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I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville

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Athletes & Explorers

Jun 06, 2018

Breaking Stereotypes: Meet India’s Action Heroes

The origins of Rushes dates back to two years ago when the format was conceptualised to throw light on the adventure lifestyle community within India.

WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

TheVibe Originals presented the opportunity to articulate this lifestyle. Since then, a very compelling series has come about which explores the backstories of a few handpicked extreme sports athletes who pursue their respective rushes.

Produced in association with Mercedes-Benz India, Rushes breaks stereotypes by bringing India’s action heroes in all their authenticity via a branded content series as opposed to having it celebrity-endorsed.

The Outdoor Journal is introducing the following Indian extreme sports athletes as a sampling of exciting talent that will soon arise from the high-potential region in the future.

Kiteboarding in Tuticorin with Arjun Motha and Jehan Driver

What makes Tuticorin an important place of interest with regards to kiteboarding?

AM: The wind has brought people to Tuticorin for centuries in search of spices and pearls. The wind blows here for 300 days. The town is located in between India and Sri Lanka. Tuticorin is in the heart of Gulf of Mannar and had served as a natural port and a safe haven with its bays and safe seas. It has flat lagoons, waves, coral reefs, marine life and most importantly amazing wind for kite surfers and sailors. Making it an ideal spot for wind worshippers. Tuticorin is one of the spots in south-east Asia to have wind throughout the year drawing the attention of many kiters here.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

AM: India is only scratching the surface of the global adventure scene. There is so much raw potential and talent here. There’s so much natural diversity geographically in our country and when coupled with human skills and raw talent, the growth could be explosive. This is only the beginning stages in the birth of adventure sports in India. Nevertheless, it is guaranteed to be growing rapidly and being recognised globally for its potential. India has many undiscovered athletes and raw talent pushing limits and finding their rushes. India will soon be one of the top destinations for adventure and water sports churning out top athletes.

What makes Rameswaram an important place of interest with regards to kiteboarding?

JD: After touring the entire coastline of India we found this piece of paradise! One of the only places where we receive both the North East & South West trade winds where the peninsula allows for ideal conditions for Kiteboarding. With around 300 days of wind to play with we decided to live here & call it home. Flat water lagoons, reef breaks and isolated beaches make the region an awesome learning ground for beginners as well as experienced riders.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

JD: It’s like a bunch of clouds floating around that never met, any guesses to what happens when they do? The scene of adventure sports has always been well developed in India and it is still growing. Thanks to social media the awareness is spreading and acceptance is also growing at a rapid pace.There was a time we had to import physical maps to navigate our own backyard but now with Google earth the world is a different place. We never knew if there were more slackliners in the country but through social media the community connects. Similarly there are more kiteboarders/mountain bikers/surfers, etc in India than we know of.

Follow Arjun Motha on Instagram

Follow Jehan Driver on Instagram and Twitter

Extreme Kayaking in Rishikesh with Bhupendra Singh Rana

“Extreme kayaking doesn’t show any mercy and has next to no room for an error.”

What makes Rishikesh an important place of interest with regards to extreme kayaking?

Rishikesh is my hometown and the river Ganges is my playground. This is where I started my kayaking career which to me is a good enough reason for me to call Rishikesh a very special place! Rishikesh is also the hub of extreme sports (known as the yoga and adventure capital of India) and kayaking was born on the river Ganges back in the early 80’s. Rishikesh is the place where the river Ganges comes out of the Himalayas (higher ground to the plain ground). Rishikesh has the best river sections where you can get into kayaking while providing a platform to step up your game to extreme kayaking. Heading upstream to the river Ganges valley there are endless rivers from high volume to steep creeks and even waterfalls. The overall experience in Rishikesh is very fulfilling. Enjoying a cup of chai while watching the sunset over the Ganges is unreal. Also, interacting with the very friendly local river community makes Rishikesh a very special place for me!

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

As I said Rishikesh is the adventure capital of India so I can not think of any other state other than my home state Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand is the best mix of a calm lifestyle – you can practice yoga to extreme sports such as mountain climbing or downhill extreme kayaking. Uttarakhand is one of those states where you can do adventure activities year around while other states might be available for few months out of a year.

