Surf Europe 100 | The Biggest And Best Surfing Gear Guide For 2018 Has Officially Arrived

Surfers of the world, assemble. For this thing, right here, shall be your new wave-based bible

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Our pals over at Surf Europe have only gone and done it, haven’t they? They’ve only gone and bloody well done it. A Surf Europe 100. A Surf Europe 100 that, yes you guessed it, takes a big fat look at the hottest 100 surf products in the world right now.

In their own words, they “stalked, followed, fondled, fingered, tickled, bit and sniffed the very finest surf gear in the whole world, so that you don’t have to.” And then, when they were done with all that there sniffing, fingering, fondling and general silliness… the lads wrote some words about the surf gear. Wrote some words, shot some photos, and made some videos. The results of which, we think you’ll agree, look nice. Very nice. Very nice indeed.

Check Out The Surf Europe 100 2018 Here

If you love surfing, go and have a look at the Surf Europe 100 right now. You won’t regret it. Heck, even if you don’t like surfing (for reasons you’d rather not get into) go and have a look at it all the same. It’s so good that we’re convinced it’ll thaw out even the frostiest of anti-surf hearts. Products aside, we’re very much enjoying the shark cut-out and excellent use of fruit. Top job.

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Fans of watermelon will get a kick out of the Surf Europe 100.

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*starts humming the Jaws soundtrack*

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The post Surf Europe 100 | The Biggest And Best Surfing Gear Guide For 2018 Has Officially Arrived appeared first on Mpora.

Project Trumpmore Interview | Meet the NGO That Wants To Carve Donald Trump’s Face into a 50-Metre Ice Wall

“The faces on the real Mount Rushmore are 18m tall, so we definitely want to top that…”

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A model of what Project Trumpmore may look like in the Arctic Ocean.

Picture the scene.

You’re at the helm of an almighty ship, sailing deep through the ice sheets and freezing blankness of the Arctic Circle. You’ve seen nothing but the infinite ice and murky waters of the freezing landscape for months, and you can’t quite remember the last time you saw the face of anyone with whom you weren’t sharing quarters.

And then it happens.

You see a new face. Or rather, an old face. A face you haven’t seen in a long time. A giant face. An infamous face. A face that looks a little like a potato that’s been left in the shower for too long. A face you recognise all too well.

The rest of the crew join you on the bow. A shiphand drops his beer, and it smashes. A mechanical technician drops his spanner, or whatever it is that mechanical technicians use, and it bounces unnoticed on the deck. The noise of the spanner is drowned out by a PhD student openly weeping, and being consoled on the shoulder of the hearty expedition chef.

In front of them all, is the gargantuan head of US President Donald Trump, carved out high into a 50-metre, 164-foot wall of ice approaching on the horizon, slowly melting into the Arctic Ocean.

This controversial arctic landmark is not something that exists at this moment in time, but as improbable as it may sound, the ambitious “Project Trumpmore” statue is something that newly-formed Finnish NGO Melting Ice are determined to make happen.

We spoke to Nicolas Preito, Chairman of Melting Ice, and the man who wants to commission a 35 metre (115ft) tall ice sculpture of Donald Trump’s face in the arctic region, to ask the obvious question: why?

“The idea of the project is to talk about climate change in general,” he said.

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A comparison by scale of just how large this Donald Trump head would be.

“Our idea is that climate change is such a complex issue that it’s a difficult one to grasp. Our intent is to create a conversation starter through the monument. Every once in a while you come up with good ideas and now we’ve got one. After the US President Mr. Donald Trump’s decision to not sign the Paris Agreement, to pull back from it, and then his willingness to be on Mount Rushmore, for us it was just one plus one and it equalled this.

“We are looking for an ice wall which would be in-land but facing the coast obviously, and that would be around 50 metres high. The minimum we’d be looking at would be 30 metres. On the real Mount Rushmore the faces of the Presidents are 18m tall so we definitely want to top that. We already did a scale model of it which was three metres high in Helsinki which was fun, but we’ve got to think big to make this happen.”

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The three-metre ice Trump that Project Trumpmore built in Helsinki. Photo: Iltalehti / iltalehti.fi

Indeed, President Trump has joked about being added to the Mount Rushmore monument several times in the past few years, and is a renowned climate change denier.

Nicolas continued: “We came up with a good idea and we weren’t keen with just letting it go. There are a lot of people who are like-minded to us. So probably if we think this is a good idea a lot of other people will be too.”

The idea, as the Project Trumpmore website outlines, is to commission an 115-foot tall ice sculpture of Donald Trump’s face in the arctic region, in order for it to melt, to demonstrate that climate change is happening.

