The Icarus Trophy – Would You Paramotor 1,000km over Africa?

August 26, 2018
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The Icarus Trophy – Would You Paramotor 1,000km over Africa?

Dear Explorer,

I’m sitting down with Seth Royce, a bearded man of the skies. He is effortlessly cool & inspirational, and his latest adventure is no exception!

Imagine flying over 1,000km across the wilderness of Africa with an engine no bigger than a lawnmower propelling you whilst you rely on it to carry the weight of your body plus all the kit you will need for the next 12 days. This isn’t a trip for the faint hearted.

We caught up with the man of the moment to find out more about what the heck he was thinking attempting a daring challenge like this.

The Icarus Trophy

Seth Royce - The Icarus Trophy

 

ub-cool: Hey Seth! Never a dull moment in your life – how are you feeling after this momentous challenge?

It feels surreal that it’s all over after all the planning; it was an epic trip and we have memories to last a lifetime. Both myself and Zak, my friend and flying partner, had such a good time. We didn’t have any breakages or serious issues like some of the others. Thankfully we had luck and experience on our side; having hundreds of flying hours between us meant that any issue that arose was overcome through past experiences.

ub-cool: Tell us a little more about the Icarus Trophy.

In a nutshell, it’s a self-supported aerial race across Africa flying Paramotors. The start is from just outside Johannesburg, South Africa, and heading due North over some of Africa’s toughest terrains. The end point is at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Being self supported in this challenge is difficult because you have to do everything for yourself: fly, navigate, carry your own equipment, know how to repair your own equipment, avoid hazards, and generally keep yourself alive & moving.

In normal flying conditions you only carry around 10 litres of fuel in the tank and the machine weighs about 30kg. However, in this challenge we needed to add extra fuel – a lot of extra fuel. In some places in Botswana we went nearly 400km without seeing a town let alone a fuel pump so we took spare fuel tanks, an extra 10kg for the 10 litres strapped to your chest. Then there is the safety equipment and extra mandatory kit to take with you. So the machines that normally weigh a lot end up weighing even more: add fuel, sleeping bag, tent, clothes, sleeping mat, water, food, radios, charging kit, etc. Everything you need, you carry yourself.

ub-cool: You had a support vehicle though, right? Did that not carry your non essentials?

No, the support wagon was just carrying my mates (and a fridge full of beers).

There are classes (categories) you can fly in. There is pure race class: in it to win it. It is a bit too serious with early mornings, strict diets, strict logistics, and a long list of race rules – great if that’s what you want to do, but we didn’t. We took friends and a support truck ready for the adventure. We didn’t want to win, what’s the fun in that?

We went because who else can say they flew across Africa in the world’s most ridiculous aircraft?

Seth & Zak Icarus Trophy

Zak Shanfari & Seth flew the distance together

ub-cool: Tell us a little more about the distance and speed of your paramotor.

It all comes down to the wing that you’re flying and the weight of the kit you are carrying. We probably averaged around 50km/h overall but of course a lot depends on the wind; we saw top speeds of around 100km/h. We could fly around 200km per leg on the 20 litres of fuel that we were carrying, so we needed to plan our logistics to find a fuel station along the way, meet the support wagon, or find somewhere to stay if it was getting late in the day.

ub-cool: How long is the distance from A to Z?

Straight line it’s 1,200km but you can’t go in a straight line because there are no roads, no fuel, no support if you land or something goes wrong. You are landing in nature reserves with lions, elephants, and hippos everywhere. So realistically it’s about 1,400km following the road.

The race organisers specify that you have to land at certain check points; they put one in particular in the middle of Botswana, in a place called Sowa Pan where there is a tiny place called Kubu Island. The reason they are putting us there is because it’s literally in the middle of nowhere, like, nowhere. So the idea is you have to be able to get there, land, check in, take off, survive and figure out all your own logistics and fuel in such a remote location. If you run out of fuel, you are literally walking across a salt pan for 50km carrying all your gear…

Seth Royce in the Icarus Trophy

 

The organisers, The Adverturists, are really big on the adventure. The biggest prize isn’t actually the one to cross the line first – it’s the person that has the biggest adventure along the way.

If you cross that finish line and half your wing is missing because it’s been eaten by a lion and you survived it, then that’s a good start.

So we crossed South Africa up into Botswana, up to the very corner which is next to Namibia & Zambia. Then we crossed the border there into Zimbabwe. And, yes, we walked across the border; we had to go through every border point like normal people with our passports and visas. We had to do all the formalities properly, or as close to properly as you can get with an engine strapped to your back. Then we headed over to Victoria Falls for the finish line.

Icarus Trophy long roads

Miles and miles of Africa’s toughest terrains to fly over

Training & Concerns Before the Trip

ub-cool: How did you train for something like this in terms of physical prep, mental prep, and pilot prep?

Because we are technically racing we flew with smaller wings than we would usually for cross country – 22 square meters. There are many factors why – it can be a struggle to take off in Africa. Firstly because in the centre of the continent there is not much wind and when there is it’s a thunderstorm so you can’t take off in that either. We had a lot of “nil wind take offs” meaning we have zero wind helping us off the ground – in simple terms, “you have to run really really fast”.

On top of that you have all your extra kit & fuel tanks to carry whilst you run and just to really mess you up you factor in altitude; since the air is thinner, you get much less lift from your wing and much less oxygen in your lungs. The start line is at 1,400m and it’s uphill from there. All of these things combined means every take off is emotional. Looking back, we didn’t fail any take offs or landings so we didn’t ruin any equipment. A lot of people had issues: breaking propellers and paramotor cages, blowing engines, breaking toes, and some landed in thorn trees ripping their wings.

My physical training was lots & LOTS of squats and speed training to prepare for the take offs; a short burst of speed while fully loaded is a surefire way to rip something in your quads, especially when its cold. It’s been hard to train living in Oman (the temperature has been around 42 degrees celsius every day) in comparison to  flying at altitude in Africa where it is around 2 degrees celsius. The difference is massive.

The Icarus Trophy

ub-cool: Can anyone register to race in the Icarus Trophy?

To enter the race you have to have done a certain amount of flights to qualify. I took part in the first Icarus Trophy in the United States back in 2015, so I know the organizers quite well. If anyone else wants to take part however, they do need to get proper training and start getting flights under their belts.

ub-cool: Going into this, what were the biggest concerns for you?

Landing out, which means engine failure; this doesn’t bring a safety concern with a crash landing because we just glide down smoothly if our engines did die – the problem comes with where we land. We were flying over some interesting terrain and the difference is, if we cut a corner, meaning cutting 100km off the leg, we would be flying directly over bad lands of unaccessible terrain and dangerous wildlife.

The biggest risk to us was probably hippos – but it could be anything from a snake in the grass to a charging predator to an upset local, anything is possible in Africa.

We literally pitched our tents where we could for the night, embraced the adventure, and took each challenge as it came.

The Icarus Trophy

Equipment

ub-cool: I know you, and I know that you love your gadgets and kit, what have you got up your sleeve here?

We have all kinds of great kit for these events – location trackers, radios for comms, headsets to listen to music. Obviously I have my trusty GoPro to document the trip.

We have some other trusted pieces of gear that help make the challenge better:

My boots are made my a company called Altberg, they are the same ones that I wore when I was in the Marines. The ankle support comes in handy during take off and landing in long grass when I can’t see rocks or other dangers like snakes.

The wings are made by Ozone – we used a wing called the Sirocco 2. It’s fast & stable and super light and easy for launching.

Our paramotors are made by a company called Parajet –  the brand we have always used. They make really good & trusted equipment.

