Thrills

Mumbai’s First Underwater Festival

Finkick Adventures and Kshitij Mittal get us the low down from India Underwater Festival. All life comes from the Ocean, there is no denying this fact. It was when the first fish grew a pair of legs and started talking, so to speak, that evolution took a turn. While some animals completed the circle by going from ocean to land, back into the ocean again – human beings decided land was a safer bet, a stronger foothold.  But of the sea we are and of the sea we will remain. With fins on our feet, oxygen on our backs and scuba to thank for it all – we are handed the ultimate gift of discovery and adventure.

It was this feeling that propelled Kshitij Mittal and Ankit Saboo of Finkick towards creating Mumbai’s first-ever Underwater Festival. From helping people take their very first breath underwater to underwater hockey and a full-blown obstacle course for certified divers, this festival had it all! Most notably, they even had a scuba session for differently-abled people – a feat that has put them on the global map of inclusivity. Alongside SCUBA, the festival also opened doors to emerging adventure sport such as skateboarding and slacklining. We got in a conversation with Ksitij Mittal post the success of this festival, and here’s all he had to say about what went down (quite literally) this past weekend.

Underwater from Mumbai Underwater Festival 2017

If you ain’t doing much today go hang out with some chill folks tripping underwater & setting TheVibe at the India Underwater Festival

Posted by TheVibe on Saturday, 6 May 2017

How does it feel to have successfully pulled off India’s premier underwater festival?

It feels great, Success for us is creating more divers and growing the sport in India and with almost 500 people diving over 2 days, it feels like a good start to making our vision a reality.

How did you decide to make this happen? What went into transforming this from a distant dream into reality?

We have always been honest about wanting to work on a project to create and grow the SCUBA Diving industry in India. This being said, with no funding and just a vision in the mind we spoke to just about everyone connected with the community and around us and there has been immense support. People have come out and helped in their personal capacity and professional capacity to see this vision of growing SCUBA in the country with us and that’s what has been the most inspiring part of organizing this event.

I would like to take this moment to extend a special thanks to everyone at the “Prabodhankar Thackeray Krida Sankul”, This is a sports training facility run by a private trust and there is soo much heart and passion in everyone working/teaching/practising here, its absolutely brilliant that we could be a part of this energy and create the first-ever Mumbai Underwater Festival!

Does the inclusion of sport and obstacle courses demystify the notion of diving not being an “adrenaline rush”? Isn’t being in the ocean a sort of obstacle course on its own?

Yes and No. SCUBA Diving itself is a very meditative and calming down process. In water, we aim is to be as lazy as possible to make the air in our tank last longer. This being said, SCUBA Diving is an adventure sport and the first time you start breathing underwater, whether in a pool or ocean, your heart will be racing with this new experience.  We purposely aim to De-mystify SCUBA Diving. We want to bring this sport where-by SCUBA Diving is not referred to as an exotic adventure sport but rather a life-skill everyone might learn.

Do you think encouraging urban India to dive is the greatest step towards conservation of our oceans? Is this the sort of awareness building urban India needs?

There are 3 major problems our oceans are facing at the moment:

  1. The garbage and plastics in our oceans
  2. Over-fishing and mass killing of sharks hence collapsing the marine eco-systems
  3. Changing water currents due to global warming.

The urban population of a nation always has the highest carbon footprint and hence its all the more important to make people understand about the need to save our oceans.

 

It is of particular importance to note that you decisively made this entire production accessible in that there was an event specifically for differently-abled people. Talk to us about that – what was the response you got? Should more sport focus on being accessible, when something as equipment heavy as diving can be?

Water as an element is a universal equalizer. Underwater whether you are overweight or a wheelchair user, the slightest flick of a hand or a leg will you move forward. Our aim to showcase SCUBA Diving for persons with a disability was to prove that everyone can dive, we have been working with persons with a disability over the last few years with Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation, taking them diving. In fact, there is a full certification agency internationally that does this as a structured program (The DDI – Disable Diving International). I (Kshitij Mittal) am a DDI SCUBA Diving instructor and it is our aim to Do SCUBA Diving for persons with disability scalable around the country.

We had a phenomenal response to this initiative of ours. We had 7 persons with disability diving on the day with us and several wheelchair users who came and took back more information about SCUBA Diving with disabilities.

There is a vital need to address the following points for a more inclusive and accessible India, this is an untapped power we neglect simply because we don’t want to address this problem as a nation together
1. Accessibility for all persons with disability at all public places and public transport
2. Need for special schools for rehabilitation and training for persons with disability
3. Need for cheap assistive aids to cope up with a disability
**We need government or CSR Intervention in this space. The level of investment required is massive but so is the scale of rewards if we talk about an accessible India the same way that we talk about no caste system and equal rights for all gender.

What was your personal moment of utter celebration through the event?

Jill Heinearth is a national geographic videographer known to shoot caves in extreme environments. She is an educator, a researcher, a photographer and one of my greatest inspirations. A chance to speak to her about her expeditions and the life of an expeditioner!

Is this festival something we can expect year after year?

Yes, stay tuned for the official launch of the dates!

It is concerning to think of the number of Indians who live by the ocean, but simply do not know how to swim. What are the most simple ways to get more people into and comfortable with the water?

  1. Clean and accessible public swimming facilities. Without this, there can be no formal growth of the sport.
  2. Investment in the training of instructors.
  3. Funding for gear and training of competitive swimming.

**The Taboo of drowning if a child gets into the water has to be broken and it has to become a common practice for people to learn swimming. I believe swimming is a life-skill and is compulsory to teach this as a basic skill from pre-school itself. (The younger they start the fewer problems they have).

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