Would this really work as a demonstration of climate change?

“I don’t think that climate change per se is something that we can prove with melting ice,” says Nicolas.

“I think it will be a conversation starter and a symbolic gesture. We are in a position and time where climate change is such a complex issue that we need our best minds on it and all of us need to be thinking about what we can do about it.

“The minimum we’d be looking at would be 30 metres. On the real Mount Rushmore the faces of the Presidents are 18m tall so we definitely want to top that…”

“Our hope is that we will talk about climate change in a much broader way once we get the project started. Even though we are talking about the Paris Agreement, that as well is not an agreement without its holes. We need to do more in so many ways.”

For a project as ambitious as this though, the logistics are always going to be the main challenge. Project Trumpmore admit they will need to raise around €400,000 (£350,500) to complete the project as they have it set out in their minds.

“That would be with all bells and whistles,” says Nicolas. “We are now doing calculations on what’s the lowest we can do it with and where else we could get money.

“We are talking about crowdfunding. In Finland for a new NGO to do a crowdfunding campaign is not so clear cut. You need a permit from the police and that takes a long time. We are now trying to partner up with some NGOs in countries where we could do a crowdfunding proposition.

“We have a very detailed plan on how to do it and what kind of things to incorporate. We have an ice sculptor who would be the head engineer or head of construction. He’s done big ice projects before. And then we have to talk about where it’s going to be. There are four possible spots but one, which is our main goal, would be the arctic ice cap in Greenland. It can’t be an iceberg because that’s too unstable.

“We have ideas already of the talking points we want to bring up, not only with the sculpture, but also with a documentary project we are talking about and a hunk of the money could come from the documentary, from a TV channel. We want not only to build the ice sculpture but to do this as a whole project that actually initiates conversation.”

I suggest that given his ego, and his attitude towards climate change, there is a strong chance that Donald Trump would love Nicolas’ project. He laughs.

“Yeah, that would be hilarious. I actually directed my first tweet about it to Mr. President. I haven’t got a reply yet, so maybe soon. I’m not sure.

“I posted a video and asked him ‘hey, we have this project and you’re not that keen on climate change, so maybe you’d like to partner up?’ but still no reply. Fingers crossed. Let’s hope for the best. I understand he has a lot of lawyers with money lying around in different bags or different cheque accounts – so maybe he has some money he can lend us!”

Whether the project happens or not remains to be seen, but given that the aim of Project Trumpmore is ultimately to act as a conversation starter, it’s fair to say Nicolas and his team have already seen some success.

After all, they’ve certainly got people talking.

For the latest on Project Trumpmore, follow the campaign on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

For more from this month’s Green Issue, click here

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The post Project Trumpmore Interview | Meet the NGO That Wants To Carve Donald Trump’s Face into a 50-Metre Ice Wall appeared first on Mpora.

Discovering Dalsland | In Search of Serenity in Sweden’s Land of 1000 Lakes

“There is nothing alien about slow travel and simple living…”

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Within a couple of hours of arriving in Dalsland – Sweden’s ‘Lake District’ – I learned a profound lesson. After a savagely early alarm call, two flights and a two hour drive from Gothenburg, I was hoping for the luxury of a hotel room before heading into the wilderness the following day.

I hadn’t read my itinerary properly.

As a travel writer – even a grandiosely self-titled ‘adventure travel’ writer – I’d come to expect a certain cosseting from my hosts. So arriving at Silverlake outfitting company as the late-afternoon was already beginning to darken, I was surprised – nay, appalled – to learn there was to be no gentle transition into lakeside life.

“Outdoor life is not a different thing to life in Sweden”

Within 30 minutes of our bleary-eyed arrival we’d loaded canoes onto a trailer, hastily changed clothes in the chilly car park, and were being driven to our first put-in from where we – filmmaker Benn Berkeley and I – would paddle to our first camp. The lake was Svärdlång – Long Sword in Swedish – which runs almost due north for 14 kilometres from near the small town of Bengtsfors.

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Photo: Daniel Wildey

Once the campfire was lit I would realise how unnecessary the imagined hotel was, but during the unexpected hustle of getting out there, I was flustered. I’ve become so used to preparing myself to go outdoors, getting a good nights’ sleep, using a kind of psychological bridge between normal life and outdoor life, that the sudden collapse of that bridge left me daunted.

Here’s the lesson; that bridge doesn’t exist in Sweden. Outdoor life is not a different thing to life. Being outdoors is such an integral part of Swedish culture that perhaps that bridge would seem more like a barrier.

