled them to be towed into the air and steered, leading to Parasailing or Parascending, which is pretty different from paragliding. In the 1960’s, the famous Ram-Air Design was invented. A decade later, a group of enthusiasts started towing Ram-Air Parachutes and three French friends started inflating them, running down a slope and gliding down to the fields below. As the equipment continued to improve, number of paragliding pilots and established sites continued to increase. The first officially sanctioned FAI World Paragliding Championship was held in Kössen, Austria, in 1989. Since then, glider design and technology have come a long way, and so have the worldwide training standards. There are national and international associations that regulate and promote the sport. Safety standards have gone up substantially risk reduced to a great degree.

There are two basic disciplines of the sport: Cross Country (XC) flying where pilots aim to find thermals and cover long distances and Acro Flying where pilots gain maximum altitude to do aerobatic tricks with their wings. Most pilots choose one over the other, though there are many who choose to enjoy both.

Illustration Leonardo Da Vincis Parachute

In India, paragliding first took roots in the hill station town of Manali when the first European paragliding enthusiasts began travelling abroad with their coloured wings in the early 90’s. They taught the basics to locals, who then started flying tourists on tandem gliders (two seater wings). Initially, the sport didn’t grow beyong just small tandem rides in the Solang Valley and a few local solo pilots.

I started my flying in Manali too. I learnt the basic techniques and backed with my aviation background, took to advance flying as a natural progression. I would travel to different valleys, find a launch & soar for hours over the spectacular Himalayan ranges.

India is a country which is designed for paragliding. The weather and the landscapes here offer a huge variety of flying and a long season to pursue it as a hobby. The Himalayas in the north, the Deccan plateau, the Eastern and the Western Ghats, all have a huge potential for the sport to grow in our country. With the culture of adventure sports slowly picking up, I can’t wait to gradually see more Indian pilots in the Indian skies!

Check out Temple Pilots’ latest video below!

Curating a New Climbing Community: Suru Fest 2018

By Tenzing Jamyang
23 October 2018

Bouldering session in Suru

Bouldering session in Suru
Photo Credits: Sharad Chandra

This year marked the third edition of Suru Fest and climbers and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world made it to this celebration of the outdoors. Like every other year, the festival started on the 25th of August, ending on the 7th of September. Around 150 people travelled to Suru to participate, coming from different parts of India and more than 20 other countries.

Suru valley is blessed with beautiful rock and a landscape favorable for extreme outdoor sports, hence it was always our plan to incorporate as many activities as possible at the fest. Our broader vision is to create a larger platform for all outdoor sports at Surufest and this year we managed to achieve that toa certain extent. Apart from boulderers, this year we also saw some trad climbers, kayakers, slack liners, downhill mountain bikers and yoga practitioners. Interacting with people from different communities and observing new lines being discovered was a great experience!

Highballing

Highballing
Photo Credits: Sharad Chandra

For this year’s fest, we were fortunate to partner with a multitude of sponsors. Our title sponsor Tata Hexa, generously gave us eight brand new Tata Hexa cars for the duration of the fest, alongside extending their much-needed support. Indian outdoor gear company Gipfel Climbing Equipment sent us top-of-the-line camping gear. BBLINE, Tokyo Powder, Mishmi Takin, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism and All Ladakh Tour Operators Association rounded up the list of our sponsors.

Now that we have over 300 boulder problems developed in the area, we will be releasing the guide book later this year. Once the guide book is available, we hope that Suru will become a more popular destination for climbers from all over.

We’ve approached some local schools and would like to establish a climbing wall in the Sankoo High School to encourage children take up climbing. One of our participants, Prerna Dangi, also organized a workshop with the local girls and spoke to them about reusable sanitary pads. Our intention has always been to help out the locals in as many ways as we can and we’d like to take that forward by hosting varied workshops for them to benefit from.