Icarus Trophy Botswana

ub-cool: How the heck did you carry everything?

It is all well planned…

The paramotor is obviously strapped to our back, then in a pocket under our seat goes the ultra lightweight sleeping bag and roll mat. On the right hand of the paramotor is your reserve parachute – which is obviously essential. On the left side is where the tent is stored. Then there is a fuel tank strapped to my chest and underneath that is a CamelBak for our hydration. The trousers have pockets to carry all the other essentials that need to be close to hand and our flying suits go on top.

The combined weight of all the extras on top of my body is 40+kg. Keep in mind we carry all of that whilst doing a running start at a full sprint, 3 times a day for 12 days.

ub-cool: It sounds like an incredible trip. What were your best bits of the trip?

For me it was the people on the trip, there were some incredible pilots flying with us.

We were very relaxed in our trip preps, whereas some people took it a little too seriously at times. They were training so hard ahead of the race; one of the guys broke his toes a few days before the start which meant he then couldn’t run and he was out of the race before it even begun.

Being in the adventure class, not race class, helped us. On some of the days we flew 11 of us together in one formation where we could get together, instead of the monotony of being alone, and have a laugh.

We were relaxed, made friends with people and offered them food & beer and were able to enjoy the trip in good spirits.

Icarus Trophy Seth selfie

ub-cool: What were the toughest parts of the trip?

When we arrived it was minus 6 degrees celsius at night. Coming from the Middle East in the summer where it rarely drops below 40 degrees at night, this was a massive change for us. The day we left Muscat it was 47 Celsius, so a 53 degree temperature drop was a bit of a surprise, especially when you have to add wind chill to that and fly.

ub-cool: Now that this Icarus experience is over, would you do it again?

We have already signed up for the next Icarus Trophy in Brazil. So yeah, try and stop us!

 

“Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire”

A wife, mother, adventurer and outdoors addict. My passions include scaling to the highest heights, cruising the ocean on my kayak and throwing myself from cliffs. Why? Because life is too short to be boring.

Omeir Saeed
Wakeboard with Red Bull’s Omeir Saeed

Dear Explorer, It’s an amazing thing when a hobby turns into a passion and you can turn that into being a success. That is exactly what 21-year old wakeboarding professional Omeir Saeed did. Incredibly, after trying the sport only a few years ago, today he is a sponsored athlete by Red Bull and Liquid Force! This week, we spoke to Omeir about his passion for wakeboarding!   Becoming a Wakeboarding Athlete Hey Omeir, Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Please tell us a bit about yourself. Omeir Saeed: My name is Omeir Saeed and I am from Abu Dhabi, where I am currently based. When did you realise you had a passion for wakeboarding and how did it begin? Omeir Saeed: I first started wakeboarding back in 2011 after a friend took me to the cable park for the first time and, after that, I was hooked. How did you train to be so successful in your sport? How often do you practice? Did you have a coach or did you learn by yourself? Omeir Saeed: I mostly learned knew tricks from watching videos. I concentrated mostly on wakeboarding at the cable park and I would practice every weekend.   Related Post: Exclusive with Red Bull’s Extreme Sports Photographer, Naim Chidiac   Representing Redbull & Liquid Force You are now an official athlete for both Liquid Force and Red Bull – Amazing! How did that happen? Omeir Saeed: Once I started getting better at wakebording and winning events, that’s when I got noticed by these big brands. Where is your favourite place to wakeboard? Omeir Saeed: My favourite place is close to my home, the cable park at Al Forsan Sports Resort in Abu Dhabi. You have some impressive skills! What is your favourite trick to do and how long did it take you to perfect that skill? Omeir Saeed: My favorite trick to do is called a “Moby Dick”, which is a back-flip with a back side 360. It took me a few months to perfect the rotation and make it look good.   Related Post: 5 Tips for Wakeboarding Beginners   What else does Omeir enjoy? Other than wakeboarding, what sports and adventures excite you? Omeir Saeed: I like to play football and basketball when I’m not wakeboarding. What is your dream adventure trip? Omeir Saeed: To go to as many cable parks as I can with friends and have fun wakeboarding! Do you have any words of advice or inspirational messages for our readers? Keep doing what you love to do and don’t give up. What is next for Omeir? Where do you hope the future takes you? Omeir Saeed: Hopefully wakeboarding all over the world!   Follow Omeir’s adventures on his Instagram: @omeir_saeed All photo credit to Red Bull’s extreme sports photographer, Naim Chidiac – @naimchidiac   Heather Duncan“Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire” A wife, mother, adventurer and outdoors addict. My passions include scaling to the highest heights, cruising the ocean on my kayak and throwing myself from cliffs. Why? Because life is too short to be boring.