My trepidation was heightened by the fact that this was my first time canoeing. We only had a few hundred yards to paddle into the darkening lake, but almost immediately I realised my canoe was a tool of ancient utility rather than a sporting challenge to be mastered, and as such could be handled by anyone with the slightest sense of balance. I would reach camp without a soaking.

‘Camp’ turned out to be an understatement. In the world of camping, having the most meagre of needs catered for is tantamount to luxury. We landed our canoes and pulled them (unnecessarily far – we were still learning) out of the water. Close by was a substantial pile of well-seasoned firewood. Beyond that a firepit – an old car wheel rim encased in concrete (it was more aesthetic than it sounds). And finally the ‘hut’ we had been promised.

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Photo: Daniel Wildey

These structures are dotted around the shoreline throughout the whole region, and are free to use for anyone with a Nature Conservation Card (around €13 per person) and all the sites are similarly equipped, including with masses of firewood. However, they cannot be booked, and will often be found to be occupied, so we’d brought a tent in case. But taking this trip in late-September would prove to be a masterstroke of planning and we would only encounter three other humans over the next few days – none of them, crucially, in the campsites.

The huts are simply raised wooden platforms with three walls and a roof – one long side open to the firepit. Ordinarily the lack of one wall could be seen as a shortcoming in a building, but I’d already realised I had no desire to sleep indoors. In recent years I’ve come to prefer a bivvy bag to a tent, and to breathe the fresh night air as it blows over me. With leaden skies above us, this seemed the perfect compromise.

After a little campcraft, a rotisserie chicken from an ill-thought-out supermarket-sweep in Bengtsfors and some fairly extensive repacking to quieten my fussy mind, we were left with nothing to do but admire the scene; the waters of Long Sword gurgling nearby, the fire crackling and the autumn colours of the trees being swallowed by the deepening darkness. If I’d needed a restful evening before embarking upon our paddling, no hotel could have come close.

The morning brought no discernible increase in urgency. Our contact at Silverlake had suggested a route that would take us beyond the 14km of Long Sword, via a short portage, and east to a different rendezvous point, at which he would pick us up. The soporific effect of gentle paddling had us hypnotised quickly, and it took no time at all to abandon that plan in favour of a slow exploration of the paradise we already occupied. We had nothing at all to do, and no reason to go elsewhere to do it. This lake could be our whole world and that would be enough.

Keeping to a straight line became my only concern, mastering the ‘J Stroke’ the extent of my to-do list. (To avoid constantly switching sides with the paddle it is necessary to add a sort of flick to the end of a normal stroke – in effect to describe a ‘J’ in the water.)

Svärdlång was an ideal proving-ground for the new canoeist; narrow enough not to intimidate, long enough to offer a journey, and deserted enough to feel intrepid and self-sufficient. With a grey sky hanging low, the distant length of the lake faded to a misty blur and the colours of autumn were muted, along with the noise of the outside world, which was muffled by the blanket of cloud. We found various inlets en route to nowhere in particular, which provided an explorer’s adventure in the form of variety – a floating carpet of green lily pads, or a thicket of tall reeds with a winding route among them.

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Photo: Daniel Wildey

Without intending to we covered the majority of the 14km surprisingly quickly and with minimal effort, and found another campsite quite early. It was so picturesque we decided to pitch-up and perhaps take the boats out again before dark. Campcraft had become as important to the trip as the paddling, both have their rhythms and we wanted time with wood and land as much as with water.

I’d camped in Sweden before and noticed that many people take an axe, so packed my Gransfors Bruk small forest axe, a small folding saw and of course a good fixed-blade knife. They proved invaluable – particularly as the boats, rather than our backs, were carrying the load. It’s a sign of Swedish priorities, that the camps are stocked with firewood. But it’s also a sign of how differently the Swedes relate to the outdoors; it’s assumed that campers will have the means to process the 8 foot logs, and without at least one of these tools, we’d have been huddled around a paltry stove.

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Photo: Daniel Wildey

So the portioning and splitting of wood became part of a soothing routine, and when the rain came – short-lived but heavy – the fire was able to resist it. We were kept entertained by the flora and fauna; spotting frogs and mushroom hunting (the Woolly Milkcap being a stunning highlight), and with very quick dips in the freezing cold water.

The third night was our last, and time had stood still to this point. But it also seemed to stretch back immeasurably. I’d been absorbed by this place so quickly and completely that I was fearful of the wrench of leaving. So I decided to test just how comfortable I was by paddling out to the middle of the lake in the pitch black of night.

