The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

- John Muir



Nov 20, 2015

Bay of Life Surf School staff save people during Chennai floods

Surfers from Bay of Life Surf School used fishing boats and paddle boards to rescue 1200 people stranded in the floods.


Melvin Michael

In the wake of the recent Chennai floods, the surfing community has taken upon itself to tackle the calamity head-on. After surfers of Covelong Point Surf School took to the flooded waters of Chennai last week, the Bay of Life Surf School carried out a similar rescue operation using fishing boats and stand-up paddle boards in the worst flood affected areas of the city earlier this week.

South India’s Kovalam-based surf school in Chennai rescued approximately 1200 victims on 16th and 17th November, 2015. A team of six surf instructors carried out the rescue operation on the 16th in Pallikaranai, Perungalathur and Tambaram areas of Chennai. These are low-lying marshland regions of the city and have been worst hit by the floods due to improper drainage and unplanned construction over the marshlands, the surfers said.

Paddle boards were easy to maneuver for search and rescue ops.

Showkath Jamal, co-founder of the surf school and a NOLS certified Wildlife First Aid responder, told The Outdoor Journal, ”We got a tip-off from the Coastal Security Group (CSG), and in response to that we deployed a team of six instructors (Showkath, Sumeet,  Selvam, Siddharth, Noel and Krishna) including myself in the worst affected areas. We used fishing boats and paddle boards to gain access into these areas.”

He added that the team also managed to rescue an additional 60 people on 17th November in the Mudichur Mookambikai area. The area was highly inaccessible due to eight feet deep rain water clogged in very narrow streets.

“The team used stand up paddle boards to reach out to the victims,” Mr Jamal said.

“We did a survey on Google Maps the night before to learn about the inaccessible areas with narrow and congested lanes. So we knew that our fishing boats will be of no use in these areas, that’s why we decided to use paddle boards to gain access and rescue people,” said the zoologist turned surfer.

Challenges Faced

The team was exposed to water clogged streets brimming with sewage water. They had to wear face masks and later take medication to avoid exposure to water-borne diseases. The rescuers also used neoprene footwear (rubber shoes) to avoid getting electrocuted by fallen electricity posts or wires.

Free Rescue Training

The Bay of Life Surf School has announced a free rescue training course starting 25th November. The aim is to educate individuals about natural disasters and make them self sufficient in case of such calamities. ”We have trained NOLS wilderness first-aid responders and NIWS (National Institute of Water Sports) certified lifeguards; who will train people. At the end of the day, the best rescue is self rescue”, said Mr. Jamal.

Poor Urban Planning

India’s southern coastal areas on the east coast along with Sri Lanka have been witnessing a high intensity of rain since the past week, triggered by a depression in the Bay of Bengal.

Reaching stranded residents in Chennai.

After 2005, this is the first time that Chennai has experienced such high rainfall, the MeT department has said. Chennai has received more than average rainfall in the past week. According to the Regional Meteorological Department, the city has received an average rainfall of 449.9mm in the last week, where as the normal rainfall would be 104.9mm.

Kumaran.M, a geologist for Cairn India and a paddler/advisor to the Bay of Life Surf school told The Outdoor Journal that the main reason for the Chennai floods was poor urban planning, rapid urbanization in the last 10 years and degradation of natural drainage networks in the city.

Worst Affected Areas

Mr. Kumaran identified the main affected areas as: Pallikaranai and Perungalathur, low lying marshlands and the southern Kanjipuram district which is also called as the ‘lake district’.


Pallikaranai is a marshland area situated on the west of the city. The marshland which was around 50-60sq km of geological depression in the last decade has been reduced to 4-7 sq kms due to excessive urban development. “The National Institute of Ocean Technology and Centre of Wind technology campuses have been built on the marshland. The marshland also has a one of the biggest garbage dumps in the country which covers 10% of the marshland and is ever increasing,” said the geologist.

Click here to see satellite images of how the flood-affected areas of Chennai changed over the last decade.

