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Rappelling to stand up paddling: outdoor adventure spots in Chennai you can visit as the city unlocks

Sunshine, sea spray and balance

On a sultry Sunday afternoon at Kovalam beach, children and adults alike balance on surfboards: some strike poses, while others wobble nervously. Drenched and exhilarated, they are beginners, led by a robust crew of young trainers belonging to a crop of burgeoning surf schools in the village.

The fishing village, boasting a curvy coast, drew surfers from across India before the pandemic. Now, despite a year and a half of lockdowns, it is becoming one of India’s hottest surfing destinations with seven schools dedicated to the sport. And, all seven of them are seeing good business ever since restrictions were eased, welcoming travellers from across the country for an interval of sun and sand.

“It’s been a good time for all outdoor sports,” says Arun Vasu of Surf Turf, adding “People feel safe because it’s in open air and the best social distancing you can do is in the water. It’s not even like surfing has bounced back, it has been better than ever.” Their centre in Rameshwaram, called Quest, which focusses on wind-related sports like wind-surfing, kite-surfing, kayaking, sailing and stand up paddling, is welcoming visitors from cities like Bengaluru and Mumbai, all in search of quieter, less-explored getaways.

Rappelling to stand up paddling: outdoor adventure spots in Chennai you can visit as the city unlocks

“Majority of visitors are beginners who want to try the sport, and 20-25 percent are regulars who come two-three times a week. The rest come for a one-off experience. The profile is quite vast — from kids to 60-year-olds,” continues Arun.

Murthy Megavan, a surfer hailing from the village, who runs Kovalam Surfing School says that there are five sought-after surf points at Kovalam. And, favourable conditions differ in each of these spots according to the wind direction and time. The Covelong Point beach (which lines Surf Turf) is perfect from March to September. From October to February, the spot near the river mouth opening is safer. Most schools stick to the 7 am to 12 pm and 3 pm to 6 pm time frame.

Surf Turf charges ₹1,900 for the first surf class, after which it is ₹1,250 per class. Boards can be rented at ₹500. Contact 9907540541 . Kovalam Surfing School charges ₹1,500 for the first class (one-and-a-half hours) and ₹750 for standalone sessions. Boards can be rented at ₹500. Contact Murthy at 9003052231.

Practise yoga while the otters watch

On cloudy days, near the backwaters of river Kollidam at Chidambaram, otters pop their heads from holts, scoping out the property at Mangrove Bay EcoCamp. The water sports recreation centre, which started in 2019, is collaborating with Chennai Yoga Studio in Anna Nagar, to offer monthly weekend yoga retreats.

Their first session, held a week ago, involved acro yoga on a stand up paddle board, meditation sessions under moonlight, and kayaking.

“People who are now taking to yoga are doing so because they want to feel connected with their bodies again, after long hours of sitting,” says Rohini Manohar, founder of Chennai Yoga Studio, who worked together with stand up paddler and Mangrove Bay founder Kumaran Mahalingam, to facilitate this workshop.

Rappelling to stand up paddling: outdoor adventure spots in Chennai you can visit as the city unlocks

Practising yoga on water is not only more physically demanding, but also requires you to be more focussed mentally, explains Rohini. Especially so, when in the past year, you have been following a yoga instructor along with 100 others on a computer screen. “Here, you are immersed in Nature: the earth, sky and sea around you, which can be healing. You can’t think of other people, it’s just you and your journey on the board. You focus, or else you fall into the water,” she says.

Acro yoga, she adds, requires letting go of your fears and trusting the board, your partner and the river. To familiarise participants with being in water, the workshop starts with kayaking first.

“Since we re-opened in June, we have been quite busy. People have even been working from our campsite. We allow up to 14 people at a time,” says Kumaran. Visitors to the centre also include dogs, some of whom ride the kayaks and paddle alongside their humans.

For the yoga workshop, priced at ₹4,000 per head, contact 9940215351. A one-night stay at the camp, with stand up paddling training, is priced at ₹2,250, contact 9971091541.

Aim, shoot, bond

The city’s outdoor adventure sports companies are also back in business, catering especially to corporations, small and big. “With so many people working from home, people want to meet their colleagues once a month or so. They can do it over lunch or dinner at a restaurant, but there is a concern of eating, unmasked, with strangers around, in that environment,” says Major Swaraj Roy (retired), founder of Adventure Zone in Chengalpattu, explaining why his space is getting popular again as lockdown eases, this time with workplace friends.

Rappelling to stand up paddling: outdoor adventure spots in Chennai you can visit as the city unlocks

The 11-acre site run by the former Army commando instructor offers outdoor activities that include air rifle and air pistol shooting (you can use .22 air rifles and pistols on combat targets used by the armed forces), an obstacle course (peppered with rope bridges, tires, swings, nets and tunnels), and rappelling up two 50-feet high walls.

The company recently launched post-Covid getaway packages for an overnight stay in air-conditioned tents, for ₹3,000. “We take only one group, up to 25-30 people, in one day, so they can feel safer,” he says.

Adventure Zone is at Cheyyur Road, Madhurantakam. Each activity costs ₹600, contact 9444384608.

Can you climb a tree?

The rippling, tree-lined lake of Chetpet Eco Park is not a bad view for a workout. As brisk walkers tread the rim of the park every evening, two floors above them a different group of people hang off bars, clamber up ropes, zig-zag their way up colourful boulder-lined walls and a rescued coconut tree, all in the name of fitness. If core, glute and leg workouts are your priority, you can join them.

Rappelling to stand up paddling: outdoor adventure spots in Chennai you can visit as the city unlocks

In this fresh phase of unlock, city-based Fitrock Arena has been rethinking its strategy. With its Mandaveli and OMR outlets closed, the indoor fitness outfit had been setting up indoor bouldering walls in clients’ homes. Now, Fitrock has leased a rooftop space in Chetpet Eco Park and reworked it into a sprawling indoor arena with a calming view, and enough space for parkour, yoga, and other activities, besides its 15-feet high bouldering wall. “We have tied up with Simple Strong for group functional training and animal flow, Chennai Parkour for parkour and The Yoga Space for yoga,” says Fitrock co-founder Shyam Sundar.

The 3,200-square-feet Chetpet space also features a 16- to 18-feet-tall coconut tree, that the team had found fallen within the park. “We brought it in, and are now offering indoor tree-climbing. It’s a good workout,” says Shyam. The long-standing Pallikaranai outlet has other features to boast about. “Our rock climbing wall there is 36-feet, around three stories high, and we are the only place in Chennai that offers 30-feet high rope climbing,” says Shyam. Both spaces encourage slack-lining too, to improve balance.

Monthly membership at Fitrock Arena is around ₹4,500 to 5,000. Contact 9962357035.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 5:51:51 AM |

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