There’s no doubt about it: adventure sports are now ‘in’. Gone are the days where people look at you weirdly when you say you’re a climber - now it’s all: ‘that’s so cool’, ‘I’d love to try it’, ‘have you watched free solo?’... Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but this year I’ve definitely noticed increasing numbers of fellow nature-deprived city-dwellers joining me in swapping their gym memberships for a pair of hiking boots come the weekend.
Trends aside, there are many widely documented benefits to participating in outdoor sports. In addition to the obvious physical benefits, getting out into nature has been shown to help with stress (hello endorphins!) and increase emotional wellbeing overall. Plus there’s an important social aspect: what’s better than finding a group of friendly people with whom you share a passion and spending your weekends doing your favourite activities together?
If you’ve been following Mapo Tapo since the early days, you’ll know that we started off as a platform organising rock-climbing trips exclusively. Last year we made a foray into running backcountry skiing trips, and now we’re back at it and psyched to announce the launch of a number of new sports verticals. To get you inspired for our new 2022 fall/ winter season, I’ve asked each team member to share with you one of their favourite outdoor ‘adventure’ sports and some tips for getting started.
Remember: none of us are pros! We’re just regular people who love sports, the outdoors, and finishing our holidays more tired than when we started.
Dani surfing in Peru © Alessia Fontanari
Dani, co-founder and CEO: Surfing
What is it?
Surfing is the art of ‘riding’ waves while standing in an upright position on a board. Surfers will typically paddle out, try and ‘catch’ a wave and then glide across its surface until the wave breaks and loses its momentum.
What do you love about it?
For one, it’s a lot of fun!
The thing I love the most is that moment right after you catch a wave, when you are riding facing a beautiful blue wall and feel the wave closing in behind you. This feeling is one of the most beautiful in the world.
What are your top tips for anyone looking to give surfing a try?
1. Spend at least a week or two in a surf house doing lessons everyday to learn the basics.
2. Start with a big board - you can always downsize later.
3. Once you have the basics down, stay consistent. Even if you don’t live near the ocean, try to get at least 2-4 weeks of surfing in a year, while occasionally playing with the surfskate :)
4. Don’t get frustrated if you catch just a few or even no waves in a session - it’s all part of the process.
Ale ski-touring in Lofonten, Norway © Daniele Calvo Pollino
Ale, co-founder: freeride skiing
What is it?
Freeride skiing is a sub-discipline of skiing or snowboarding where you hike up the mountains (using skins on your skis) rather than taking lifts. Once you get to the top, you take the skins of your skis, lock the bindings, then ski all the way back down! All off-piste, of course.
What do you love about it?
The most beautiful thing is riding down the well-deserved slopes after you have reached the top. When you get good powder conditions and feel like you’re flying… that’s just the cherry on top :)
Freeride skiing is also super cool because it allows you to go off-piste and discover all these incredible remote areas, which you would not be able to do if you were only reliant on lifts.
What are your top tips for anyone looking to give freeride skiing a try?
1. Make sure to have a good foundation in on-piste skiing before trying freeride skiing. Some off-piste experience may also be helpful.
2. You have to take into account quite a lot of factors when planning a tour - such as the weather, wind conditions, exposure, snow conditions and snow level. If you are new to the sport, I highly recommend going with a guide or at the very least a very experienced friend!
3. As you gain more experience and start to lead your own tours, invest in some proper training in avalanche safety and rescues. NEVER go out alone, no matter how experienced you are.
Trail running isn't about performance or being in a hurry - it's about connecting deeply with the environment and integrating into an amazing community © Andrea Palazzi
Andre, Marketing Specialist: Trail Running
What is it?
In a nutshell, trail running is running on an unpaved path out in nature! A lot of the time people head to the mountains to do this.
What do you love about it?
Most of the time, when you talk about trail running people start asking you about distances, elevation gain, what’s the longest time you’ve ever run for... However, running in the mountains isn’t about being in a hurry. It’s not even really about performance.
For most runners, trail running is about establishing a deep connection with the environment and getting absorbed in the amazing, open-minded community that’s emerging around the sport. If you dedicate some time to training, you’ll be able to experience longer and longer trails, and immerse yourself in some really breath-taking natural landscapes.
Top tips for anyone looking to give trail-running a try:
1. Don’t start too fast - your body needs to adapt! If you’ve never run before, start with easy runs on flat ground or try speed hiking.
2. Focus on your technique. You can get a coach or just learn step-by-step how to run. Discover the best running style for you and learn the do’s and don’ts of the sport.
3. Find a good crew! Running with friends is much more rewarding, and talking helps you take some of the focus away from the fatigue, your breathing and asking ‘how far is left’. You’ll probably have to slow down the pace, but that means you just get to enjoy the outdoors for longer.
4. Invest in proper gear! You’re heading into the mountains, so adequate gear is mandatory. Stay warm, dry, and never run out of food or water.
5. Performance will come in good time. At amateur level, you’ll probably find yourself walking most of the time rather than running - which is fine, because your body is telling you it can’t keep a higher pace. If you learn one thing from trail running, it’s to always listen to what your body is telling you.
Sport climbing in Sicily © Massimo Cappuccio
Alfre, CTO: Rock-climbing
What is it?
As the name suggests, it’s a sport involving climbing up rock faces - more often than not attached to a rope. There’s different sub-disciplines, the most widely practiced ones being bouldering, traditional climbing, and sport climbing.
