WHY I: SOPHIE HELLYER

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Sophie Hellyer is a woman on a mission.  The Westward Ho!, Devon raised surfer has been the poster child for British surfing during her career as a competitive athlete, contracts with global-leading surf brands, magazine covers and competition wins making for an illustrious career that has seen Sophie raise the profile of Britain’s surf industry and been a well-known, and liked, face of it.

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But it’s Sophie’s work post-surfing career that has been stoking embers of positive change. Passion projects causing ripples, nay, surges, within the traditional notions of surf culture, sexism, feminism, environmentalism and more. Her seeringly honest and candid style of writing cuts to the chase, prompting wider conversation with change and impact. 

Settle down for a read with the charging force of change, Sophie Hellyer. 

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Sophie Hellyer’s career since turning pro as a surfer more than 15 years ago started with a typical trajectory.  A talented surfer travelling the world, popping up regularly in campaigns and covers, a blue eyed, blonde-haired image of a female surfing pro we are typically familiar with.  During this writer’s time working full time for a popular women’s surfing magazine, Sophie was a familiar face within our pages, her notable talents as a surfer paired with an honest interest in the world around her making for a popular read with our audience.

Fast forward to 2018, and Sophie has been boldly questioning, quashing, even attacking traditional (sometimes damaging) perceptions of not just women within surfing, but our larger impact on the world around us, and what it means for our environments and more.   A prominent broadsheet’s misquoted article (entitled “Surf Star Sophie Hellyer Lets Rip At Bikini Sexism” published earlier this spring) seemingly poured gasoline over already crackling embers.  Sophie’s work since then has prominently appeared on widely read global platforms and broadsheets including The Independent and The Inertia, discussing topics which have been glaringly obvious and often taboo within the world of surf and sport culture, and on a wider platform, of sexism & feminism. 

The media squall ensuing the well-publicized misquoted article led to, Sophie explores, “two key positives.  It opened me up to new platforms. I had the opportunity to go on BBC’s Women’s Hour on Radio 4, and I wrote my first piece for The Independent (I’ve had 3 or 4 pieces published with them now).” Furthermore, she adds, a critical positive impact was “it really challenged me to grow and understand a lot more about intersectionalfeminism…Yes, the gender pay gap between men and women is large, but if you look at the pay gap between white women and women of colour, that’s also quite large.  So I’ve had to learn a lot more and understand my position and my privileges a lot more, it’s been great.”

“I understand now that there’s so much more work that needs to be done, and me, as a privileged white woman, needs to do my piece and step-up and take responsibility”.   

It’s that deeper look at the root causes, at the more fundamental issues at play and how exactly change can be implemented which is seeing Sophie’s status rise as an authentic voice and champion within her respected topic areas.  “I have been writing about everything from gender disparity, periods, to wanking (ha-ha)…and social injustices that need to be addressed.  I’m in a position that I can speak up about and kind of, make some changes. I think that so much stuff that is taboo needs to be normalised. I’ve posted things like my sexual health check-ups.  I’m a woman, I have sex.  I think it’s important.” 

“Stuff like that needs to be normalised.  Nearly every time I meet someone I’ll openly say in a conversation I have therapy…There’s a shame and a stigma attached to having counselling, and I think every single person I know ends up having some kind of therapy.  Mental health is really something that needs to be talked about as well.”

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Tracing the path to this progressive nature of her work when Sophie left Australia where she was based, moving to an organic-farm in Ireland, growing her own for 4 years where she explores “I guess I became more aware of things…I really started becoming aware of plastic issues and then obviously growing my own food and living on an organic farm, environmental awareness just sky rocketed.  Because of that I said to my sponsors that I was only going to travel by land and sea to shoots…

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The resulting consequence of that was that I would only surf in a wetsuit for photos, because it’s ridiculous that we’re only ever modelling in bikinis anyway.  We don’t wear bikinis in the UK and Ireland (to surf).” 

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Whilst in Ireland too, a deeper look into surf culture whilst attending the Irish Surf Film Festival (“A great event, the organisers are amazing”) Sophie was shocked to see that “in the shorts, out of all the shorts entered, there wasn’t a single film made by a woman. No female directors, no female film makers, there’s no film about a woman, and out of all the waves ridden in all of the shorts there was only one wave ridden by a woman. Whereas actually, there's a lot of women surfing Ireland, surfing well…”. Fiery editorial and work since has championed the need for more of these stories, for more of these women to be represented and shown in the wider media. 

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With Sophie’s work published on some of the world’s largest surf-culture media outlets, she admits, “putting it out to the masses is dangerous”.  The double-edged sword of having a wider audience, yet the dangers of being exposed to trolling and worse, comes hand in hand with working as a writer and having your work published on the digital-sphere.  Sophie begins “I really try to not react to things… most people who say something negative I try engage in a conversation.

Having strong opinions on something is for me the interesting part.   How you got to that, what was your thought process, I want to understand why you think like that.”

“I want to understand the process of how you got there, and then maybe we can meet in the middle somewhere.   Maybe you’ll change my mind, maybe I’ll change your mind.” 

This refreshing outlook is understandably, gaining Sophie a loyal legion of readers tuning into her work.  If those questioning whether or not stimulating conversation and voicing an alternative view can have impact and make change, only have to look at the recent case of an image that went viral of a male and female athlete on the podium of a surf competition.  The gross disparity between their winning pay checks starkly apparent, with 50% less earnings for the female champion.  The backlash from that powerful image was immediate, such can be the power of the internet and social media.  Sophie agrees, adding “obviously, the public saw the issue and it was widely shared and discussed, and there have been some changes.   The sponsor steps in and says we will match it and only sponsor events with equal prize for equal title, change, boom, done, so I think we’re seeing change much more quickly now, with the speed of social media.”. 

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And now, just last week, we have seen monumental change within the surfing industry.  Not only being the first sport to announce equal pay for its male and female athletes in WSL (World Surf League) controlled events, the viral announcement has sent positive shockwaves within the global sporting landscape, a clear indication of the powerful precedent that discussion, that relentless drive can yield.  Sophie agrees, asserting that “

“The WSL’s U-turn decision the pay parity is massively down to the tireless activism of CEWS (Committee of Equity in Women’s Surfing), Bianca (Valenti), Keala (Kennelly), Andrea (Mollre)…huge respect for them for their continued bravery and voices”.

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It is an incredibly encouraging development, considering that sexism has, unfortunately, been tied closely to the surf industry.  It is a contentious subject within the realms of pro-surfing.  Looking past the pay gap issues which now, the WSL has made incredible moves to close, we still see within female surfing destructive stereotypes of female suffers which cause critical ramifications for the athletes making a living from the sport.

A cookie-cutter image of what a female surfer has been portrayed and conveyed in media, on billboards, within films and more, has typically showcased a more lithe, blond and blue-eyed surfer.  If we get into the nitty gritty, following the recent cases of talented pros, Brazilian charger Silvana Lima (if you haven’t seen Silvana surf, haul yourself over to YouTube now) and Australian world –tour surfer Rebecca Woods, who spoke out, explaining that it cost her “thirty grand a year to be on tour.  She couldn’t find a sponsor because sponsors were choosing the girls who fit their marketing campaigns best, so choosing the girls who looked like models, who then got knocked out the comps in the early rounds, as opposed to sponsoring the girls who are actually incredibly good athletes”. 

I ask if we are still seeing this kind of behaviour in 2018 from brands within surfing? “The only women who are finding real success surfing are the women who fit this kind of commodified mono culture industry’s beauty ideal.  I’m not saying these women shouldn’t have success. They should be respected as surfers and celebrated as athletes.”

“What would be nice to see is the same levels of success for women who don’t necessarily conform or fit in the box of being a beautiful, thin, white, blond surfer.  It would be nice to see success for a wider, and more diverse group of women, and then become role models for the younger generation”. 

Delving into the core of why and who is making these decisions that continues to perpetuate stereotypes about female surfers which are actually, damaging to those athletes who make a living from the sport, Sophie suggests that”

“Most of those big brands are run by men…sex sells sex, not sport, that’s proven.   When you see these images of hyper sexualised women, actually studies show that it makes us question their sporting ability, and we actually doubt if they are any good at their sport.  Are the brands trying to sell surfing, or are they trying to sell sex?”

