India has never before been so adventurous. We’re beginning to take extreme sports seriously, branching out from our standard street cricket and football, and really pushing our limits. What once used to be mere hobbies or leisurely activities have now evolved into full fledged sports. The athletes that represent this movement are going places and making India known in the international community of extreme sport. Here are some of the “first-times” we’ve experienced this year, that mark the beginning of a new era:

  1. The first Slackline India Championship, August 2016

What was once just a strange way of passing time by attempting to walk across a wobbly line of webbing, is now a sport pursued by many, who’ve mastered the art of balance and taken it to new levels with jumps, backflips, and yoga poses on the 2 inch line. These athletes met at the Covelong Point Surf and Music Festival in Chennai, from the 26th to the 28th of August, and battled it out for the title of the first Indian slackline champion. Samar Farooqui, pioneer of slacktivism in India, organized and judged the event, along with Jonty Rhodes (cricketer and fielding coach for the Mumbai Indians), and Arun Vasu (Chairman and Managing Director of the TTK group).

There were a total of 23 participants (more than twice the number that was initially expected). The winners from each category were:

Men – Open (18 competed)
Bhupesh Patil – 1st Place
Adhwaith Manohar – 2nd Place
Yadav R – 3rd Place

Women – Open (5 competed)
Pooja Vaidya – 1st Place

2. First Indian skateboarders at the World Leisure Sports Festival, July 2016

Gautham Kamath and Pravin Habib headed to Chuncheon, South Korea in July, brandished with the titles of the first Indians to represent the country in an international skate competition. Supported by the Asian Extreme Sports Federation, the boys made it just in time for the qualifying round. Although they didn’t finish on the podium, their presence itself was a huge milestone for the skate scene. Skaters from various countries were surprised to see Indians there, as they had never been before. They got the chance to interact with renowned athletes and put their names out there. Now that the world knows what we have in store, maybe more such opportunities will arise in the future.

Image credit: Extreme Sports Association of India (XSAI)

Image credit: Extreme Sports Association of India (XSAI)

“It was a huge opportunity for me as I have never competed at this scale before. It was a good platform for showing our potential and networking. But we still have a long way to go,” said Gautham in a telephonic interview.

3. India’s first Skyrunning meet, September 2016

Skyrunning is an extreme sport that involves running long distances at high altitudes (generally above 2000m) on steep mountain terrain. Essentially, the brave and burly sibling of marathon running.

The meet was held on September 11th in the Solang Valley of Manali, and was organized by The Hell Race (subtly suggestive of the nature of their events). Runners from all over the country congregated to jump across rivers, run along narrow paths along cliffs, follow shephard trails, wind around boulders, and tackle all sorts of rugged terrain. 53 participants were divided in two categories: the 30km race, which had a cut-off timing of 6 hours, and a 60km race, with a 12 hour cut-off time. The race was meant to give a push to the trail running culture in India, and seems to have done so quite well.

Image credit: The Hell Race

Image credit: The Hell Race

4. We hosted the IFSC Sport Climbing World Cup in May 2016

It was the first time in history that the biggest competition for sport climbing, the IFSC World Cup, was hosted in India by the Indian climbers themselves. Since then, there has been a visible growth in the amount of people aware about the sport and more and more are getting into regular climbing habits every day. Read more about this story here.

Women's qualifying round at the World Cup

Women’s qualifying round at the World Cup

5. Arunaabh Shah becomes India’s youngest Ultraman, May 2016

Arunaabh Shah was the first Indian male to have completed the Ultraman Australia, held from the 14th to 16th of May, 2016. The Ultraman includes 10km of swimming, followed by 421.1 bicycling, and finished with 84.3km of running. The entire race could be completed over three days, and each day had a cut-off time of 12 hours. The 26 year old has been a swimmer and a runner while growing up, and has now completed several marathons, triathlons, and ultramarathons over the years.

Ultraman Australia Noosa 2016 (Image credit: Barry John Alsop)

Ultraman Australia Noosa 2016 (Image credit: Barry John Alsop)

In an interview with The Outdoor Journal, Arunaabh says that he plans to work with the administrative system in Indian sports and make a better environment for athletes so as to improve their quality of training and the support that they get.

6. Uttarakhand hosts the first international Paragliding competition, March 2016

Uttarakhand’s Tourism Development Board (UTDB), Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) and Paragliding Association of Uttarakhand (PAU) collaborated to host the first ever international Paragliding competition in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. Nearly 60 participants from 10 countries all across the globe participated in the Uttarakhand Paragliding XC, but the winner was from the home country. Ajay Kumar finished in the top rank with 1688 points over three days. Former world champion Yann Martail from France came second, with 1650 points. In the third place was Krishna Bahadur Sunuwar with 1501 points.

Image credit: 365hop

Image credit: 365hop

2016 seems to be the year of the outdoors, with people moving out of their comfort zones, into the wild, and making it big. In the years to come, the list will only get longer and more exciting.

Shimul Bijoor
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