Malabar River Festival 2018 – Day1, Freestyle on the Kuttiyadi
Freestyle on the Kuttiyadi, Malabar River Festival 2018, Day 1
Words: Anna Bruno
Rain drumming on the roof woke up athletes at the aptly named Thushara International Hotel bright and early for the first day of the 2018 Malabar River Fest.
Competitors boarded the brightly colored party bus for a two-hour ride. They arrived and disembarked to a chaotic throng of bodies. The entire village and more had already assembled by the river bank and were on hand, waiting to cheer competitors from around the world and support the ever-growing sport of whitewater kayaking. The stands were full, the shouts of, “Selfie, Selfie,” incessant as spectators approached their new heroes for a photo.
Three surfable waves on a flooded Kuttiyadi River made for a unique and dynamic competition venue. Athletes could use any of the three features in their 45-second rides, as well as incorporate a variety of downriver moves, leaving choice as to how to score the maximum amount of points.
All the “pro” competitors participated in a qualifying round where both rides counted for placement. The top ten finishers after the qualifiers made it through to the final, where each finalist had three rides to lay down their biggest possible score. Only their single best ride would count for the final placing, upping the ante and putting the pressure on to go big.
The features allowed a variety of tricks to be executed, from crowd-pleasing Air Loops and McNasties to Blunts and Helixes. Ride after ride took place amongst intermittent rain storms that had competitors and locals alike huddled under shared umbrellas. Interaction was the name of the game, and locals mixed and mingle, asking the new faces, “Where are you from?”, “What is your job?”, “Are you married?”, “Can I take a selfie with you?”, and many more, in a friendly and genuine manner.
School-children cheered as competitors took to the waves, their enthusiasm not the least bit dampened by the brief, if torrential, downpours that had the judges scrambling.
In the multi-national field of over 19 countries, it was the Nepali and Indian paddlers’ day to shine as they fought for the title of Asian Champion. Several made to the finals, eliciting massive cheers from the crowd. The race was on as finalists battled rising water levels and increasingly flushy features, but it was Dane Jackson (USA) who came out on top, followed closely by Nick Troutman (CAD) in second and Bren Orton (UK) in third.
With only five women competing, the ladies competition went straight to finals following a short exhibition round, which gave them a chance to sample the waves. The Netherland’s Martina Wegman took the win, followed by Anna Bruno (USA) and Nouria Newman (FRA).
Camaraderie and exchange were evident throughout the day as competitors shared boats, running alongside the river so everyone had a chance to compete. Athletes went above and beyond to help each other out. Aaron Mann from the USA got up close and personal with the local foliage, spending more time in the trees than on the wave as he helped rescue a stranded drone. Lunch was delivered from Chechi’s Restaurant via Tuk-Tuk, and hot Chai was served alongside a local speciality called ‘Vada.’ Though made from lentils, these local delicacies tasted as though Fried Chicken and Donuts had joined together to create something strangely delicious. Safety waited in the tree-filled eddies downstream, checking in with each athlete as they made their way to the top. GoPro’s and cameras were rolling, the crowd and competitors both eager not to miss a moment of the day.
There couldn’t have been a better start to the Malabar River Fest 2018. The community banding together to support, encourage and join a talented international field in celebrating a sharing the joy of whitewater.
The celebrations and competitions continue tomorrow, July 19th, with the Intermediate Slalom on the Chalipuzha River. On the 20th, the pro class will gather for their own slalom event, earning more points towards their chance to take part in Sunday’s Super Pro final and be crowned King or Queen of the Malabar.
For full results, visit MalabarFest.com
For more updates throughout the week, check back at Kayaksession.com
1. Martina Wegman (Netherlands) 130
2. Anna Bruno (Usa) 120
3. Nouria Newman (France) 95
4. Nicole Mansfield (Usa) 75
5. Molly Agar (Uk) 22.5
1. Dane Jackson (Usa) 1350
2. Nick Troutman (Canada) 1170
3. Bren Orton (Uk) 830
4. Kalob Grady (Canada) 565
5. Gerd Serrasolses (Catalunya) 495
6. Adrian Mattern (Germany)385
7. Suman Tamang (Nepal) 252.5
8. Kuldeep (India) 137.5
9. Mike Dawson (NZ) 87.5
10. Aashish Pandey (India) 65