UPDATE: Malabar River Festival - Athlete Profiles

UPDATE: Malabar River Festival - Athlete Profiles

In midst of all the flurry of activity surrounding the hectic days leading up to the MRF 2014, our team managed to catch up with some of the athletes who competed at the first edition of the Malabar River festival. The gentlemen we speak of will not only grace us with their presence at the festival this year, they will be competing. The level of competition has therefore truly shifted gears - compelling us all to raise our game, challenge our mental and physical limits, accomplish new highs that will make us proud of who we are.

Darren “Daz” Clarkson-King (UK)

Darren Clarkson King

Darren Clarkson-King is a writer, extreme kayaker, expedition provider, river consultant, mentor and inspirational speaker. Darren has taken part in some truly epic expeditions including a solo descent of the Dudh Kosi and Arun in Nepal –Riding the tears of Everest along with co author of the iconic Whitewater Nepal (3rd edition), with Peter Knowles. A true adventurer.

Darren Clarkson-King (DAZ) has been kayaking for over 25 years, running class fives for close to twenty of those years. Daz is originally from the United Kingdom where he cut his teeth on the classic rivers of the UK and Europe before venturing to the Himalaya and beyond. He has explored Alaska, Canada, Norway, Morocco, Nepal, India, Tibet,

Pakistan and Thailand with first and notable descents taking place among his double decade hard paddling years.

He has paddled the famous Stikine, Alsek and Susitnia along with the rivers from Everest and K2. In recent years he has been taking on solo expeditions in Nepal and India along with running two adventure providers Elements Adventure Nepal and Pure land Expeditions. More recently, he’s been promoting Waka kayaks to paddlers back in the UK.

Daz is an adventurer whose personal philosophy asks - “What can we learn when we put ourselves in a place of adventure? It is not about what boat you paddle, it is not about the gear you use, it’s simply about the places the mind goes”.

When asked what scared Daz the most, he says“The death of a passion and the unwillingness of some people to spread their wings. Also scared by boundaries.

Max “La Bomba” Benetton (Italy)

max benetton

Max Benetton, also known as “la Bomba”(meaning “the bomb”in Italian) is the strongest freestyle kayaker Italy has ever produced. After 30 years of paddling hard in almost every discipline of the sport, he is still enjoys the never-ending search for the perfect trick on the wave. When he’s not busy designing and manufacturing the sickest play-boating kayak that is.

Max was born in 1968, in San Donàdi Piave, close to Venice, in the North of Italy, an area naturally rich in waters flowing down from the alps into the Adriatic sea.

He has started paddling as a kid, in C2 (2-seaters Canadian canoe) along with his teammate Ludovico Sartor he took the third place in the Italian Championship in 1992 and 1993. they raced together at the 1991 World Cup and the 1993 World Championship. He then continued to paddle in various disciplines and in 1997 he found his favourite paddle-sport activity: Freestyle Kayaking.

From 1995 onwards he has committed himself to this discipline, and he has won the Italian Freestyle Kayak Championship six times between 1998 and 2004. He has consistently been among the top contenders at the European Cup but an unfortunate personal emergency kept him from the European title in Platting (Germany), 2003 where he had qualified for the finals in first place.

During his career as an athlete he also found the time and the will to partake in an Italian expedition to Chile where he paddled some of the classic sections on the Bio Bio river and Futaleufu river.

Not fully satisfied with his heroics on the water, Max has a felt a strong desire to contribute back to the sport that he loves so much. Since 1999 he has been designing his own boats and has successfully been the architect of 6 different boat designs some of which have had reasonable commercial success in Europe. He currently uses one of his own creations, the Spot 68, a carbon fiber ultra performant boat.

Max is hugely excited to be a part of the Malabar River Festival and looks forward to paddle new waters and enthrall the audience with his freestyle skills. He will be the head-judge for the freestyle competition and ensure that the race event is organized according to the highest international standards. We are proud to have someone like Max be a part of this event and we believe that his positive energy and commitment to the sport will influence many paddlers to follow in his footsteps towards greatness.

Sam “Champion” Sutton (New Zealand)

sam sutton kayaking

Three time winner of the worlds most prestigious extreme Kayak race, Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship , this hero needs no introduction. His calling card “World Champion”speaks for itself, although it didn't come easy.

Eight years ago,. at 16 years old Sam began kayaking. He lived close to the Kaituna River in New Zealand and was hired to take pictures for a rafting company. He thought kayaking looked cool, far more fun than what he was currently doing. That’s when he realized that he had found his true calling. He paddled for 4 months straight, never missing a day and in between ditched his job - partly because jobs he thought jobs were for the weak-hearted. The rest, as they say is history !