Sophie does also contend that, “I guess we have to acknowledge that a lot of women are implicit in sexism, there are lots of women in marketing in these companies”.  Arguing that it is the decision makers, those pulling the reigns behind the scenes, she continues “the brands are normally run by men…and the media is mostly run by men, the sports stories in the news are mostly written by men. I think it’s something like 8% of sports stories are written by women.” To even out the playing field and be able to critically see, more women a fairer representation of female athletes in the media, Sophie suggest that “you see change happens when you…put a woman in there.  The first piece I wrote, I had in Wavelength about the under representation of female surfers in wetsuits.  That piece got commissioned because Holly Bendall was working at Wavelength at the time, she was a woman at the magazine and she commissioned it”.

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Critically now, we are seeing positive impact from independent brands that are championing a wider and more inclusive view of what it is to be a female surfer, namely, just have a board under your feet, regardless of size, hair colour, skin colour and more.  Sophie is excited to see that “we are seeing body diversity, a complete different range of women being represented, and always doing sport, because they are trying to sell sport, not sex… Change is happening, and I think the change happens when women own the position to make the change, they do.”

 To further instigate critical change needed, Sophie suggests that “transparency from brands is huge for consumers. I think as the consumer, we have more control, and power than ever.  There’s an amazing quote, every time you spend money, you’re taking a vote on what kind of society you want to live in.   Not everyone is financially able, so there are brands out there that are cheap and that’s brilliant because it makes it accessible for people in low income families…if you have the income and you’re able there’s a responsibility to shop wisely, and for ethical and indie brands.” 

 

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When not pouring her energies into her work, Sophie can be found regularly bracing the chilly British waters for her near daily wild-swim, a hobby that started in Ireland, but then gave birth to #RiseFierce, inviting other women to reap the benefits of a wild-swim.

“It’s kind of like a body positive who gives a shit what you look like, get in the water and stick two fingers to the man!”

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I ask Sophie if there is anything she would say to her 15-year-old self? “Stay true to yourself and stand up for yourself, because a lot of the time I went along with… I knew… I was getting more opportunities because of the way I looked and that was the norm, I went along with it and I never spoke out against it… I ended up posing more seductively than I ever felt comfortable…You just go along with it, because that person appears to have authority over you. So I would definitely like to tell myself that, just be a little bit stronger, and stand up for yourself, rise up, ha-ha”.

Stay tuned for more from Sophie Hellyer, something tells me, this is just the beginning. 


Read more of Sophie’s work here

Follow Sophie on Instagram here

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TRAVEL: THE DOLOMITES & THE ROAR OF MOTHER NATURE WITH CONRAD ANKER

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"The mountains teach me to be at one with myself..." 

Marion Haerty, The North Face Athlete, Freeride World Champion

Winter's seminal spell has a relentless allure for explorers, professional and amateur alike, enraptured with the snow-capped peaks and array of winter sports Mother Nature delivers .  But summer, with the emerald-rich tones of earthy-green forests, craggy peaks to explore, by hand, foot,on wheels, is a treasure trove of wild adventure once the ice melts.

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The North Face Mountain Festival, an all-encompassing ode to the powerful magic the mountains can render, is a 3 day weekend of discovery and adventure where attendees can participate in a huge array of activities.  Exploring Trentino, whether on the outdoor climbing walls, hiking to summits, riding up it's awe-inspiring mountains or perhaps, flying off of them, nature is roaring at her most pure and wild here in the Italian Alps.  

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Touching down at The Mountain Festival, I was suddenly happily shocked to discover, is attended by a number of the most illustrious of The North Face athletes.  Climbing side by side some of the world's most accomplished, and as I discovered, down to earth athletes and explorers suddenly became normality.  As I made the top of a climb, a whoop rang out by Caroline Ciavaldini, multiple World Cup Champion and holder of many first female ascents, snapping my picture, probably capturing a slightly shocked and in awe grin that one of the world's top climbers just cheered on my mini-ascent.

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The fact this became habitual over the course of the weekend, as we shared sweaty adventures, heart-racing activities, conversations around crackling camp-fires and warm, human moments, reinforced the simple purity of how playing in nature creates such honest connection.

 

Climbing with the rich fragrance of thick forrest, fat drops of rain falling on warm skin and straining finger tips, working legs and beaded foreheads driving up the mountain and bike to waterfalls, hiking through the heady squish of dark soil to the summit, how the heart opens with a raw simplicity in the great wilds of our planet.

 

 

 

 

THE MOUNTAINS AND ME: CONRAD ANKER

Conrad Anker is a name which needs little introduction.  The highly revered climber and mountaineer has more a dozen iconic first ascents including the infamous Meru Peak with fellow climbers Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk under his incredibly endearing and jovial belt. Having spent time with Conrad, one of our planet's greatest explorer's ever, sharing simple stories of life's pleasures in the Great Outdoors, I fired a few questions at this astounding man on his love affair with the outdoors and exploration. 

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WHAT KEEPS YOUR EMBERS BURNING TO KEEP EXPLORING? 

"My embers are fed by the winds of adventure. Fire needs oxygen and wind brings oxygen. Trick is to always keep the embers with a bit of heat and flame. The embers are fed from the previous exploration. Perhaps this is why one needs to keep them well tended. One good journey begets the next one."

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SIMPLE PLEASURES YOUR JOB CONTINUES TO BRING YOU?

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"While in wild places, the simple joy of sunrise is always the ideal start to the day. A sip of water when parched is just the right amount of nourishment to keep going. A snack as the sun sets and the comfy confines of a tent all bring it together. From a professional time motivating people with kindness is about as good and simple as it gets.

While some extol the human emotion of acquisition & material things  - it is the interpersonal emotions that make me smile.

 

 

When you help some one, unexpectedly or with genuine intent you have created goodness. This is the simple pleasure."

WHICH RECENT ADVENTURES HAVE BROUGHT YOU THE BIGGEST SMILES?

"In December of 2017 we were in a climbing expedition to Queen Maud Land Antarctica.  The powerful nature of sky, ice and rock is the ideal setting for an adventure. During the austral summer it is light 24 hours. How this affects your internal clock is unique. One seems to have more energy...".

FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER CLIMBED BEFORE, WHY SHOULD THEY GIVE IT A GO?

"Climbing is an ideal an activity. It builds strength, bone density, increases flexibility and helps with mental acuity. The people one is with are a great community. The act of belaying is an international language built on trust and communication."

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FLY INTO: VERONA AIRPORT

EXPLORE TRENTINO: HIKING, CLIMBING, WATERFALLS, MOUNTAIN BIKING, WILD SWIMMING & MORE

BID ON ICONIC KIT WORN BY EXPLORERS INCLUDING CONRAD ANKER, ALEX HONNOLD & CAROLINE CIAVALDIN IN SUPPORT OF THE PINNACLE PROJECT WHICH GIVES BACK DIRECTLY TO THE MOUNTAINS 

Alex Honnold's Jacket, up for grabs.

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WHY I: BIG-WAVE SURFER ANDREW COTTON

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Big wave surfing has been thrust into the mainstream public consciousness in recent years in no small part due to an unassuming small Portuguese fishing town by the name of Nazaré.  Visit this popular seaside town in a blustering Atlantic storm-saturated winter though, and you might bear witness some of the most unfathomably fearsome and shockingly enormous behemoths of waves ever recorded.    The Guinness World Record for the largest wave ever surfed was set in Nazaré last autumn at 80 feet by Rodrigo Koxa, and the spot has been forever cemented in surfing history, along with its most celebrated big-wave chargers, including British surfer (and part time plumber) Andrew Cotton.

If Andrew wasn’t already an infamous name amongst those who follow surfing, or sport in general, his accident last autumn at Nazaré where he was famously catapulted by the wave on an epic wipe out which ultimately broke his back, plastered the media.  Andrew Cotton’s name rides hand in hand with Nazaré and with the most illustrious and celebrated big wave surfers in the world.  A plethora of imagery over the years of him riding giants constantly filters in each season, in seemingly impossibly sized waves, constantly one upping himself.

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Speaking to Andrew from his base in North Devon, he sounds relaxed and at ease when telling me that it is “amazing to be back in the water” following his accident last autumn.  Spending his time since then on a comprehensive rehabilitation programme, the long-time Red Bull athlete has had access to an array of top-level doctors and physios since last autumn, and is back feeling at “85, 90%”.  Reflecting that “when I first had the injury I was thinking...I’ll try and come back to full fitness by April…and then speaking to experts, and getting advice, everyone said you’ve got to be in it for the long game.  There's no point coming back early, and then injuring yourself again, not being 100%. I re-evaluated that situation.”