Lulua Faizullabhoy
Lulua vs. Cancer | Unstoppable After Diagnosis & Surgery

Dear Explorer, The C word is the word we all dread; it can feel like the end of the world, the end of your dreams. But, not for Lulua Faizullabhoy. This was exactly the catalyst she needed to push herself to achieve her dreams and prove to herself and everyone else what is possible. Amazingly, Lulua climbed Mount Elbrus only 4 months after surgery! We sat down for a coffee with Lulua as she returned from an adventure trip with her children and just before she headed off for another. This is the story of a Supermom, Cancer survivor, and mountain climber. Hiking in Oman Love for the Outdoors Hey Lulua, Please tell us a little more about yourself.. Lulua Faizullabhoy: Born and raised in India, I moved to the US for 12 years. I have now been in Dubai for the last 7 years where I live with my family – my husband and two daughters, who are 11 and 8 years old. My passions in life are outdoor adventures and things that give me an adrenaline rush! I am always up for an adventure weekend or holiday! Is being outdoors important to you? Lulua Faizullabhoy: Yes! And I discovered this not too long ago. Outdoors make me feel free and extremely humbled. I like the silence and it’s my playground. There is no better feeling than standing on a summit, running out of breath, but super happy. I really like testing my limits when outdoors. You get to see so many beautiful sights that mankind hasn’t yet touched. My children join me on my trips too. They love outdoor rock climbing and hiking. I try to squeeze in most of the weekends being outdoors with them, either in the UAE or Oman. Lulua in Wadi Bani Awf with her children who also love adventures with their Supermom You mentioned you have a close connection with mountains. Please tell us more about your passion for mountains. Lulua Faizullabhoy: When I think of the outdoors, I often find myself in the mountains. You look at these massive landforms and think that there’s no way you could get to the top. But, slowly, step by step, you make it and you are rewarded with such amazing views and find yourself planning to bag the next peak. It’s addicting. It’s persistence. It brings out the best in me and helps me grow stronger as a person. For how long have you been climbing mountains? Lulua Faizullabhoy: Not too long – 5 years. Which mountains have you climbed so far, and which ones are you planning in the future? Lulua Faizullabhoy: I have already climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) and Mount Elbrus (Russia) – two of the famous Seven Summits. For the future, there are too many – but, the list can start with the Himalayas! Besides climbing mountains and hiking, are there other sports you enjoy? Lulua Faizullabhoy: Powerlifting, kickboxing, swimming, badminton, and diving. Lulua at Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro, before her cancer diagnosis.   The Dreaded C Word Last year, your whole world changed as you were diagnosed with breast cancer. Can you tell us what happened? Lulua Faizullabhoy: In Dubai, I had some testing done and the results all came back benign; but, there was a high risk of calcification which took to another step for preventive surgery. Not until I was put under the knife, did they discover it was cancer and they removed good part of it along with lymph nodes. I woke up to discover that the doctors had to cut away most of my flesh to remove the tumor and lymph nodes under my arm. Have you had the all clear from the cancer? Lulua Faizullabhoy: I’m still on medication for 5 years. I know myself, if I let myself go and not do what I love, I would go down a negative path. I may not be physically very strong, but everyday I’m working on it. Perhaps there are some limitations that have come with surgery and the removal of lymph nodes. The pain is still there especially when I train my upper body. But, there’s always a way to work around it. The more I push myself in training, the stronger I feel. Did your doctors ever advise you to stop your fitness goals? Lulua Faizullabhoy: My surgery-related doctors and also my radiologist said to wait another year before attempting to climb Mount Elbrus. But, when I messaged my surgeon that I’m going to attempt Mount Elbrus, he replied: “If this is what makes you happy, then go for it. Live your life”.  My husband and my coach, DC, never doubted me and from Day 1 after my surgery they stood by me and kept pushing me through my training. A day before Elbrus summit   The Goal: Mount Elbrus How long did you wait after your diagnosis & surgery before attempting to climb Mount Elbrus? Lulua Faizullabhoy: 4 months. A week after my cancer diagnosis and the surgery in March 2018, I started walking again – but, I could barely walk even 2 kms! At that time, I felt at my lowest – completely rock bottom. I had already signed up for Elbrus earlier in January and was training for it until I was diagnosed. I knew ahead of me was a long road of recovery from my major surgery and radiation treatment. I didn’t want to go down the path of feeling sorry for myself and wanted to reset my goal back to Elbrus. So, I trained hard for 4 months all throughout my treatment: conditioning workouts, stair climbing, and strength training. I was blessed with my family’s support and my kick ass coach, DC, who trained me well for the mountain. I had Elbrus in mind and all I wanted is to go climb that mountain. It wasn’t even about summiting. I wanted to get back to mountains and feel alive. Feeling my body functioning at its limit, the crisp air on my face, and the views that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Was training during radiation treatments difficult? I’d imagine so. Lulua Faizullabhoy: Yes and no. Yes, because everyday it burned my skin to second degree burns, dehydrated me, and made me very tired. I had to push myself everyday to train and prepare my body. The after effect of the surgery was also painful while training, especially carrying a backpack or weighted vest. No, because during my treatment gave me life. It kept me grounded and focused. I had a good distraction from the negativity that draws on you during the treatment. It forced me to eat well and drink lots water. While training, you mentioned that you lost strength in your upper body but you were able to focus on your leg strength. Later, during the Elbrus attempt, were you ever concerned about your leg strength also? Lulua Faizullabhoy: I had no upper body strength because of my 2 major upper-body surgeries. All my focus was on lower body strength. The training focus was on leg strength and I felt stronger climbing Elbrus than I was on Kilimanjaro (prior to the cancer diagnosis). My concern wasn’t on leg strength when climbing Elbrus; I was more worried about carrying the heavy backpack on my own. On the Elbrus attempt, was there any point where you doubted your ability to succeed in the climb? Lulua Faizullabhoy: Every single day. How did you feel when you reached the summit of Mt Elbrus? Lulua Faizullabhoy: I cried. We were hit by a snow storm and I couldn’t comprehend my feelings. We had to rush down the mountain as the weather was getting worse. We barely stayed at the summit for 2 minutes. It was more than just summiting a mountain. It destroyed my self doubt and showed me strength I didn’t think I had. And, just how much ground you can cover while you transform along the way. This is Elbrus for me. It has proved me wrong when I was at rock bottom 4 months ago. Lulua standing on top of Mount Elbrus just 4 months after her cancer diagnosis and surgery   What’s Next? You have shown the world how resilient you are. What is next for you? Lulua Faizullabhoy: I would love to climb more mountains in different parts of the world. Then, I’d go on to do a mountaineering course and learn more about technical climbing. What would you say to our readers to motivate them to get off the couch and follow their dreams? Lulua Faizullabhoy: When you want something so bad, fight for it. Don’t give up. It may look hopeless. People may criticize you. There will be some who will bring you down. Still, put up a fight. At the end of the day, your fight is your own. No one but you will have to do it. So fight alone, be your own superhero; and, when you win, you will be proud of the cape you wear! Thank you to Lulua for sharing her incredibly inspiring story here with us at ub-cool. Do you have something you want to share? Get in touch heather@ub-cool.com   Heather Duncan“Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire” A wife, mother, adventurer and outdoors addict. My passions include scaling to the highest heights, cruising the ocean on my kayak and throwing myself from cliffs. Why? Because life is too short to be boring.