I love extreme kayaking but I’m also well aware of what it takes to be a pro. I keep fit, educate myself on the areas, rivers, advanced rescue training, advance medical training etc.

  1. I’m a certified Yoga instructor who has taught yoga classes in India, Norway and Africa.
  2. I’m a nationally certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
  3. I’m a Trained Wilderness First Responder

Education is the key. The majority of our local kayakers are getting into the sports at an early age but compromising their academic education. Not many people know that I’ve earned my degree in English literature, Indian and world history and political science.

My main goal is to pass a positive message to the community to know what it takes to be a pro at any sport especially rivers. Water is nature’s most dynamic and powerful element. Extreme kayaking doesn’t show any mercy and has next to no room for an error.

Wingsuit flying in Jaisalmer with Udit Thapar

What makes Jaisalmer an important place of interest with regards to Wingsuit diving?

While flying over the desert in Jaisalmer, there is a unique view. The desert seamlessly merged into the sky at the horizon. The light during sunsets is amazing. It’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

Adventure sports are on the rise as a whole. People are travelling for adventure. The Indian people have an appetite for adventure that is only going to grow. We are not just opening doors in the field of adventure but also slowly conquering the scene.

Follow Udit on Instagram and Twitter

Downhill Biking in Valparai with Vinay Menon

“Coming up-close with wild elephants and bison on the ride was the masala in my tea!”

What makes Valparai a place of interest with regards to downhill biking?

I like to drink tea and to ride dirt. Valparai has both! Perfect to get Dirt-tea down the hill! Good trails everywhere with tea plantations touching the horizon, Valparai will wake you right up for your ride! Coming up-close with wild elephants and bison on the ride was the masala in my tea!

The vast number of trails streaming down the hillsides of Valparai will give you unlimited descending options.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

Current state of adventure sports in India? It’s spreading like wild fire! With its growing number of athletes, equipment availability and a more accepting population, adventure sports is gaining popularity in India, I feel.  With exposure to the international scene through various mediums such as social media, an enthusiast can follow and practice adventure sports easier than before.

Follow Vinay on Instagram and Twitter

Underwater Photography in the Andamans with Sumer Verma

What makes the Andamans an important place of interest with regards to Underwater Photography?

The two best destinations in India for underwater photography and scuba diving are the Andaman Islands and the Lakshwadeep Islands. Lakshwadeep have natural coral reef islands, and the Andamans volcanic ones. Both are at a large distance from the mainland country, are relatively unpolluted and have clear waters. The unique geological conditions, clarity of water and relative remoteness make it a perfect destination for scuba diving and underwater photography.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

India is a growing market and the potential is encouraging. Thanks to social media and emerging communication, there is far greater exposure to sports. Skydiving, MTB, whitewater rafting, kayaking, slacklining and fly fishing are all finding an audience. These also offer an opportunity to the youth to pursue them with greater earnestness, and they are interested. A decade strong platform has now been established and thanks to our diverse topographies — a lot can be done. We need further administrative support and inclusion of these sports for a bigger impetus.

Follow Sumer on Instagram and Twitter

Slacklining in Bhedaghat with Samar Farooqui

What makes Bhedaghat an important place of interest with regards to slacklining?

The geographical features make the place unique. The Jabalpur marble rocks are iconic and epic. The features, the landscape and the water allow the huge potential for some really fun and epic lines.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

India, with regards to Adventure sports, is at a potential turning point. So far we’ve been really behind in Adventure sports here in India. With regards to skills, safety measures and equipment. It is not easy to find high-quality gear in India, so that usually has to be imported. Our import duties are ridiculously high. This high import duty is making it hard to practice safe adventure sport in India.

Most of the adventurers are using outdated gear in India. Stuff that was being used a decade ago in the west is our current standard. Very few actually bother to go out and stay current with the new equipment that comes to the market. I think we’re at a good point, to begin with, but plenty of work still needs to be done. We need more support from the laws and the lawmakers, we need more support from corporations and philanthropists.

