Paddling to watch a beautiful sunset, challenging the currents of a river, moving across the water while you experience nature in the form of adventure is what makes kayaking in India interesting.
At the outset, kayaks in India were rafts and boats which transported light goods across the river and the sea; however, inspired by the ways of the west, kayaking made way towards recreational use.
The geography of India boasts of exceptional natural beauty, a wonderful tropical climate, mountains with mesmerizing sceneries, backwaters, forests and inlets. It is the nature of kayaking however, that helps a person experience this charm first-hand. With foreign adventurers coming and exploring the fast-flowing rivers of our country, locals and domestic travelers find themselves exploring kayaking now as a sport as well.
It is well said that,
“Open water is a highway to adventure, best traveled by a canoe or kayak”.
Course & Experience
Kayaking in India is almost an all-season sport depending on the region. In northern India, the peak season is from July to September in Zanskar ranges while in the hilly terrain of Uttarakhand, the season peaks from October to May. In Kashmir, the season peaks from April to November.
In the southern parts of India, the Kayaking season lasts throughout the year. In Goa and Kerala, regular kayaking trips are carried out in the inland rivers and backwaters.
In the sea waters, Kayaking is done all year long except the monsoons as it is the breeding season of ocean fauna.
The Right time or season usually depends on the climate and weather. Always prepare for the changes in weather and the possibility of a capsize.
Words don’t describe Ladakh– experience does! The marvel of this truth is evident in the fabled beauty of Zanskar River which is one of the coldest places for experiencing kayaking and rafting in India. The starting point of the trip is on the Indus River from Spituk and goes on until you reach Nimu.
Iruvanjippuzha, a major tributary of River Chaliyar, joins Chaliyar the longest river in Kerala at Koolimadu near Cheruvadi. It hosts grade two and grade three rapids after the monsoons. The conditions attract alot many domestic Kayakers and now entertains the Malabar River Festival every year where Kayakers not only from India but throughout the world come participate. The winners are awarded the Rapid Raja and Rapid Rani titles on winning the festival events.
Nigeen Lake, Srinagar
Nigeen lake (literally – “jewel in the ring”) has a slow and tranquil backdrop of hills in the heart of Srinagar and the quiet, awe-inspiring waters underneath make your soul reverberate with peace. Located at 1582 meters above sea level and deeper than the famous Dal Lake, Nigeen is the ideal location for an adventure of serene calmness. The lake is a beautiful spot for kayaking in Kashmir. The crystal clear water reflects the beauty of the place and environment.
The Ganges, Rishikesh
Rishikesh is one of the most popular destinations for river based adventures in India. At one point in time, it is said that Rishikesh has atleast 10 rafts in the river.
The blissful whitewater rapids and streams of River Ganga here are of grade 2 and grade 3, perfect for amateurs and pro kayakers who want to freestyle. You can have a week long expedition starting in Alaknanda river above Devprayag and end it at Laxman Jhula.
Subansiri River, Taliha
The mighty Brahmaputra River famed for the whitewater kayaking expeditions and events across it and its tributaries, especially the famed Subansiri offer a myriad of adventure sports. Subansiri is the biggest tributary of Brahmaputra and flows through Tibet before entering India at Asaphila in Arunachal Pradesh.
First you encounter the grade 4 level rapids en route from Dumporijo to Taliha, which is a serene camping spot. After a night of camping at Taliha, the next line of journey begins towards Sippi village, where the rapids now decline to grade 3. The remoteness and the silent loneliness of this area become clear when you kayak past Daporijo and camp for the night in a gorge – an adventure beyond routine!
Teesta river in Sikkim
The river is especially noted for its crystal blue, icy waters and grade 4 rapids that can test the nerves of experienced kayakers. Originating from the Lake Tso Lhamo at an altitude of 17,500 ft. in North Sikkim, Teesta wages through the jagged ranges of rocks and jagged hills to meet Rangeet tributary at Triveni. This site noted for its sandy delta formation is a famous campsite.
Kali River in Uttarakhand
Jauljibi, the place of confluence for the two rivers Gori Ganga and Kali, is the starting point for the Kayaking trip. After initial grade 2 level rapids here, you get ready for the grade 3 rapids while kayaking from Jhulaghat to Pancheshwar, the confluence of Kali and Sarayu. Loads of thrills are guaranteed as you move further from Pancheshwar to Sonali Gaon and Pari Gaon. These are great fishing spots for fishing too and perfectly sandy places to camp in. The stretch between Sonali Gaon and Pari Gaon is where you encounter the most powerful rapid of Kali – the grade 4 + “Chuka” rapid. After a memorable camping at Pari Gaon, you head out to Boom, where the kayaking culminates.
Goa the place is known for beaches, Spectacular backwaters or stunning rivers of goa makes the place beautiful. Kayaking is becoming popular day by day. You can come across the beauty of the sunset while paddling near Mandovi or Nerul. From its inland water-bodies and quiet backwaters to the challenge of the seas – Goa has it all!
Located in Kolad village in Raigarh district of Maharashtra, the turbulent waters of Kundalika River will make your adrenaline shoot up. Engage in whitewater kayaking for 12 kms where grade 2 rapids and crashing water jets make for a pumping adventure. The banks of Kundalika are famed for being ideal campsites; so relax in pride after a deserving finish! Permission from local authorities needs to be taken before Kayaking even for experienced Kayakers.
Backwaters of Kerala
Kerala is called “God’s own country” and the silent backwaters in inlands are part of the reason. The Kayaking trip takes you to locations you have never been to and to an experience that soothes the mind and soul. Through the backwaters of Kerala, you get to experience the life of villages and the chirping of kingfishers and cormorants.
