Here are some of the offbeat sporting opportunities the city has to offer. A quick shout out to all the girls out there — there don’t seem to be enough of you on the field!
Ours is the city of Chennai Super Kings and perhaps to some, the Chennai Open. To the tourist, Chennai is also the city of sand and surf, of lakes on the outskirts and some trekking trails to match. Yet, to some Chennai-vaasis, the two worlds converge into a whirling mass of adrenaline rush and sporting thrills.
Rappelling and zip-lining
Did you think that you had to go to some faraway land to indulge in rappelling? Also known as abseiling, rappelling involves the controlled descent down a rock face using a rope, especially on surfaces that are too steep to be climbed otherwise.
In Chennai, rappelling classes are conducted by trained professionals across age groups and experience levels.
Trilogachandran, who has been rappelling for seven years now, says, “I train school children on Sunday mornings and hold regular sessions for members of Chennai Trekking Club. Apart from this, groups of people contact me and we work out a mutually convenient time. We start with scaling boulders and work our way up to mountain faces at a 45 angle.”
Trilok, as he is known, is the first trainer in Tamil Nadu qualified to conduct these sessions and works with Well Wishers Adventure Club, Chennai. Each session is priced at Rs. 200.
Eligible, interested climbers between the ages of 25 and 30 may also apply for the Everest selection camp to be held for an expedition in 2015.
The team at Well Wishers Adventure Club also offers training in zip-lining, a sport that Google tells us is only associated with Catalina, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Individuals are trained in the basics of rock climbing and then trainers teach them to use a cable and pulley mechanism to travel between two mountains.
Reach Trilok and his team ‘Well Wishers Adventure Club’ on Facebook.
This French sport involves moving from one point to another given point in the most efficient manner using only the body to propel oneself forward. Based on military obstacle training, it requires great fitness and mental strength.
The sport made a quiet entry into Chennai about eight years ago with a small group of dedicated members, who continue to be at the core of the circuit today. What began as monthly camps transformed into regular classes about two and a half years ago in an attempt to kindle the interest of others who wanted more structure to their sport.
Though a plethora of online resources is available, Chennai’s practitioners often find themselves at a crunch for personal attention and experienced trainers.
Susheel Chandradhas, a core member of the Chennai team, says there are some difficulties that are unique to Chennai. “The sport is based on urban architecture. But, in Chennai, our buildings are not suited to climbing. They aren’t even very imaginative and we do not have walkways and staircases. That leaves us with only very restricted areas for practice.”
Yet, Susheel vouches for the sport’s inclusivity. “It is very accessible. All you need is determination and consistency. It is sad that only 15 per cent of our members are girls. It is basically as safe as an extreme sport can be. What more, it is centred on the community, about becoming stronger for yourself and others in body and mind.”
For more information, contact the Chennai circuit at Chennai Parkour or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a city defined by its beaches, Chennai’s surfing community is rather quiet. Ask Siddarth Chandrashekar, an amateur-turned-instructor, for an estimate of Chennai’s surfing community and the result can be counted on just one hand! Largely centred on Mahabalipuram and Kovalam, Chennai’s coastline is said to be very good training and practice ground for beginners, with the waves measuring about six feet compared to the Californian standards of about 20 feet. With an audience of 500 people to boast of at the national level, contests in India are still nascent.
Perhaps one reason is the cost. Renting a board costs Rs. 500 for a three-hour session and buying one requires a minimum investment of Rs. 35,000. Add risk of injury and required levels of fitness and stamina and surfing pushes you into the deep end of the pool (or ocean as the case may be). The statistics on gender could definitely use some improvement with Siddarth claiming that only 10 in every 500 girls continue after the first test session.
Despite its minuscule membership, surfing is a viable source of income to those who take the plunge. As Siddarth said, “Boys from the fishing hamlets near Kovalam have taken to surfing and have started taking home some good money.”
Anyone interested in attempting to ride a wave can check out Bay of Life or contact Showkath Jamal at 9940488880.
Head to Besant Nagar beach and, on most evenings, you will see a group of youngsters, concentration writ large on their faces, as they toss a disc to each other. Ultimate, as the sport is called, is a non-contact sport played with a disc or a Frisbee. Points are scored by getting the disc to a teammate at the other end of the playing field. Perhaps the most interesting of the many Ultimate rules is the role of the referee. Ultimate players take immense pride in negating the role of the referee, relying instead on sportsmanship and the ‘spirit of the game’ to ensure fair play.
“I think it contributes significantly to the inclusiveness of the Ultimate community. In fact, the game has now been adopted by a few local NGOs as a tool for personal development.” says Suprabha HM, a player who has been in the circuit for four years.
With Chennai playing host to India’s only beach Ultimate tournament, the city has much to boast of. The icing on the cake is that Ultimate has a fair number of girls on the circuit, largely helped by rules that require a certain number of girls to be on the line-up.
With a women’s league, various other mixed team league matches, a free summer camp and regular practice sessions, Ultimate could easily be the most accessible of Chennai’s alternative sports. The best way to get started? Walk up to the next person you see with a disc on the beach. Or visit Chennai Heat or visit ‘Chennai Ultimate Frisbee’ on facebook.