Looking for new thrills? No problem. Our team of elite athletes share their expert tips on how to get started in their favourite adventure sports.
Rob Jarman, British land speed record-holder
“The popularity of mountain biking has grown like mad, and it’s an easy sport to get into – there are trail centres all over the UK, with graded routes and coaches on tap. The 7stanes centres (www.7stanes.gov.uk) in the Scottish Borders are excellent, but my personal favourite is the red route at Glentress in the Tweed Valley (www.thehubintheforest.co.uk). Brilliantly designed with loads of variety, it’s a blast.
“I recommend investing in a decent mountain bike, and don’t be afraid to graduate quickly to clip-in pedals: the gains you’ll get in terms of power and control are huge. Also consider booking a couple of days’ one-to-one coaching – you’ll come on leaps and bounds.
“Something that really stepped up my game was doing a package trip in the Alps: somewhere like Les Gets (www.paradisvtt.fr), near Geneva. In summer, it becomes a full-on mountain biking resort: everything’s laid on for you, including guides. An intensive week on mountain trails will boost your technical riding no end.”
Anniken Binz, international Base jumper
“Skydiving was the route into base jumping for me and I love it: the adrenaline rush and the beauty of drifting against the sunset. It puts the everyday problems of life into perspective. “It’s a time-consuming and expensive sport, though, so give that some thought beforehand. I recommend finding an “accelerated free fall” course, rather than “static line” training. It’s safe and easy, and you get to experience solo free fall much sooner. Ideally, find a course outside the UK, so you’re not at the whim of the weather. I really like Skydive Spain (www.skydivespain.com), a dropzone outside Seville: conditions are calm and the plane goes a little higher so you get more airtime. Lots of Brits go, the people who run it are nice and it’s cheap to get there – you can fly into Málaga.
“For somewhere more exotic, I recommend Skydive Venezuela (skydivevenezuela.com) at Higuerote, east of the capital Caracas. You can take a small plane and drop onto an idyllic Caribbean island, then head straight off for a swim!”
Leah Crane, 2009 British bouldering champion
“I love the sense of achievement I get from climbing, especially from bouldering, which essentially is free-climbing [without ropes]. It’s the mental challenge of getting to the top – hopefully before the next guy!
“Google your local climbing wall and sign up for an adult induction course – usually £25 or so for two hours. Ideally, choose a centre where you can try both bouldering and climbing: rope-climbing is about endurance; bouldering tends to suit a more muscular build. But don’t assume you can only climb if you’re super-athletic. Patience and technique will get you there.
“Outdoor climbing is a different challenge: when you start, hire a fully insured instructor from your local climbing wall or the internet to take you out. The Peak District is great for novices (www.peakdistrict-rockclimbing.co.uk): I take newbies to Burbage Edge where there is great beginner bouldering on the south side, and rope climbing to the north. Your first foreign trip should definitely be Fontainebleau (www.bleau.info), outside Paris, which is set in magic woodlands, like something out of The Lord of the Rings. Go with friends, book a gîte, and prepare for hundreds of routes, from stupidly easy to insanely hard. It’s awesome.”
Karen Darke, kayaker, sit-skier and hand-cyclist
“I first kayaked in the Hebrides. We happened across a sea-kayaking symposium in North Uist and paddled out to the Monarch Islands, an out-of-this-world place, draped in seals. I was hooked: the feeling of wilderness is very like the one I used to get from climbing.
“It’s a good sport if you’re not super-fit: you can build up from gentler coastal routes. Most cities have a club and even if it’s made up of mainly river canoeists, you can pick up the basic skills. Then head for one of the recognised sea-kayaking centres: good ones include Skyak (www.skyakadventures.com), on the Isle of Skye, and Sea Kayaking UK on Anglesey (www.seakayakinguk.com). Both offer beginner courses – typically two days for around £120.
“Once you get going, try to attend a symposium, which is a big annual kayak gathering where you can get group coaching and try out different boats before you buy. There’s one in Anglesey, another at the Uist Outdoor Centre (www.uistoutdoorcentre.co.uk). Another option is to learn in the Med. A great event for novices is Bibionekayak (www.bibionekayak.com), a symposium that takes place near Venice in June, where you paddle on a beautiful lagoon and can join the Vogalonga, a 48-kilometre (30-mile) regatta on the Venice canals. I’ll never forget that.”
Brent Edwards, Team Orion
“What I love about adventure racing is you get to travel – and race – through some of the most remote and spectacular landscapes on the planet: high mountains, remote gorges, you name it. The buzz of racing in a team is unique in endurance sports, but the main appeal for me is it’s just so damn hard! Completing a race is an awesome feeling.
“Newcomers don’t have to be extremely fit, but a bit of experience in running, biking and maybe kayaking will make things easier, and somebody on your team needs to be good at navigation, because that’s key. Google a local club – there are plenty around – or just form a team with your mates and have a go. The website www.sleepmonsters.com is a great resource, with an events calendar, training tips, the lot.
“Train by planning some fun missions with your team, then seek out a nearby race that’s aimed at beginners: they are usually six hours or less – as opposed to three to 10 days, non-stop, on expedition races! Perhaps my favourite event is the XPD in Australia (www.xpd.com.au). It’s expedition length, goes into some amazing terrain, but caters for recreational teams as well as serious athletes, because you can take as long as you need to finish.”
Adventure sports: The essential kit
For sports such as climbing and mountain biking, you need fast-drying, super-breathable clothing. Our Technical Fit Tee is the ideal base layer – high wicking with exclusive silver ion technology to combat odour. There are short-sleeved and long-sleeved versions. For the mountains, Men’s Baffin Island jacket is unbeatable: great all-round weather protection, including total protection from the wind, thanks to the GORE-TEX® WINDSTOPPER fabric.
What about a bag to store your stuff? Mountain biking, adventure racing and other adrenaline sports demand a light, easy carrier, and our Octans 25 Rucksack does the job brilliantly. The comfortable and sturdy backsystem with airflow channel is ideal for fast-moving activities over rough terrain. There’s also several multi-purpose pockets for storing all your essentials
Visit our Athletes page to find out more about our athletes or leave a comment if you’ve tried any of the activities above.