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.

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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Take Action For A Better Weekend | Can You Have An Adventure With Just 72 Hours In Morocco?

Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains and more, all in three days? Here’s our ultimate guide to visiting North Africa over the weekend…

The best parts of life, are the bits that you put the most work into. Whether it be friendships, health, work, free time or family, it’s always clear which areas of a person’s life to which they give the most of their energy.

With this in mind, the adventurous brand KEEN has launched ‘Better Takes Action’, a campaign that aims to inspire people to put passion and energy into the areas of life that matter. This idea can include your own self-improvement, cultivating the life of those around you, or helping the world at large. It can be through protecting the environment, living sustainably, or just raising money for causes close to your heart. As long as it makes the world a little bit of a better place, it counts towards KEEN’s awesome initiative.

One easy way that we can all take action to better our lives, is by looking at the quality of how we spend our free time. Recently, KEEN asked us to take action ourselves by setting us the challenge of creating the most amazing adventure possible over one long weekend, all with time to get back to our desk by 9am Monday morning. Accepting their bet, we enlisted KEEN ambassador Sophe Everard and jumped on an early flight to Morocco to find what new experiences we could have in 72 hours in Africa. Yalla!

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Friday

While a million miles from us in culture and landscape, Morocco is actually just a little three hour flight from the UK, and the regular flights that run from many airports each day also make it a very affordable option. Booking a 6am flight from Gatwick in April, we threw a couple of outfits, some sturdy Terradora Ethos shoes and hiking boots into hand luggage and travelled to Marrakech, a walled city of Morocco, arriving on a sunny Friday morning.

Marrakech Airport is fifteen minutes away from the middle of the walled city centre where our riad was based. Taxis take a while to flag down, but are affordable at usually around 150 dirham (about £10) and take you straight into the centre of the city’s hustle and bustle so we threw our backpacks into a car and headed towards the madness, looking forward to what our mini adventure had in store for us.

After paying the taxi we entered Jemaa el-Fnaa, the square and market place in the middle of the walled city, for the first time. This square is overwhelming, full of snake charmers, henna artists, fruit stalls and all types of wandering hawkers, it throws you straight into the anarchic and creative vibe that’s earned Marrakech the nickname “Jewel of the South”.

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Through the busy maze like streets, people, animals and especially scooters, which fly down tiny alleyways at a dangerous speeds and from every angle. We made our way through the labyrinth of backstreets, past the cart pulling donkeys, makeshift bread stalls and local children playing ball games to our riad door, happy to lose our bags and collapse in the middle courtyard space for a few minutes, before heading out to explore some more.

“The Atlas Mountains, named after a Greek god that holds up the skies”

That afternoon we entered the city for our first experience of Moroccan cuisine as settling into a kerbside café, we nibbled on Khobz (a traditional circular bread) and rich black olives, before ordering a traditional tagine and watching the street performers moving past our seats. In the late afternoon acrobats and circus performers entertained the crowds, then as the sun set we watched in awe as the crowds transformed and storytellers, music and drum circles and interactive games began to appear all around us. If we thought that the streets were manic during the day, they were nothing compared to the madness of Marrakech’s nightlife.

The streets and bazaars spill over with artistry and after just a few hours in the madness, we’re already smitten with the unfamiliar Arabic culture. Heading back to the Riad feeling drained, we head straight to bed, disbelieving of how much we had already found and excited about the new day.

Saturday

We could have easily spent our whole three days exploring the different areas of Morocco’s most enchanting city, however we had KEEN’s challenge to complete, so the next morning we were up at dawn and out of both the riad and the city, to find other adventures.

Any adventurer worth their salt will have one main Morocco experience they need to achieve during their trip – The Atlas Mountains, named after a Greek god that holds up the skies. Researching hikes up Mount Toubkal and similar peaks, it was obvious that the time restraints on this trip ruled out any serious expeditions, so we decided to explore the country’s amazing landscape and stretch our legs on a hike of the foothills that belong to those gorgeous snowy peaks.

We chose to travel by a combination of car and hikes for the day, a choice made to allow us to explore the maximum amount of the country, while also getting the achey legs of a good hike, with the hot weather versatility and hike ready sturdiness of the Ethos shoes powering us through our journey. Driving out of the city, the first place we aimed for was Amizmiz, a big Berber village around 54 km from Marrakech, nested between olive trees and fruit trees in the mountains. While a larger village, Amizmiz has the feel of a real working town, with adhān calls to prayer echoing over the buildings regularly, as locals go about their daily work on the main street. If you’re looking for a great low lands hike, this is a destination to aim for, that has some very good traditional eateries for a satisfying post hike lunch.