Naim Chidiac
Extreme Sports Photography with Red Bull’s Naim Chidiac

Dear Explorer, We at ub-cool love adrenaline and love the amazing extreme sports photography of Red Bull’s Naim Chidiac! Originally from Lebanon, this 40-year old award-winning photographer is based in Dubai and is one of Red Bull’s famous team of international photographers. Catching that perfect moment when an athlete flips in the air, lands in the water, or screeches a car to a halt, Naim is known for his extreme sports action shots. When he’s not behind the camera, you can find him riding the waves kite surfing or wakeboarding! Naim sat down with us to tell us about his journey to becoming a Red Bull photographer and the extreme sports he enjoys! Early days of photography ub-cool: Your specialty is ‘extreme sports action’ photography and I understand you yourself are an avid kite surfer and wakeboarder? Naim Chidiac: Yes, I started when I was 6 years old because I lived on the Mediterranean in Lebanon. It was more body-boarding than surfing. In fact, we didn’t have the body-board itself, so we used to make one out of a piece of wood. It was in Lebanon where I fell in love with extreme sports. “I was born like this – I love extreme sports.” ub-cool: Before teaming up with Red Bull, did you study photography? Naim Chidiac: Yeah, this is a very nice story. A friend of mine called saying his friend, the famous photographer Fares Jamal, needs an assistant. And, at that time, we were young in university and we needed money – a part-time job. So, I said yes and went to my interview and the first question was: “Do you know how to drive manual?” And, I didn’t know how to but I still said yes because I didn’t want to lose the job. So, he then said straightaway: “Tomorrow, we leave for Beirut.” Now, I’m left thinking how can I drive tomorrow? So, I called my friend and he stayed all night long teaching me how to drive manual, and then in the morning I managed to put the car into first gear to take off to Beirut. When we reached the Army Break I said “hello” to the soldier and he said, “please proceed.” Then, instead of putting the car into first gear, I put it into reverse and hit the car behind me! That was my first job. My first day at work. ub-cool: What a story! Did you lose the job? Naim Chidiac: No, no. We still work together and do a lot of jobs together. We travel to do jobs for big brands in places like Morocco, Spain, Turkey – essentially, everywhere. Even as a kid, I remember that where ever we would go, I would always take people’s cameras and start taking pictures. So, when I started working with Fares, I realized there is something inside me that loves photography. ub-cool: How old were you at that time? Naim Chidiac: I was 17 then. I started asking millions of questions and was very curious about photography. Back then, it used to be negatives and slides and not digital like today where everyone now clicks thousands of images to choose just one. It used to be long hours working every day. I learned the hard way. I was carrying bags, carrying lights, jumping on the third floor to shoot an apartment interior, or to shoot the mountain or to shoot the snow. So, while I was carrying and driving, I was always asking questions and keeping my eyes open. Luckily, I’m a quick learner too and suddenly Fares discovered that I have this talent for photography inside me and he bought me my first camera, which was a Nikon F3. It was a manual camera which had no auto-focus – nothing! And, a few years later, in 2002, I won best picture in Lebanon. The Red Bull team ub-cool: How did you become a Red Bull photographer? Naim Chidiac: After winning the award in 2002, I had an idea: Why don’t I combine my lifestyle and photography and try to join Red Bull because I myself do a lot of extreme sports? At that time, there was no Internet so we would wait every two or three months to go to our friend – he’s a wealthy guy who had Internet access – to watch one of Red Bull’s videos. So, we used to watch only two videos per year. This is how I fell in love with the brand. For the next two years in Lebanon, I went to Red Bull knocking on doors trying to get an appointment saying: “I do a lot of sports, I’m a skiing professional, and I do photography. It’s good to work with me.” But I never got an appointment. But, I didn’t give up. “Suddenly, in 2005, I got a phone call from Red Bull saying they had a job for me. I was to cover running in a quadrathlon event in Lebanon. I was so excited that I did not sleep that night!” In fact, I didn’t sleep for probably two weeks. Everyday thinking, “what do I have to do?” Then, I asked Fares if he would lend me all of his equipment and he said, “take anything you want.” I took lighting gear and everything and headed to the mountain for the downhill running discipline where I snapped amazing shots. Then, after that, I decided to also capture the other three disciplines in the quadrathlon: cross-country running, cycling, and kayaking from the snow to the sea. “Red Bull couldn’t believe that I managed to capture all four disciplines alone. And, since then, they decided to work with me.” Nick De Wit performs during Red Bull X-Fighters Jams at La Grande Poste in Algiers, Algeria on May 23rd , 2015 ub-cool: When did you move to Dubai? Naim Chidiac: I moved to Dubai in 2006 because of the war in Lebanon and was trying to connect with Red Bull as their headquarters was in Dubai. I got back in touch with the woman who had hired me in Lebanon and started shooting like crazy. Then, Red Bull International noticed my photos in 2008 and offered me a three-month-paid internship in Austria. It was intensive but I learned a lot about how to shoot, branding, managing an event, and so much more. “The internship was amazing and, since then, my life changed completely: the way I think, the clients, my approach to projects, my approach to photography, everything. Then, in 2010, I became an official Red Bull Photographer in 2010.” ub-cool: How many official photographers are there and what does it mean to be one? Naim Chidiac: There are 89 official Red Bull Photographers in the world. We are 100% supported by Red Bull and our clothing is also branded by the company. This has opened a lot of doors for me; I meet so many professional people, so many world champions, so many athletes, so many inspirational people, and I get to travel the world. ub-cool: What are the difficulties involved? Naim Chidiac: Yes, it’s amazing but it’s also hectic. There’s a lot of responsibility. Because you always have to be productive in an artistic way and it’s not easy all of the time. Sometimes you don’t have light, sometimes the weather is not in your favour, and sometimes the location is not good. And, there is a short time to take the many, many, many pictures required. Mohamed Abu Issa performs during a photoshoot in Sealine Desert, Qatar on May 15th 1014 Nike & Nat Geo ub-cool: You shoot photos for Nike as well – does Red Bull allow you to work with other brands? Naim Chidiac: Yes, I do a lot of work for Nike as well. The good thing about Red Bull is that you’re not working exclusively for them. I give them priority not because they oblige me but because I love the brand. This is my life. ub-cool: Is photography is your full-time job or do you do something else on the side? Naim Chidiac: Yeah, yeah, photography is my full-time job and I’m so busy I can’t handle it alone. I have lots of people working for me and it gets crazy. I shoot big events like the Abu Dhabi festival, and also a lot of advertising for Ferrari World, Etisalat, Sun & Sand, and others. And, many of my pictures won best advertising two years ago. ub-cool: Would you ever consider working for National Geographic? Naim Chidiac: I love National Geographic. In late 2017, I worked on something with them. I love National Geographic but I cannot compromise my sports life. With Nat Geo, the pictures are amazing but you need to wait one month, a long time often, to take this picture of a lion passing somewhere. For me, sport comes first in my life. For instance, right now it’s windy and I want to go kite surf. Related Article An exclusive with Nat Geo photographer Keith Ladzinski and his addiction to photography Camera equipment ub-cool: What type of camera do you shoot with? Naim Chidiac: I use a lot of cameras like Hasselbad and Nikon and I always update. Hasselblad has one of the highest resolution and it’s medium format; this means it has a bigger CCD inside and higher resolution so you can print huge billboards with amazing resolution. “For my action photography for Red Bull and many other brands, I use a Nikon DSLR – specifically, the latest Nikon 850. It’s an amazing camera. I fell in love with this camera and I can’t stop using it.” ub-cool: Do you ever shoot with your phone? Naim Chidiac: You know, I do use my phone a lot. There are a lot of my pictures and also a large series that were taken on my phone and it went viral. ub-cool: What was the most dangerous photo you have taken? Naim Chidiac: My most dangerous shot happened while I was shooting Formula One. It wasn’t supposed to be super dangerous and I don’t know what happened. I was in the back of a truck with the back door open shooting David Coulthard driving behind us. I didn’t know that they were going to go at 240 km/h and I had no protection – nothing! I was shooting while the truck started turning with the curves. That’s when I switched to survival mode because the driver could not hear me. “I was almost flying off the truck and there was nowhere to hold – nothing. I don’t know how I managed to but I held on to something and kept shooting (laughs).” It was super scary. After that, I was really shaking for an entire hour. Even David Coulthard hugged me after the race because he was watching me struggling as he was driving. I got an amazing shot, but I was really super scared. David Coulthard performs during Red Bull Racing F1 Car Tour in Petra, Jordan on April 24th, 2016 Fun & Family ub-cool: What are your favorite three activities? Naim Chidiac: I love kite surfing, skiing and hiking, and I actually used to compete in skiing. Every summer, I do a lot of hiking; I choose a mountain and I spend two or three weeks there. I also travel a lot. These are the four things I enjoy doing. It’s not a sport, but I travel a lot. Last year, I traveled more than around 70 times in the year. ub-cool: Where do you kitesurf and wakeboard in Dubai? Naim Chidiac: At Sunset beach which is next to the Burj Al Arab hotel. The waves aren’t the best for surfing but it’s enough for desperate people like us. ub-cool: Is your family as adventurous as you?  Naim Chidiac: Yes – my wife is from Slovakia and is crazier than me! That’s why we match. We ski, dive, and wakeboard together. She also loves hiking and was the person who got me into hiking – now I love hiking. ub-cool: What advice would you give our readers to inspire them to go on extraordinary journeys? Naim Chidiac: My advice to everyone is: don’t ever stop doing what you love even if you fail the first, second, third, and fourth time. You know how much negative feedback I received from Red Bull in the beginning? But, I never stopped. Some of the feedback made me cry because you feel like this is the end of the world; but, for me, I didn’t stop. I’m still learning, till now. So, never give up in life. Never. I failed in many situations before but all that was a lesson and motivation making me super confident. I know exactly what I’m doing. So, never give up and never be lazy. Everything is happening outdoors so if you stay on your couch nothing will come to you. Liked what you read? Subscribe below for more inspirational stories right in your Inbox! Medina IlyassovaAdventurer, ub-cool founder, yoga, Muay Thai and running fan, epilepsy survivor, mother of 2. Medina believes that life is too short to be ordinary…, and that we should seek out adventures!

Steve Plain
After Breaking His Neck, Steve Plain Climbed the Highest Peaks in 117 Days!

