Earlier this year, the Goodwave team had commenced an operation in Karjat, Maharastha. The goal of this visit was to encourage and train young students from The Oberoi International School, Mumbai as well as explore the delights of the location when it comes to the rivers that flow, creating some sublime whitewater. With the stellar success of the previous visit, the Pej River had a lot to offer to our budding whitewater kayaking community. However, continuity in our activities is paramount in order for us to succeed in our goal. As a result, on the weekend of September 24th and 25th, the Goodwave team set out to continue our operations for a second edition of MISSION KARJAT.

Karjat, a small but popular town located almost midway between Mumbai and Pune, appears to have a great deal more to offer than its eternally famous vada pav. Located in the foothills of the mighty Western Ghats, there are numerous rivers that flow in the area, certain portions having the gradient differential that with appropriate amount of flows can result in some wondrous whitewater. The Pej River specifically is a dam controlled river that provides water throughout the year irrespective of the season. However, many other rain fed channels are existent that are yet to be explored. Being the monsoon season, a part of our objective was to investigate such tributaries and possibly conduct a ‘first descent’. The 23rd of September proved to be our lucky day and a team of kayaking enthusiasts from Mumbai and Pune joined us on the river. We ended up discovering a nice Class 2 section that proved to be mighty fun! It was a fantastic find, for this river could also be a good playground and training for the kids from Oberoi International School, who were due to arrive the following morning.

 The awesome rains received creating some sublime whitewater.

The awesome rains received creating some sublime whitewater.

The team from Oberoi International were ready to learn some kayaking! Harman and Keya, veterans from the first Karjat trip in January were back to better their skills in the sport. We were also joined by Avani and Atmika who were eager to get their kayaking experience going. The course was designed to be spread over two consecutive weekends. Once all introductions were conducted, the gear was distributed and explained, boats were assigned and the team was ready to hit the river. Due to the dynamics of the skill level, the group was split into two. The first group comprising of some of the instructors along with Harman and Keya who were scheduled to do a river run on the tributary of the Pej which was discovered only a day before. The other team comprising of Avani and Atmika along with their teachers and the remaining instructors were due to start from the basics.

Harman and Keya began their training with practicing the eskimo roll. From the previous session, they had learned the technique. Perseverance was now the name of the game and the duo definitely did not have any lack of it. They were determined to nail the roll by the end of this session! After a couple of hours of training on the swimming pool that was provisional for us at our base of operations, ‘Dada’s Grill’, the team regrouped with the rest for lunch.

Meanwhile, Avani and Atmika were getting their first taste of kayaking. The training began with an introduction to the underwater experience and while familiarizing with the dynamic environment a river provides. The girls were complete rockstars and were fearless when it came to plunging into the deed! Being upside down in a kayak did not seem to deter them whatsoever, something that many adults take days to overcome. Having learned the self-rescue activity known as the wet exit and an introduction to the art of paddling, the team broke for lunch as well, while the remaining members of the group joined.

 Avani receiving instructions prior to an underwater familiarization activity. 

Avani receiving instructions prior to an underwater familiarization activity. 

After a great riverside meal of parathas, it was time to recommence the training for the day. Harman and Keya geared up for their river run while Avani and Atmika got ready to test their paddling skills. The river run appeared to be a breeze for the duo as they faced all obstacles with ease, being completely comfortable with their paddling and while facing whitewater, despite the months away from the river. Simultaneously, Avani and Atmika were off with flying colors with their paddling. Avani, being a natural, displayed her prowess fairly, having an aptitude of being very quick. Atmika, with her grace had managed to have the natural edging while paddling, always wearing a smile when performing a paddling stroke. Soon the day was over, everyone tired with their first day on the river. It was time to pack up our gear and head back to our residence for the night. Everyone freshened up and made merry while having dinner. The night was called early, everyone tired and excited for the following day.

 Harman and Keya, comfortably choosing their own lines.

Harman and Keya, comfortably choosing their own lines.

 Team done for the day!

Team done for the day!

The next day was the moment to challenge the kids more. Harman and Keya were given an opportunity to run the higher section of the newly found river, which was trickier than what they faced the day before. This involved running a reasonably sized drop rapid but appeared to cause no problems for the duo. Avani and Atmika were given training to advance their paddling. They were challenged in moving water as they practiced how to enter the current from an eddy as well as exit into an eddy. Soon they were even able to ferry across a reasonably strong current. Around lunch time, both the teams regrouped at the same spot, everyone practicing their own versions of rescue when under water. Harman and Keya began their roll practice while Avani and Atmika were learning the t rescue. Post lunch, we decided to do the run down the river till our final destination, being the first run for Avani and Atmika. While they showed some nervousness, they were very excited, motivated and encouraged by their more experienced friends, Harman and Keya. True enough, the four of them aced the run, with no trouble whatsoever, confidant and calm. We reached the take out and it was time for the team to go back to Mumbai. A week of school separated them from coming back to the river and they seemed pretty excited of that prospect.

October 1st arrived soon enough. The kids were back in Karjat to continue their training. For this weekend we had Anvesh Singh Thapa, a highly experienced kayaker join us. He runs a company called Expeditions India based out of Rishikesh. Anvesh through his paddling career, has trained many individuals in whitewater kayaking and had joined us in Karjat to aid in the training. The day began with a reasonably intense session in the swimming pool. We felt it was imperative for all of them to become more comfortable underwater and for some to execute their eskimo rolls. True enough, Harman and Keya had finally achieved their main goal right before lunch! Both of them managed to execute very efficient eskimo rolls and they were super thrilled! Avani and Atmika, besides lazing around and being playful in the pool also practiced being underwater, getting more familiar with the uneasy feeling. The intent for post lunch was to move the session into the river. As the water levels had dropped significantly that weekend, the plan was to practice and better paddling skills and perhaps have a bit of fun on the river! A series of games commenced including kayak polo bringing the competitive nature out. The game tested the kids to practice all the techniques learned and to practice maneuvering their boats quickly. The sun was on the verge of setting and we called it a day, making our way back to Dada’s Grill for a nice meal of pasta and pizza!

Keya acing the roll!

Avani executing an underwater drill.

October 2nd was the final day on the river and for the training. Thankfully, the rains had picked up, giving the river some flows. Judging by the nature of the river, we decided to do the entire section, something that Harman and Keya were already familiar with. The first half of the run was uneventful until we reached the drop. This time, it was safe enough for Avani and Atmika to attempt it as well. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the rapid and just couldn’t get enough of it! They each ran the rapid a minimum of 3 times, smiles on their faces, truly delighted with what they have achieved and with the amount of fun they had throughout the two weekends.

The second edition of Mission Karjat appeared to have been very successful as well. Having Harman and Keya returning for their training was a true pleasure. The kids truly signify what we believe and want to achieve. The learning process that kayaking can offer, what we have had in our beginnings with the sport as well as what these kids are getting, is a true one of a kind experience. The swift thought process, reacting under pressure, awareness of your surroundings and working as a team can help grow a person’s character and influence their following years in whatever else they would like to achieve. While at the same time, Mission Karjat has provided us instructors a great learning on how we can improve and better the experience kids can have on the river. None of this could have been possible without having such awesome students such as Harman, Keya, Avani and Atmika! Karjat has proven to be a great place for whitewater kayaking as a sport to thrive and we will continue to strive in building the community by exposing kids to the wonder of the sport and by building the appropriate infrastructure to sustain.

 The Western River Runners!

The Western River Runners!

 Photo Credits: Elvin Lonan

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