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Photo: Daniel Wildey

The cloud cover was heavy, and there was zero light pollution, so when I laid back in the canoe and switched off my headtorch I was in complete sensory deprivation. With no visible or audible frame of reference the gentle rocking of the boat became imperceptible. But rather than being disorientated, I knew exactly where I was.

There is nothing alien about slow travel and simple living. That psychological transition I was struggling with is an effect of a disconnection from nature, and of seeing the outdoors as a hobby, a weekend activity, something we need different clothes for, and a different mindset. Ditch the prevaricating, the excuses, the separation, and make outside part of life. And if you get the chance, learn to do it in Sweden; it’s what they do best.

Do It Yourself

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The location of Bengtsfors in Dalsland – Sweden’s ‘Lake District’

For more information head to the official tourist board websites of Visit Sweden and Vast Sverige.

Big thanks to Fjällräven who helped outfit Daniel and Benn for the trip and to Silverlake Camp & Canoe for the equipment.

For more from this month’s Green Issue, click here

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The post Discovering Dalsland | In Search of Serenity in Sweden’s Land of 1000 Lakes appeared first on Mpora.

Scott Jurek Interview | We Talk Veganism With the Most Famous Ultra Runner in the World

Jurek ran the 2189-mile Appalachian Trail in a record time… powered only by plants

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There has long been a prevailing wisdom in the mainstream that if you stop eating meat, your sport and athleticism will suffer. For a while vegans have always been regarded as ethical animal-lovers, who display admirable restraint in a world that includes bacon, halloumi and Haagen-Dazs, a meat-free diet had never been associated with sporting prowess or athletic endeavour.

Fast forward to now and many of the world’s top sporting titans have come out as vegan, including the tennis player Venus Williams and boxer David Haye, while others, including the footballer Lionel Messi, follow a vegan diet during competition season. Sportspeople shunning meat and animal products is by no means widespread, but mindsets are slowly shifting.

“He was often putting in 50 miles of running per day, a feat he kept up for almost seven weeks”

The American ultrarunner Scott Jurek has always been ahead of the pack on this. In 2013 he published his autobiography, Eat and Run, which chronicled his experience as a multiple ultramarathon-winning vegan athlete. It was a bestseller, and very much changed the conversation of what athletes should eat to perform at their best.

Jurek turned 40 the same year his book came out, but instead of quietly retreating from the punishing sport of ultrarunning he decided, like a hero in a heist movie, to take on one last challenge. He planned to run the Appalachian Trail (AT) in a record time and then bow out of the sport on a high. A feat he managed to achieve though only just, having faced injury setbacks at the start, and intense physical and mental fatigue towards the end. He’s now released a book about the experience titled North: Finding my way while running the Appalachian Trail. The title a nod to the fact he chose to run the trail from south to north.

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Enjoying the sunrise at McAfee Knob (Day 16). Photo: Luis Escobar.

“Nothing about the map – or the Appalachian Trail itself – invited even the contemplation of speed. For starters there’s the magnitude of it…2189 miles long…imagine running 84 marathons. Consecutively over the gnarliest and oldest mountains in the world…”

The AT runs between Georgia and Maine through a combination of deep, dank forest, wild grasslands and rocky mountain stretches. It’s thought to be the longest hiking trail in the world and as one of the oldest National Scenic Trails has a quasi-mythic status in American public consciousness. Over two million people are said to hike at least a section of it each year; it’s rarely something people attempt to run.

When I caught up with Jurek last month, he told me the AT had thrown up some interesting challenges for his veganism. “We were in remote locations. Down in the Deep South or even in the mid-Atlantic, where you’d think it might be easy, [finding vegan supplies] was difficult and challenging because we were so rural a lot of the time. You’d find cafes and a grocery store in town, but you don’t get the selection.” Especially compared to what he was used to back home in vegan-friendly Boulder, Colorado.

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Cooling off in Laurel Creek. Photo: Luis Escobar.

“I was craving Thai food, especially coconut curry but it was very hard to come by, so anytime we were close to a town I’d say to my poor wife Jenny: ‘Can you go get some Thai food!’ I’m also a big fan of Japanese food. I like things centred around tofu or tempeh, really simple food, so that my body and stomach isn’t irritated, but trying to find these ingredients in these small towns was tough.”

At home Jurek usually does the cooking but it just wasn’t possible while running the AT, as he was often putting in 50 miles of running per day, a feat he kept up for almost seven weeks. So it was left to his wife to cook from their campervan, where the two of them slept, Jenny having driven to their pre-designated rendezvous each night. Sometimes even dodging creepy stalkers along the way, as they both discuss in one of the more unsettling sections of the book.