Dear Explorer, Climbing the Seven Summits faster than anyone before is an amazing achievement, but imagine that accomplishment after breaking your neck. We speak to Steve Plain, a man with determination, courage and a zest for life. Days after breaking his neck in a freak surf accident in December 2014, Australian Steve Plain made an ambitious life goal: to climb the Seven Summits, the highest peak on every continent. Not content with just achieving this, he planned to do it faster than had ever been done before. Due to his accident, Steve had multiple injuries that were going to stand in his way including fractures to his C2, C3, and C7 vertebra, a contorted spinal cord and torn ligaments. Was his goal achievable? Doctors were unsure if he would ever walk again. But Steve proved to everyone what the human body can do when it has a mission. The goal was simple: Climb the 7 Summits, the highest mountain on each of the seven continents, in under 4 months. Steve spoke with ub-cool via Skype from his home in Perth, Australia. Despite all the physical injuries that required time to heal, his Seven Summits ambition was all the more unusual because he had no mountaineering experience to speak of. “I had done bush walks and small mountains in Australia but you are not above the snow line. I had never done any technical rock climbing or mountaineering. With what I was aiming to do I didn’t want to rush it either, to go straight ahead and attempt the seven summits would have been quite reckless. I gave myself a couple of years of training, doing a mountaineering course, doing the practice expeditions, spending time with good qualified guides and slowly learning so I had the skills and experience to tackle the summits safely.” Recovering from injury Steve took 2 years to learn technical climbing skills and gain the required experience    What was your motivation for this incredible feat? Steve: I spent a lot of time focusing on work but hadn’t achieved a lot of personal goals so my motivation was to recover and get out and actually start living my life and doing something Is there a motto you live by? Steve: You never know what you’ll wake up to tomorrow so just try to make the most of today, and I guess thats what I’ve tried to live by since my accident. What happened the day of the accident? Steve: I used to race triathlons, competed in Ironman challenges, and swam 60km in the pool every week. Spending a lot of time in the water was normal but on that day… it was just the wrong timing and I went head first into the sand. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason? Steve: I wouldn’t say that I’m super spiritual but I do think that things do happen for a reason. I have no regrets in breaking my neck. It sounds strange but in a way I’m pleased that it happened. I know had I not gone through that, then I would probably still be doing the same things I always have: working away and waking up for my 9-5 job. “Whilst it was horrendous at the time, I’m kind of pleased it happened. It shakes up your life and makes you appreciate what you’ve got and not take your life for granted.”   What is your favourite mountain from the list? Steve: The two that stand out are Alpamayo in Peru and Denali in Alaska. Alpamayo: During my practice climbs, I had a month in Peru at Alpamayo which has a really steep final face. Up there, a storm came through on the planned summit day so we waited out the storm. The next day, we had the perfect summit day and were the only people on the top so we had the entire mountain to ourselves which was really nice. Denali: The second is one of the Seven Summits, Denali. Doing the 7 Summits in the time frame we did, Denali ended up being out of season – so, it was winter/start of spring. No one had been in since the previous year. The expedition took 17 days and for that time we were the only people on the mountain; so, we had to be fully self supported, unlike places like Everest where you have great help from Sherpas. We ended up getting stuck in a storm half way up leaving us confined within the tent for 3 days. Then, we had this very narrow weather window so we had to attempt the summit. We left from the lower camps for the 20-hour round trip with temps down to MINUS 45 degrees! “Only two of us made it to the top – myself and my climbing partner, Jon Gupta. To stand on the summit of Denali, just the two of us, was absolutely remarkable. We are so used to being surrounded by people, so to be so isolated was incredible.” Steve climbing Everest Favourite bit of kit? Steve: I’ve never used one before but I used it for all seven summits: an inflatable pillow. I had never worried about pillows before but being on the mountain for so long this 50gm Sea to Summit inflatable pillow was awesome. A good sleep can affect your mood and your performance the following day. I even used it up at 8,000m on the South Col on Everest. You were active before your accident and even more so after, how did you find your passion for sports? Steve: When I was a kid, my mum and dad would throw us into all kind of sports. We weren’t allowed to watch TV or play video games; instead, we were encourage to go outside and entertain ourselves. What you learn exploring as young kids puts you in really good stead for when you grow up. Now with all the media frenzy around your story, how does that feel? Steve: Firstly I didn’t appreciate how far the story would spread and what people would get out of it. The ammount of people that have made contact through Facebook & Instagram to say that they have been inspired to get outside is incredibly humbling and pretty remarkable. Steve on Mount Denali in Alaska On the 14th May 2018, Plain stood on the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, only 117 days after he began his Seven Summits quest, breaking the previous record of 126 days set by Polish climber Janusz Kochanski in 2017. An incredible achievement by a man who has inspired countless people around the world. So what now for mountain man Steve Plain? His response proves his incredibly humble attitude: “I’ve got to get back to work again, I took 6 months leave for this challenge. I’m an engineer so I’ll go back and hopefully blend back in again until I figure out my next plan.”   Read more about Steve and his Project 7in4 by clicking here.   Heather Duncan“Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire” A wife, mother, adventurer and outdoors addict. My passions include scaling to the highest heights, cruising the ocean on my kayak and throwing myself from cliffs. Why? Because life is too short to be boring.

Amsterdam Marathon
Run For It! Would you Endure a Marathon?

Dear Explorer, Every week, we share stories of inspirational people from athletes to conservationists and everyone in between. Today, we want to share a story close to the ub-cool team’s heart. Our founder and inspirational leader, Medina Ilyassova, completed her very first marathon earlier this week in just under 6 hours! This is truly an inspirational moment for our entire team. After living with epilepsy for decades, Medina was unable to enjoy things like scuba diving and long-distance running. Thanks to a successful treatment, under the supervision of Professor Dr. Christian Elger in Bonn, Germany, Medina now lives a life free from epilepsy and advocates for epilepsy awareness. What does a life without epilepsy mean exactly? Well, for some, they may choose to stay home and relax. But, not Medina. On weekends, you can find her outdoors doing everything from diving in the Omani sea to hiking in search of remote caves to throwing punches at the UFC gym to paramotoring over the coastline. She also pushes the limits and heads on excursions to climb volcanoes and explore the Arctic circle. Read More: Medina’s excursion to Alaska and the Arctic Circle Read More: Climbing an active volcano in Tanzania    Educating People about Epilepsy While chasing her own personal fitness goals, Medina is also adamant to educate the masses about epilepsy. To let people know they can dream of a life where they can achieve all of their goals instead of allowing epilepsy to dictate and restrict their lives. Thus, she has made it her mission to marry fitness-related activities with raising epilepsy awareness.  She rallies up teams to run marathons together, organizes talks to share this important message, and raises money to help people afflicted with epilepsy who can’t afford medical treatment.   Running to Raise Money for Inkara’s Epilepsy Treatment Yesterday, after training for months, Medina pushed her body to the limit and attempted her first marathon. A testament to her dedication and perseverance, Medina completed the TCS Amsterdam Marathon in 5 hours and 57mins! One major factor that helped Medina cross the finish line was knowing that she raised over 10, 000 Euros for a young girl from Kazakhstan who suffers terribly from epileptic seizures. On some days, this 21-month old child has up to 10 seizures! Unfortunately, due to her location, she has not had access to medical specialists to help accurately diagnose her condition. Thanks to the money raised, we are happy to report that prior to the marathon Inkara and her mother flew to Germany and is being assessed by Dr. Elger. We are all hoping Inkara receives a diagnosis and treatment plan that helps her live a childhood without seizures. Donations are welcome – visit Inkara’s GoFundMe page> Read more about Inkara’s story here>   Highlights from the Amsterdam Marathon Who did you dedicate this marathon to? “I dedicate my run to my husband Usama, both his & my parents, Professor Dr. Elger, and of course Inkara.” On October 19th, Medina landed in Amsterdam with her kit ready for the marathon.   The stadium was packed!   Read, Set, Go!     25 km into the marathon…   The Incredible Support team!    35km into the marathon…   The Finish Line – She Made It!   Celebrating   What message do you have for people who think they can’t run a full marathon? “It’s all in your head – our bodies can do much more than we think. We are the ones who limit ourselves.”   http://www.ub-cool.com/magazine/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/WhatsApp-Video-2018-10-21-at-7.46.56-PM.mp4 Also, at the finish line were both Inkara and her mother who had travelled from Germany to cheer on Medina. How did it feel to see Inkara after you finished the marathon? “It made my exhaustion all the more worth it knowing I helped this precious child.” Left to right: Medina’s husband, Usama Barwani, Medina holding Inkara, and Inkara’s mother   The piece of metal everyone strives to hold!   How do you feel today after a good night’s sleep? And, would you endure the suffering again? “I’ll definitely do it again – I am already checking upcoming marathons with Karima!”   For more highlights from the marathon, visit the ub-cool tracking page >   Medina encourages our team to push ourselves to the limits and achieve our goals. We hope her story has also inspired you to get off the couch and achieve your fitness dreams!   Rakhi ChuExplorer, writer, and chief editor with a passion to travel the world, delve into history, and just write write write! Three continents later, this Canadian lives in Dubai. Recent Adventure: Jordan – Jerash, Petra, Wadi Rum, and the Dead Sea. Bucket List: Caves – Hang Son Doong (Vietnam) and Krubera (Georgia).

