In 2010, Washington University valued the global adventure sports market at a whopping $89 Billion. The rapid increase in adventure tourism and sports is down to the growing popularity of leading a healthy lifestyle, alternative holiday options that vary from the usual regular beach and sightseeing vacations, and perhaps it even partially owes its sudden growth to the somewhat trendy image playing outdoor sports tends to portray. As far as we’re concerned, it beats eyeball licking and owling. But the most cementing aspect of their existence is their ability to bring people together around a single activity. Learning a new life skill coupled with the downtime post an intense session of say, surfing or rock climbing, apparently rates much higher on the bonding scale much than going from one lazy meal to another, however much it pains us to admit it.
Adventure tourism is also helping the tourism industry explore locations that would otherwise fail in a traditional ‘Holiday Package’ environment, which has led to a ton of economic benefits and in turn, helped numerous local communities fend for themselves and given them employment opportunities. Let’s call it a win-win then.
For developed countries that have been tapping into adventure sports for a while now, this presents a whole lot of opportunity nobody considered for a long time. And this is exactly where countries like India come in. All one has to do is take the country’s incredibly varied landscape into mind, and the possibilities are endless. Right from the largest coastline throwing up multiple amazing surf spots, to the tallest mountain ranges and a gargantuan youth population, the market has really been tapped into over the last decade and the results have been one takes our there has always been immense scope for adventure sports here, with the vast expanse of varied geographical terrain. From one of the largest coastlines in the world, to the tallest mountain range on offer, it was only a matter of time before this market was tapped into.
Mountaineering and hiking have been around for a while now because of its mass appeal and easy access. Since the mid 2000s we have seen an increase in alternative sports too--surfing, rafting and skateboarding are prime examples of such success stories. All three have spread nationwide and are at a place to be a sustainable sport in the country. India also has one of the world’s best paragliding grounds at Bir Billing in Himachal Pradesh, which has been famous with the international paragliding community for a while now but sadly it is not very popular with us Indians. Adventure tourism in India is also picking up right from skiing, mountain terrain biking, parkour, rock climbing, bouldering, to bungee jumping and skydiving. Lesser known destinations like Badami and Hampi in Karnataka offer a unique bouldering and rock climbing terrain. Water sports in general are quite popular in most beach towns, and scuba diving in Andamans is also growing at steady pace. There is a also scope to start dune boarding in the Thar, salt boarding in Kutchh and heli-skiing in the mountains. But while we can wax eloquent about this space’s evolution, progress comes with its own set of challenges and the biggest problem that Indian consumers face today is that most of the equipment is imported, making most of it expensive, and largely unaffordable. Not to mention, availability is another hurdle to be crossed.
Still, things are slowly building momentum and the holistic growth of adventure tourism across a wide variety of sports has seen a number of homegrown companies attempt to start producing adventure gear in India. From hand-crafted skateboards and surfboards to indigenous rucksacks and mountain bikes. these are a few of them that we highly recommend.
I. Tattva Boards , Mumbai
Tattva was started back in 2013 by Spandan Banerjee who claims to be more of a surfer than a skater. Spandan initially just wanted to build a wooden surfboard for himself but ended up building a longboard with his Lukas, a carpenter from Hyderabad. Tattva also uses local wood as much as possible instead of the global standard Canadian Maple Wood. A longboard deck starts at 5500 INR and a complete skateboard with trucks and wheels starts at 9500 INR, this cost can go up to upwards of 20,000 INR depending on the choice of wood, trucks and wheels.
Follow Tattva Boards on Facebook.
II. Temple Surfboards, Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram is a small fishing town also renowned for its historical relevance. Started by Dave Hearn, Temple Surfboards helps train the local fishermen and stone carvers to shape the boards by hand. Local artists then design new patterns for all surfboards. All the boards made at Temple Surfboards are shaped and glassed by hand. They have four base surf board designs to choose from, they also make custom designs based on the customer’s requirements. The shortest board they make is 4’6” long, going up to 10 feet long boards. Temple Surfboards also lets you pick from 7 different tail shape options amongst customising other smaller details of the board. A Temple Surfboard starts at 23,000 INR, you can buy your own board here.
III. INDI Surfboards, Pondicherry
Samai and Juan Raboul from the Kallialay Surf School joined hands with Nicola Erni, Dylan Imhoff, Perceval Fayon, and Mahiran Coy for this venture. They set out to be an indie shop, using local materials to create international quality boards. INDI takes pride in the fact that they make their own blank boards, which gives them a lot more creative freedom. They also use environment friendly EPS foam that is locally available in abundance. A standard high performance board from INDI starts at 20,000 INR. A custom board (design, blank, artwork) starts at 25,000 INR, and can take up to 8 weeks to make.
IV. Wildcraft, Bangalore
In the late 90s, Dinesh Kaigonalli started Wildcraft out of a small garage in Jayanagar, Bengaluru. They started manufacturing whatever they could at the time—rucksacks, sleeping bags and tents. These edgy bags created a sudden buzz and were comparable to international brands lie NorthFace and Jansport. Unlike most businesses that start out of a garage, Wildcraft is now a well established and sustainable business. Get your own Wildcraft rucksack, starting at 3,000 INR here.
V. Montra Bicycles, Chennai
Montra makes myriad bicycles, mountain bikes being a major chunk of those. Montra is the first manufacturer in India to use anthropometry (using human measurements) to build their bicycles. They also have a cycling club and organise regular meet-ups. Montra also makes Hybrid bicycles, cycles for regular usage and bicycles for kids. Their website also has a unique calorimeter which helps you calculate the number of calories burnt, taking into account your weight, height and exercise duration. Montra’s state of the art Mountain bicycles start at 15,500 INR. Get your own Montra bike here.
[Note to readers--if we’ve missed or omitted any company you believe should be on this list, don’t hold out on us. Let us know in the comments below so we can give them their due recognition.]