Enjoying surfing his home breaks of Saunton and Croyde, the 35-year-old athlete appears calm and relaxed when discussing what would tip mere mortals over the edge, surfing waves of 60 feet plus.  It’s hard to comprehend the emotions, the fears and adrenaline that would surround heading out into waves of that size.  Conversely, it isn’t the fast-flowing adrenaline that is critical in those moments before surfing a monster wave but rather, according to Andrew

“In the most critical moments when you’re surfing, especially big waves, you almost go into this state where you are slowing things down...it’s almost like a form of meditation…to get to that state is the ultimate goal”.  

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When faced with 80 foot waves, how, one wonders, on earth would you be able to stay calm and collected, to not let fear and adrenaline destroy concentration and to flood performance with nerves?  Ruminating that “if I know it’s going to be massive, I’ll wake up early, get into a breathing rhythm” Andrew begins, “10 breaths…10 seconds in, 10 seconds out, in through the nose, out through the mouth…it calms the body down and is a good way to prepare…(it) almost goes back into the psychology.  It calms your brain down…it’s a tool that I use a lot.”

Andrew’s successes in big-wave surfing have been captivating audiences and fans for years now, each season achieving the seemingly impossible by producing incredible performances that garner world-wide media attention.  I wonder what continues to push him on and inspire him, considering his huge successes to date?

“I think I’m never really satisfied…I think most surfers get like that.  I’m never really happy with any of the waves I get…always want to be deeper, always want to be more critical...so I’ve never really felt that I’ve reached my potential yet…I think it’s quite a good thing...you keep pushing and striving to try and reach that.”

Andrew has cemented the UK has a bonafide producer of big-wave talent, along with the likes of surfers Tom Butler and Tom Lowe.  Modestly suggesting that “we’ve been really fortunate in Europe.  The UK’s actually a good place to be based.  It’s close to (big wave spots) in Ireland, in France, and obviously in Portugal you get giant waves”.  No longer just the remit of more traditional big wave spots like Jaws in Hawaii and Mavericks in California, renowned athletes of the likes of Garrett McNamara have been making consistent expeditions to Europe to surf the likes of Nazaré, Belharra in France and Mullaghmore in Ireland.  Andrew attributes success in career partly to his friend and foe the awe-inspiring Nazaré.  “Nazaré being discovered and being on the map definitely helped my career. Before, I was spending a lot of time in Ireland, and would get 1 or 2 opportunities to surf big waves.   It’s about time and experience in the water on the wave, and the more time you can spend in big waves, the better you’re going to become…and Nazaré is big, a lot, from October to March, it enabled me to progress quickly”.   I wonder if there has been a record for boards broken in a season for him, and Andrew laughs as he tells me about how on a trip to Madeira, he took 6 boards, and came home with 1. 

Andrew also suggests that Nazaré, when discussing the breaks he has surfed around the world is “without a doubt” the most fearsome wave he has surfed.  “There's no other place that gets as big….and it’s a humbling place too…an amazing place to watch…probably the scariest…”.  And his favourite break near home? “My home beach, Croyde, in Devon”.

The roster of talent on the WSL tour is well televised and covered across media, big name brands siding as title sponsors and top-name athletes earning well into 6 figures with a successful career.  Do big wave surfers get enough support in comparison, I wonder?  “I think it’s a tough one really” Andrew begins, “I think surfing as a whole, I don’t think you can categorise it…it has got a lot better…Surfing GB, Surfing England…they’ve put a lot of effort into a lot of coaching, …so I think it is getting better.  It’ll be interesting especially now that surfing’s in the Olympics, so whether that’ll change anything…”.

Surfing’s inclusion for the first time into the next Olympics in Japan in 2020 has been contentiously discussed and covered since it’s announcement, and with rumours rife that the setting for the competition will be in a wave pool, what this could mean for the future of surfing. “It’s funny, the wave pool…it's great you know, it’s a wave on tap…” Andrew begins, “but at the end of the day, surfing is about being in the ocean, the wave pool is like a different discipline almost.  It’ll be interesting to see how it develops, …there’s a wave pool already in Wales, in Bristol, they are looking at doing one in Glasgow, so they are popping up everywhere…it’s going to be an interesting next few years for sure.”.  

Big wave surfing is producing some exceptional talent, and with Andrew being a key member of the core-pack of long-term chargers, I wonder who he has his eye on as one to watch in the future? “There’s one lad, Lucas Chomba, he’s just started breaking through now.  I met him a few year ago, he’s young, about 21.  He’s just stated to get on everyone’s radar. He won the Nazaré Challenge…he’s a very talented surfer…”.

And any women he thinks are pushing the limits?  “There's quite a few really good girls, there's the French Red Bull rider, Justine Dupont, she’s amazing. She not only surfs big waves, she shortboards, longboards, …she is an absolute charger, I have massive respect for her…There’s a couple of girls I’ve been watching…Paige Alms, Bianca Valenti, I’ve been following her for a while”.  

With the road to recovery being well prepped, Andrew is excepting to be back surfing and heading to Nazaré for this autumn, “100% yeah. I’ll be back, if not before, I’m definitely going to be in Portugal from October”.  With key sponsor Red Bull providing ample support, “the best physios to work with, and its knowing you’ve got brand like that behind you, give you confidence I did a couple of course, safety courses, in the states, for Red Bull athletes…you’re part of a bigger thing”, the British athlete is sounding confident and relaxed, coming back from a potentially devastating injury, to looking forward to a new season ahead. 

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I wonder what, if we boil it down to the simplicity of the joy of his profession and life, brings him the greatest happiness about being in the water?  

“Do you ever get those moments …it’s not about catching a wave, it’s about sitting on your board, outside, out back, it's calm... moments like that, being outside, where you’re by yourself in the ocean…what a cool place to hang out!”.

 

To find out more about Andrew Cotton, head to his athlete profile page on RedBull.com

©Sophie Everard 2018

PRESS: MAD TO LIVE RETREATS REVIEW IN LONDON ON THE INSIDE

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We recently had the pleasure of having the awesome journalist Daniela Marchesi come join us in Portugal for a Mad To Live Retreats x The Surf Experience camp.  Check out what Daniela made of her trip for her piece in London On The Inside below!

Book on to a Mad To Live Retreat here, Portugal September & October dates available!

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THE LONDON ADVENTURE GUIDE

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Having spent plenty of time living in the Big Smoke, much to the bemusement of friends and acquaintances who often can't imagine me not within 10 feet of water, I became a dab hand over the years at sussing out the best adventures within the confines of the city.  Sometimes we can't always head to a mountain or the coast, it isn't realistic every single week, so for those of you starved for adventure, check out my guide below of my favourite adventures to have, all in or within an hour of London!

STAND UP PADDLE BOARDING & SUP YOGA IN ESSEX

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A short train from London (it took me less than 45 minutes) and I found myself at one of the UK's most seminal institutes of boardsports: Wet N Dry Boardsports in Essex.  With 7 locations including their own private lake where they host stand up paddle board yoga classes, and an arsenal of a store packed with knowledge and equipment across SUP, surf, skate and snowboard, Wet N Dry have been a go-to name in the UK for adventure and action sport for the last 20 years.  A 2 hour lesson on clear waters at Hullbridge on the River Crouch (the tide flushes the water twice in a day) under sunny skies and you could feel like you aren't in what you know to be in the UK, and certainly not within an hour of London.  Running days which include SUP tours and bonfires, and toasting the session with a beer on the beach, a true escape from London.

WAKEBOARDING AT DOCKLANDS

People find it hard to believe that in East London's Docklands you'll find a busy cable wakeboard park, and in a beautiful setting at that at Royal Victoria Dock.  With instructors onsite if you're new to wakeboarding ready to teach you the ropes, or if you already ride, pitch up and make the most of the kickers and obstacles on offer, and the fully stocked bar.

SNOWBOARDING AND SKIING IN WEST LONDON

Even harder to believe for some is the indoor ski and snowboard facility Chelski tucked just off the Kings Road in West London.  A magic moving carpet (not snow) moves under your feet giving you the sensation of carving and turning on the piste.  Book in lessons with one of their brilliant instructors and get some shred in right in the city.

DIRT BIKE RIDING & ENDURO

VC London are an all-female collective encouraging more women to get out on the roads and on two wheels.  Bringing together a hugely accessible array of workshops, activities, lessons and meet ups in London for riding bandit babes and those who've always wanted to try, annual camps and beginner moto riding and dirt bike days further afield with pro Leah Tokelove.

