It was a festival of sorts for the people of the coastal area here on Saturday as they flowed into the Chethi estuary. The occasion was the race of ‘ponth valloms,’ single-man rowed rafts made of thermocol, in the estuary that opens into the Arabian Sea near Arthunkal.

Excise Minister K. Babu inaugurated the race, in which 32 ‘ponth valloms’ competed for the prize. There were seven heats, followed by four semi-finals and a final contest to select the winners. Sojan of Chethi emerged champion, followed by Sebastian Mathen of Janakshema and Safaqi of Pollayil finishing second and third respectively.

Mr. Mathen came second last year too, in the first edition of the ‘Ponth Jalalosavam,’ the boat race of ‘ponth valloms.’ The race celebrates the spirit of sportsmanship and culture of the coastal area more than winning.

Earlier, a colourful cultural procession was taken out from Kattadi junction to the Chethi estuary where the boat race was held.

While most boats only had a single rower, some of the boats had children accompanying the main rower in order to balance the raft.

‘Ponth vallom’ is the cheapest raft that fishermen use out on the sea for fishing. But these light rafts cannot be used to venture into the deep sea.

The prize for the winners of the race, conducted by a host of organisations, was a ‘ponth vallom’ itself. All the rowers received cash prizes and trophies.