“A stubborn, lingering vinegary scent was actually his body digesting its own amino acids”

Jurek needed to take on a lot of calories, at least 6-8000 a day, which was not an easy task. He says: “It was always about the density of calories. Jenny was adding olive oil to my pasta, and avocado and extra vegan mayo to my sandwiches to try and increase that calorific content. Smoothies were big too. She’d pour coconut milk in or a little extra flaxseed oil. They already had fruit and carbs but fat was really important.”

It took a lot of planning, even for a race nutrition pro like Jurek who had competed as a vegan throughout his 15-year plus ultrarunning career, which had included multiple wins in the Badwater Ultra, Hardrock Hundred Miler and Spartathlon 152-miler in Greece amongst other victories.

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Restocking somewhere in Central Virginia. Photo: Luis Escobar.

At one point in North he describes realising that a stubborn, lingering vinegary scent was actually his body digesting its own amino acids. He also mentions a photographer who joined him at the start and end of his challenge finding him almost unrecognisable physically from the person he’d been at the beginning of the AT.

Jurek hadn’t grown up vegan. “I was definitely at the other end of the spectrum,” he says, and then proceeds to paint a picture of an idyllic wild and nature-filled childhood. “I was a hunting and fishing boy from northern Minnesota. I lived out in a really rural area. I didn’t have neighbours or kids close by, so I had to find ways to entertain myself and that meant going to the woods behind my house, building forts and chasing animals. I would go out for hours at a time, relatively close to home but I always had the freedom of exploring the surroundings.”

Does he think that feeling of being comfortable in nature helped him later with his ultrarunning, especially in the kind of brutal conditions you can encounter on the AT? “Oh definitely. That adaptability and connection to nature, and just valuing that time outside and understanding it as such an important part of being a human being.”

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Wrapping up 53 miles on day one. Photo: Luis Escobar.

Jurek tells me he didn’t like running as a kid. He did local cross-country races and watched the Olympics but was more into basketball and baseball. “Running was kind of punishment for a lot of the sports that I did, you’d be sent off to do laps,” he says. In high school he got into cross-country skiing and was told to run in the summer to stay in shape, but he still wasn’t keen. “I remember dealing with all the side-aches and runner’s trots, having to go to the bathroom all these things, I really didn’t like it.”

But then in college in his 20s, his skiing friends introduced him to trail and ultrarunning. He says: “I’d looked up to these individuals for their free thinking, eccentric lifestyle and I thought: ‘Wow this sounds kind of wild and crazy, and kind of stupid…’ There was something attractive and appealing about it.”

“You have to suffer for a little bit but you come away from it a changed person with a different perspective”

Jurek placed second in his first ever 50-mile race, a phenomenal result and surprise to many of the officials as he was very much the long-haired hippie rather than serious-looking athlete at the time.

“It was the hardest thing I’d ever done, amazing and agonising at the same time. Right away I said: ‘Never again, one and done!’ but then it started dawning on me that maybe this is my thing, maybe I should explore it a bit more.”

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The beginnings of knee trouble (Day 6). Photo: Luis Escobar.

“I loved running in the woods, so it was kind of a natural progression to be able to handle those things and have fun. It seemed more appealing than just going out and running on pavement.”

A sentiment he still holds: “I’ve done some road races but even in my darkest times on the AT there was still always a beauty to the trail, and things to be happy about, like the orange newt running across the trail or the views.”

“Even in my darkest times on the AT there was still always a beauty to the trail”

In North, Jurek writes of the wonder of running through green tunnels of vegetation, of seeing fireflies on the trail at night and the pretty blue smog given off by the plant life. He talks of taking power naps on rocks and in patches of leaves. He describes his fear when stumbling upon a black mama bear guarding her cubs and blocking his path north, and his amusement at a naked hiker who had a strategically-placed sign which read: ‘Hey Scott Jurek, this sausage is vegan!’

He also mentions a stretch of the AT around Bear Mountain, where he guides his friend Thomas, a blind runner, for two miles. I ask how that went? “I’ve paced blind runners in ultras and marathons before and it really is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had because I’m getting to see for two people.”

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Crossing the Fontana Dam (Day 4). Photo: Luis Escobar.

“So I’d try to relay for him what I was seeing, and also giving him all the strategies like we’re hitting a hill, there’s a hole, but I was also trying to give him the experience of other senses so it’s like the rain is really doing this… I found it to be a really interesting perspective in a sport I’ve been doing for a long time.”