Over the course of these three years, Suru Fest has emerged as a platform for creating some exceptional content and we are thankful to be able to work with some of the best photographers and videographers. Sharad Chandra has created magic with his compositions while Taatvik and Flowmo have captured the essence of the festival through their films. We’re looking forward to releasing the content later on this year and can promise you it’ll be a treat to watch!

Suhail Kakpori, GraviT Climbing

Suhail Kakpori, GraviT Climbing
Photo Credits: Sharad Chandra

 

Tenzing Jamyang, GraviT Climbing

Tenzing Jamyang, GraviT Climbing
Photo Credits: Sharad Chandra

Racing in Europe Experience- A Top Dog

 

Racing in Europe – A Top Dog Experience

Piyush-Chavan

By Piyush Chavan

Right after I came second in the Bangalore Mountain festival, I decided I wanted to race the IXS German cup. It’s a race series I’ve dreamt of and more importantly I wanted to be in touch with how fast I really need to be in order to race at the World Stage.

I booked really cheap flight return tickets, almost 35K INR (my flight to the Philippines was more expensive), booked apartments instead of hotels and made sure I had all the intercity travel arrangements needed for the Schengen Visa. Shortly after my planning and my usual boasting of my Euro trip, 2 squeaky [but enthusiastic] teenagers decided to join me, I was really happy about it until we made the trip as these guys turned out to have way too much enthusiasm than I could handle.

I came home from Philippines on 9th May 12:40 am and caught my flight to Frankfurt at 6:30 pm with the two co-travelling athletes — Rishabh Gowda and Ruturaj Bhopatkar.

After long hours on the flight and on the train (twice – because we went the wrong way), we finally reached Winterberg where the owner – Wiseman as we called him greeted us with a huge surprise as we were the only people travelling there just for the Bike festivals.

Ruturaj Bhopatkar

Racing at this stage was surreal there were around 500 riders and 120 Elites. The track was short but full on European style with the roots and off cambers, practice went well for me but the finals was a surprise that no one liked, it raced 4 mins before I dropped in and it was fine until the start but as soon as I hit the woods I realised the Top layer of the mud was still very sticky and it all stuck to my tyres. Mud stuck on tyres + wet roots is definitely something I wasn’t prepared for and I went down hard on my hip and continued shortly after, just to finish the race.  In the meantime I met legends such as David Trummer, Ben Deakin and Fabio Wibmer. Racing alongside them on the same track was super awesome.

On a better note – Rishabh finished 18th in the Open Junior U-19 category, which is definitely a boost he needed to start of his international season. With an extremely high number of riders racing, Ruturaj was on the waiting list and couldn’t get the spot for race day. He did really enjoy all the trails in the Bike park though, when we were just riding the race track constantly.

Next stop was Willingen – the three of us were registered and were racing on a track that was used for the World Cup in 2005. It was fast and short, with lots of tricky sections, one had to hit everything perfectly to really make it count. We were also staying with two Vikings (Norwegians) Simen Smestad and Atle. These guys were ridiculously fun and Simen has been racing in the World Cups so it was great to share some knowledge with him.

Race day:

Matej Charvat (coach)

Due to the high winds the track was cut short for race day and my run was going well until I hit a tree. I admit, racing at this level did make me quite nervous and I constantly felt I wasn’t pushing enough. Although this wasn’t the end of this trip halfway across the world.

The main reason, why we decided to come to Europe was to ride Shladming and get faster. But the days ahead got even better than we had imagined. I had been in touch with Matej Charvat, a former World Cup racer, who was keen to train us. He happened to be free at the time and decided to give us a three day coaching lesson to better our skills.

Since we found out that the Shaldming bike park was closed for 24th and 25th of May, he made us drive to Leogang – a historical World Cup venue where the greats of our sports have raced, including the likes of the late Stevie Smith, Rachael Atherton and not to mention Aaron Gwin’s chainless run on this notoriously fast track.

We were in for a treat and some falls and some mechanicals, but on top of that there was heaps of improvement in confidence, skill and technique.

