Surfing, paragliding, rafting, bouldering and coasteering… Here’s our guide to exploring the great Indian outdoors
WORDS: JEHAN DRIVER
To take on the waves – Surfing
Grabbing a board, jumping into the waves,n paddling out and catching a wave back to shore – that’s what surfing is all about. Learning to surf is a thrilling experience, and, because there are waves year-round in India, there’s something for everyone almost all the time – from small waves in the summers for beginners to big waves for pro-surfers through the monsoon.
Surfing is becoming increasingly accessible as a sport, with the west and east coasts of India hosting quite a few surf schools with great facilities. Popular surf spots along the west coast are in Goa, Varkala and Kovalam in Kerala, and Mulki and Mangalore in Karnataka. On the east coast, Covelong and Manapad in Tamil Nadu, Auroville near Puducherry, and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh host great waves.
There are many exquisite hideouts that offer surfing lessons for beginners as well as liveaboards (boats you stay on) that take professionals out to world-class waves well away from mainland India.
To climb to new heights – Bouldering
Practised on large natural boulders, bouldering is the purest style of rock climbing without a rope. One of the major appeals of bouldering is the freedom from lugging equipment with you. All you need is a good boulder, powdered chalk to keep your hands dry, climbing shoes and a crash pad (big cushion) so that you will not break bones if you fall.
The potential for rock climbing and bouldering in India is limitless. We have beautiful, chiselled rock faces in hard stone in the North (Uttarakhand) and superb bouldering sites in the South at Hampi and Badami, which have the potential for becoming international bouldering sites. Then, there are the mighty foothills of the Himalayan ranges where organised rock climbing is possible in towns like Manali, Solang and Rishikesh.
Hampi is one of the major bouldering destinations in India and is equally popular with locals and foreigners. Sited around 350km from Bangalore, the terrain at Hampi is made up of red sandstone and most of the boulders and masses are unexplored. Another location in the vicinity is Badami, which has many boulders whose locations are kept secret by a few.
The best time to go bouldering in India is in winter, when the temperature of the rocks is comfortable. Summer is scorching hot for seeking fingers, and rain makes the rock slippery. Beginners can practise on artificial boulders in gyms and outdoor urban areas.