For Jurek veganism and ultrarunning have always gone hand in hand, as he got into them both around the same time, but he had to ditch a love of junk food first. He says: “In college I was eating McDonald’s at least once a day. I was running and skiing so I could get away with it, but then some of my friends influenced my thinking on food. I started looking at more wholesome foods, more wholefoods… It was interesting for me to think how can I do this now with a plant-based diet? I found reading the research behind it fascinating.”

“At the same time I’d been working in hospitals, my mother had suffered with MS. I wanted to avoid chronic disease but also maybe help my performance along the way. There has been this ingrained mentality of: ‘If you want to be strong, you have to eat meat and have animal protein.’ But I’ve been able to test that. [Being vegan] has made me stronger and actually feel better. It takes a bit of learning and a bit more planning initially, but it’s opened my eyes to what I can do for my human body to allow it to perform at its best.”

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The southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Photo: Luis Escobar.

Does he think being vegan has helped him run faster? “My energy levels increased. I did lose a little extra body fat but my muscle mass stayed the same, all those were great things to have happened but it’s really been the long term benefits. It’s helped with my recovery, and longevity in the sport, which is very applicable to the AT. I was 41 years old, towards the end of my career but still able to do something as demanding and gruelling as that. Diet isn’t everything, it’s just one piece of the puzzle but it’s a very important piece of the puzzle.”

Jurek is a humble guy, who doesn’t see himself as extraordinary, in spite of all evidence, the records, the race-wins, to the contrary. He tells me an ultramarathon is within reach for all of us. He says: “A lot of people assume: ‘Oh I can’t run very far, I’ve got bad knees…’ but unless you have bone on bone osteoarthritis or something significant, for most people their knees or joints get better when they run. You have to be willing to challenge yourself, it’s really about getting over that mental hurdle, and starting to open your mind to the possibilities of what you can do. Even I struggled with that on the AT, it was hard to get out there and put myself in that situation day after day [for 46 days…] but the rewards are exponential.”

“Diet isn’t everything, it’s just one piece of the puzzle but it’s a very important piece of the puzzle”

“Nowadays our lives are so comfortable. We live in climate-controlled buildings, drive cars that allow us to travel at great speeds… we don’t have to challenge ourselves much to achieve. So putting ourselves in the arena of challenge and adversity, those are transformative experiences; something you can’t buy or obtain by hitting a button on a computer. You have to suffer for a little bit but you come away from it a changed person with a different perspective.”

It’s a compelling mindset, and the fact Jurek has achieved all that he has without eating meat or animal products makes it even more impressive and inspring.

North: Finding my way while running the Appalachian Trail is published by Penguin Random House and out now.

For more info on Scott Jurek, head here.

For more from this month’s Green Issue, click here.

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The post Scott Jurek Interview | We Talk Veganism With the Most Famous Ultra Runner in the World appeared first on Mpora.

A Land Faroe Way | Exploring the Green Haven Of The Faroe Islands

The setting for the climbing film ‘Land of Maybe’ is aiming for 100% renewable energy by 2030

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Photo: Jack Clayton

“Where you off to then?” asks my early morning Uber driver.

“The Faroe Islands,” I reply, still very much half asleep.

“Faroe Islands? Never heard of them, mate.”

“They’re… er… sort of between Scotland, Norway, and Iceland.”

Before being invited to visit the Faroe Islands, my knowledge of the place was minimal to say the least. I knew roughly where it was, I knew that the people there were mad keen on whaling, I knew that their national football team had been a thorn in the side of Scotland on more than one occasion and I knew that the landscape there was becoming an increasingly regular feature on my Instagram newsfeed. I did not know much about the Faroe Islands.

“The sea turned red with blood”

I wasn’t the only one. A friend, for example, had them pegged as a part of the UK when they’re actually a self-governing part of Denmark. This overriding sense of mystery about the place is evident in the title of The North Face’s Faroe-set climbing film ‘Land of Maybe’; a 15 minute short that focuses on James Pearson, Cedar Wright, and Yuji Hirayama tackling one of the world’s highest promontories – Cape Enniberg. The climb up the 754 metre-high sea cliff saw the trio battle bad weather, unpredictable terrain, and even an army of puking birds.

After a two hour flight to Copenhagen followed by another two hour flight to the Faroe Islands’ only airport, I find myself standing on Vágar; the third largest of the 18 islands that make up the Faroe archipelago. Vágar has an area of 69 square miles, which is roughly a ninth the size of the Isle of Skye. Despite being only 336 miles (as the crow flies) from Inverness, it feels other-worldly from the second you get off the plane. Factor in the scenery, on top of the pervading sense of isolation, and it’s easy to imagine Luke Skywalker living in exile here.