RIshabh Gowda

Matej corrected my body position on the bike which I involuntarily had and it just blew my mind over how much better I was able to shift my weight and move the bike around better. Following him down the World Cup track was a surreal experience.

Rishabh and Ruturaj were also pretty stoked to have trained under this guy and I never saw Ruturaj sitting and taking a break for once, which is very unlikely for him, trust me.

After two days of riding in Leogang, we made to Shaldming!!!

The Planai bike park and the WC track there is known by the entire mountain bike community worldwide as the BEST TRACK EVER! As also shown in Brendan Fairclough’s ‘Deathgrip’ movie, we were flying in our senses to be riding the same track we saw in the movie.

The day was surreal for all of us and our hands were about to drop off after riding 18 minutes of Downhill non-stop!

Just at the finishing area of the tracks, the bike park had introduced a new double jump. I was super keen on hitting it and I went for it in the first try and landed smooth. Though there was a bit of a change in store for me and I decided to do it again after hammering down DH runs. I was tired and misjudged the speed ending up overshooting the jump, which resulted in landing on my face and shoulders from a height of 30ft.

I was knocked out cold and couldn’t breathe. I suffered a concussion and was taken to the local Hospital. Four X-Rays and 283 Euros later they told me I was safe and had (thankfully) not broken any bones, I was really happy and smiling which was a huge contrast to the pain I was in a little while earlier. I guess the European painkillers are just Killer! They freakin work…

I felt lucky that I had my two downhill monkeys, Rishabh and Ruturaj with me to carry my bags around for their injured little friend and, trust me, they were great company throughout the trip and helped me reach home safely. Except for the fact that I cooked for the three of us the entire trip.

Sadly, I couldn’t be there on the 17th of June in Bangalore for the downhill event as I was still healing from my  injury and making my plans to move to New Zealand mainly to study a course in Adventure tourism that can aid my lifestyle of riding bikes and travelling in the future.

Europe, you were amazing. I hope to greet you again with great  freaking enthusiasm and make sure I have twice the fun I had this time.

Until next time, cheers!

The writer is an elite Downhill Mountain Biker from Pune. Currently based in New Zealand, he started learning how to ride in 2007 with some local riders from Pune and now races in the Asia circuit. The founder of Indian Shredder, Piyush is working towards getting more kids interested in the sport and often conducts workshops and events locally. 

Flying dreams – a work in progress

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By Lakshmi Swaminathan for BigRush

As paragliding season returns in Asia with colourful gliders forming a pretty foreground among the peaks, a million adventure enthusiasts out there still dream of flying on their own. Years ago, one of these was Yash Paul Thakur, a young boy from a middle-class family in Bir, Himachal Pradesh.
He first dreamt of flying at 14, and with sheer determination became a solo paraglider. Now 22, he recollects, “We would come every Sunday when we were in school to watch people fly. Most were foreigners and we were never allowed to touch the gliders.” Today, the youngster flies a minimum of 150 km a day.
He practised initially with a competition glider called Gin Boomerang 3 after which he found a mentor to guide him. “A good friend of mine who knew Ranjit Singh very well told me the ace paraglider would teach me how to fly. One day, at noon, he suddenly called and asked me to come to fly with him,” smiles Yash, remembering his experience.