Follow Samar on Instagram and Twitter.

On the project as a whole, Asad Abid, Executive Producer, The Vibe Originals said “We hope more progressive mainstream brands take a lead from a brand such as Mercedes-Benz, to reach out to TheVibe community and makes our formats and community stronger. We hope to make further seasons in the future.”

Follow Asad on Instagram and Twitter

Speaking of the initiative Michael Jopp, VP, Sales and Marketing, Mercedes-Benz said, “India is a country of diversity not only in the form of different landscapes that you can visit across the country but also from the varied pool of talent that it houses. Our association with TheVibe and creating Rushes was with the idea of celebrating these beautiful people and places of India. The content features a very emotional story wherein passion and dedication of these local heroes are showcased with their abundant talent and vigour towards one dedicated adventure sport. The same passion and dedication is what we strive to put in our cars and give our best to the customers.”

Footage Courtesy is provided to TheVibe.

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Athletes & Explorers

Aug 06, 2019

In Defense of the Struggle.

Mountain bike racer Alicia Leggett reflects on how the obstacles she's faced have made her a better competitor and a stronger person.

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WRITTEN BY

Alicia Leggett

Like many ambitious people, I hate being bad at things.

Here’s my problem: It’s hard to become good at anything worthwhile without sucking for a while.

I’m a pro mountain bike racer, and last summer was my first season of world-level international racing. I raced in six countries as part of the Enduro World Series and traveled to races outside of North America for the first time. And although this was the season I’d been dreaming of for years, it was the hardest and most frustrating season of my life. More importantly, it took a lot of work to get there, and it will take much more work to keep progressing.

My 2018 season kicked off in March with races in Chile and Columbia, countries I’d never visited but had researched obsessively since I first looked at the season calendar. Living in Missoula, MT, I had spent most of the winter off the bike. I also received my bike for this year the week before I left for South America, so although I was beyond excited and itching to escape the snow, I wasn’t exactly prepared to compete with the world’s best.

“I remember crying in the shower”

I had done what I could. Moving to somewhere warm and dry wasn’t an option for me last winter, so I made the most of things and embraced the mental break from riding. I skied more days than I didn’t ski, I learned to enjoy running in the snow (and started borrowing my favorite dog, who became a great running buddy) and I started lifting heavier and more consistently than I ever have. Still, when I showed up to the start line at 11,000 feet in the Chilean Andes, I struggled.

The two-day race was brutal. I remember crying in the shower after the first day, dreading the morning when I’d have to wake up and do it again. But somehow, those two days are imprinted in my mind as two of the best days of my life. The Chilean sky is beautiful. The mountains are rugged. The terrain made me feel like I was riding on another planet. A week later, I raced in the Colombian jungle, in a mess of tire-sucking mud and suffocating humidity. I reveled in the misery.

“I’m not here to write about the times things went well”

All things considered, those two South American races went all right, and I collected a couple of race results I can be proud of, but I returned to the U.S. battered, exhausted and demoralized. But things improved from there. I put one foot in front of the other, took one pedal stroke at a time, and kept moving. I spent time riding my favorite trails, taking bike park laps and racing at the regional level for the next few months. I started running women’s clinics in my area, continued coaching teenagers and generally had a great time riding my bike. I won four regional races in a row, which was exciting proof of my growth as a rider. But I’m not here to write about the times’ things went well. This is a defence of the struggle.

After racing the Enduro World Series round in Whistler, I returned home and focused on preparing for the season’s final races in Spain and Italy.

The first day of racing in Spain was one of my best race days ever. I climbed about 6,000 feet and raced four tricky stages to land myself in 19th of 41 of the world’s best racers heading into the next day. I was so excited I could hardly sleep – I loved the course, and being in the top half of the EWS field felt great. I just needed to keep my riding smooth through the next day and I’d land myself in the top 20.

On the first stage of the next day, things fell apart. My dropper lever got stuck engaged and my seat kept popping up, which was not helpful in steep, rocky terrain. I crashed. Hard. I finished the stage, much slower than I wanted to, then admitted to myself that I might not finish the race. I looked like I had an extra elbow in the center of my chest and it hurt to breathe. I watched a volunteer wheel my bike away and felt my high hopes disappear.