NOS Challenge
Fun Competition on an Inflatable Course! Have you tried the NOS Challenge?

Dear Explorer, With the likes of Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is the fastest growing sport on the planet. But, not everyone is of that level – or wants to put themselves in that fast, frenzied state of punishment. Last week I headed along for a challenge with more of a fun obstacle element and an atmosphere that the whole family could enjoy. One of the inflatable obstacles at the NOS Challenge | Photo Credit: Nigel Burn   The NOS Challenge Welcome to the NOS challenge, which stands for National Obstacle Series. It follows the same lines as the other bigger, tougher brands. Although this has a competitive edge as entrants race for prize money, it skips the part of gruelling training, carrying atlas stones, and other muscle-twitching nasties from the competitive OCR brands. This is basically a giant inflatable bouncy castle course, with 9 of the world’s largest inflatable obstacles! The company responsible for bringing NOS to Oman, and also the Tough Mudder race, is our friends at Sabco Sports. Somewhere along the line in the pre-race banter, it was suggested that myself and their prize athlete, and current title holder on the NOS course, Kunal “The Champion” Singh should battle head to head for the glory of the ‘2018 NOS Champion’. And, that was it, before I knew it it was Heather VS Kunal and ub-cool VS Sabco Sports! Did you follow the Challenge on our Insta Stories? If not, click above for some fun highlights! Personally, I love a bit of friendly competition but just to look at Kunal, he is streets above me in fitness. Although I hike, box and live an active life, could I really measure up against Sabco’s prize athlete?   Looking back, Kunal said: “Leading up to the NOS event, I knew it was going to be fun going head-to-head with Heather. We had the rivalry going between us for weeks, including the trash talks and Instagram wars – we even had polls on who would win!” Game Day! The day soon fast approached and as I walked into the event I suddenly felt nervous – there were a lot of people to witness this! The klaxon sounds and we race head-to-head up the huge first obstacle which is an inflatable staircase . Something in my brain just isn’t coordinating my legs and my arms and I fall to the bottom on the first hurdle. This isn’t going to be as easy as I had thought… After weeks of competitive banter and talk about this event, I did NOT want Kunal to win. I quickly got my head in the game and as I hit the ground after my initial trouble, I was determined to win! So, I gave it my everything. October humidity in Muscat is no joke! Running the course looked easy but once you start breathing it’s much more difficult – the humidity makes the air feel thick and your aerobic performance is HARD. It was a fun event for families too | Photo Credit: Nigel Burn   Who’s Winning? Racing over and under the obstacles, sweat in my eyes, I had no idea where Kunal was on the course other than he was behind me. So, I kept running and kept running through the struggle. As I passed the finishing line, I saw Kunal ahead of me… I thought he was behind me?! I was so confused. It turned out that he had given up along the course and infact I was the winner! After the event, an exhausted Kunal tells us: “The race was harder than I had expected. As the race began I hurtled over the first obstacle at speed, slid down the other side and sprinted along the course to the next obstacles ahead. The hot humid air made it harder to breathe so I had to work harder. It’s been a while since I  sprinted! I saw Heather not far behind me and I knew this was going to be a tough challenge.” Being humble is important, but for this one, I’m certainly proud of myself. I look forward to the rematch in 2019! Thank you to Sabco Sports for the fun & entertaining family event.   Heather Duncan“Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire” A wife, mother, adventurer and outdoors addict. My passions include scaling to the highest heights, cruising the ocean on my kayak and throwing myself from cliffs. Why? Because life is too short to be boring.

Laure de Pryck
Can you bend like Cirque du Soleil Performer, Laure de Pryck?