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Paragliding was new in India back then and no one believed that a middle-class boy could afford to fly. So the young Yash ran away from home at the age of 16, heading for Manali to chase his dream. He stayed there for over two years and flew tandem gliders. He chose to stay in Manali to become better at the sport, and ended up doing over a thousand short flights.
“I was doing tandem from the beginning. Whenever I had the chance to fly solo, I would. I didn’t even care about food. I just practised the whole day,” he recalls. Later, he went to Rohtang where he flew long distance in the evenings.
After his return to Bir, he tried doing the wingovers he’d picked up in Manali on a BiGolden 2, a small sensitive glider. One of his best experiences flying in strong wind over open valleys for the first time was at the Vagamon Tandem Flying Festival in Kerala in 2014.
Reaching higher
Once he returned from Kerala, he went to Srinagar as the weather in Bir was unsuitable for flying. There, he tried to reach maximum heights on long flights, flying through the clouds to reach the next hill.
On a friend’s request, he tried a twist to his regular paragliding acrobatics, something he doesn’t normally do with clients. “I tried to do a SAT spiral, which we generally do by increasing speed, going into a wingover and then entering a SAT. I’d never done a SAT before, and the moment I tried, the glider collapsed and it was only 20 per cent open. I let it spin and recovered afterwards with a lot of difficulty,” says Yash, who learnt his lesson with the experience and stopped taking unnecessary risks.
He is not the kind to back down from challenges. After he returning from Srinagar, a close senior asked to do a season with him. There he had the chance to experiment flying in an Axis solo glider.

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He went up till Solan city where the winds were really strong and another time to Chamunda from where he spotted Dharamsala. “The flight took five-and-a-half hours and I was a little disappointed as I couldn’t even complete 100 km within that time. But I had seen many foreign pilots practise long distance here and that motivated me. So, I kept practising until one day I managed 100 km in 3h 42m,” he notes of his first flight to Nainital.
As his addiction for slow flying and love for heights rose, he was asked to do an expedition over the next season. This led to him to fly to Kullu, rising above ridges and peaks while other friends flew to neighbouring villages. During one of these flights, he hit a thermal. “The glider is really sensitive. I had to be very cautious because a bit of carelessness can cause it to twist and tangle. My glider twisted once but I didn’t let it get another twist. This greatly impressed my expedition lead,” says Yash, who is now more confident with long distant flying, thanks to these experiences.
He is constantly finding inspiration and motivation from those around him. “During one of my first long-distance flights, I flew for two hours and I wanted to fly a bit more. That’s when I saw another pilot zoom past me. His high speed motivated me and I began to follow him. I flew for six hours straight and for the first time, I was above 4000 m. The flight was so demanding that I could not feel my hands or legs in the evening. The next day, I ended up flying over 160 km,” he recalls.
Despite the many challenges that come with being a young paraglider on his own in India, Yash remains motivated to constantly get better. He recently decided to buy a glider that performs well and hopes to fly full of confidence in the hope of setting a record. Now that’s a dreamer who is a doer.

Racing in India

piyush

Indian cycling is going places as more young talent takes up the sport. Previously, India saw only the army, air force and railways cycling teams compete in the National Championship, alongside some states where cycling was popular – like Karnataka, Haryana and Punjab.

Back then, for these riders, the main motivation to compete and win the National Championship was to get promoted (in the defence services) or land a government job (state team riders). They rarely, if ever, dreamed of winning international races.

This was the scene for decades until recently young urban lads took up the sport to challenge the dominance.

Today we have Kiran Kumar Raju from Bangalore, an MTech degree-holder who quit his high-paying job to pursue his passion and won the National Mountain Biking Championship (individual time trial) in 2015 and 2016.

Naveen John, also from Bangalore, was a road racing champion (individual time trial) in 2015 and 2016. He graduated from the US and returned to India to join a local cycling team and won the National Championship.

Neither is interested in government jobs because they want to represent India at the highest level and win medals for the country. They are now training in Belgium alongside two young riders, not just racing but also imparting their own learning to young riders.

Downhill Racing

Downhill mountain biking is fairly unknown in India, even in the leisure cycling circuit. Not many races in this category are held in the country, but a few daredevil youngsters have taken up the sport seriously and are known in other Asian countries for their talent and skill.

Pune’s Piyush Chavan has been racing the Asian circuit for the past three years, and last month finished in the Top 10 which is an incredible feat for an Indian. Vinay Menon and Rugved Thite, also from Pune, travel to race in the most epic downhill race in China, considered the next Utah Gravity Series.

Train hard and race smart!

