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A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers

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Adventurers & Explorers

Jun 06, 2018

Breaking Stereotypes: Meet India’s Action Heroes

The origins of Rushes dates back to two years ago when the format was conceptualised to throw light on the adventure lifestyle community within India.

WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

TheVibe Originals presented the opportunity to articulate this lifestyle. Since then, a very compelling series has come about which explores the backstories of a few handpicked extreme sports athletes who pursue their respective rushes.

Produced in association with Mercedes-Benz India, Rushes breaks stereotypes by bringing India’s action heroes in all their authenticity via a branded content series as opposed to having it celebrity-endorsed.

The Outdoor Journal is introducing the following Indian extreme sports athletes as a sampling of exciting talent that will soon arise from the high-potential region in the future.

Kiteboarding in Tuticorin with Arjun Motha and Jehan Driver

What makes Tuticorin an important place of interest with regards to kiteboarding?

AM: The wind has brought people to Tuticorin for centuries in search of spices and pearls. The wind blows here for 300 days. The town is located in between India and Sri Lanka. Tuticorin is in the heart of Gulf of Mannar and had served as a natural port and a safe haven with its bays and safe seas. It has flat lagoons, waves, coral reefs, marine life and most importantly amazing wind for kite surfers and sailors. Making it an ideal spot for wind worshippers. Tuticorin is one of the spots in south-east Asia to have wind throughout the year drawing the attention of many kiters here.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

AM: India is only scratching the surface of the global adventure scene. There is so much raw potential and talent here. There’s so much natural diversity geographically in our country and when coupled with human skills and raw talent, the growth could be explosive. This is only the beginning stages in the birth of adventure sports in India. Nevertheless, it is guaranteed to be growing rapidly and being recognised globally for its potential. India has many undiscovered athletes and raw talent pushing limits and finding their rushes. India will soon be one of the top destinations for adventure and water sports churning out top athletes.

What makes Rameswaram an important place of interest with regards to kiteboarding?

JD: After touring the entire coastline of India we found this piece of paradise! One of the only places where we receive both the North East & South West trade winds where the peninsula allows for ideal conditions for Kiteboarding. With around 300 days of wind to play with we decided to live here & call it home. Flat water lagoons, reef breaks and isolated beaches make the region an awesome learning ground for beginners as well as experienced riders.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

JD: It’s like a bunch of clouds floating around that never met, any guesses to what happens when they do? The scene of adventure sports has always been well developed in India and it is still growing. Thanks to social media the awareness is spreading and acceptance is also growing at a rapid pace.There was a time we had to import physical maps to navigate our own backyard but now with Google earth the world is a different place. We never knew if there were more slackliners in the country but through social media the community connects. Similarly there are more kiteboarders/mountain bikers/surfers, etc in India than we know of.

Follow Arjun Motha on Instagram

Follow Jehan Driver on Instagram and Twitter

Extreme Kayaking in Rishikesh with Bhupendra Singh Rana

“Extreme kayaking doesn’t show any mercy and has next to no room for an error.”

What makes Rishikesh an important place of interest with regards to extreme kayaking?

Rishikesh is my hometown and the river Ganges is my playground. This is where I started my kayaking career which to me is a good enough reason for me to call Rishikesh a very special place! Rishikesh is also the hub of extreme sports (known as the yoga and adventure capital of India) and kayaking was born on the river Ganges back in the early 80’s. Rishikesh is the place where the river Ganges comes out of the Himalayas (higher ground to the plain ground). Rishikesh has the best river sections where you can get into kayaking while providing a platform to step up your game to extreme kayaking. Heading upstream to the river Ganges valley there are endless rivers from high volume to steep creeks and even waterfalls. The overall experience in Rishikesh is very fulfilling. Enjoying a cup of chai while watching the sunset over the Ganges is unreal. Also, interacting with the very friendly local river community makes Rishikesh a very special place for me!

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

As I said Rishikesh is the adventure capital of India so I can not think of any other state other than my home state Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand is the best mix of a calm lifestyle – you can practice yoga to extreme sports such as mountain climbing or downhill extreme kayaking. Uttarakhand is one of those states where you can do adventure activities year around while other states might be available for few months out of a year.

I love extreme kayaking but I’m also well aware of what it takes to be a pro. I keep fit, educate myself on the areas, rivers, advanced rescue training, advance medical training etc.

  1. I’m a certified Yoga instructor who has taught yoga classes in India, Norway and Africa.
  2. I’m a nationally certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
  3. I’m a Trained Wilderness First Responder

Education is the key. The majority of our local kayakers are getting into the sports at an early age but compromising their academic education. Not many people know that I’ve earned my degree in English literature, Indian and world history and political science.