Dear Explorer, Ever wondered how much training is required when you’re on a national gymnastics team? Or, how in the world Cirque du Soleil performers balance on their heads, fly through the air, and dangle from ropes? To get some answers, we caught up with World Champion gymnast, Laure de Pryck, from Belgium who performs in Cirque du Soleil shows around the world. At only 22 years old, this acrobatic gymnast has not only competed and won worlds but has also performed in three of Cirque du Soleil’s incredibly stunning shows. What does it take to become a world-class gymnast and performer? What is life like as a performer? Today, Laure reveals what life is like on the road as a performer and what’s next in store for her.   From Acrobatic Gymnastics to the National Team to Cirque du Soleil ub-cool: How did you get into gymnastics? Laure: I started with gymnastics as a kid because, as my mom told me, I had a lot of energy and was always climbing on things. So, she registered me in gymnastics and I kind of rolled into it – changing clubs and moving to higher levels. When I was in my last club, it turned out my coach was also the coach of the national team of Belgium. Together with my male partner, I got selected to join that national team of Acrobatic Gymnastics. There we were intensively trained by two Ukrainian coaches and one Russian choreographer. ub-cool: What was the training like? Laure: We had to train 28 hours a week, for a total of 10 training sessions. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday we had two training sessions: in the morning from 7:30am to 10:30am, then we would go to school, and after that we would train again from 4pm to 6:30pm. On Wednesday and Sunday, we had one 3-hour training session while on Saturday we were off. ub-cool: That’s a short period to head to-and-from school between trainings. How far was your school? Laure: I began going to boarding school because it was next to the gym. So, it was really easy to go in the morning to train and there was a school bus that brought us to-and-from school. After training, we would go back to boarding school to eat, study, and sleep. ub-cool: From what age did you begin competing and which events did you compete in? Laure: I competed from the age of 13 till 17 – it was 3 full years of acrobatics and we did 3 major competitions. One was the European Championships (for juniors) which we won, then the World Championships (for seniors), and finally the World Games which took place in Colombia. ub-cool: I haven’t seen this sport in the Olympics – do you think it’ll be included one day? Laure: Acrobatic gymnastics isn’t in the Olympics yet. It’s slowly trying to make its way – this year it is part of the Youth Olympic Games and it was also part of the European Games. I really hope that one day it will be included in the Olympic program so more people can get to know the sport! ub-cool: Did many performers at Cirque de Soleil start from this sport? Laure: Yes, a lot of Cirque du Soleil performers come from this sport. Our training prepares us to do different types of disciplines such as flying acts, trapeze, and hand balancing to name a few.   Career & Future ub-cool: When did you begin performing in Cirque du Soleil? Laure: After competing at the World Games in Colombia, my coach announced that my partner and I had been offered a contract by Cirque du Soleil. So, I joined when I was 17 and so far I have performed in three different shows. ub-cool: Which shows? Laure: I started together with my partner in the show Ovo doing a 1.5-year tour in Japan. When my contract finished, there was a long break ahead so I decided to start studying and try different things – I was looking for new challenges. After three weeks of being home, I accepted a 3-month contract for a temporary replacement in the show, Quidam. Joining this show meant a lot to me because it was the first show I ever saw as a kid. As a child, I remember being amazed and impressed and I would never have dreamed I’d one day be a part of that show. After the contract I went back home and continued studying biochemistry at the university in Belgium. Between contracts I try to catch up as much as possible with my exams and practical work. Suddenly, I got a call from the casting department of Cirque du Soleil and I got the chance to rejoin the team I worked with in Quidam but this time in a different show called ‘Sep7imo Dia’. Now I perform two acts, banquine and handbalancing. The show is honouring an Argentinean rock group and is only touring in South and Central America. ub-cool: You’re studying biochemistry – why did you pick this subject? Laure: At one point I will not be able to bend in half anymore… So, I am working on a back-up plan and chose something in sciences because I was good at it in high school. I looked at different options like medicine, bioengineering, pharmacy, etc. and, to me, the biochemistry program looked the most appealing. So, I made arrangements with the professors in Belgium to complete the 3-year bachelor’s degree and the 2-year master’s degree. So far I’ve almost completed 2 years of my bachelor. ub-cool: How do you fit studying into your hectic training, work, and travel schedule? Laure: I need to study on my own as I can’t attend the classes. I buy the books then I leave on tour, I study by myself, I take the exam in whichever country I am in, etc. I don’t take up the full course like normal students would do, because I don’t have enough time to both study and do a full-time job. ub-cool: What is your favourite discipline? Laure: I really like working with the banquine guys because I grew up doing this discipline. I feel I have lots of room to grow, to try new things; because the guys are very strong they can throw me very high and teach me new things – and that’s what I really like about it. ub-cool: What is the life span of a gymnast in the industry? Laure: It depends on your discipline – it’s hard to say. For example, handbalancing is really hard on the body because I’m putting a lot of pressure on my shoulders and my back.  I would say banquine is easier because I don’t need to bend so much. ub-cool: For you, up to what age are you planning to perform in gymnastics? Laure: I plan to perform for a couple of years. But, I think the traveling situation would stop me from doing it longer because I would like to build a family. I know of a woman who has two kids and she is still performing with her husband; both of them are still travelling a lot and they are around 40 years old. There are a lot of performing artists who travel with their families but I don’t think I would want to do that; maybe I’ll change my mind but time will tell.   Personal Life ub-cool: Where do you live when you’re not on the job? Is your family close by as well? Laure: I live in Belgium and all of my family lives in Belgium too. ub-cool: Are there other family members who are into sports professionally? Laure: I am the only one. My whole family is active and into sports – my brothers and cousins like rafting, climbing, soccer, and volleyball. But, I’m the only one who is actually working in sports professionally. Everyone else in the family has gone to university. ub-cool: Do you play other sports or do you not have time? Laure: Not on a regular basis– I don’t really have the time for it. ub-cool: What else are you passionate about besides acrobatics and biochemistry? Laure: I like to travel and visit places; I mainly enjoy nature I am not so interested in architecture. I’d rather be in the mountains and see lakes, sinkholes, national parks, and be outside in nature. ub-cool: What has been your favourite adventure? Laure: In Guatemala, I hiked up the Acatenango volcano, which was one of the best experiences of my life. It was almost 4000 meters tall, and we drove up to a camp around half way up. After being dropped off, it took us 4-5 hours to reach the base camp where we slept overnight; from there we could see the eruptions of the volcano next to us. Then, we woke up at 4am and completed 2 more hours of climbing to reach the top and to watch the sunrise. ub-cool: Was the climb easy or difficult for you? Laure: It was difficult to climb because of the small stones which you keep sliding on. But, I really liked the experience. ub-cool: Which are the three top things / destinations you want to do or visit? What’s on your bucket list? Laure: I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand actually for a stupid reason: as a kid, I looked up the furthest place away from Belgium and it turned out to be New Zealand. And, I would really like to see the Northern Lights and ride dog sleds and stay in an ice hotel. Third, I would want to visit Africa and go on a safari!   Inspiration ub-cool: Do you have a favourite gymnast or athlete that inspires you? Laure: When I was young in Belgium, I looked up to the Belgian team from the previous generation that did the same sport as me. My idols at the time were Julie Van Gelder en Menno Vanderghote. ub-cool: Has your life as an athlete giving you any life skills? Laure: I feel being on the national team for three years taught me a lot about life Those three years really shaped me into who I am now. So far that period has been the hardest in my life as we had a lot of trainings, a lot of school, and our coaches were really tough. At training every small mistake we would make meant we had to start the routine over again. We learned to be very disciplined and I had to be at a certain weight as well; so, even what I ate was strict. I think that period taught me a lot of the discipline I need right now to study at university while working. It taught me to accept responsibility; I know what needs to be done and I know what I need to do to get it done. ub-cool: What is your inspirational advice for our readers to overcome challenges and achieve their dreams? Laure: I feel I really found what I love to do and am very passionate about it. I think that passion helped me through the challenges I have faced, for example an injury. If you really love what you do, you’ll find the motivation to get through it and continue to work towards your goals. Follow Laure on Instagram @laure_dp Feature photo credit: Julio Lopez Medina IlyassovaAdventurer, ub-cool founder, yoga, Muay Thai and running fan, epilepsy survivor, mother of 2. Medina believes that life is too short to be ordinary…, and that we should seek out adventures!

Rumaitha Al Busaidi
Meet Oman’s Youngest Explorer to Reach the South Pole, Rumaitha Al Busaidi

