Whitewater

Malabar River Festival - India

by kalob-grady
Friday, August 17, 2018
   Whitewater
Friday, August 17, 2018
The 2018 Malabar River Fest was an absolute pleasure to be a part of. The comradery between athletes and the hospitality from the local kayakers is everything I look for in an international festival. Everyone was there for the same reasons - to kayak world class rivers, hangout with friends, cheer each other on, and spend time together on the water.
Kalob Grady
by Kalob Grady

   Full Bio

Monsoon clouds swirled into formation above and torrential rains thundered down below as world class competitors from India, Asia and around the world descended on the Malabar River Festival in Kerala, India. Now in its 6th year, the festival has grown from its humble beginnings and has sparked international interest, drawing in the best kayakers in the world. It’s a week-long affair that encompasses a freestyle event and 3 races for the pros, while also promoting the development of kayaking in the region with several incredible and very competitive intermediate races. In addition to the incredibly welcoming community, delicious food and world class kayaking, the passion for this festival from organizers Manek Taneja and Jacopo Nordera signal a bright future ahead.

Post festival joy laps
Post festival joy laps

The pro category battles for rank throughout the week in several events; beginning with a freestyle showdown before becoming fully race orientated. The Chalipuzha River hosts the main crowd with the festivities for opening ceremonies and the Giant Slalom and BoaterX races, before the conclusion of the festival occurs via Super Finals and closing ceremonies on the Irijanipura River. The high level of competition, boosted by the stoke of the community and the local media presence, creates an incredibly unique vibe for this growing festival.

Kalob Grady on the way to the river with the boys.
Kalob Grady on the way to the river with the SEND crew.

Following opening ceremonies and press conferences, the festival begins on the water with some good old fashioned freestyle. Some of the best freestylers in the world descended upon a surprisingly amazing feature on the Kuttiyadi River. Three waves lined up in a row create a dynamic competition that encourages athletes to pick and choose the style they desire, and execute their tricks in a variety of ways.

Day One - Freestyle

Martina Wegman and Anna Bruno exchanged high flying rides in the women’s finals as they challenged each other for first place, while Nouria Newman flipped her way into third place. In the men’s category, Dane Jackson, Nick Troutman and Bren Orton cruised through the prelim’s before facing off for the top spot in the finals along with Gerd Sesrrasolses and myself (Kalob Grady). Each with their own style and on a constantly changing feature; as the rains changed the water levels, the athletes entertained the crowd. Dane Jackson held on with a spectacular ride while Nick Troutman played to his technical strengths to secure second place, leaving Bren Orton to round out the podium in front of an enormous local crowd on day one of the Malabar River Fest.

Check out the freestyle highlights

Kalob throwing down at the freestyle comp
Kalob throwing down at the freestyle comp

Women’s Freestyle Results

1st – Martina Wegman (NED)

2nd – Anna Bruno (USA)

3rd – Nouria Newman (FRA)

4th – Nicole Mansfield (USA)

5th – Molly Auger (UK)

Men’s Freestyle Results

1st – Dane Jackson (USA)

2nd – Nick Troutman (CAN)

3rd – Bren Orton (UK)

4th – Kalob Grady (CAN)

5th – Gerd Serrasolses (ESP)

Day Two & Three - Giant Slalom Race

Day two of the festival transitioned to a strong scene of beginner and intermediate kayakers trying to break into the sport of kayaking in India. Kayakers of all skill levels were encouraged to come and race on the Chalipuzha River and try their best as they faced off against a section of challenging gates on the Giant Slalom course. Friends, family and bystanders packed both sides of the river for standing room only as over 60 beginners and intermediates blazed down the course. Some racers were still working on fundamental skills and their whitewater roll, but they were not discouraged and charged ahead all the same. The stoke, support and smiles form everyone involved proves that a strong scene is developing in Kerala, India and the strength of the women and men that are going to start emerging from this area shouldn’t take anyone by surprise in the next few years.

Comradery between fellow competitors
Comradery between fellow competitors

After a day of cheering for and encouraging all the new athletes in the sport, the 40+ racers in the pro category were ready to get back at it the following day. Giant Slalom took place on the Chali with a series of seven gates. Racers were forced to be on point right from the start. A 15ft tall ramp kicked things off and sent racers flying into the race course. As is usually the case in racing, it was almost impossible to make up time if mistakes were made, so all competitors were looking to stay clean, perfect and fast for the entirety of the 90 second race. Olympian and slalom powerhouse Mike Dawson displayed pristine precision and incredible power right out of the gate, reminding everyone that they would need to be on another level to compete. Dane Jackson’s name is always in contention and fellow slalom athlete Aaron Mann was fast and smooth. Mike, Dane and Aaron locked down the top three spots in the prelims round while myself, and Gerd Sesrrasolses looked to improve by a few micro-seconds to gain ground in finals.

Dane Jackson flying out of the gate
Dane Jackson flying out of the gate

The women’s class featured some ridiculous race talent with Martina Wegman and Nouria Newman both boasting extensive slalom, and extreme racing backgrounds. It was amazing to watch both women execute fast and powerful runs on round one, and then take a step back, analyze and come back with even more perfect runs in the finals. Nouria executed a nearly flawless run and edged out Martina to take the victory, and Nicole Mansfield stayed clean to jump into third place. In the Men’s final, Gerd Sesrrasolses displayed his natural race style and jumped from fifth to second place, but it wasn’t quite enough to take Mike Dawson down off the top of the podium. Dane Jackson held off Nick Troutman and myself to secure third place. With another day of racing in the rain complete, athletes were stoked to wind down and dry off as they prepared for day four of the festival.