Why should I try it?
There’s so many reasons! Here at Mapo we’re all pretty obsessed, so I’ll try to keep it brief.
First off, that feeling when you 'send' a really challenging climb (i.e. make it to the top without falling or resting on the rope) - it's really one-of-a-kind! The rewards are doubled because climbing is a mentally as well as physically demanding sport: you have to work hard to keep your nerves under control while executing the moves to make it to the top.
Second, the movement in itself (once you start to master the techniques) is really addictive - like this intricate dance you perform in tangent with the rock. Finally, the community is also really amazing: super friendly, chill people who on the whole are working together to make the sport more inclusive.
What are your top tips for anyone looking to give climbing a try?
1. Don't focus too much on the grade (difficulty) or even on getting to the top! Just try to have a good time, push a little outside your comfort zone, and get used to the feeling of trusting the rope.
2. Invest in some lessons to learn the basics correctly. It's absolutely essential to master the safety skills early on, and while your friends can teach you, a lot of people unknowingly cut corners. Let's just say it's not worth the risk! Spend some time learning 'good' climbing technique, as it will help you further down the line.
3. Resist the temptation to start training too early! A lot of people make this mistake and end up injured or losing their love for the sport. My advice is to spend the first year (at least!) mastering your technique: climb on a lot of different styles and angles, experiment with different techniques and ways of doing moves, learn how to climb using the least amount of energy possible. Then, when you do start training, get a coach to write you a plan!
Hiking in the Jordan desert © Mapo Tapo
Sofia, Operations analyst: Hiking
What is it?
Going for long walks in nature. Hiking typically involves some elevation gain and more technical sections.
Why do you love it?
I love the feeling you get after a day out in the mountains - you’re tired, but in a good way!
While it’s very cliché, I do love the mountain views you get and the tranquility they convey me.
Your tips for someone trying it for the first time?
1. Always bring some waterproofs with you! The weather may look good, but you never know: mountains like to change…
2. Take a good look at the map and trail before you head off, or consult a local guide for more information.
3. Remember to have a good breakfast before you go! It’s super important to have enough energy or you won’t make it far. Bring lots snacks and favour frequent, smaller meals over a heavy lunch as you’ll find that once you stop it may be a little hard to get going again :)
Taking a break during an off-piste ski/ snowboard tour © Alessia Fontanari
Anto, Head of Product: Downhill Skiing
Why do you love it?
I love skiing in all its forms. The more adventurous (and down-hill) side of it, like ski-touring or freeriding, is my favourite. However, I don't despise going on-piste with friends.
I love skiing because it allows me to reach a state of complete focus where every other thought in my mind just clears out. It is such a good and relaxing feeling, plus the sport is a lot of fun!
What are your top tips for anyone who wants to give it a try?
First of all, learn how to ski properly and get your technique right. Going to a ski school definitely helps with mastering the basics.
If you want to get more adventurous with freeriding and ski-touring, find a friend to come with you, and for the first few tours hire an expert mountain guide to walk you through it. That way you can focus on learning the skills properly and discover the best practices for staying safe.
Testing the waters before taking the plunge © Faustine Wheeler
Faustine, Content Creator: Wild Swimming
What is it?
Wild swimming - also known as open water swimming - is any swimming-related activity that takes place out in nature. Think swimming in the sea, lakes, rivers, oceans…
Why do you like it?
For me, wild swimming is the ultimate way of connecting with nature. The physical feeling of the water around you - which can be quite uncomfortable if it’s cold - makes you really tune into your surroundings. You notice the ducks bobbing around, the reflection of the trees, the roar of the water, the smell of wet earth… It's all very grounding.
My favourite thing to do is to make my wild swims into a mini adventure. I find a body of water I want to swim in, cycle or hike there, swim, then take a different route back. Bring some friends and a picnic, and it’s the perfect day out!
What are your top tips?
1. Take it at your own pace! Wild swimming can be as chill or as hardcore as you want it: you don’t have to swim in frozen lakes or cross oceans if you don’t want to.
2. Make sure you stay well within your abilities. Don’t underestimate the power of fast-flowing water and changing tides! I recommend joining a local wild swimming group as they’ll know the safest spots to go - plus it’s a great way to make new friends.
3. Cold water shock can be deadly, so you need to acclimatise gradually. A good way to do this is to start swimming in summer, then keep going 2-3 times a week as the seasons change (you should slowly adapt to the changing temperature too). You can also always train by taking cold baths or showers!
4. Bring more layers than you think you might need for after your swim. A thermos with a hot drink is always a good idea, and if you’re struggling to get your core temperature back up then go for a short run or do some push ups ;p
Smiles all round after a long run in nature © Andrea Palazzi
* * *
We hope we’ve inspired you to take the (metaphorical) plunge and try out some new sports!
Over the next months, our team will be working hard to expand the trips selection on offer and bring you some new adventure sports, starting with our favourite: ski-touring.
However, while we may no longer exclusively be a rock-climbing trip company, our ethos still remains the same: work with local guides, favour off-the-beaten-track areas, invest in the local sports infrastructure. We’re super psyched to have you along for the next chapter of this journey and hope you continue to travel with Mapo Tapo :)
You can check out our full trips selection here.
The crew during a Mapo Tapo trip to Jordan © Mapo Tapo
Cover photo: Climbing in Tarragona during a Mapo Tapo trip © Esteban Lahoz