I’d made it through the whole season without any serious crashes or mechanical problems. Why did the problems have to show up at one of the races I cared about the most?

At least I had one race left. After a round of chest x-rays (verdict: nothing broken) and a few days of rest, I was ready to ride again. I drove to Italy, fixed my bike and studied the course. Practice day arrived, and it was the first day I could move around without chest pain, so I considered that a good sign, until I caught my front wheel in a corner and body-slammed the ground. Once practice was over, I started to feel everything.

My chest still hurt and I had a massive bruise on my quad left from the previous crash. On top of that, I’d landed on a big rock just inside my hipbone and my bloody arm had started to swell.

“I crossed an ocean for this,” I kept thinking.

I showed up to the start line battered but determined to make the best of things. I just had four race stages left in my season. I would show up and ride my best.

I hadn’t quite learned the lesson the previous week: Sometimes, things just fall apart. We can’t control all of it. And if we could control it, where would the adventure be?

I controlled the variables I could, but in that final race, my luck had run out.

I bent my derailleur on a rock on the first stage. I also broke my chain guide on the first stage. My chain broke on the second stage as I tried to sprint up a hill with my limited gear range. I rode a clean but conservative third stage before lining up at the top of the fourth stage.

My entire season had built up to that moment. I left the U.S. riding better than ever before, and I’d made sure everything on my bike was dialed. I’d take all the steps I could to set myself up for success, and things still hadn’t gone my way. Regardless, I had to keep giving my all. The last stage that day was my favorite, and I went in for redemption.

I knew I shouldn’t set my hopes too high. After a few minutes of riding fast, skipping through technical rock sections and pedaling hard whenever I had the chance, I felt my chain drop off my chainring and all I could do was try to keep my momentum. So much for having a good stage. I dropped into one of the most iconic sections in all of enduro racing, a rocky corridor lined with thousands of cheering spectators that feels like it goes directly down the ridge to the Mediterranean. It was incredible. After a brutal day, when it felt like everything went wrong, I crossed the line ecstatic.

An article I read once explained that gamblers experience a bigger rush when they almost win than when they actually win. That’s part of what keeps them coming back. I think I’m the same way. For the entire trip, I had great race stages interrupted by the most frustrating moments of my season. I went from feeling on top of the world to feeling awful over and over, in just a few seconds each time. Those races showed me that I could be on-pace with where I wanted to be, racing with the best of them, but reminded me to never take a good result for granted.

“Learn to love struggling”

If I’d finished the season the way I wanted to, I would probably be content, and maybe I wouldn’t train as hard through the off-season. I can use my unfinished business with the EWS as motivation to come back stronger. I learned much more from the Europe races than I ever learned from races that went well, and I will focus on everything I can carry forward with me into future races. I learned about on-the-go bike fixes and gained practice staying calm when things felt disastrous, which, as it turns out, is important.

I’m now in the middle of my 2019 race season, and haven’t forgotten last year’s lessons. I’ve had a few explosive, unprecedented results so far this year, so I know I’ve internalized at least some of what I learned. Each setback has poured a bit more fuel on the fire, and I’m back, mentally and physically tougher than ever.

I’ve heard so many times that we can’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react. I’m choosing to learn whenever I can.

Years of riding bikes has shown me the value in doing things that are difficult. The most fun trails are usually the ones I’m good at riding, so I make myself ride the ones I don’t enjoy. I look for technical climbs, off-camber corners and tight switchbacks, which I would love to avoid. And these days, I can think of a few trails I used to hate that I now find satisfying.

Riding bikes is hard. Crashing out of a race sucks. Mechanical problems also suck. Both at once… well, you get the idea, but that’s mountain biking sometimes, and life. We are all doing the best we can with what we know.

So, my advice to anyone reading: Learn to love struggling. Do the things that are hard, especially when you don’t want to. If a ride or race falls apart, find the lesson and keep moving. You’ll prove to yourself, over and over, that you can survive.

 

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