Sunil Nanjappa

Upcoming races

National Mountain Biking Championship, Pune
September 22-24

To participate, you will have to contact your state cycling association for the selection dates as the Cycling Federation of India only permits riders from state associations. Private teams or riders are not allowed to race.

The national championship features a jeep track without any technical sections. To succeed in this race, you will have to train like a road racer and race like a road biker. Your mountain biking skills will come in little use.

The categories include – for men and women – Under 16, Under 18 and Elite.

Himalayan Mountain Bike Festival, Manali
October 12-15

If you are a fun-loving mountain biker who finds the National Mountain Biking course boring and too flat, then this race is for you. The festival has three different sports cycling genres – downhill, BMX and cross-country. All three feature very technical tracks with obstacles you can hope to find in international races.

MTB Himalaya

This is a premium eight-day, eight-stage endurance MTB race that begins in Shimla and ends at Dharmashala. You will race anywhere between 60-90kms on hilly terrain.

MTB Himalaya has grown phenomenally and now attracts some of the world’s best riders. For Indian endurance MTB riders, this is the best platform to showcase skills and strength.

Many strong young riders had their beginnings in this race, including Devender Singh (brown medal, 2015 National MTB Championship) and Shiven (under-18 gold medalist, 2015 National MTB Championship).

A Day in the Monsoon Swell

A Day in the Monsoon Swell

Somewhere between the beginning of October and end of December comes a time where the small surfing community of Auroville wakes up before the break of dawn for the same reason: to manifest themselves in the strong monsoon swells formed by the rough cyclones which are fuelled by the warm oceans off the East Coast of India.

Throughout the majority of the year the flame that burns inside of us is dormant, sustained only by a few South swells that manage to survive passing Sri Lanka. Now, though, during these monsoon months where low pressure depressions spring up on the maps every week or two, now is when our flames burst into life until they are huge infernos of ecstatic and pure energy.

Our eyes search the horizon as it lights up with a rush of fresh energy from the sun who gave the wind its strength to raise and nurture the big, clumsy swells.

As soon as there is enough light for the eye to read the waves, we come out of our thick sweaters and rain jackets, allowing our bodies to slowly become a part of nature itself. The biting drops of water eat away at the warmth which the artificial materials had previously given us. The crisp gusts of air make our skin form up into bumps and constrict our blood vessels as we try to hold in as much warmth as we can.

At first my body and mind reject the thought of going in; but as my feet sink into the cold, wet sand and my eyes lock onto the swell that I have been waiting for all year, my mind melts into the present, and everything else drifts away.

Surfing during the winter and monsoon months in India, old memories, good friends, good waves, and great surroundings all come together to make some of the best experiences that can ever be had. One reason for this is the energy brought upon us by two of the biggest factors of our environment merging together: the air and the ocean. They change our point-of-view of things and show us how small we really are.

As soon as the water reaches my waist I place my board on the surface and launch myself forward towards the oncoming waves. As I slowly make progress towards the open ocean (the outside) the white waters become bigger and bigger, each wave pushing with more power than the previous.

The breakers approaching, I do my best to time it so that I can pass untouched by them. I barely miss the last one as it breaks on top of my toes, halfway through my “duck dive” (a technique to pass both body and surfboard underneath the crashing waves). The buoyancy of my surfboard pushes me out the other side where I paddle to find a suitable take-off spot.

Then comes the rush of adrenaline as I drop down to the bottom of the wave, the speed increasing with every instant. Once at the bottom my fins dig deep into the water, giving me the traction to project myself down the line. I give in a couple extra pumps to maximise my velocity and I crouch, holding myself as close to the growing face of the wave as I can. Within a second the lip of the wave throws itself overhead. My mind is then calm and I am in a different state. Thoughts no longer come in the form of words, but as emotions, instincts and impulses. What might be a couple seconds feel like an eternity as the wave envelopes me within itself, the exit moving ever further away.