CLIMBING

If you read my interview with climbing coach Robin O'Leary, you'll have found that climbing is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, with indoor facilities cropping up across the country.  London is home to a number of brilliant facilities including The Arch Climbing Wall  in Bermondsey, Mile End Climbing Wall, the impressive Castle Climbing Centre next to Clissold Park and The Climbing Hangar in Parsons Green.  Book yourself a coach (like world class Robin) and find out why climbing is steadily becoming one of Britain's favourite sports.

SKATEBOARDING IN WATERLOO

The already-now-iconic institution that is the House of Vans under the kaleidoscopic spray painted arches of Waterloo is the place if you're hankering after a skate or always wanted to learn. Book into one of their Girls Skate Nights and roll with a crew of other chicks, getting coaching and pointers. Onsite lockers and cafe and bar, exhibition evenings, screenings and more make House of Vans a one-stop for counter-culture in London. 

WILD SWIMMING AT HAMPSTEAD HEATH

A short walk through the otherworldly and beautiful Hampstead Heath Park and you'll discover the swimming ponds, a place many Londoner's are unaware of it's existence.  Open every day of the year, hardy souls cite the virtues of bracing the icy waters through winter and spring.  On a warm summer's day the celestial beauty of the setting and crisp waters make this one of London's best adventures.

 

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EXPERT’S CHAT: CLIMBING COACH ROBIN O’LEARY

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If you enjoyed the last WHY I Interview with climbing double World Champion Shauna Coxsey MBE and have been inspired to hit up one of the many indoor and outdoor climbing facilities available in the UK (it is now one of the fastest growing sports in Britain), keep reading.  

Professional rock climbing coach and GB ParaClimbing coach Robin O’Leary is a go-to name in performance coaching, and if you cast your eyes to Robin's Instagram and you'll find that he coaches a number of the UK's brightest talents.  I joined Robin for a coaching session where he unravelled a few bad habits and got me so excited to climb more I am setting out for a full summer of it in Portugal.

I sat down Robin for an Expert's Chat, with top pointers and more from the elite coach himself.

 Robin with climbing World Champion Shauna Coxsey

Robin with climbing World Champion Shauna Coxsey

ROBIN O'LEARY'S PASSION FOR CLIMBING

"My dad was a very keen traditional climber back in the  '70s and early '80s, but stopped climbing when my brother and I were born in the early '80s. I have memories as a child being halfway up a rock face with my brother on a small ledge, be it in north Wales or on the south coast (Swanage), but it wasn’t until after university that I really decided that I liked it. So I have been climbing for basically 11 years now. "

"Climbing is a great and hugely fun alternative to the gym. It can take you around the world and provide some of the best memories and friendships you can ever ask for.  I have the dream job, I really do.  I work with such enthusiastic clients on a daily basis, go around the world coaching/climbing and never feel like I work a day."

"Follow your passion and dedicate yourself to it, everything else will follow."

"There is so much to this sport I love! The challenge and physical pursuit are initial attractions.  With climbing, what you put into it, you get out. Hard work = success.  But I also love the fact that it is never the same.

"The movements that you make can be indefinite – the hold you can be going for can be any shape or size, at any orientation and at any angle. " 

The places it takes you; whether you are into competition climbing on artificial walls and you compete around the world, or you love rock climbing. There are world-class destinations almost all over the world – from fairly popular locations to far-out and remote crags.  Finally, the people you meet.  Climbing attracts people from all walks of life and I think that is a wonderful thing. You could be climbing with a Doctor and a Chippy."

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TOP TIPS FOR CLIMBING

The best way to get involved is to see where your nearest walls are and to give them a bell. Get booked on to a taster session for either rope climbing (sport climbing) or bouldering (over soft crash pads) and give it a go. It really is that simple and it is so much fun.

My top tips for those climbers who are just beginning is to have fun! Go to the wall and just climb! 

  • Watch those that are clearly pretty handy and see if you can pick up any tips, but ultimately it is “moves in the bank” that get you better.
  • Climb as much as possible and you will build up the necessary (sport specific) strength and fitness needed. 

"People always assume it is all about upper-body strength, but really, it is all about footwork and body positioning. Your core is so important and you can often climb without having to pull at all.   It sounds unbelievable, but you can dance and pivot your way up the wall just using momentum, hips and legs."

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"The fundamentals about climbing all surround body positioning. You get big bulky gum bods going to the wall and getting blown off by their dainty girlfriends, it’s excellent."

Yes, being able to pull can help, but ultimately it is understanding how to move around these holds as efficiently as possible that makes it far easier.

  • You have to keep your body weight as close to the wall to make sure as much weight goes through your legs and feet as possible – alleviating the weight going through our arms. Our arms are so weak in comparison to our legs and core.
  • Feet determine everything – a poorly placed foot has huge repercussions and will probably end up with failure.  
  • Pay attention to slow and precise movement and try to drive up the wall with your leg and hips.
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COMMON MISTAKES MADE IN CLIMBING

The biggest mistake people make is thinking that their arms and hands have to be secure. Focusing on these alone and pulling their body up the wall, letting their feet slide around and slip off holds is very common. You get tired so quickly and end up falling off pretty rapidly too. Everyone does this to begin with and it teaches you quickly to focus on form.

WHY CLIMBING IS A GREAT WORKOUT

  • It’s hugely physical. You can work every single muscle in your body and a 2-hour session can leave you absolutely shattered.
  • Most climbers are in great shapes and it is testament to how physical it can be. 

"Another aspect which is often overlooked is the mental workout. You hit the wall and any of life’s troubles are left at the door. You are consumed by the activity – you have to focus so much that you can’t afford to let your mind wonder."

  • You have to remain in control, even when you sometimes face big (but mainly safe) falls – I love this aspect too. It starts off being scary, but you learn to embrace it and it is one of the aspects that make it such a unique sport.
  • Arguably the best element of our sport is how diverse it is. You can be climbing an off-vertical wall (slab) with tiny feet and no hands or flying around on a 60 degree overhang. You can be hanging from your feet and upside down or running and jumping across features of the wall. It is sociable, fun and the climbing community is so supportive. No matter what grade you climb, we all face the same challenges.
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CROSS-TRAINING FOR CLIMBING

  • Historically most climbers have just climbed, but it can leave you fairly injured due to imbalances. We have to pull a lot in our sport, so doing our antagonist exercises (opposites) is very important. A lot of climbers are now focusing on cross-training to ultimately make them athletes rather than just climbers.
  • Variation to training is key for enthusiasm and many of the exercises can be training weaknesses without us really knowing. It could simply be performing plyometric jumps or learning to handstand, or more serious like performing deadlifts.
  • Flexibility is also hugely important and an aspect I really neglected for a long time myself. Many of the best climbers are able to climb some really hard routes/problems by essentially thinking outside of the box and using their flexibility to help them. Again, this can be done by merely stretching, or a lot of climbers also do yoga to make it more interesting too. I think it is important to make sure we stay as injury free as possible.

"Making our bodies as even as possible is very important and working our weaknesses usually helps make this happen."

  • I always recommend speaking to a professional of their domain when it comes to cross-training and refer my clients to various strength and conditioning coaches, dieticians, physios etc to make sure they get the most out of the training I offer them.

ROC-UP CLIMBING CAMPS

"Essentially I wanted to offer something no-one else in our industry offered, and that was the chance to be coached to the highest standard by resident coaches, but also climb with, be coached and hang out with the best climber in the world!"

  • We offer bespoke climbing coaching holidays in some of the best climbing destinations around the world.
  • You get incredible, top-level coaching all day, with video analysis and a day’s feedback every evening with a drink in hand looking over a stunning sunset, whilst hanging out and being inspired by some of the best climbers who walk this planet.
  • The feedback we’ve had is incredible and the fuel we need to run more. It really is a dream job!
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Book Robin for your own coaching session:

Website: http://robinolearycoaching.com

coaching@robinolearycoaching.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robinolearycoaching

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobinOLeary

Founder of the Youth Climbing Symposium - inspiring the next generation - http://www.youthclimbingsymposium.com

Founder of RocUp Holidays - be coached by your heroes - https://www.rocup.uk

 

And Check out my round-up of my favourite adventure activities in London including my favourite climbing walls

 

PRESS: FEATURE IN WOMEN'S HEALTH MAGAZINE

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So excited to find Mad To Live Retreats included in our favourite bible of all that is health, wellness, travel & awesomeness, Women's Health UK's run down of the Top 21 Fitness Holidays of 2018!