He explained that the catchment area in the marshland remained the same but the receiving area had to reduced almost 1/10th in the marshlands. Mr Kumaran added that the marshland is also home to approx 120-130 species of birds out of which many are migratory birds.


The airport is built on the Adayar river flood plains and gets flooded during excessive rains.

Kanchipuram District

The other badly affected area is the Kanchipuram district in the south of the city. It is also known as the lakes district of the city. “The lake district has over 1000 lakes. Due to encroachment and heavy urbanization in the Lake District the areas have been flooded heavily,” Mr. Kumaran added.

Images and video: Bay of Life Surf School

Satellite Images: Kumaran.M

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Jul 10, 2018

The 2018 Whitewater Awards: Nouria Newman and Benny Marr take the spoils.

The Whitewater Awards is a gathering of the world’s best kayakers to show off the biggest and best things that have happened in the sport over the past year.



Brooke Hess

 To be considered for an award, athletes, photographers, and filmmakers submit media taken over the past year that they believe showcases the best progression in the sport.  

There are sixteen different categories for submission, including separate male and female categories within the “Best of” kayaking categories. Categories include Photographer of the Year, Film of the Year, Expedition of the Year, Best Trick, Best Line, River Stewardship, Grom of the Year, Rider of the Year, along with several others.  Awards are decided upon by a voting process done by the Association of Whitewater Professionals.

This year’s Whitewater Awards was held in the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise, Idaho. It was hosted on June 14th, the same weekend as the North Fork Championships, which takes place on the North Fork of the Payette River just outside of Boise.  The North Fork Championship is regarded as one of the hardest kayaking races in the world.

The race takes place on Jacob’s Ladder rapid, which is a rapid so difficult and consequential that most kayakers feel accomplished simply by surviving the rapid, much less racing the rapid. Nouria Newman, a 3-time NFC racer and winner of this year’s Whitewater Awards Female Rider of the Year describes it well,

“The NFC is the hardest race in whitewater kayaking. [Jacob’s Ladder] is a scary, consequential rapid. Running it is challenging, and it only gets harder to race it and make the gates.”

In order to minimize the risk involved in the race, event organizers have developed a strict qualification process for racers. 30 racers will qualify to race Jacob’s Ladder. Ten of them are pre-qualified from placing top ten at the event the year before. Those ten then read numerous athlete applications and vote on the next ten racers who will join them.  The last ten racers are decided through a qualification race on S-Turn rapid, another one of the North Fork’s infamous class V rapids.

Every year on this same weekend in June, kayakers, photographers, and filmmakers from around the world flock to Idaho to celebrate quality whitewater, progression of the sport, and the community that surrounds it. Both the North Fork Championship and the Whitewater Awards had great turnouts of athletes and spectators this year.

John Webster

The finalists of each category in the Whitewater Awards were presented in film format at the Egyptian Theater for the entire audience to view, with the winner being announced live. Winners were presented with an award and expected to give a short speech at the event. The big winners of the night were Nouria Newman and Benny Marr, who were awarded with Line of the Year and Rider of the Year in the female and male categories. Nouria says that voting for the “best” in each category is a challenging process, “…voting is always tricky, (look at both French and U.S. presidents, not too sure if they are really the best available option). And it is also very hard to compare lines and rapids. What’s bigger? What’s harder? I got voted Best Line of the Year with a good line down Parque Jurassic, a long technical rapid, but Rata’s line down Graceland, which is a huge slide, was equally as good, if not better.”

No matter how tricky the voting process can be, Nouria agrees that the Whitewater Awards plays a large role in the progression of the sport, “I think it’s super cool to see what people can do in their kayak, how they push the limit of the sport and how they open new possibilities.”

For more information about the Whitewater Awards, you can visit whitewaterawards.com, you can also follow them on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can follow Nouria on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow Benny on Facebook and Instagram.

Cover photo courtesy of Ari Walker

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