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Pictured: The Faroese village of Bøur. Photo: Jack Clayton.

We drive straight from the airport, 10 minutes down the road, to a Faroese village called Bøur. Along the way, we go past the town of Sørvágur and down the bay it’s nestled neatly at one end of. This, we’re grimly told, is a location commonly used for whaling.

Last summer, when they were on the islands for the ‘Land of Maybe’ shoot, climbing power couple Caro Ciavaldini and James Pearson witnessed the controversial practice firsthand. The hunt resulted in the death of over 100 whales.

“The sea turned red with blood,” says Caro.

During my stay on the Faroe Islands, the topic of whaling comes up a lot. It’s clear the locals, who share out the spoils of the hunts amongst their community, are passionate about the tradition and feel that many of the outsiders who criticise them for it are guilty of hypocrisy. One of our Faroese hosts, for example, tells us of a popular old t-shirt slogan which said “In the Faroe Islands, we kill whales. In America, you kill people.”

A quick search of the internet, and you’ll soon find yourself reading a piece published on The Spectator website with the eye-catching headline: “Yes, I butcher whales. What’s all the fuss about?”

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Pictured: Wind turbines on the Faroe Islands. The territory is aiming for 100% green energy by 2030. Photo via Getty Images.

Written by the lead singer of the Faroese folk metal band Týr, Heri Joensen, in the wake of a campaign to stop venues from booking his band after he posted a picture of himself cutting up a long-finned pilot whale on Facebook, the article defends whaling by highlighting how many of the people who are against whaling happily turn a blind-eye to the fact that a lot of the meat they consume stems from factory farm cruelty. In a YouTube video, Joensen mockingly states that “People get this Disney-fairytale-like relationship to meat where livestock is willingly and painlessly slaughtered behind closed doors and wildlife is sacred.”

Bøur itself is as typically Faroese as you can get; a tiny little church that looks halfway between a real church and one you’d get at a model village, epic scenery as far as the eye can see, and grassy sod roofs scattered about the place like they’re the most normal thing in the world. Minus a load of dead whales on the beach, and an embarrassed Scottish football team, it’s basically the Faroe Islands I’d imagined in my head before coming.

“The territory is aiming for 100% green electricity production by the year 2030”

I soon discover that it’s not only the grassy roofs in the Faroe Islands that are green. In a move that should be celebrated by environmentalists everywhere, the territory is aiming for 100% green electricity production by the year 2030. This renewable energy will come from a combination of hydro, wind, wave, tidal and, to a certain extent, solar power sources.  

Based on the fact that, during my stay, I’m battered by some of the most extreme winds I’ve ever encountered, it seems that wind farms are a logical step for the region. And while the Faroe Islands’ carbon footprint might be virtually microscopic when sized up next to those of giants like China and the USA, it’s nevertheless heartwarming to see them taking such a step in response to overwhelming evidence about climate change.

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Pictured: British climber James Pearson during the shooting of The North Face film ‘Land of Maybe’.

After sampling some local soup, and moreish homemade bread at a traditional Faroese house called Pakkhúsid, we’re all taken upstairs for a screening of ‘Land of Maybe’ and a talk from James Pearson. “This project began because I decided to google ‘biggest sea cliffs in the world,” says James. “Cedar [Wright] was convinced it was going to take just four hours but the whole climb took somewhere between 14 and 16 hours.”

Following a quick tour of Bøur, we’re then back in the vans for a 10 minute journey to Gásadalur; a mythical sounding place that feels like it should be the name of a character in The Lord of the Rings. The small and isolated village of Gásadalur, which sits on the edge of a waterfall and is surrounded by mountains, is accessed via a long and narrow road tunnel that seemingly stretches on forever.

“I’m confronted by quite possibly the most stunning view I’ve ever set eyes upon”

Before the tunnel opened in 2004, the village was completely cut off by the landscape. The postman, we’re informed, used to hike over the mountains once a week to deliver the residents here their mail; something, I imagine, that must have been a particularly frustrating process if the only thing they were delivering was updates on whatever the Faroese equivalent of Tesco Clubcard points is.

One brief little stroll after getting out the van and I’m confronted by quite possibly the most stunning view I’ve ever set eyes upon. Mulafossur Waterfall is the kind of beautiful natural landmark that even an elderly relative, with failing eyesight and zero camera training, couldn’t fail to take a decent picture of. If it wasn’t for the fact I’d left my jumper in the car and was starting to feel the chill, I might have watched its water cascading down into the North Atlantic for days, weeks, months, maybe even years. It really is spectacular.