My main goal is to pass a positive message to the community to know what it takes to be a pro at any sport especially rivers. Water is nature’s most dynamic and powerful element. Extreme kayaking doesn’t show any mercy and has next to no room for an error.

Wingsuit flying in Jaisalmer with Udit Thapar

What makes Jaisalmer an important place of interest with regards to Wingsuit diving?

While flying over the desert in Jaisalmer, there is a unique view. The desert seamlessly merged into the sky at the horizon. The light during sunsets is amazing. It’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

Adventure sports are on the rise as a whole. People are travelling for adventure. The Indian people have an appetite for adventure that is only going to grow. We are not just opening doors in the field of adventure but also slowly conquering the scene.

Follow Udit on Instagram and Twitter

Downhill Biking in Valparai with Vinay Menon

“Coming up-close with wild elephants and bison on the ride was the masala in my tea!”

What makes Valparai a place of interest with regards to downhill biking?

I like to drink tea and to ride dirt. Valparai has both! Perfect to get Dirt-tea down the hill! Good trails everywhere with tea plantations touching the horizon, Valparai will wake you right up for your ride! Coming up-close with wild elephants and bison on the ride was the masala in my tea!

The vast number of trails streaming down the hillsides of Valparai will give you unlimited descending options.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

Current state of adventure sports in India? It’s spreading like wild fire! With its growing number of athletes, equipment availability and a more accepting population, adventure sports is gaining popularity in India, I feel.  With exposure to the international scene through various mediums such as social media, an enthusiast can follow and practice adventure sports easier than before.

Follow Vinay on Instagram and Twitter

Underwater Photography in the Andamans with Sumer Verma

What makes the Andamans an important place of interest with regards to Underwater Photography?

The two best destinations in India for underwater photography and scuba diving are the Andaman Islands and the Lakshwadeep Islands. Lakshwadeep have natural coral reef islands, and the Andamans volcanic ones. Both are at a large distance from the mainland country, are relatively unpolluted and have clear waters. The unique geological conditions, clarity of water and relative remoteness make it a perfect destination for scuba diving and underwater photography.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

India is a growing market and the potential is encouraging. Thanks to social media and emerging communication, there is far greater exposure to sports. Skydiving, MTB, whitewater rafting, kayaking, slacklining and fly fishing are all finding an audience. These also offer an opportunity to the youth to pursue them with greater earnestness, and they are interested. A decade strong platform has now been established and thanks to our diverse topographies — a lot can be done. We need further administrative support and inclusion of these sports for a bigger impetus.

Follow Sumer on Instagram and Twitter

Slacklining in Bhedaghat with Samar Farooqui

What makes Bhedaghat an important place of interest with regards to slacklining?

The geographical features make the place unique. The Jabalpur marble rocks are iconic and epic. The features, the landscape and the water allow the huge potential for some really fun and epic lines.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

India, with regards to Adventure sports, is at a potential turning point. So far we’ve been really behind in Adventure sports here in India. With regards to skills, safety measures and equipment. It is not easy to find high-quality gear in India, so that usually has to be imported. Our import duties are ridiculously high. This high import duty is making it hard to practice safe adventure sport in India.

Most of the adventurers are using outdated gear in India. Stuff that was being used a decade ago in the west is our current standard. Very few actually bother to go out and stay current with the new equipment that comes to the market. I think we’re at a good point, to begin with, but plenty of work still needs to be done. We need more support from the laws and the lawmakers, we need more support from corporations and philanthropists.

Follow Samar on Instagram and Twitter.

On the project as a whole, Asad Abid, Executive Producer, The Vibe Originals said “We hope more progressive mainstream brands take a lead from a brand such as Mercedes-Benz, to reach out to TheVibe community and makes our formats and community stronger. We hope to make further seasons in the future.”

Follow Asad on Instagram and Twitter

Speaking of the initiative Michael Jopp, VP, Sales and Marketing, Mercedes-Benz said, “India is a country of diversity not only in the form of different landscapes that you can visit across the country but also from the varied pool of talent that it houses. Our association with TheVibe and creating Rushes was with the idea of celebrating these beautiful people and places of India. The content features a very emotional story wherein passion and dedication of these local heroes are showcased with their abundant talent and vigour towards one dedicated adventure sport. The same passion and dedication is what we strive to put in our cars and give our best to the customers.”

Footage Courtesy is provided to TheVibe.

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Athletes & Explorers

Dec 13, 2018

Steph Davis: Dreaming of Flying

What drives Steph, to free solo a mountain with nothing but her hands and feet, before base jumping? “Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear."

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

Presented byimage

In the coming days the Outdoor Journal will release an exclusive interview with Steph Davis, follow us via our social networks and stay tuned for more.

