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I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville


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Mar 09, 2016

Exclusive: Meet the world’s first female Master Polar Guide

Sarah McNair-Landry is the first woman to be recognised by the International Polar Guides Association as a Master Polar Guide.

She is also the youngest person to have traveled to both the North and South Poles.

Eirliani Abdul Rahman, together with her climbing partner, Ruta Sidlauskaite who hails from Lithuania, are gearing up for an expedition to the South Pole in January 2017. Over 60 days, they will be pulling sleds weighing 50kg each over 1,100 kilometres. They are both training at India’s first indoor climbing gym “Delhi Rock”.

Here, Eirliani interviews Sarah McNair-Landry, who along with her brother, were nominated in 2007 for the National Geographic’s “Adventurer of the Year” Award, and named one of the “Top Ten Women in Adventure” by the National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Sarah is the youngest person to have travelled to both the North and South Poles. She will be Eirliani’s and Ruta’s guide for the upcoming South Pole expedition.

Sarah dog-sledding across the vast expanse. She recently spent 120 days circumnavigating Baffin Island, Canada with a team of huskies. Image © Erik Boomer

Describe why you grew up with a love for the outdoors. Did your parents play a major influence in your childhood?

My parents moved to Baffin Island, northern Canada to start an outdoor adventure company called NorthWinds and to raise my brother Eric and I. We grew up in the Arctic with a team of dogs and the Arctic Ocean in our backyard.

Our parents taught us how to be comfortable and have fun travelling under the cold and harsh Arctic conditions, and brought us on many camping adventures during our childhood. As my brother and I got older, we started to head out on longer and longer camping trips and eventually, expeditions.

Together with her brother Eric, Sarah kite-skied 3,300km retracing the Northwest Passage. They became the first brother-and-sister team to cross the ice sheet, and Sarah became the youngest to do a south-to-north traverse. Image © Erik Boomer

You were the first woman to be recognised by the International Polar Guides Association as a Master Polar Guide. What had you done to achieve this accolade?

The International Polar Guides Association recognises guides on their past guiding and expedition credentials, experience, and skills. In 2015, I was honoured to be the first woman recognised as a Master Polar Guide.

You were nominated – along with your brother Eric – for the National Geographic’s “Adventurer of the Year” Award, and named one of the “Top Ten Women in Adventure” by the National Geographic Adventure Magazine. What drives you to do what you do?

The reason I have done so many expeditions around the world is simple: because I love it and am passionate about it! That’s what drives me to come up with new routes and expeditions, to spend all my time and energy planning and heading out on trips.

Trekking across the North Pole on foot. Image © Sarah McNair-Landry

What advice would you give other women adventurers?

Get outside and have fun!

Your adventures are not limited to the polar regions. You have also kite buggied across the Gobi Desert, canoed rivers in Russia and rode camels through the Sahara. What attributes should one have in order to be successful in expeditions?

I work hard, train hard and am extremely goal driven. But most of all, I am passionate about heading out on adventures and expeditions. If you are passionate about what you do – it makes motivating yourself and working hard much easier.

I also love to challenge myself, and heading into the desert for me was a huge challenge and an environment that I do not have lots of experience in.

Skiing into the storm. When she is not in the cold, Sarah spends her time working on films. She has directed several documentaries, including one profiling an Inuit carver, produced by the Canadian National Film Board. Image © Eric McNair-Landry

How do you train and prepare for your expeditions?

I believe the success of an expedition lies greatly in the planning and training. Testing and modifying gear, packing as light as possible, designing a menu that provides high calories, physically and mentally training and route planning are all extremely important.

I am constantly learning new skills and finding new and better gear, and I see every expedition I complete as a form of training for my next one.

Feature Image: Master Polar Guide Sarah McNair-Landry Feature Image © Erik Boomer

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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.

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WRITTEN BY

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/

Subscribe here: https://www.outdoorjournal.com/in/subscribe/

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