A 4-6 hour kayaking expedition through the inlands of Alappuzha and the water adventures in Kumarakom will give you the best experience in inland kayaking that can ever be had. One can explore different places, the little village around and the lifestyle of farmers.This is a great location in India to kayak as you explore the backwaters and meet the local fishermen. You can hire a houseboat to stay in and explore the area on kayaks during the day. This is euphoric indeed!
Sports & Events
As a sport, kayaking was introduced in 1936 Olympics as the European sports bodies began to look at it from a recreational perspective. Development for compact and easy to handle kayaks also went on till 1970. Kayaking began to feature as a sport in the U.S and today it boasts of several individual events in the Olympics.
In the year 1984, the first plastic kayak was made. The material that has been used to make a kayak have changed significantly throughout the years. The modern interest in kayaking as a recreational activity and a sport was brought about by John Rob Roy Macgregor, the man designed modern sport of kayaking.
Kayaking in India has gained immense popularity as a water sport in the past decade. The administrative body in India is Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association (IKCA), headquartered in Delhi which not only organises events and competitions but also scouts for talents. Albert Raj Selvaraj, Ramesh Golli and Biju Anusha are some of the well known kayakers that made it to the semi finals and finals of Asian games at Incheon in kayaking and Canoeing in 2014.
Competitions and Festivals
Kayaking is a globally known adventure sport as it is rich in potential for young and old, for adventurous and leisure paddlers. Kayaking has been part of the summer Olympics since the 1936 games.
There are National Federations which are free to enter their athletes. Generally, these are one-off competitions that are organized by local NF’s.
The Asia’s biggest kayak festivals :
“The malabar River festival” is south india’s only extreme adventure competitions organized on the behalf of kerala Tourism by DTPC Kozhikode and madras Tools.
After being successful further events for the beginners, intermediate kayakers and professionals with a special category of prizes for the best paddlers of Indian subcontinent has also been established.
Globally, the ICF endorses and recognizes many canoeing competitions around the world that are Organized using ICF rules and regulations.
Get a lesson:
It is necessary to get Kayaking Lessons so that you can practice this extreme sport properly and safely. Kayaking lessons aren’t expensive. You can watch videos online for tips and inspiration
Dress for the water, not weather:
Make sure you wear clothes that are appropriate for different water temperatures and locations. Like kayaking gloves and waterproof Cagoule rather than your desired summer clothes, as the temperature of the water might be cold.
Choose the correct Kayak
Different types of kayaks are available from long narrow racing boats to tiny squat freestyle playboats. It depends on the water level which kind of boat to prefer. So, one must choose their boats accordingly.
Always wear buoyancy aid:
Whether you are a Novice or experienced paddler wearing a buoyancy aid is essential for any kayaker. As it allows more movement around the neck and arms, which makes them much more suited for kayaking.
Sit appropriately in your kayak:
Learning how to sit appropriately in a kayak will make it easier for you to paddle. It is always better to sit up straight with your lower back and buttocks at a 90 degree angle.
Hold the paddle in the right way:
This might sound obvious but plenty of people hold their paddles in the wrong way So, holding it in a correct manner is a must. Do this by holding it with both your hands and make sure the concave blade is facing you.
Local guide (if available)
For those trekking alone, without a trekking operator, it’s best to have someone from the local arena give you guidance on the route, local remedies, and creatures to stay away from. Insights on quicker routes to get to your destination and accessibility to refreshments is best known to dwellers in the region.
Make sure you know how to rescue yourself and others:
It is very important to learn from the instructor about every single tip to save yourself and others. It is always good to be prepared and make sure you go through the basic capsize drill with your instructor. They will teach every possible way to right the boat and get back in again.
Respect the safety rules
Kayaker must follow all the norms and conditions laid down by the instructor while practicing. In order to protect from injuries.
To know the must have safety and sport equipment, one should understand the type of Kayaking he would be doing.
Kayaking is of several types as listed below –
Recreational Kayaking is the basic kayaking that is seen on protected lakes and other safe bodies of water. Weekend kayaking is popular in Bangalore, Mangalore and Mulki.
Sea Kayaking is done out in the ocean or on other bodies of water that are large and unpredictable. Sea kayaks have two sealed bulkheads, one in the bow in front of the feet and the other in the stern behind the seat. Sea kayaking expeditions take place in offshore locations in Goa and Tamil Nadu.
Whitewater Kayakers paddle rivers, streams, and creeks where rapid flow and currents are present. This type of kayaking is gaining popularity in the hilly terrains of Kashmir and Uttarakhand. Whitewater kayaking is also referred to as kayaking slalom and is aimed at navigating a kayak downstream amidst rapid currents in the fastest possible time.
This type of kayaking has gained popularity in recent years and about one out of five kayaks purchased is a sit-on-top kayaks. Impossible to sink and compact, the ease of handling has made this form of kayaking a favored
Following are the equipment necessary for Kayaking
If one is going to the center to learn it will become easy as they will guide you regarding kayak.It is always advisable not to go alone for kayaking.
For recreational users, the outdoor activity center would be able to provide you with the right paddle for your kayaking. Depending on whether you are going for white water kayaking, flat water kayaking or canoeing.
This is particularly very much significant as you may hit rocks. So for safety and to protect from injuries helmet plays a vital role.
The attire should be as per the temperature of water and the material should not soak up water easily (not necessarily water proof unless the water is colder than 15 degrees).
A Life Jacket
For safety purposes, it is must wear a jacket to protect one from the cold in case of an accident. The jacket is essential because it procures safety.
Dry bag for personal items
Personal items which mainly consist of Sunglasses, sunscreen, first aid, emergency shelter and many such. So the bag can hold such essentials easily.
Repair Kit (specially for multi day trips)
In case, or damage to any parts repair kit is necessary as it contains spare parts of kayak wires cords and many such tools which will keep you safe.