Check out the highlights from the Giant Slalom Race

Nicole Mansfield looking foir a fast launch to
Nicole Mansfield with a fast launch to secure the third place finish

Women’s Giant Slalom Results

1st – Nouria Newman (FRA)

2nd – Martina Wegman (NED)

3rd – Nicole Mansfield (USA)

4th – Molly Auger (UK)

5th – Anna Bruno (USA)

Men’s Giant Slalom Results

1st – Mike Dawson (NZL)

2nd – Gerd Serrasolses (ESP)

3rd – Dane Jackson (USA)

4th – Nick Troutman (CAN)

5th – Kalob Grady (CAN)

Day Four - BoaterX

The rains continued into day four, but still couldn’t damper the excitement around the festival. BoaterX was here. Four boaters at a time, down the ramp, and through the slalom gates. Contact was encouraged, “rubbin’ is racing” was the motto! The BoaterX race at any event is always a crowd favorite, especially when that event is being watch by hundreds of spectators with limited knowledge about kayaking; the stoke was sky high. All they see are collisions, flips, and excitement. All action, all the time.

BoaterX start
BoaterX start

The women’s class was up to the challenge and kicked things off with their head to head race down the course. Martina Wegman got off to a fast start and benefited from a tangle within the other three racers to make quick work of the gates and cruise to a victory. The action all took place behind her with the rest of the field colliding and crashing together. Nouria fought back from a rough start to make things intense in the up gate, but ultimately couldn’t get ahead of Molly Auger who took 2nd place after a tight finish.

Kalob Grady skipping out ahead right from the start ramp
Kalob Grady skipping out ahead right from the start ramp

The men started with a bracket of 32 with four races taking you to the finals. Mike Dawson and I made quick work of our half of the bracket winning each of our first two races before meeting in semi-finals and rolling through to the finals. On the other half of the bracket, Dane Jackson and Gerd Serrasolses rolled through the field before knocking out some very fast people in semi-finals, to meet Mike and myself for the final showdown. The up gate in finals caused mass confusion as all four men tangled. Mike maintained his poise and got out the cleanest, making his way through the finish line first, followed by Dane, Gerd and myself to conclude an epic day of racing.

Check out the action from the BoaterX

Kalob Grady racing his way through quarter finals
Kalob Grady racing his way through quarter finals

Women’s BoaterX Results

1st – Martina Wegman (NED)

2nd – Molly Auger (UK)

3rd – Nouria Newman (FRA)

4th – Nicole Mansfield (USA)

5th – Anna Bruno (USA)

Men’s BoaterX Results

1st – Mike Dawson (NZL)

2nd – Dane Jackson (USA)

3rd –Gerd Serrasolses (ESP)

4th – Kalob Grady (CAN)

5th – Nick Troutman (CAN)

Day Five - Super Finals

Super finals, the moment we all wait for in every event. For the final stage of the festival, the action moves to the bank of the Irijanipira River and the Malabar Express rapids. Locals flooded the banks to catch a glimpse of the course as athletes visualized their lines and prepared for the final race of the weekend. The top 20 men, and top 5 women from the week earned the right to race for the title of “Rani” and “Raji” or King and Queen of the Malabar River Fest 2018. Racers had two runs each, fastest lap wins and the river was almost as high as the stoke in the air. Rains continued to grace the festival, pushing the water levels continually higher over the course of the day.

Nouria Newman dropping into the Super Finals
Nouria Newman dropping into the Super Finals

Racers had received limited practice laps on this section and every stroke counted in the race. After the first of two runs, Nouria Newman and Martina Wegman held a sizeable advantage in the women’s class, and Mike Dawson, myself and Dane Jackson managed to hold down the top three in men’s. Every racer learned from and improved upon their first lap, and it all came down to an extremely competitive final run.

Checking race lines between laps
Checking race lines between laps

It was astonishing to see every racer in the top five improve on their original times. Adrian Mattern laid down a wicked fast time, only to be taken off the top spot by the final racer of the day, Mike Dawson as he continued his dominance over the festival. Dane Jackson, Gerd Serrasolses and myself all put our best forward to round out the top five.

Check out the Super Finals highlights

Kalob Grady - Super Finals race
Kalob Grady - Super Finals race

Women’s Super-Finals Results

1st – Nouria Newman (FRA) - “Raji” Queen of the Malabar River Fest 2018

2nd – Martina Wegman (NED)

3rd – Nicole Mansfield (USA)

4th – Molly Auger (UK)

5th – Anna Bruno (USA)

Men’s Super-Finals Results

1st – Mike Dawson (NZL) - “Rani” King of the Malabar River Fest 2018

2nd – Adrian Mattern (GER)

3rd – Dane Jackson (USA)

4th – Gerd Serrasolses (ESP)

5th – Kalob Grady (CAN)

The Malabar River Fest 2018 was an absolute pleasure to be a part of, and to compete in. The comradery between athletes and the hospitality from the local kayakers is everything I look for in an international festival. Everyone was there for the same reasons - to kayak world class rivers, hangout with friends, cheer each other on, and spend time together on the water. Thank you to all who made the festival an incredible week, and see you all there next year!

Kalob Grady catchiung a ride on the Tuk Tuk
Kalob Grady catchiung a ride on the Tuk Tuk

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