Do you have to be fearless to jump off a mountain? Meeting Steph Davis, you quickly realise: no, fearlessness is not what it takes. It’s not the search for thrills that drives her. She’s Mercedes travelled to Moab, Utah to find out what does – and to talk to Steph Davis about what it takes to climb the most challenging peaks and plunge from the highest mountaintops.

Steph Davis, getting ready to jump. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

At noon, when the sun is at its highest point above the deserts of southeastern Utah and when every stone cliff casts a sharp shadow, you get a sense of how harsh this area can be. Despite Utah’s barrenness, Steph loves the orange-gold landscape with its towers and elegantly curved arches of sandstone. But Steph is not here because of the natural spectacle. Here, in this area which is as beautiful as it is inhospitable, she can pursue her greatest passion: free solo climbing and BASE jumping.

Castleton Tower… Look closely. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Today, Steph wants to take us to Castleton Tower. We travel on gravel roads that are hardly recognizable, right into the middle of the desert. Gnarled bushes and conifers grow along what might be the side of the road. Other than that, the surrounding landscape lives up to its name: it is deserted. Steph loves the remoteness of the area. “One of my favourite places is a small octagonal cabin in the desert that I designed and built together with some of my closest friends. It’s not big and doesn’t have many amenities but it has everything you need: a bed, a bathroom, a small kitchenette … and eight windows allowing me to take in nature around me. That’s pretty much all I need.” Steph Davis cherishes the simple things. She has found her place, and she doesn’t let go.

Whilst pictured with ropes here, Steph often free solo’s without any equipment at all. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Castleton Tower is home turf for Steph. She has climbed the iconic red sandstone tower so many times she’s lost count. The iconic 120-metre obelisk on top of a 300-metre cone is popular among rock climbers as well as with BASE jumpers. Its isolated position makes it a perfect plunging point and it can easily be summited with little equipment – at least for experienced climbers like Steph Davis.

“It would be reckless not to be afraid. But I don’t have to be paralysed by fear.”

Steph is a free solo climber, which means she relies on her hands and feet only – not on ropes, hooks or harnesses. She loves to free solo, using only what’s absolutely necessary. She squeezes her hands into the tiniest cracks in the stone and her feet find support on the smallest outcroppings, where others would see only a smooth surface. Steph climbs walls that might be 100 metres tall – sometimes rising up 900 metres – with nothing below her but thin air and the ground far below. She knows that any mistake while climbing can be fatal.

Flying. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

The possibility of falling accompanies Steph whenever she climbs. Is she afraid? “Of course – it would be reckless not to be. But I don’t have to be paralysed by fear.” She has learned to transform it into power, prudence, and strength. “It’s up to us to stay in control.”

“You have to learn to face your fears and accept them for what they are.”

That’s what, according to her, free soloing and BASE jumping are all about: to be in control and to trust in one’s abilities. “It’s not about showing off how brave I am. It’s about trusting myself to be good enough not to fall. It takes a lot of strength, both physical and mental. You have to learn to face your fears and accept them for what they are.”

Touchdown. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Steph Davis likes to laugh and she does so a lot. She chooses her words with care, and she doesn’t rush. Why would she? There’s no point in rushing when you’re hanging on a vertical wall, with nothing but your hands and feet. Just like climbing, she prefers to approach things carefully and analytically. That’s how she got as far as she did. “I didn’t grow up as an athlete, and started climbing when I was 18,” she smiles, shrugging. But her work ethic is meticulous and she knows how to improve herself. Whenever she prepares for an ascent, she does so for months, practising each section over and over again – on the wall and in her head – until she has internalised it all. She does the same before a BASE jump and practices the exact moves in her head until she knows the movement is consummate.

Steph loves the orange-gold landscape with its towers and elegantly curved arches of sandstone. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

“Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear.”

Would Steph consider herself brave? She says that she wouldn’t know how to answer that, you can see the small wrinkles around Steph’s eyes that always appear whenever she laughs. In any case, she doesn’t consider herself to be exceptional. “I’m not a heroine just because I jump off mountaintops,” Steph says she has weaknesses just like everyone else. But she might overcome them a little better than most of us do, just as she has learned to work with fear. “Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear. It is brave to accept fear for what it is, as a companion that you should sometimes listen to, but one you shouldn’t be obedient to.”

She slows the car down. We have reached Castleton Tower. It rises majestically in front of us while the sun has left its zenith. If Steph started walking now, she’d reach the top at the moment the sun went down, bathing the surrounding area in a golden light. She takes her shoes and the little parachute; all she needs today. Then she smiles again, says “see you in a bit”, and starts walking. Not fast, not hastily, but without hesitation.

All photos by Jan Vincent Kleine

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