Check out the feature below, and thanks to Women's Health UK. You rule!

Book a spot on Mad To Live Retreats here!

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SURFGIRL ARTICLE ON MAD TO LIVE RETREATS & TRAINING

The recent leg of Mad To Live Retreats hit epic Lagos, Portugal for our annual collaboration with the righteous The Surf Experience,  bringing together all-time crews of women for the ultimate surf & fitness adventure.

We were psyched to have the brilliant Carly Truss, surfer, warm-hearted soul, badass, and journalist from our favourite women's surf journal, SurfGirl Magazine, along for the ride.

We love this piece Carly detailed on why the retreats are put together the way they are.  Want to know why I put together surfing with horse-riding, boxing, yoga, trail running and mountain biking?  Read on...

With thanks to the brilliant Carly and SurfGirl Magazine.

Like what you see?  Book on to the next Mad To Live Retreats x The Surf Experience adventure this September HERE!  Only a few spaces left!

TRAIL FIT TRAINING PROGRAMMES

My collaboration with KEEN for the launch of their women's-specific all-terrain shoe, the Terradora, saw me create 3 separate training programmes to demonstrate the versatility of the shoe.  This was a super fun project, as I love to show that you don't always need access to a gym, you can make any space a place to have fun and train.  

So here you go, 3 different workouts, CITY, PARK, OUTDOOR, for you to use and stoke yourselves out with!

www.keenfootwear.com/trailfit

 

PARK

Duration: 60 minutes

  • Light Jog: 500 metres
  • Bound for 50 meters, running with the longest strides you can take, like a triple jumper’s first two steps.
  • Run with “high” knees for 50 meters, lifting legs as high as you can.
  • Skip for 50 meters, trying to get as high off the ground as possible.
  • Sprint for 100 meters, keeping your body relaxed.
  • Regressed press up 3 sets of 8- 12 reps This is press up with hands on raised surface: you can use a bench, wall, higher surface ground. Elevating you hands is less mechanical work, but you’re keeping the same biomeachincs of the press-up movement, whereas if you drop the knees as an easier modification, you don’t require as much core stability. Start in a normal push up position, with your hands on a raised surface.  Lower down and press up.
  • Bear crawling – forward and back. 5 sets
    Come down on all fours, trying to keep your hands underneath the shoulders and knees underneath hip. Raise the knees up, and start to crawl, using hands and feet to travel. Bear crawl forward for 20 metres and without resting, then bear crawl backward 20 metres.
  • Dead bugs – 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions
    Lay flat on your back with your hands extended above you toward the ceiling. Bend your knees in 90 degree angle and raise your thighs until they are perpendicular to the floor. Now deeply exhale and embrace your abs to bring your rib cage down and flatten you back onto the floor. Slowly lower the right arm and the left leg down to the floor simultaneously while exhaling, then slowly return to the starting position while inhaling. Alternate sides and continue the movement for three sets.
  • Bird Dog 3 sets 8-12 reps
    Start on your hands and knees, with a neutral spine. Extend a leg and learn how to feel your glutes moving your leg rather than your lower back. Once you can do leg, the extend the opposing arm at the same time.
  • Backward Walking Lunge 3 sets 8-12 reps
    Stand straight and step the right foot back, keeping the weight on the front foot, with both knees drop to 90 degrees. Step back to meet the left foot, and repeat on the other side.
  • Long/Broad Jumps 3 sets of 12-15
    Get into a squat position with the feet shoulder-width apart on a soft surface. Squat down deep and explode up, using your entire body to thrust yourself forward. Land softly on the ground and immediately move onto the next jump.
  • Sprint up hill to end

CITY

Duration: 45 minutes

Take one minute rest between sets in set exercises. Depending on fitness level or to increase difficulty, decrease rest time to challenge yourself, down from 60 seconds, to 45, to 30

  • Walking lunges
  • Forward/backward leg swings
  • Side-to-side leg swings
  • Jogging in place with butt kicks
  • Toe taps on walls
  • HIGH knee skips
  • Split squats 3 sets of 8-12 per leg
    Position yourself into a staggered stance with the rear foot raised on surface and front foot forward. Bend the front knee and hip to lower your body down. Keep the front knee in line with the foot as you perform the exercise. At the bottom of the movement, drive through the heel to extend the knee and hip to return to the starting position.
  • Regressed press up 3 sets 6-8 reps
    This is a press up with hands on raised surface: you can use a bench, wall, higher surface ground.  Start in a normal press up position, with your hands on a raised surface.  Lower down and press up. For a harder alternative place your feet on a higher surface.
  • Stair Jumps 3 sets 5-8 reps
    Find a height and distance that is optimal for you and jump forward to your desired step, landing in a squat. Jump back down and repeat. This is great for high reps and cardio. If you want to mix it up, use your momentum and consecutively leapfrog to higher steps until you reach the top of the staircase. This will test your explosiveness, stamina, and core stability.
  • Stair Sprints  3 sets
    This will improve coordination and explosiveness. Sprint up a flight of stairs, using your arms for momentum. Jog down for active recovery.
  • Box jumping 8 reps, 3 sets
    Get in a half squat position with your arms in front of you. From this static position, jump up and onto the box. You want to jump from a still position, do not allow any counter movements. Land in the middle of the box and stand all the way up. Reset after each jump.
  • Add multiple jog and sprint sections at areas of your trail where you can run, in between the strength sets.

    Look for areas where you can add interval training sprints, sprinting for 30 seconds and recovering for 60 seconds, at least 5 times. Increase difficulty and decrease the recovery time.

 

OUTDOOR

Duration: 60 minutes

Warm Up

  • Double heel lifts
  • Walking lunges
  • Butt kickers
  • Leg swings
  • High Knees

Walk at a fast pace for two to three minutes, then jog for five minutes.

  • Weave in and out of trees (suicide runs): agility runs. Run for 30 seconds, rest for one minute. Repeat 5 times.
  • Suicide runs are high intensity sprint, working on endurance, agility and speed. Suicide runs can be done nearly anywhere – outdoors, in a park, gym, courts, all you need are shoes and some props to serve as markers which in this case are trees, weaving through trees.
  • Finger planks (good for climbing) 30 seconds, 3 sets.  Hold a high plank (or raised pushup position) using your fingers to hold you as high as possible. This will really build finger strength and core.
  • Body rows off tree branches. 3 sets of 5-8 reps.  Utilizes your own body weight without placing stress on the lower back, working the back, biceps, traps, and all the stabilizer muscles.  Get creative and find a lower branch. Grab the branch with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you). Contract your abs and try to keep the body in a completely straight line. Your ears, shoulders, hips, legs and feet should all be in a straight line. Pull yourself up to the branch until your chest touches the branch. Lower yourself back down.
  • Pushups against trees (regressed push-ups) 3 sets 6-8 reps
    This is a push up with hands on raised surface. Elevating your hands is less mechanical work, but you’re keeping the same bio-mechanics of the press-up movement. Drop the knees for an easier modification, where you don’t require as much core stability.
  • Wall sits utilising large trees3 sets of 60 seconds (advanced, 45 seconds (intermediate), 30 seconds (beginner)
    This exercise works the quads, hip flexors, glutes and hamstrings. Stand with your lower back against a straight tree, walk your feet out at hip distance apart and lower your glutes to sit against the tree. Press the lower back into the wall by shifting weight to your heels off the toes, and relax the abs and shoulders.
  • Skater Jumps 8-12 reps 3 sets.  This exercise develops lateral strength and power in the quads and glute muscles. It also places the entire load on one leg, which helps with balance and reduces the tendency to favor the stronger leg during two-legged jumps.  Get into a squat position with your feet close together and the majority of your weight on your right leg. Push off your right leg to the opposite side. Land softly on your left leg and move your right leg behind it like you were performing a Curtsy Lunge. Repeat on your left leg.
  • Trek and light jog, increasing speed to add HIIT. Look for paths with inclines to accelerate up, increasing difficulty through speed control or elevation. Sprinting for 30 seconds and recovering for 60 seconds, at least 5 times. Further increase difficulty by decreasing the recovery time.

Fat Burning Workout for Grazia Magazine

The next workout I created for Grazia Magazine, 10 moves For Fat Burning, is now live!

