I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville



Mar 05, 2017

Master’s Student and Ultrarunner Tackles World’s Biggest Cross Country Ski Race

From being a full-time student to running 170km around Mont Blanc, 22-year-old Oskar Henriksson pushes both mental and physical barriers.


Adelina Storkaas

Roller skiing around a Swedish student city, he’s been preparing for the world’s biggest cross-country ski race, Vasaloppet.

Like Venezuela’s Adrian Solano who was dubbed the worst skier alive last week at the Nordic world ski championships, Swede Oskar Henriksson wasn’t put off from skiing without real snow this winter. Roller skiing on student city Lund’s streets in south of Sweden and doing laps on a 400metre artificial snow track, he is ready to tackle the longest cross-country ski race in the world, Vasaloppet.

On long matchstick-looking skis, he and almost 16,000 skiers from all over Sweden, Norway, Germany and 40 other countries will hit the tracks today, March 5. They face hours of long gliding strides and tough poling as they make their way from Sälen to Mora. Record breaker Jörgen Brinks mastered the 90km track in 3:38 in 2012 and Oskar aims to beat his own Vasaloppet record 5:03.


The smell of sweet crepes at the checkpoints won’t slow him down. With water, sports drinks and gel in his backpack, he will tackle hills, bad tracks and burning muscles. But the longest cross-country ski race won’t be as demanding as the slippery, muddy, steep and long races that tend to catch his attention.

Once, at an ultrarunning race in north of Sweden, he got water in the shoes that wouldn’t dry. “My toes turned into raisins with chafes between them,” he says.

Despite pain and discomfort, he completed the race on shoes that were falling apart: “The soles fell out,” he says and adds “but that was after the race.” And toenails have also fallen off during competitions across Sweden and around the world. He spent new year’s eve in Hong Kong, running the Ultra Trail Tai Mo Shan. And on August 26, he undertook one of the most famous trail races in the world, Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.

“I started in the evening and ran for two nights and one day. It was tough,” he recalls “I was awake two whole nights and couldn’t think straight afterwards.”

Oskar Henriksson running in Lund, Sweden. Photograph courtesy of Oskar Henriksson

The astonishing landscape kept him going: “You always want to get around the next corner to see glaciers and other cool things,” he says. And with a lot of broth and orange, but no sleep, he covered the 170km in 39 hours.

Like one of the most accomplished ultrarunners and skiiers in the world, Nikki Kimball, most ultrarunners have been doing this for a long time and he rarely meets athletes his own age at races. His circle of friends are mainly runners and roller skiers: “It’s not that I go out partying that much or do other student things. I have a lot of friends that also run or do roller ski. You must prioritise what you enjoy the most and I have chosen sports. That’s my thing.”

He squeezes in 15 to 20 hours on the tracks every week between geology classes and for him, planning is key to finding the time to do it all: “It’s a great interest and I think it’s good to have something else, then just studies,” he says.

“Like you have be organized when it comes to the sport, you also have be organized with the studies. Be tough when it comes to times and things like that, so you won’t let your mind wander. One thing at the time. When you study, you study,” he adds.

And running can have its advantages: “When you are out running, just exercising, you’ve got a lot of time to think. And I often come up with the best ideas when I’m running,” he says “so when you are studying for an exam, it’s good to go for a little run.”

Oskar Henriksson and friends cross country skiing in Swedish Fjällen. Photography courtesy of Oskar Henriksson

Today, when he heads out in the morning breeze, it won’t be on a little run, but the 93rd Vasaloppet.   


You can follow Oskar Henriksson’s adventures on Instagram.

Feature image: Skiers at start line, Vasaloppet 2012. Photography © Vasaloppet

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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.



Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma


“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”


For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

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