Bhupi Rana Photo credit Rahul Talwar’s Photography
DBP: Paddling is a lifelong love affair. How did you first get into kayaking? What age were you, and what was your first home river?
Bhupi: I was fortunate enough to grow up on the mighty river Ganges in northern India, making the river my playground since my childhood. I used to see kayakers battling down the river all day long. Then someone told me that these kayakers actually got paid to float down the river and I was hooked! I knew that I wanted to see the world from my kayak. I later realized just how big the world actually is! My kayaking career began when I joined the rafting company Himalayan River Runners (on the Ganges) as a trainee river guide/kayaker in Sep 2003. Since then I have worked and paddled on four continents: Asia, Europe, Africa and North America.
DBP: What was your first boat and paddle? What are your go to’s now?
Bhupi: My first boat was an old 11’ + Dancer and the paddle was some no name paddle which I can’t even remember the name of. Currently I paddle Dagger Mamba 8.6 and use the Werner carbon Sho-Gun straight shaft paddle.
Paddling with local boys Manoj and Bobby in 2006
DBP: You are known for both running rivers and sending stouts all over the globe. What is your favorite type of paddling to do? And what’s your favorite rapid and river?
Bhupi: I enjoy all type of rivers from high volume like the White Nile to the steep Norwegian creeks. My favorite rapid and river is Ithanda falls (even though my heart nearly pumped out of my chest every time I paddled it) on the White Nile.
Punching through Cuban hole on Ithanda fall, White Nile
DBP: You’ve made a name for yourself in the world of whitewater rescue as well. Unfortunately many paddlers don’t take the time to familiarize themselves with proper technique. Tell us a bit about your rescue courses please. Have you ever needed to use those skills in real time?
Bhupi: A River has many dynamic features where things can change pretty fast, so rescue skills are essential when out on the river. You can minimize the rescue scenarios with good prevention knowledge. Action is part of the activity but how you react after the action is really what counts. With good rescue training and skills you can save yourself or your buddies in a crisis situation. We say in the rescue world that the best rescue is when there is “no rescue” required. Know your own limits, your teammate’s skill levels, and know as much as you can about the river and the area before going out. I have had to use these skills during the Kedarnath flood rescue in Uttarakhand in 2013. Please check the video link attached below.
I am honored and extremely lucky to be the first Indian rescue instructor certified by Rescue 3 International and the International Rafting Federation (IRF). My company, Rescue India, offers a variety of rescue courses and river guide training in India and also other countries. Rescue India’s website with all of our information is www.rescueindia.co.in
Executing the full body under water entrapment (training) in Idaho 2015
DBP: You’ve also done some rubber pushing as a commercial raft guide. Tell us about your biggest flip.
Bhupi: I enjoy taking customers down on my raft as much as I enjoy kayaking, especially the multi-day trips. When we talk about flips then I can’t even think about any other place other than the mighty White Nile in Uganda (east Africa). Where 4-5 really gnarly flips a day is pretty average!
Bhupi doing a dry flip (aka super guide move) on the White Nile
DBP: DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE was a proud official media outlet for GKF 2015. Can you tell us about the Ganga Kayak Festival and your role in it’s inception? What do you guys have in store for 2016?
Bhupi: It was an honor to have DBP on board as an online media partner for GKF 2015! I founded Ganga Kayak Festival (GKF) in Feb 2013 with the help of local outdoor professionals from the Rishikesh area. Our intention is to provide a platform for local athletes to showcase their skills on a competitive international level. A few years later GKF has become the biggest Aqua sports festival on the continent. In 2016 we will be hosting a rafting championship supported by the IRF and various kayak races for all levels. There will be plenty of games and entertainment for the audience. The dates are February 17th -19th 2016 in Rishikesh, Northern India. All dirt bag paddlers are invited!
Ganga Kayak Festival mass boater X
DBP: Most dirtbags never get to travel too far from home. Take us on a mental journey to the rivers of India please. What are some of your favorite rivers there? Can you describe the local paddling community?
Bhupi: India is the newest whitewater mecca in the world where the rivers can be paddled all year long. Northern India has the most year round rivers while the west and southern India get hit pretty hard during the monsoon season (July -Sep). My favorite rivers are the classic upper Ganges where you will be able to paddle multiple rivers in one trip with a minimum drive. The Upper Alaknanda, Nandakini, Pindar, Mandakini, Bhagirathi and our newest found the Virahi Ganga are some of my favorites. The local paddling community in India is extremely welcoming and love to share our rivers with everyone.
Gonichara waterfall Eastern Nayar, Uttarakhand
Box canyon of the Birahi Ganga, Uttarakhand Photo Kristof Stursa
DBP: Now you live in Connecticut. Tell us what your favorite home run is today.
Bhupi: Unfortunately whitewater rivers are not what Connecticut is known for. However, the Housatonic (Bulls Bridge section) River is what I can call my home run in CT. However, the Poconos mountains/rivers are only a few hours drive away so that’s always a great option as well. The dam release Dryway section in Massachusetts is about 3 hours away so I’ll go there to do some lapping on the weekends. It’s pretty easy to drive to most places on the east coast either North or South so, often I’ll do a 2-3 day trip somewhere to get some paddling in.
Bulls bridge section 2015 Paddler Vito Ruggiero
DBP: We at Dirt Bag Paddlers adopted a phrase that you first shared with me many months ago – “Flow Together, Grow Together.” Can you tell us about your personal paddling philosophy?
Bhupi: My paddling philosophy is really simple – Learn well. Respect the river and nature. Work as a team. Look out for your fellow paddlers. Know your limits. Train hard and play safe. And never forget to enjoy what you’re doing!
First descent of Birahi Ganga with the best group of local paddlers Photo Shalabh Gahlaut
DBP: The Malabar River Festival that you recently competed is look like such a blast! Tell us about monsoon season in India, all the unrun potential of your homeland, and what it’s like showing off these rivers to the international paddling community at the festival like Malabar.
Bhupi: Malabar River Festival was definitely a blast. India is a dreamland for kayakers during the monsoon. We have water all over India and thousands of untouched whitewater rivers, waterfalls, creeks are running everywhere. Some English paddlers have been exploring a variety of rivers over the last few years but the potential for new untouched whitewater is huge! Plan your trip if you haven’t booked it yet. Feel free to contact me at [email protected] or on facebook if you need any travel/paddling advice for an India trip.
Indian style shuttle back from the river, Kerala, India
Ganga boys at Malabar River Festival 2015
DBP: This question is one of my favorites to ask – let’s say it’s a picture perfect day, great weather, optimal flow, ideal conditions and limitless resources. You can head anywhere in the world and pick any partners… Where are you going paddling, and who is coming with?
Bhupi: Hmmm, I have so many places to go on my bucket list. If I could go anywhere then it would have to be back to Uganda to paddle the White Nile with my Indian buddies (Balam, Rishi, Ayodhya, Deepak) or on a 2 month paddling road trip around the United States or heli kayaking in NZ. The Indian local paddlers are really stepping up their game so hopefully we will find a sponsor who can support the Indian team allowing them to travel with me as well. I also always enjoy paddling some of our Indian Himalayan classics.
From left to right : Rishi, Balam, Deepak and Bhupi
DBP: Thanks so much for your time, Bhupi! Any last words for the community?
Bhupi: India is the newest whitewater mecca where you can paddle all year long while experiencing the local culture, spicy curry, traditional Indian hospitality and a cup of Chai. There are still thousands of untouched rivers waiting for you so make your next paddling trip to India for some epic exploration!
DBP: Cheers bro!