Complete 8 repetitions of each then repeat 3 times

1. Goblet Squat
2. Swing
3. Dead Lift
4. Tuck Jump
5. Bear crawl
6. Walking Lunge
7. Explosive push up
8. Skaters
9. Plank thruster
10. One arm Sandbell snatch (repeat other side)

Threads: @nikelondon 
Kicks: @nikelondon Metcon 3

Killer Ab Workout for Grazia Magazine

Check out this workout I created for Grazia Magazine's #7in7 challenge at Another Space London, 7 killer moves for killer abs!

Moves 1-7 increase in difficulty, and repeat circuit 3 times:


1. Dead Bugs - 5 reps each side. As much of the spine on the ground as possible. Tuck the ribs down, chin down.
2. Bird Dogs: 5 reps each side
3. TRX roll out: 8 reps
4. Sandbell woodchop: 8 reps each side
5. Overhead slam: 8 reps
6. TRX anti rotation: 8 reps
7. Sandbell dragon flag: 5 reps


Threads: @nikelondon 
Kicks: @nikelondon Metcon 3

WHY I: OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST SNOWBOARDER JAMIE ANDERSON

I’m at the LAAX European Open Switzerland, a definitive stop on the World Snowboard Tour at the home of snowboard freestyle, LAAX.  Attracting the biggest names on the global tour, the LAAX Open has long been one of the most critical and enjoyed stops of the tour, with the riders stoking out on LAAX, which was purpose built for snowboarders.  It’s incredible facilities include the world’s biggest halfpipe, indoor training hubs, and of course, the unparalled and stunning riding terrain.  I’m here to see for myself the incredible highs snowboarding has come to in this leg of the European Open, and to chat to none other than slopestyle QUEEN, the reigning Olympic Gold slopestyle medallist, the incredible Miss Jamie Anderson.

A name that reached the mainstream consciousness following her crowning glory of winning the first ever slopestyle snowboarding competition at the last winter Olympics in Sochi Russia, 5  time X Games gold medallist, World Champion and all-round bastion of positivity, Jamie Anderson is a name both synonymous with being at the forefront of progression in snowboarding, and always doing it with an infectiously rad positive energy and unrelenting stoke and smiles.  After taking a podium spot at LAAX, I headed off with Jamie to chow down on some well-earned pad Thai and talk snowboarding, successes, mindfulness and what is next for the 10 year dominant force in women’s snowboarding.

 Photo: jamie anderson instagram

Photo: jamie anderson instagram

If there is ever an athlete that not just is a beacon of showing what hard work and tenacity, combined with an unrelenting, clear, earnest, and honest love of her sport, it’s Tahoe-native Jamie Anderson.  26 year old Jamie has been been a stalwart of competitive snowboarding the last decade.  With her list of never-ending accolades, including of course, her Olympic Gold Medal in the last winter Olympics in Russia, Jamie has enjoyed a career of which her hard work and honest love for her sport has been steadily reflected in her haul of bullion in her trophy and medal cabinet.  Reflecting that she is “extremely thankful that I found snowboarding at such a young age…it’s the number one passion of my life. And it’s so fun because you have that fire to keep going and pursuing."

It’s clear that when talking to Jamie, it isn’t just competitive drive that has propelled her to such successful heights, but heck, it’s her genuine love of strapping onto her board and riding which is her driving force.  I wondered what, after such a long and steadily rewarding career which sees her on the top of podiums regularly some 10 years down the line, continues to spur her on, to motivate her, when she has conquered every competitive challenge on the snowboarding circuit?  “I think just personal perseverance.  My own challenges that I have, and trying to overcome them and not...let fear get in the way...I’ve been competing for like a solid 10 years, but I’m always inspired to learn more, grow, try new shit and progress, so I think that’s kind of the motivation to continue to do it.”

Many of us, when approaching a competitive sport, or any challenge for that matter, can focus on the want of that success and end goal.  Sage advice from the Olympic Champion, who suggests that:

“Instead of thinking about just being successful, think about finding something that really lights your heart on fire and makes you stoked to wake up every day and pursue it."

Seeing the unrelenting smile on her face when she is at the top of the park of any competition, it’s clear snowboarding sets Jamie’s heart on fire, and that these could be wise words to follow.  There are of course, challenges, difficult moments and testing times, especially in the fast-paced world of competitive sport.  What, I ask, does she do in those moments, to move past them?  “Those moments when you’re feeling discouraged or challenged… (I) usually try go back to gratitude, thinking of how lucky I am to get to do this and be in Switzerland, or Colorado, or wherever I’m at on the planet…I think that an attitude of gratitude is pretty powerful...remembering to stay humble and thankful for all the gifts”. 

"Learning to not let get your head in the way, women are like…we got crazy minds (laughs) so learning to…embrace that feminine power, but not let it… make me afraid, because that’s the only thing holding me back”. 

This makes me smile, for there is a beauty in our innate “feminine power” as Jamie attests, which surely when harnessed, makes us unstoppable forces.  I love Jamie for showing that to be at the top of your game in a sport, and not just from a female perspective, but both perspectives, it doesn’t have to be about being a testosterone charged individual.  Jamie embraces this feminine energy, and in my opinion, this is a critical, and highly important, influential ideal to share with women, with young girls, showing that it is possible to embrace this and be a champion, why the heck not?

 Jamie in action at the LAAX open

Jamie in action at the LAAX open

Standing at the side of the slopestyle competitive at the LAAX open, it is clear to me, having worked in the action sports industry for some 12 years now, that women’s snowboarding is at an incredible juncture, whereby the athletes are embracing this power, where they are bonded by a love of their sport, of genuinely supporting each other and of welcoming progressive raw talent to the game.   It feels electric right now in women’s snowboarding, and Jamie is in the thick of it, agreeing that "Oh my gosh, it’s really cool... it has changed so much in the last couple of years with girls just getting inspired and tapping into their power and realising what they are capable of.  I think the number one thing that limits us is the mind and fear of course, but once you see your friends, going through and persevering with challenges, it is so enlightening.”

Younger girls looking to start a career in competitive snowboarding have some pretty powerful role models like Jamie Anderson to look up to at this point in time.  Though a difficult industry to truly make it to the top, Jamie shares some meaningful advice to younger girls, suggesting that :

"Make sure you’re down for the cause, have fun, be around good people that lift you up and trust yourself… Listen to your intuition most importantly. Don’t try too hard. Don’t listen to what other people say. Listen to yourself. “

Seeing Jamie on the podium with first place rider, the insanely talented Finish rider Enni Rukajarvi, and hot-new talent and new podium regular, Anna Gasser, cheering them on with genuine happiness for their successes, it is apparent that this field of support in women’s snowboarding is a powerful and potent field. 

Sitting with Jamie’s boyfriend, fellow rider and podium-placer, American Tyler Nicholson, I ask Jamie is she equally inspired by riding with her boyfriend?  “He definitely inspired me a lot when we first started dating he was the first one to really encourage me to do a lot of the new tricks I tried just because he had that belief…having someone give you that courage is what we need the most.   Just having someone actually believe in me, then I’m like yeah, I guess this is possible .and I can do it.”

With so many podium spots and so many wins, I wonder what in Jamie’s illustrious career has stood out as a moment that has perhaps meant the most to her?  “Getting to go ride Alaska even though it wasn’t obviously a contest, it was just to shred, it was so empowering just to be able to fight my fears and not be discouraged…the mountains are so powerful and it just inspires me to keep charging and even if it is not a competitive realm, snowboarding has so many different realms… it’s not all about double corks or 1080s and the Olympics…

"It’s just about being your true self and having fun and living for the moment and charging. Namaste!”.

With athletes like Jamie who have had such sustained and enduring success (when measured in terms of wins), I wonder what therefore can be defined as success to her now, and what are her hopes for the future?  “I look at older people and think I just think success is measured in happiness and groundedness and being…stoked on life every day, regardless of the situation.  Practicing that, (and) not being attached to always winning or doing a certain trick, just being okay with what what is, living in the moment, and embracing what is.  I hope to just like continue having fun hopefully land some new progressive tricks and make them look fossy and flow and with grace and then I want to make some films… I want to make some really cool like documentary films travelling around to cool places connecting culture, lifestyle and just spreading the love and epic vibes.  I’m so thankful to be in this epic industry...and the people in snowboarding…we are really lucky”. 