Jumping in the car we left our first destination and travelled down long roads and through tiny Berber villages and the mountain life they contain towards our main hike for the day. The cloudy weather of the morning had cleared and the hike to Imin Tala, one of three Berber villages on the climb to the highest peak at Djebel Toubkal, was clear and beautiful. This village is sat at 4800ft and the route is equally as beautiful as it is terrifying, with hairpin turns, sharp drops and expansive mountain streams and orchards in front and around us. At this level you can see the Atlas Mountain’s peaks in all of their glory. Walking along the sublime and immersive landscape, our boots gripping to the clay and stone paths, and with only the odd shepherd passing us on our route, it was impossible to imagine that we were soon to return to the commotion of the city walls in which we were staying, with its music, merriment and brilliant chaos.

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Sunday

One Marrakech experience that everyone should seek out while visiting the city, is a traditional medina breakfast. On Sunday, with a flight booked later that day, we ventured out early into the square, looking for some sustenance to fuel our last day of exploration.

On the side of the main square, an open fronted cafe was serving breakfast to dozens of locals, the is kitchen nothing more than a small metal cooking cart, with four people running the cookers and food preparation. Baked eggs are a morning staple in Marrakech, served in a low metal dish with plenty of olive oil, so we ordered ours with cheese and tomatoes,with a side of msemen (an unrisen pancake like bread) as well as large amounts of coffee. Looking around at the other tables in the space, it’s obvious that this kind of outdoor communal breakfast is a normal part of city life. It occurs to us that it’s much nicer than our lonely kitchen cereal routine back home.

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After eating and paying our 60 dirham (around £4.50) we finally make our way to arguably the most famous part of this city, its Souks.

The covered marketplaces are a constant flurry of trading, haggling and excitement. Walking through the Souk Semmarine, you can find rugs, jewellery, ornaments and lighting, as well as traditional formal wear. Moving through and to Souk Cherratin, the streets are full of high quality leather products, with the smell of tanned leather becoming more and more potent in the midday sun.

After exploring the larger market, we ventured towards the smaller Souk des Teinturiers, which is becoming famous in the city for it’s showcasing of new local artists and designers and for offering more unique souvenirs than the more tourist focused areas. Haggling is a matter of course here and the traders are not shy about engaging with their customers. As we looked at a ring, the shopkeepers came over and offered us a price. “No thanks, too pricey for us” we say. “No” he replied, “Now you give me your price and we work it out. That’s how it’s done.”

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Late in the afternoon, with a new ring and other little souvenirs, we escape the markets and after being spat out into the hot sun of the central square, find a cafe rooftop for one last mint tea before we had to collect our things from the Riad and head back to the Airport.

KEEN’s challenge to us was to create the best adventure possible in 72 hours, no matter what kind of adventure that might be. What we found, was that with such little time away from our work, we could find many new experiences, explore new continents, and encounter uncommon cultures, just through being mindful of the fact that these experiences were to be worked for, savouring every moment of the time we had. Better Takes Action doesn’t have to be a huge adventure every time. Simply by being aware of putting you passion and time into what really matters, you reap massive rewards.

Back at the office at 9am the next morning, it’s like we were never away at all. Inside our heads however, we are full of memories of hot desert landscapes, Arabian nights of theatre and music and wide open hikes in the sublimity of the Atlas Mountains. We took our weekend, took action to make it the best it could be, and transformed it into a real adventure.

Want to take action in your own life? Check out our Better Takes Action series below!

The post Take Action For A Better Weekend | Can You Have An Adventure With Just 72 Hours In Morocco? 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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The post A Land Faroe Way | Exploring the Green Haven Of The Faroe Islands appeared first on Mpora.

Akela.World, Travelling Photographers | Adventure-gram

This awesome Austrian family are doing things differently

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All photos by Akela.World

“I think everybody dreams of making a world trip, or something like this,” says Leander Nardin, his face slightly pixelated on my phone screen as he dials in from Eastern Siberia. Lots of people dream of making a world trip, sure. But not everyone finds themselves driving a converted 1977 Mercedes truck halfway across the world.

Yet this is exactly what Austrian photographer Leander, his girlfriend Maria and their six-year-old son Lennox have been doing for that past year and a bit. “I think it started five years ago,” says Leander, explaining the genesis of this crazy journey. “We went to Thailand when Lennox was one year old. We just went with backpacks for a few weeks but you know when you’re traveling with children, you have lots of stuff. It was way too exhausting and complicated.”