I pull my surfboard up higher on the face as the ‘foam monster’ reaches from below to devour me. Now out of its reach I gain speed, moving towards the cavern entrance. The intensity of the light is increasing. “I’m out,” I think to myself. But the wave has a different plan for me, and shutting down in the last second swallows me whole, pressing me on the sandy bottom.

For a good part of the day then, we stay in the water, exchanging waves and trying new manoeuvres as we toy with the surf, which seems glad to spend some time with us; although we maintain vigilance, for at any moment the surf could sweep us off our boards and send us flying to the bottom of the sea, where we lose orientation as it, in turn, plays with us, throwing our limbs in whichever direction it sees fit. It loses interest soon enough though, letting us escape back to the surface.

The connection between the natural elements, our minds and bodies grows almost too strong for our small, infant-like selves. We are forced to sever the link, letting the final exchanges of emotions take place between us as the sun sets off to see what the rest of the earth is up to. We slowly head back to our warm and cozy dwellings, with new memories we will treasure for the rest of the year.

By Perceval Fayon

Making Top 10 at Asia MTB

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At the start of 2017, I had a feeling that my riding needed to be more alive; that I wasn’t being challenged enough in my little environment. Though I was training harder with a new coach and a confirmed extension of my contract with Scott, I struggled to create an environment that pushed me and helped me grow.

So I decided on a trip to Indonesia from July to September to train, race and collect some UCI points.

I had a few good warm-up races and a big one at the Asian Continental Championships. I was looking forward to my trip ahead and then received news that Ajay Padwal – an old riding friend – had passed away.

Of course we were all shocked, and I did not understand how to deal with it because I literally grew up riding with him during my first few years on a bike. But I knew that I did not want to remember my friend like that, so I decided not to postpone my plan and flew out of the country as planned.

This trip was already getting a little wild with that shocking incident and whether I like to admit or not, it did have an effect on my first race.

My first two weeks in Indonesia before I headed to Sumatra were just plain busy, stocking up on bike parts, repairing old ones and a whole lot of riding in the Cikole Bike Park. This park has been built by riders with government support. You are charged INR 75 per entry with a full day shuttle costing a maximum of INR 500 if there are five people for each loading car.

Add in some great healthy local food just outside the track and you can return to the city happy for less than INR 1000 for a whole day. The Spartan Racing team from Indonesia helped me by sharing their knowledge and skills, and I really owe the good experience I had on my bike to them.

I was, surprisingly, not so excited to race in Lubuk Linggau (south Sumatra), but I was still looking forward to it. The entire race went like a fast-forward button where I enjoyed a few bits, but mostly just went through the motions. I tried making the most of it and learned quite a bit in terms of bike setup which would guide me for the next few races.

Post this race, things took an interesting turn. I was able to figure out why I was in that mindset and I decided to do my usual gym-ride-train-repeat routine for a week before I left for Malaysia.

During that week, I took a long XC ride to some waterfalls just outside the beautiful city of Bandung and that really bought the flow back for me. I had a feeling in the back of my head that Malaysia would be really good, and honestly it did not disappoint.

I was here for the Asia MTB Series in Tambunan, Sabah, and I was thrilled to meet my old friend Jr Barba who is one hell of a crazy rider and a bro to me.

We saw the track. It looked wide open and full throttle, with just two bad pedal sections, one big road gap and a few fun features. It wasn’t very exciting to me until I actually rode it a couple of times and realised that every run was better than the next!

My main issue before the race was attempting the 22-foot road gap. It was really scary and I had never jumped anything that big. Barba spoke to me on the uplift and his words strung well in my mind.

On the next run, I made a clean landing and found myself thinking once more that it was really me holding myself back. It was that simple – either you do it or you don’t. Ajay’s recent passing also made me literally pull my head out and realise that life is truly short and that I must make the most of any and every opportunity, just like he did.

On race day, we had seeding in the morning and the race in the afternoon. I seeded fifth, a podium spot for downhill. This got me excited and nervous at the same time. Unfortunately, it rained, and I struggled riding some sections confidently, losing some time to finish seventh.