Even though Jamie is one of the most successful athletes ever to hail from the US, and whilst it could seem hard to relate to a champion of her level, I love having explored Jamie’s honest motivations, stoke, and love of her sport, and how, just like many of us when a snow day comes, she “just love(s) bundling up and being in the mountains. I’m definitely a mountain girl at heart I grew up in northern California just outside of lake Tahoe and we used to just jump off roofs into powder...

"Still to this day I’m 26 and I still go play in the snow every day and it’s so fun, it brings me so much joy".  

 Myself, peacing out with Miss Anderson

Myself, peacing out with Miss Anderson

With thanks to Jamie Anderson, the LAAX Open and Canoe INC.

Stay tuned for the next WHY I interview!

 

 

 

 

WHY I: TAHNEE SEAGRAVE

Competitive sport is an exciting arena.  Every so often a fresh and exciting, raw and disuptive talent emerges to shake the field up, and herald the arrival of a new crop of competitors vying for the top spot.  Enter Tahnée Seagrave, next up in the series of WHY I interviews delving into the minds, motivations and passions of a slew of diverse, talented, and highly inspiring women.  Downhill mountain bike racing could be fairly new to many of you, and with the first thing coming to mind normally being that this is one GNARLY sport, I was interested to chat to 21 year old Tahnée about her life in this adrenaline-charged world.  Kick back for a read with this progressive athlete, a young woman with a determination and focus of ferocity, balanced with a super approachable outlook that we can all relate to - heck, we all sometimes just need to just need to whack on the trackie bums and chill out on the sofa for days, right Tahnée? ;)

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21 year old downhill mountain bike rider Tahnée Seagrave, is, what some of us might describe, as “nails”.  If you’ve ever seen her in action during a competition or on video, the UK born, Wales-based rider’s raw talent has seen her demolish courses, be crowned the Junior World Champion and a regular face on the world-circuit podium.  As Tahnéeattests, downhill racing definitely isn’t for the faint hearted.  Hurling yourself down a mountain on a bike at high speed, dealing with jumps, sharp corners, rocks, roots, branches, trees and more makes for one of the most adrenaline-surging action sports out there, with, obviously, a high risk-rate of crashes, and perhaps injury.   Definitely not for the faint hearted then.  But for Tahnée, seeing her describe when she first started riding and how her passion was ignited at an early age at her family home at the time in Les Gets, France (a mountain biker’s mecca) it’s clear she loves this wild and challenging sport, that it gives her so much enjoyment and happiness, as well as a thrilling challenge to succeed.  Having been crowned the Junior World Champion in 2013 in Pietermaritzburg, I ask Tahnée what helps to continue to motivate her to up that title to World Champion, as she is now competing on the senior, world-circuit stage, and making quite a mark.

“I guess it's my thrill of giving my all, all the time, in everything I do, so I think tht really helps, the drive…”.

 

She has also helped to bring a more accessible, feminine and human side to the truthfully, male-dominated sport of downhill racing.  But hey , that is OK as she says, it isn’t a sport that’s for everyone because it IS “SO extreme”.  Rather than show or suggest that there are any extra pressures on her as a female athlete, Tahnée believes that actually

“If anything I like to push it forward and show girls that it's absolutely fine  and that it's not a a boys sport.  There’s no such thing as a “male sport”.

Self-admitting to be a “girly-girl”, which she “loves”, it provides an awesome constrast with battle-ready Tahnée on the world circuit, destroying the course and showing incredible levels iof strength, determination and talent in a quite frankly near-terrifying sport.    “It gives me a boost, I love being such a girly girl and then being like yeah I do that! To boys especially and it always intimidates them so it's quite funny”.

Following her racing and behind the scenes action on her Instagram account, it is clear she is a dedicated athlete, investing time into her progression through training, to reach her goal of being the World Champion.  

“The challenges in the gym are as good as the challenges on the bike, to feel the improvements is just a good a feeling.”

Taking some time out to recover after a few crashes on a busy season last year, it feels like even at her young age, Tahnée's maturaity in understanding when the body just sometimes says “hey, you know what? I need a rest right now, time to chill” is apparent, something some of us (ahemmmm…totally not myself included…ok yes me) who when we are older find hard to do. 

“It happened this year, I crashed race after race and my body was just getting worse and worse. I felt myself crumpling over like a little old lady race after race, it gets so emotional.  I honestly, don’t think I had any motivation towards the end which is why my results dropped…I got to a point where I was thinking god it isn’t worth it.  The body is like your most precious thing, you want to be fit and you’ve got to be fit for races…I took a month off, of nothing, (I) didn’t touch my bike, I didn’t see my bike, I didn’t want to talk about my bike.  It literally got to the point where if someone brought up bikes I would have to walk out the room.  If anyone talked about...Rache (Rachel Atherton, the dominant world Champion)…or her win, as much as I admire her…at the time I was so emotionally drained.   So yeah I think for me it's more time.   As soon as I have time to my self, and don’t touch a bike, I start to miss it…I miss the sport, and the competition…”. 

 

Ah yes, Rachel Atherton, the incredible force and dominant multi-world champion. One of the trio of the Atherton Racing family (brothers Dan and Gee), Tahnée’s greatest inspiration, and now, at this point, her biggest compeititon and hurdle to graduating from Junior to World Champion.  An indominable and highly progressive athlete, Rachel Atherton has been crowned Downhill World Champion no less than 4 times and been nominated for the Laureus World Sports Award for Action Sportsperson of the Year.  An athlete of precocious talent, who, now, has Tahnée Seagrave hot on her heels.  She clearly is a huge inspiration to Tahnée, who credits the fact that  

“You're not going to be a winner if you don't know what you want…She has just consistently won everything.  She can win on a bad day, and I think that’s what is so inspiring.  I want to be able to have a bad day and still win”. 

 Tahnee on the podium with Rachel Atherton

Tahnee on the podium with Rachel Atherton

Tahnée clearly has a goal set in her sights, and after some time out from the circuit, has taken time to rest, reflect, grow stronger, and ready for action. 

“I want to dominate... I don’t want to just get one win... I want to consistently win”. 

With the talent pool of challengers to the illustrious Rachel Atherton a field that Tahnée has quickly progressed through, Tahnée despite her super-chilled demeanour and friendly attitude obviously is feeling the drive and has competitive motivation in abundance for her next stab at the title.

“I think that’s where my competitivenes comes from. I don't like losing, but more importantly, I don’t like underachieving by what I think I can do. For me its all in my head, its nothing to do with anyone else.”

It’s awesome to hear that when asked about what race in her career has meant the most to her, it is her fundraising work with the brilliant Coppa-Feel Charity that stands out.  Teaming up with the charity during a World Cup event, Tahnée and Coppa Feel created a limited edition bag, kit and helmet that she raced off, later raffling it, and the bike, towards the charity.  Raising £10,000 for the charity was “ really emotional…and that was my best World Cup race to date.  I got my first second place there so it was so hetic and so emotional, and the result wasn’t in my mind at all so to get second on top of all that was amazing.”

With such drive, determination, genuine positivity and raw talent, it’s clear Tahnée has been on an upward trajectory that is reflecting her hard work ethic and love of her sport.  

"I did get a lot of abuse when I was younger, saying I had all the gear and no idea, but I just kept to my gut feeling. I loved the sport, I didn’t care what people thought, and if you love it and have passion for it and are driven there's no reason you cant do it". 

Surpassing any hurdles coming her way, it’s clearly going to be an exciting future for Tahnée Seagrave.

With thanks to Tahnée and Richard King at Iconic Agency

Stay tuned, next up in WHY I, I speak to the incredible Jamie Anderson.  The reigning Olympic Gold Champion in Snowboard slopesyle, a multiple X Games Gold Medalist, Dew Tour winner, World Snowboard Tour champion, the list quite frankly, is endless with the Tahoe-native's accolades over her career.  Perhaps more so is her absolutely infectious positivity and down-to-earth, humble spirit, which exudes stoke and happiness.  Dropping in two weeks, do not miss this!

 

 Jamie Anderson at the recent Laax Open Snowboard competition in Switzerland

Jamie Anderson at the recent Laax Open Snowboard competition in Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shred Ready: Surf Fitness workout at the Chillhouse Canggu!

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Whilst staying at the EPIC surf-yoga/bike-all-round epicentre of radness in Bali, The Chillhouse (stay tuned for a trip report soon), I filmed a special workout from my bespoke Shred Ready: Surf Fitness workout that some of you may have already attended live at my bootcamps, or followed on my blog.