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Walking the epic ridge between Krosstindur and Húsafell. Photo: Jack Clayton.

The next morning, it’s time to experience a full day in the Faroese outdoors. Somehow, today’s wind is making yesterday’s notably strong breeze seem like a gerbil’s gentle fart by comparison. We’ve been out of the vans for less than a minute, and already it feels like this wind is in danger of picking people up and chucking them into the sea as if they weighed the same as an empty crisp packet. It’s brutal stuff; the type of weather that can make you involuntarily swear out loud whenever it hits. It hits often.

Rather than ushering us back into the vans and waiting for all of this to blow over though, our keen guide Johannus Hansen from Reika Adventures is soon rounding us up and getting ready to lead us on our big day out. Despite the near constant threat of being blown away never to be seen again, we all end up being very grateful for his proactive approach. The route he takes us includes a stunning view of Trøllkonufingur (aka “Witch’s Finger”) and a breathtaking ridgewalk from Krosstindur (574m) to Húsafelli (591m).

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Pictured: The inside of Ravnagjógv (Raven’s Gorge). Photo: Jack Clayton.

In the afternoon, after I’ve been treated to the Faroe Islands’ veggie option of a cheese sandwich and a peeled carrot, and a few of our group’s bravest members have sampled some very pungent whale meat (“extremely fishy” – the general verdict), things escalate a notch when we’re given the chance to do a 31m rappel into Ravnagjógv (aka “Raven’s Gorge”). The rain is absolutely chucking it down and while I’m tempted to stay in the tent getting drunk on lung-warming aquavit, it’s an opportunity I’m not going to pass up on.

“Don’t let me fall and die,” I say to Caro, half-serious, half-joking, while she double checks my harness.

“It’s easily the best impression of Indiana Jones/Lara Croft that I’ve ever done”

Before I have time to change my mind, I’m stepping off the edge and working my way down to the bottom of the gorge. It’s easily the best impression of Indiana Jones/Lara Croft that I’ve ever done.

“You looked like a pro,” says a grinning Johannes, as he helps me take the harness off, “I thought it was James Pearson coming down.”

He’s joking. He’s definitely joking, but I’ll take it.

That night, we’re introduced to “heimablídni” – a Faroese way of doing things that literally translates as “home hospitality.” Put simply, it involves being given the full-on, five-course, restaurant style dining experience in someone else’s house. The house, in our case, being one on the Faroe Islands’ largest island of Streymoy; a house that belongs to Anna and Óli.

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Pictured: (Left) The writer, up top, begins his rappel down into Ravnagjógv//(Right) The writer celebrates his descent.

The food, 100% organic and sourced from Anna and Óli’s farm is mouth-wateringly good. Throw in one picturesque panoramic window view, and a supply of local beers that seemingly never run outs, and it all adds up to make one great, uniquely Faroe, night of culinary delight.

One hangover later, a hangover that’s cleared up efficiently by exposure to the clean Faroese air, and I’m at the end of my short but sweet stay. With an annual weather pattern that includes roughly 300 rainy days a year, it seems rather fitting that my scenic van journey back to the airport comes with a downpour so torrential that water starts leaking in through the closed windows and forming tiny puddles on the floor.  

Wet, windy, and wild; the Faroes certainly isn’t your average holiday destination but then isn’t that the whole point of adventure? To go outside the comfort zone, to go and lose yourself somewhere far away from your own normality, to wind up in a place where you’ve got all the questions and hardly any answers.

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Pictured: Trøllkonufingur (Witch’s Finger). Photo: Jack Clayton.

Leaving the Faroe Islands is like waking from a dreamscape, a faded transition back to reality where you end up unsure of whether what you saw was real and whether you were even there at all.

“Been anywhere nice?” says my taxi driver, back in London.

“The Faroe Islands,” I reply.

“Where’s that then?”

“It’s… er… sort of between Scotland, Norway, and Iceland.”

Do It Yourself:

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We flew to the Faroe Islands from London Heathrow, via Copenhagen, with SAS. On our first night, we stayed at the Magenta Guest House in Sandavágur. On our second night here, we stayed at the Gjogv Guesthouse. Food on the second evening was provided at the home of Anna and Óli. The hiking and rappelling was organised by Reika Adventures.

For more information the Faroe Islands, visit the official tourism website.

Big thanks to The North Face for kitting us out with a Summit Series range.

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