I lost a chance to make the podium, but this was my first ever top 10 and I walked away with six UCI points. I know I could’ve done better, but this result has surely motivated me.

Rolling on India’s rivers

By Swaati Langeh and Dielle DSouza

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Starting out as a child, Beth Morgan took to kayaking like a fish to water. From a holiday hobby, paddling turned into a career. Ever since her first visit to India, Beth has been hooked onto the wild, tumbling rapids of India’s great rivers, from the Iruvanzhi in the south to the Zanskar in the north, and across the sub-continent.

In 2015, she stole the show at the Malabar River Festival, winning the Rapid Rani crown and then defending it the following year. Earlier this year, she finished first in the women’s expert at the North West Creeking Competition on the East Fork Lewis River in Washington, and third on the Canyon Creek Race nearby.

Currently working as a raft guide in Quebec, Canada, Beth is training to compete in races around the country, already topping the podium at the Neilson Race, Rouge Challenge and Hollywood Head 2 Head. She’ll soon storm the waters at the Montreal Eau Vive and Seven Sisters Slalom over the next few months.

She chats with BigRush about life in a kayak and the scene in India

How did you get into kayaking?
When I was a child, my father would often go kayaking and my uncle used to be a coach. I learned during our family vacations to France when I was about 12. Back then it was just a holiday thing. I joined the canoeing club at university and it took over my life. I did it all the time. All of my holidays turned into kayaking.

When did you know you were really hooked?
In the second year of university, I really immersed myself in the club. I was canoeing every weekend. When I graduated, I went travelling and had planned on doing a bit of kayaking and a bit of touristy stuff. But I ended up going kayaking the whole time. This is, maybe, when it turned into an obsession.

What has India been in this journey for you?
It’s my third time in India. Earlier I came for the Malabar River Festival in 2015, and then I went to Meghalaya in October of that year. I recently quit the job I had for the past three years and am just travelling and kayaking.

And how does that work, living that life?
It’s pretty amazing. I think it was a lot more natural to slip into the life than I thought it would be. I thought it would be a bit more of a challenge to go from working five days a week every week to coming out here.
I always feel really at home in Asia. I’ve travelled a lot here; I’ve been to Nepal, Indonesia. I really love it and it feels right. Coming to India first has really helped with going into that lifestyle. It’s somewhere that I’ve been, it’s somewhere that I love and I feel very comfortable.

Tell us what you’ve been up to in the world of kayaking lately.
After my six month trip in India and Nepal last year, I returned to the UK for a couple of months to see friends and family. Then I headed to California and Washington for three weeks for the North West Creeking Competition and the East Fork Lewis Race.
At the end of April, I headed to Canada and did my raft guide training in Quebec. I’m now working as a raft guide for the summer and learning French as well! I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking as well and will be racing in competitions too.
When I get time off from rafting, I’m hoping to explore some more rivers in the area, particularly up around Quebec city and Saguenay. The Tareau, Valin and Mistassibi are top of my list!
Then when the season ends in October, I am thinking of going to the Green Race before heading to South America for the winter.

So, competitive racing or going down the river?
Going down river. I’ve done a bit of competitive racing but I’m trying to get into it more. In the last six months, I’ve been trying to get into slalom to improve my race head. I put a lot of pressure on myself but I don’t do a lot of racing so I don’t really know how to. I felt a lot more relaxed this year, which was nice. It’s definitely something I want to do more of but if I had to choose, I’d just do it for fun.

It’s interesting to learn from that process. It seems to add cataclysm to your game, on paddling in general…
I think it’s a very different way of paddling because you’re on your own and you’re totally focused on just racing. It’s a very interesting way of paddling because I find it hard to just focus on kayaking and not think about everything else – not worry about other people on the river or about myself when I’m on the river.