“He was just laughing, he said: ‘No mechanic is coming into the desert.’”

“Our dream destination was always New Zealand,” he explains, but after the Thailand experience they realised that it would be difficult enough as a couple, let alone with a young kid. “Flights only and the campervan for two or three months in New Zealand is about 10 or 15 thousand euros.

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Maria, Lennox, Leander and Akela.

“So I came up with the idea to buy a small bus and drive all the way down to New Zealand. Maria was like ‘man that’s a crazy idea, it’s bullshit’. But somehow it worked out.” So far this ‘bullshit’ idea has taken them almost 40,000km, and through some of the most incredible landscapes on earth. “My favourite has definitely been Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia,” says Maria. “Kyrgyzstan felt a little bit like home, like Austria – all the beautiful lakes and mountains”.

Follow the family on Instagram and you can see instantly why they have no regrets about their decision to pack up and go. Leander is a talented snapper, whose photos include portraits of interesting locals (“the eagle hunters in Kyrgyzstan were people I always wanted to shoot”, he says), and incredible landscapes. In fact, he says, “the only thing I regret is that we travelled through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan way too fast.”

Certainly on the surface, their life looks pretty perfect. Leander’s shots include plenty of Lennox, who’s an almost unbelievably photogenic kid with a cheeky smile and a mop of blonde hair. As we speak, he occasionally chips in in impressively fluent English.

There are also a lot of photos of what they refer to as “the fourth member of our family,” the truck itself. “The truck is named Akela because he’s our leading wolf,” explains Maria. Like the leader of the pack from the Jungle Book, “he protects us when it’s hot outside, when it’s raining, when it’s cold outside”.

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Tajikistan, home to the highest peaks in former-Soviet Central Asia.

However, Akela is not always the infallible guiding force the guys might have hoped for. “When he doesn’t work,” says Maria, “it’s pretty shitty.” But this is the great thing about Leander, Maria and the Akela.World Instagram account and blog they run, and what makes them really worth following.

They don’t try to project the always-perfect #VanLife cliché, they’re more real than that. Neither of them are about to pretend that life on the road doesn’t come with problems, and their account is full of pictures of the truck breaking down at inopportune moments. “Engine overheated with outside temperatures of -10 degree Celsius!! Really?? In the middle of nowhere in Siberia – on a Sunday!” reads one post.

Leander tells another story of a breakdown in rural Iran, “300 kilometres from the last big city. There are not many people on this road so we just waited and stopped a truck driver. Truck drivers actually know about other trucks. But my Farsi is pretty shitty so it was quite difficult. We figured out it’s a big problem, and he couldn’t help us. I asked him if he could call a mechanic. He was just laughing, he said: ‘No mechanic is coming into the desert.’”

As well as the truck the couple also worry about Lennox’s wellbeing. He’s homeschooled, and life on the road has been great for his English, which far outstrips the level you’d expect from a regular 6-year-old Austrian kid. But at the same time, Maria says, “meeting other children on the road is not the same like having friends at home. It’s only for a very short time and language is always a problem.

“He’s missing all his friends. We are two adults so we can speak on the same level, but Lennox is alone, and he misses his friends.”

But for all that life on the road can be tough, overall the experience has been a massively positive one according to Leander. “It’s more intense, for sure,” he says when I ask if it’s brought them closer together. “But more so in positive than in negative ways I think.”

Leander and Lennox take a spin on the motorbike.

Even back in Austria, the family was adventurous. And having brought a motorbike, snowboards, and even Leander’s wingsuit with them, they get out into the mountains at every available opportunity. But for every shot they post of skiing in Japan, or hiking up hills in Mongolia, there’s something self-deprecating to bring things their Instagram account back to earth.

“Let’s start with a kistchy sunset at one of Borneo’s beautiful beaches,” reads one post – which sums up exactly why we love Akela.World and why you should follow them. In an environment characterised by ‘hashtag influencers’ on ‘hashtag adventures’, these guys are the real deal.

They’re going all the places we wish we could get to, and taking better photos than we ever could. But they’re not taking any of it – or themselves – too seriously.

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A shot from the Siberian leg of the journey.

Follow Akela.World on Instagram here, check out their Akela.World blog here and their profile on Stocksy here.

To read the rest of Mpora’s Remote Issue head here

To read the rest of the Adventure-gram series go here

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The post Akela.World, Travelling Photographers | Adventure-gram appeared first on Mpora.