Dear Explorer, Would you like to explore the South Pole and experience the freezing white environment one day? To reach Antarctica is a mission in itself! To find out more, ub-cool caught up with Oman’s youngest explorer to go on an expedition to Antarctica – and, she’s also the 3rd Omani female to reach the South Pole! In 2013, she celebrated her 26th birthday in Antarctica – isn’t that the coolest way to celebrate your birthday? Rumaitha Al Busaidi has travelled to 64 countries, dove into icy Antarctic waters, and climbed mountains. When she isn’t out exploring the world, this dedicated environmentalist is focused on promoting and establishing fish farming in Oman.   The Antarctic Expedition ub-cool: Tell us about this amazing expedition to the South Pole. What was the goal behind it? Rumaitha: I went on an environmental expedition that was arranged by an organization called 2041. Their goal is to spread awareness about Antarctica and how we should protect it as it is the last wilderness on earth. Because, by 2041 – thus their name – the Antarctic Treaty that countries have signed to protect the region will be up for discussion; and, there is a possibility that people may look into introducing mining, human settlements, and so on. ub-cool: How many days did it take? From where did you begin? Rumaitha: In total, I was in the Antarctic for a good 4 weeks around March, 2013. Getting there was a long journey. I boarded a flight from Muscat to Doha then to Sao Paulo (Brazil) then on to Buenos Aires before taking a domestic flight to Ushuaia, known as the southernmost city in the world, from where we took a ship to the Antarctic. The ship journey took 3 days to reach the Antarctic and from there we started skiing and hiking. ub-cool: What was the craziest thing you did during this trip? Rumaitha: At the end, while celebrating, wearing just our clothes we dove into ice-cold Antarctic waters! The water was minus 2 degrees Celsius – I couldn’t even swim! I was supposed to do a lap but couldn’t complete it because it was that cold. I remember screaming: Take me out of this water now! It’s too cold! ub-cool: Was it only you who swam or the entire group? Rumaitha: There were 88 people on the boat and we all swam except for 1 woman. She was from Qatar and she felt so defeated that she decided to return the following year so she could try the swim, which she did. ub-cool: What’s the most memorable thing about your expedition? Rumaitha: The animals and the silence. We live in a very quiet country (Oman) as it is but I think I experienced silence in its true meaning – in its true sense – when I was in the South Pole. It was nothing but animals breathing; and, the animals don’t really feel afraid. I mean you really see the impact of humans on its surroundings when you see animals here and how they run away from you; whereas over there, they really don’t really care who you are. They are interested in knowing what this weird blob is in front of them. Penguins! ub-cool: What types of animals did you see there? Rumaitha: Lots of whales, seals, and different types of birds including penguins. Penguins stink. That’s the first thing you’re warned about. Once you get your ice boots on, they tell you: “be careful not to step on guano – penguin poop.” Because if it sticks to your boots then everything smells – you, your tent, everything! ub-cool: What was the most dangerous part of the expedition? Rumaitha: When we were sleeping on ice and we heard one of the glaciers crack… and we didn’t know if it was going to affect us or not. Would there be an avalanche, would it be on the other side, would it be us? It was a very scary situation because you could actually hear the glacier cracking. And, that’s how silent it is there because you hear the crack happening. It ended up not affecting us fortunately, but we did get a chance to see the crack and it had split the ice into two. ub-cool: When you completed the expedition, what did you learn? Was there a lesson you learned? Rumaitha: Antarctica changed me as a person – it made me a “seize the moment” type of person. It has made me more committed to give back; you see the influence there and what you need to protect in terms of the wilderness and the environment. If it wasn’t for that experience, I wouldn’t be a board member of the Environmental Society of Oman right now. Because I want to make sure that I’m doing the level best that I can, at least in my community, to make sure we are doing as much as possible when it comes to saving the environment. I think Antarctica has made me seize the moment.   Expeditions with 2041 ub-cool: Does 2041 organize these expeditions on a regular basis? Rumaitha: Every expedition is a different expedition so it depends on your luck. One year they do the Antarctic and the next year might be the Arctic. In fact, next year, they are planning to do the Arctic in June; I’m thinking of whether or not I should join but I’m not sure yet. ub-cool: How can someone register for these expeditions? Rumaitha: You can apply directly. But, for my expedition in 2013, I was part of a program called the Antarctic Youth Ambassador Program. ub-cool: Please tell us more about this program. Rumaitha: It goes through a very rigorous selection process and they only selected 5 young people to represent that program; we went on a type of scholarship so a lot of things we got were subsidized. For the Arctic, because I’m not considered a “young” person anymore, I can’t represent that program again. A lot of people actually get their companies to sponsor them as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility for the environment. ub-cool: Can anyone attempt these trips or do they check your fitness? Rumaitha: So, you can apply as an individual but you have to get the “okay” from your doctor along with a long list of things to do beforehand. At the camp in Ushuaia, they test your fitness and equipment to check whether you are capable enough to handle the expedition; some of the people on our trip were sent back because they were told they can’t handle the expedition physically. Waving the Omani flag from Mt Damavand, Iran. Other Exciting Adventures ub-cool: I read that you’ve climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. What else have you tried? Rumaitha: Yes, I climbed Kilimanjaro and the next year I attempted Damavand in Iran, which is the highest peak in the Middle East; but, I was unsuccessful. A large storm on summit night meant we couldn’t make it. ub-cool: How far did you make it? Rumaitha: Damavand is about 5,610m tall and we managed to reach around 5000m; then it was abort mission, it’s not possible, it’s too windy, it’s too dangerous. And, also, there was a language barrier between us and the guides. They said we could bring the same gear that we used for Kilimanjaro but we ended up needing more of what I used in Antarctica. They told us it was a hike not a climb, so I didn’t bring the required gear for a climb such as an axe. ub-cool: What’s next, and when? Rumaitha: We are planning to climb Mt Elbrus. The plan was for this year but I just joined a new job and I can’t take leave – haha. So, hopefully next year.   When Passion Becomes a Career ub-cool: What do you do for work? Rumaitha: I’m an environmentalist and currently am working for GlassPoint Solar in Oman, which is the leader in solar for the oil and gas industry. I feel like my values and the company are aligned in terms of sustainability and working in that field. ub-cool: Why did you choose to become an environmentalist? Rumaitha: I was supposed to be a doctor but then I realized I didn’t really like medicine; it was more of my parents’ dream. Second, would be because I really love the sea. My specialization is actually marine sciences and I did a master’s in environmental sciences and another master’s in Aquaculture (fish farming). ub-cool: What type of projects have you worked on? Rumaitha: For aquaculture, my project was starting these small aquaculture farms. The first one was successful back in 2011 and now we have 16 farms in Oman. Since then, the government is adopting it as a national project. ub-cool: What type of fish do you farm here in Oman? Rumaitha: Mainly tilapia, which is a fish that’s popular in Egypt, the Philippines, and India. The main reason we farm tilapia is because it can tolerate the changes in salinity while at the same time it is a fish that you can do anything to and it won’t die. It can sustain being handled. But, you have to introduce it very carefully here in Oman because the farmers are not fishermen and fish farming is something very new; so, you need to use a type of fish that you know is not delicate enough to die like hammour, for example. They are looking to introduce another type of fish called barramundi – this is higher end in terms of fish and it is very popular in Indonesia and Australia.   Favourite Destinations ub-cool: You love to travel! How many countries have you visited? Rumaitha: 64. ub-cool: Which 3 countries are your favourite and do you consider them adventure locations? Rumaitha: I’m always bias towards my country. Oman is always a place where I find more and more things to explore. For me, I still consider Oman as a destination for me to do adventures, especially during the weekends. I would highly recommend it. Turkey and Argentina. I had a really amazing time exploring different places there which were all outdoors hiking adventures – it was beautiful. My trips are usually away from where tourists go; so, I choose weird places sometimes. It was amazing. ub-cool: Do you mostly travel solo? Rumaitha: Yes. My mom told me to travel the world – she said don’t be like me. She is the type of person who needs someone before she does something; so, she encouraged me to travel on my own. ub-cool: Who inspires you when you travel and are on these adventures? Rumaitha: My mom. I imagine her screaming at me. That’s what happened at Mt Kilimanjaro. During summit night, I had a really high fever and everyone said it’s time for you to go down. I kept screaming, “No! What would my mom think if I went back down before finishing?” So that was my push forward. ub-cool: Are you an adrenaline junkie or an endurance? Rumaitha: I think I’m more endurance than adrenaline. ub-cool: Do you calculate the risk or jump right in? Rumaitha: I calculate the risks. Like for Mt Kilimanjaro, I read that there are around 21 people who die there per year. So, I asked myself whether I should really do this. But, then I told myself I’ll just go and talked myself out of the fear while I was on the plane – haha.   Follow Rumaitha’s adventures at: Facebook: Rummy On The Radio Twitter: @rumaithabusaidi Instagram: @rummoya   Medina IlyassovaAdventurer, ub-cool founder, yoga, Muay Thai and running fan, epilepsy survivor, mother of 2. Medina believes that life is too short to be ordinary…, and that we should seek out adventures!