So I guess paddling as a child was really useful to give you this direction in life. Where around the world and in India have you gone kayaking?
I’ve paddled in a lot of places – around Europe, Nepal, India, Indonesia. In India, I’ve paddled in Meghalaya. The rivers are a lot bigger there, and in Kerala they are smaller and you need the rain.
In Meghalaya in the monsoons, the rivers are quite scary so you need to wait for the rains to stop so the water drops. They are a bit more consistent.
It’s good to have a variety and I’ve just been to Ladakh where the rivers have larger volume, the kind I’ve not done much of before so that’s quite exciting. Zanskar is really nice.

It’s an entirely different country in every place. What does it feel like to you? Is there anything that connects the people? Or are they just different people?
They’re different people but everyone is really friendly and welcoming. They are really excited to see you. Ladakh is quite touristy.
It’s a bit different in Kerala and they’re not quite used to seeing westerners. It’s not touristy every season. Being a kayaker is not what they see every time. So they’re still quite excited. You feel like a celebrity, which is a little bit weird.

Tell us how India’s events compare to the others you have competed in.
I think Malabar River Festival is quite unique compared to other ones I’ve done in the sense that it’s got different categories. It’s got slalom, boatercross and downriver. That’s fun, exciting and good because it means that the winner is more of an all-rounder rather than just one particular event.
The atmosphere here is just incredible. I’ve never been to a competition where you get so many locals who don’t really know anything about kayaking coming out and supporting you on the sides, watching and cheering you. That’s really exciting and that makes this festival quite unique.

What would be your impression of the kayaking scene in India so far?
It’s really great. There are a lot of local kayakers which is quite exciting. I really like the fact that they are trying to train more people in Kerala. Before I came down here, I was kayaking in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. It’s all quite different.
Logistics is incredibly easy in India. That’s one of the best things, especially in Uttarakhand. You just chuck your boats on a local bus and go up to the river. I’ve also kayaked in Meghalaya and I’m doing a bit of a tour.

Did you have any trouble bringing your equipment into the country?
No, but it is getting harder to fly with kayaks. The airlines have changed their policies so you can no longer fly kayaks with them. Much as I managed to get mine in with no problems, I think other people are going to struggle which is a bit of a shame.
But a lot of people are coming out here and selling boats so I think the equipment allowance in India is getting better; there are more kayaks available which is good.

What kayak do you own?
I’ve got the Pyranha 9R as my main boat. In California, I paddled the new Pyranha boat which is called the Machno. It’s super fun and a bit more forgiving than the 9R, so I may well end up using that for harder rivers and expeditions but the 9R is best for races.

Which spots in the Indian sub-continent would you pick for excellent ‘undiscovered’ kayaking?
In terms of unexplored areas of India, I think anywhere with mountains is likely to have unexplored rivers. Areas such as Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Ladakh have been explored more already, but the more southern states and the north-eastern states definitely have a lot of rivers to explore!
Kerala certainly is still very new for kayaking and there’s a lot more to do. Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh have been explored a bit but particularly around the monsoon, there will be more to do and the other north-eastern states must have potential as well.

Go, Skateboard!

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Across the world, skaters of all ages are heading out to shred parks and local community spaces in celebration of Go Skateboarding Day. Each year, on June 21, skate groups everywhere come together to promote the sport they love.

The crew at Holystoked Collective has been working non-stop to boost skateboarding in India by celebrating in four cities this year – Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Pune. Their Go Skateboarding Day 2017 initiative is partnered by Vans, Oxelo by Decathlon, Uboardindia and Red Bull.

In Bangalore, skaters are meeting at MG Road metro station bright and early at 9am for an hour of ripping the streets before heading towards Cunningham road for the best trick contest at 11am. This is followed by a jam behind Vidhana Soudha and then the mani pad contest at 2pm. Indiranagar is the next stop at around 4pm. The much-awaited premier of the VANS Holy Detour video.

Plenty of surprises are promised until the gig winds up at 11pm.

So get your boards and head out!

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