When asked why Sam fell in love with the sport, this is what he had to say “Before I started kayaking, I did motocross racing and constantly had to be taken to hospital, because I got hurt. Right now, I’m throwing myself off anything without getting hurt at all. Apart from that one time but then I didn’t have to go to hospital.”

Sam placed second at Adidas world championship in 2008 and won it three times in a row from 2010 to 2013, an unparalleled feat in the history of extreme whitewater kayaking. Yet, the man remains modest and believes that if one gets too cocky then a slamming on the river is due. His main motivation to is to go out and have fun and in between run some of the biggest rapids that can ever be run.

Just like his predecessor the great Sir Edmund Hillary, Sam loves jet-skis. He dreams of going up some of the biggest rivers with his 215 BHP jet ski and perhaps one day he will actually the complete the job that Hillary undertook when the latter embarked on the legendary “Source to Sea”expeditions of the mighty Ganges.

When asked about his strengths and weakness, this is what he had to say :

Strengths: I’m a fairly smooth and consistent kayaker who is pretty critical about himself. I have a strong mental and determined mind. I’m able to concentrate without thinking about consequences and just make my moves. Besides that, I’m an adrenaline junky and a risk-taker but I think you need something like that in order to do this sport.

Weaknesses: First of all walking, I hate it as much as I love kayaking. When it comes to big drops, I’m not the best in judging angles. I know that they hurt me more than others!

European blond girls are probably my biggest vice.”

Ayodhya Prasad (India)


I have been kayaking since 2008, And paddled all the major rivers in India. Been to Nepal as well for the Rodeo Championship in 2013.. Represented India in Germany In 2011.. Team Paddler for GKF 2013 and 2014. looking for more opportunity in kayaking around, and want to kayak all over the world...

Ayodhya earned the overall title of Rapid Raja at the Malabar Festival 2013 and this is what he had to say “Malabar River Festival 2013 was very special for me , as i was the over all champion there, And it brought me so much confidence and many more new thing to learn, I enjoy paddling both River But the Iruwanj puzha was the most Interesting, yes and I personally like it because it was well organised with a team of experienced people.. And i am looking forward to be there again to successfully defend my title”

Mark Walker (USA)


I started kayaking in 2004, the most recent rivers I paddled were the Soca in Slovenia, and the Sesia in Italy. I am from Richmond, Virginia in the United States, and I am an ACA certified Whitewater Kayak Instructor and Wilderness First Responder.

My experience at Malabar River Festival

I had a fantastic time at the Malabar River Festival, the rivers were beautiful, and the support from the local towns and villages was amazing. I was impressed by the level of interest shown by the Keralans, I don't think I have ever seen a river festival with so many spectators. The festival was well organized, and went very smoothly considering it was the first festival of its kind in India. The sense of camaraderie among the participants in the festival was very strong; I got to know all the other participants during the festival. I learned about the festival from two of the festival organizers who attended an ACA Whitewater Kayak Instructor Course that I was also attending. My favorite river was the Iruvanjipura.

Bhupendra Singh Rana (India)


I'm from Rishikesh and I've been paddling for over 11 years. I've had the opportunity to paddle both in India and on international rivers, Including Norway, Uganda, USA, Austria and India.

My experience at MRF

It was my first time paddling in south India so I was super pumped up. MRF gave me a reason to go down to southern India and try my hands on some of the un touched rivers. I think the MRF was very well organized for the first time in it's history. The MRF festival will be organizing their 2nd edition in July 2014 with updated event formats and new categories. So good luck folks. My favorite river to paddle around the Kodencherry area was definitely the upper and middle section of Iruvanjhipuzha river and the super slide section was great too.

Chelsilyn Ball


I started paddling about a year ago. I have paddled in Nepal, India and am working on the Arkansas River Colorado USA.

My Experience at MRF 2013

I went to the 2013 festival to improve my paddling and to meet the paddlers in South India. The festival was huge success. A little scramble to get everything finished, but in the end all went well. The early dates will allow for better water flow and the experience from last year on setting registration and information earlier should be a huge benefit for this year.

In other news, we have just learnt that Sam Sutton, three time winner of the Adidas Sickline Extreme World Kayak championship has confirmed his entry for the MRF 2014. He will be joined by a few other legends, Darren Clarkson King, the man behind the epic “Tears of Everest”expedition and the proverbial Joe Rea Dickens who led amazing first descent of Kinshi River in Meghalaya last year. The field at the MRF 2014 is hot and getting hotter!