Shred Ready: Surf Fitness is a bespoke workout that improves your stamina and conditioning with highly targeted movements that work to boost your performance and ultimately enjoyment in the water.  

The programme looks at working on developing the specific power, proprioceptive ability, endurance and strength needed for surfing, and you can do it from anywhere, no equipment needed:

-Improving your dynamic surfing focussing on honing power movements including pop ups and cutbacks, even laybacks

-Flexibility - improving your range of movement and mobility and protecting against injury

-Balance - enhancing your ability to stabilise and maintain positions

-Understanding your surfing movements and the muscle groups that drive them- sharpening fast-twitch muscle fibres and muscle memory

-Targeted strengthening exercises and movements to boost power and condition

-Aerobic fitness - conditioning the heart and muscle tone, paddle stronger and tire less

Check out the workout below for a Chillhouse special Shred Ready: Surf Fit workout!

Do 15 reps of each exercise, with a 30 second rest in between, before repeating 2 more times.

-push up with clap

-clock lunges

-opening and closing the book

-forward lunge with twist

-supermans

With thanks to The Chillhouse

ANOTHER SPACE BOUTIQUE GYM LAUNCH: BOOK SESSIONS!

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The all-new righteous boutique studio, Another Space in Covent Garden has now launched, and the killer new concept class HIIT is open to book from this week!

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A fusion of boxing and high intensity work on the ground, the session is a highly charged workout to fire your metabolism, burn serious calories and with a focus on correct technique, learn all the killer combinations across boxing and Muay Thai.

 

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As below find my teaching schedules with links to book in!! POW!!

FRIDAY 24th JUNE: HIIT CLASS, 6:45am 

WEDNESDAY 29th JUNE: HIIT CLASS, 8:15am & 18:45pm

THURSDAY 30th JUNE: HIIT CLASS, 13:00pm

FRIDAY 1st JULY: HIIT CLASS, 6:45am, 12:00pm

BOOK: https://anotherspace.london/instructors/sophie

 

STAY TUNED - Every month I will release a class and pop-up schedule of everywhere I am teaching, July's lands next week! 

 

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NEXT DATE OF SHRED READY: SURF FITNESS ANNOUNCED. BOOK NOW!

The first Shred Ready Surf Fitness session blasted off last month in the heart of East London, Brick Lane, and I am super excited to announce the next date! Whether you're a seasoned or novice surfer who spends plenty or not quite enough time in the water (like some of us land-locked surfers!), Shred Ready: Surf Fitness is a bespoke workout that will improve your stamina and conditioning with highly targeted movements that work to boost your performance and ultimately enjoyment in the water.  

Focussing  on the critical factors crucial to developing your dynamic surfing ability, we will be looking at:

-Improving your dynamic surfing focussing on honing power movements including pop ups and cutbacks, even laybacks

-Flexibility - improving your range of movement and mobility and protecting against injury

-Balance - enhancing your ability to stabilise and maintain positions

-Understanding your surfing movements and the muscle groups that drive them- sharpening fast-twitch muscle fibres  and muscle memory

-Targeted strengthening exercises and movements to boost power and condition

-Aerobic fitness - conditioning the heart and muscle tone, paddle stronger and tire less

My friends over at Quiksilver and Roxy will be hosting us in their awesome digs in Shoreditch. Full details below:

DATE: 15th June

LOCATION: Quiksilver Showroom, Shoreditch *

TIME: Arrive 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start.  One hour workout, 15 minutes stretch, followed by drinks and a tour of the Quiksilver, DC and Roxy Showroom. Around 1:45 minutes in total.

PRICE: £15 pre-pay via Bank Transfer

INCLUDED: One hour workout plus 15 minute stretching, a free drink (beer or turbo-charged green & ginger juice to replenish your body) all set to an awesome surf-infused playlist with big screen surf flicks playing in the background

BRING: Wear fitness gear/trainers, stoke and a smile, a water bottle

Email me at sophieeverard@hotmail.com to sign up - places are extremely limited so get in quick! We do monthly sessions and I'll announce the next dates to sign-up to soon, INCLUDING outdoor sessions for the summer!

Thanks and see you soon!

* Full address disclosed after booking is complete

Cruise to my Instagram @sophieeverard for more fitness, adventure, surfing and radness!

#ShredReadySurf

Surf Dome #WorkYourBikini Campaign Live!

A few weeks ago I hightailed it down to Devon to shoot a secret campaign which has now gone live.  Retailer Surf Dome pulled together a crew of real-life surf, skate, yoga and general stoking your brains out aficionados for a campaign that really taps into that whole vibe I dig of using your body, or in this case, your bikini too, for shit other than just posing.  Shredding waves. Getting sweaty in yoga.  Dancing around bonfires.  Riding ramps and not caring about what you look like, more about how good it makes you feel.

 

An awesome campaign and message to be part of, and worth surfing in 10c water in just a bikini for the shoot!  Check out the edit below!

With thanks to Surf Dome

The soundtrack to the Shred Ready: Surf Fitness class, the ultimate summer surf playlist

This week the all-new season of Shred Ready: Surf Fitness launched in the heart of East London, Brick Lane.  A surf-hungry crew of attendees were put through their paces, focussing on the key dynamics of the class. Working through targeted movements to boost fitness and conditioning, to paddle stronger and gain better mobility and balance, we broke down everything from the pop-up to the cutback, working on training our bodies to better execute these moves.   

Most rabid fitness fiends can often be spotted with earplugs firmly embedded in their ear drums - music can be key to boosting a workout.  Whatever your tunes of choice are, they can drive you on that extra bit harder.  I LOVE music, and love to carefully pair music to sessions I teach, taking participants on a journey, and to my own workouts.

Selected to accompany the Shred Ready: Surf Fitness class, I wanted to share the killer soundtrack I specially curated.  Featuring some all-time classics from some of your favourite surf movies and bands including the likes of Black Sabbath, Sublime and The Beach Boys, check out the playlist below and plug in to get that summer stoke going!

 

 

 

 

SHRED READY: SURF FITNESS MONTHLY FITNESS CLASSES

I've touched down back in the big smoker that is London and hot off surfing like a wildcat for the last few months, I have been carefully structuring a highly specific and bespoke surfing fitness workout, following on from the successful Shred Ready: Snow Fitness sessions of last year.  As the European summer surf season will soon be kicking off, whether or not you've been braving the baltic British seas and making the most of the winter swell, and whether you're a seasoned or novice surfer who spends plenty or not quite enough time in the water (like some of us land-locked surfers!), Shred Ready: Surf Fit is a bespoke workout that will improve your stamina and conditioning with highly targeted movements that work to boost your performance and ultimately enjoyment in the water.  

Focussing  on the critical factors crucial to developing your dynamic surfing ability, we will be looking at:

-Improving your dynamic surfing focussing on honing power movements including pop ups and cutbacks, even laybacks

-Flexibility - improving your range of movement and mobility and protecting against injury

-Balance - enhancing your ability to stabilise and maintain positions

-Understanding your surfing movements and the muscle groups that drive them- sharpening fast-twitch muscle fibres  and muscle memory

-Targeted strengthening exercises and movements to boost power and condition

-Aerobic fitness - conditioning the heart and muscle tone, paddle stronger and tire less

My friends over at Quiksilver and Roxy will be hosting us in their awesome digs in Shoreditch. Full details below:

DATE: 10th May (NEXT SESSIONS ANNOUNCED SHORTLY)

LOCATION: Quiksilver Showroom, Shoreditch *

TIME: Arrive 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start.  One hour workout, 15 minutes stretch, followed by drinks and a tour of the Quiksilver, DC and Roxy Showroom. Around 1:45 minutes in total.

PRICE: £15 pre-pay via Bank Transfer

INCLUDED: One hour workout plus 15 minute stretching, a free drink (beer or turbo-charged green & ginger juice to replenish your body) all set to an awesome surf-infused playlist with big screen surf flicks playing in the background

BRING: Wear fitness gear/trainers, stoke and a smile, a water bottle

Email me at sophieeverard@hotmail.com to sign up - places are extremely limited so get in quick!  We'll be doing monthly sessions and I'll announce the next dates to sign-up to soon.

Cheers guys and see you soon!

* Full address disclosed after booking is complete

Cruise to my Instagram @sophieeverard for more fitness, adventure, surfing and radness!

#ShredReadySurf