When sports like cricket and — to an extent — football continue to prevail in the country, Jellyfish Watersports aims to break the bias by bringing aquatic games into the picture. Adding to the project was their idea of pairing sports with environmental conservation and awareness strategies. We got in touch with Kaushiq Kodithodika, the founder of Jellyfish Watersports to tell us more. By Bayar Jain
1. Tell us a little bit about Jellyfish Watersports.
Jellyfish Watersports was created to be a social enterprise, which promotes human-powered and eco-friendly water crafts such as kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddle-boarding (SUP), rowing and sailing. We welcome people from all parts of India, and from across the world to experience water sports in the beautiful river and backwaters of Kerala, and get away from their everyday routine.
2. Was there any specific moment or instance in your life that urged you to take up this initiative?
As an individual, I was always attracted to water. Be it my childhood spent in Feroke by the Chaliyar River or when I grew up in Dubai along the creek, water-related activities always fascinated me. During our holidays, we used to bring our inflatable kayak to India, only to find how under-utilised Indian rivers are. We realised a great potential to introduce water sports and leisure activities here. At the same time, it was frightening to see the amounts of garbage floating in the river. It was at this moment when we learnt about the need to be responsible, and act responsibly.
3. What were the challenges you faced while bringing water sports to the Indian audience?
The main challenge was the lack of awareness among people about water sports. Most people would ask us if we needed special permissions [for these sports]. They were completely unaware of the fact that rowing and using the river are natural rights that we all have. Initially, we would face this objection often. Fortunately, the law also entitles us to utilise our water bodies. Gradually, families started getting convinced and joined the club. It was very comforting!
4. The name Jellyfish is very intriguing and catchy. What’s the story behind it?
Due to the regulator bridges built over river Chaliyar, the natural flow of fresh water has reduced over the years. This has slowly led to sea creatures getting into the river via the estuary; jellyfish being one of them. So, jellyfish came in as a new entrant to the waters. It doubled as a new thing in town which fishermen didn’t know much about.
At the same time, jellyfish are believed to be creatures with tentacles, some of which are even larger than blue whale. As a marine creature, jellyfish need to be handled with care. If due attention is not given to them, they can get dangerous. This is the case with water sports too.
Lastly, my kids thought the name was catchy and unusual! So, we went ahead with it.
5. What is the Marine Cemetery and how did you set it up?
The Marine Cemetery project is a result of immense brainstorming by all of us at Jellyfish. We wanted to create a one of a kind project to help sensitise people towards the impact of careless handling of garbage. More than 200 paddlers and volunteers collected plastic bottles from the Chaliyar River and the Beypore beach, which were then used to create the cemetery. With this, we wish to pay respect to eight endangered marine species, and one fresh-water fish — Miss Kerala. We wanted to make people understand that by discarding plastic anywhere, without being mindful, the resultant effect could be catastrophic.
Moreover, since no one else seems to have made a cemetery like this before, we thought this project would be unique. We also thought it would create an impact in sending a strong message, both locally and worldwide.
6. Currently, Jellyfish Watersports and the Marine Cemetery are only within the Indian borders. Any plans on taking this initiative overseas?
Thankfully, we are connected to so many individuals, activists, marine biologists and international organisations around the globe. We are thinking of taking such projects worldwide.
7. What, in your opinion, are some of the steps a common man can take to curb plastic and water pollution?
Reject single use plastic; reduce the use of disposables; reuse as much as you can. We should try following the 3Rs — Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in our daily lives. We should all try doing our bit to head towards a cleaner and greener world.
8. How do you educate and create awareness among local fishermen about this pressing issue of water pollution?
Fishermen are the ones who experience plastic pollution first-hand. Sadly, they are also a major contributor of it as discarded nets and over fishing causes a lot of damage to the environment and marine life. So, making them more aware and educating them about the adverse effects of plastic is a good start.
9. Among the various activities Jellyfish Watersports organises, which one is your personal favourite and why?
Multi-day river paddling activities such as Chaliyar River paddle and Muziris paddle events are my favorites. These activities bring together more people and create a network of like-minded individuals. It feels like an alternate lifestyle evolving around the water bodies, where strangers become friends. These multi-day activities bring in a sense of belonging and acceptance within the locals as well.
10. Apart from Calicut, what is your preferred destination to enjoy water sports?
The state of Kerala is blessed with 44 rivers. This implies there are a lot of opportunities here, as each river is unique. Paddling in the backwaters such as Vembanad, Ashtamudi and National Waterway 3 (NW3) is a great opportunity. In fact, the entire shoreline of Kerala is amazing and has potential touristic opportunities. As a starting point, Team Jellyfish is associated with Kerala tourism to explore such opportunities, and has an ambition to promote such activities among tourists.