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Get set for the adrenaline rush

Ronald Anil Fernandes Jan 29 2018, 23:16 IST
Coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada have emerged as popular spots for people to engage in water sports like surfing. DH Photo by Govindraj Javali

Coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada have emerged as popular spots for people to engage in water sports like surfing. DH Photo by Govindraj Javali

There was a time when water sports enthusiasts of Karnataka had to go to a distant place to ride the waves. Not any more. On the contrary, people from across the country, and even outside, are visiting the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada to explore places that have emerged as the finest spots for water sports.

There are several beaches in this region that have a great potential for tourism and adventure activities. Right from Someshwar beach near Ullal (in Dakshina Kannada) to Majali beach in Karwar (Uttara Kannada-Goa border), there are more than a dozen beaches that could be the best in the country. Tannirbavi, Panambur, Surathkal, Mulki (in Dakshina Kannada), Kaup, Malpe, Maravanthe (in Udupi), Murudeshwar, Bhatkal, Gokarna and Honnavar (in Uttara Kannada) are a few to name. Besides, rivers such as Nethravathi, Gurupura, Nandini, Shambhavi, Swarna, Udyavar, Seetha, Sowparnika, Chakra, Kali and Sharavathi also offer water sports opportunities.

Unexplored areas

Though Jack Hebner, popularly known as Surfing Swami, started Mantra Surf Club or 'Surfing Ashram' - India's first surf club - in 2004 in Mulki, and famous people keep visiting the club, the sport came to limelight when Mantra Surf Club organised the first 'All Cargo Indian Open of Surfing' at Sasihithlu beach in 2016.

The competition, recognised by the International Surfing Association and Surfing Federation of India, and supported by Karnataka Tourism Department, saw the participation of over 100 surfers from India and abroad. While surfing is a multi-billion dollar industry abroad, it was virtually unheard of in India until a few years ago. Because of the efforts of Jack and others, coastal Karnataka has emerged as a popular surfing destination today.

Besides surfing, stand-up paddle (SUP), kayaking, bodyboarding, wakeboarding and jet ski rides too have been introduced in some beaches and rivers of the region. Other recognised surfing training institutes in the coastal region include Shaka Surf Club in Kodi Bengre, Udupi, Stoked Surfers Club in Tannirbavi, and the one managed by Panambur Beach Tourism Development Project in Panambur beach.

Amritha Vidyalaya in Mangaluru is collaborating with Mantra Surfing Club to start surfing, kayaking and stand up paddle activities, and to include the same in the school curriculum, said Yathish€ˆBaikampady, chief executive officer of Panambur Beach Tourism Development Project. He also said that when the plan materialises, it will be the first school in the State, perhaps in India, to include surfing in the curriculum.

Till recently, scuba diving was considered as a 'foreign sport' (even though the Andamans and Goa had the facility). Uttara Kannada district administration facilitated scuba diving in Murudeshwar (Netrani island) last year. Two more places (an island about 8 km from Kaup beach, and Sadashivgad in€ˆKarwar) followed suit. Plans are on the anvil to start scuba diving at about 16 km away from Panambur beach in Mangaluru. "A trial run has already been done," said Yathish.

Snorkelling activity is also organised in all these places. Snorkelling is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water with a diving mask and a shaped breathing tube called snorkel.

Uday Shetty of Tourism Department, Dakshina Kannada said that the district administration has given permission to maintain beaches in Panambur and Someshwar to two companies and they can take up any activity on the beaches with appropriate infrastructure and adequate safety measures. He said that plans are also on the cards to start a surfing training centre in Mangaluru.

Anitha of Tourism Department, Udupi said that there is a good response for water sports activities in the district. House boat at the backwaters of River Swarna near Kallianpur too is becoming quite popular, she said.

Safety measures

Additional Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada district H Prasanna said that some of the beaches including Murudeshwar, Om (Gokarna) and Karwar are safe for water sports. "Due to the existence of islands nearby, tides are normal, following which they are ideal and safe for water sports activities," he said.

Stating that there are three operators in Uttara Kannada for scuba diving, Prasanna said that the district administration has been providing training on life-saving skills, first aid and rescue operations so that the operators are better equipped to handle emergency situations.

"I was thrilled and fascinated to see a different world just 30 feet below the sea surface near Nethrani island. Colourful fish, pelagic fish and coral reefs mesmerised me," said Shivamogga District Information Officer Shafi Saduddin, who recently tried scuba diving at Nethrani island. He is also happy that such a facility is available in the State.

Water sports in River Kali is the most sought-after among the urbanites, and people visit the place for activities like kayaking, speed boat and rafting. Dr Rabindranath Tagore Beach Development and Conservation Committee in Karwar, in association with Leisure Routes in Mangaluru and Uttara Kannada District Tourism Development Committee, has been organising kayaking for tourists.

The kayaking festival organised last year in Dandeli evoked an overwhelming response, with the participation of more than 100 enthusiasts from India and abroad. The route for kayaking is from Siddar to Karwar on River Kali, crossing picturesque locations and tiny islands. There are two island stop overs during the trip. To ensure the safety of riders, life jackets are provided and life guards will also be present. Interestingly, it is not compulsory for the participants to learn swimming for kayaking or scuba diving.

A park, pathway, watchtower, food park and other water sports on the bank of River Kali near Karwar, just before the river joins the sea, are an added attraction for tourists. With Karnataka emerging as a destination for water sports, adventure enthusiasts can head to scenic places this summer to experience the adrenaline rush.

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