Coasteering with the Guys

Myself and Denzil Guy, I'm using the Aqua Pac 90 ltr Upano Duffel Bag. 

Making the long walk down to Dancing Ledge, Via the a bridal path and through a farm, you have to walk down an incredibly steep section of land which drops down towards the quarry. 


Getting kitted up on the lowest ledge, broke me into a sweat just doing this, could'nt wait to get in the water and cool off. 


Ben Schofield

Ben Schofield

Floating around at the bottom of a jump, this was a warm up jump from the ledge in front of me to help the guys understand the correct the jumping technique before throwing them off the larger jump. 


So, there's a jump, a really high jump... Here's me walking out, and walking around to head up to the high jump which shouldn't be done without absolute commitment and knowledge of the landing zone. 


So this is the jump, around 60 feet high, you have to jump out and over a ledge clearing a sunken rock that is under the surface of the water about the size of a car. This jump is only accessible when there is a spring high tide to give you that extra depth of water to jump into. 

From this height, you don't normally want to wear a BA as the force of the impact into the water can rip your BA off your body, which nearly happened on this occasion. 

As I hit the water, the force of water ripped my BA up and into my face, smashing me in the nose, My first thought was I had broken my nose but upon checking it, it was OK. 

 

 

Coasteering| Exploration of the Coast

Dancing ledge 

Well, what can I say? We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world here both minutes from the the New Forest and the Jurassic coast of course it would be silly not to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings that line the coastline here and not make good use of it. 

Coasteering is a physical activity that uses a variety of movements along the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming. It is difficult to define the precise boundaries between, for example, rockpooling and ocean swimming. Coasteering may include all or some of the following:

Swimming/adventure swimming- in calm, rough or white water; and/or tidal/ currents. Dressing for coasteering in the sea (wetsuits, boots, buoyancy aid, helmet etc) is an integral part of Coasteering; even on routes where it is possible to stay dry. A route, or activity, where the group start out with the intention of staying dry - whether through route choice or the use of ropes and harnesses - is not coasteering.

Climbing/scramberling, canyoning, traversing at sea level- The variety in nature of the coastline will depend on what method you would use, and all climbing should be done above deep water. Coasteering is never a dry climbing activity. 

Jumping- Often seen as the exciting and appealing part of Coasteering. These activities actually make up a minimal content of a coasteering session and groups would start  out low and normally would work up to a higher jump. Generally diving isn't advised with wearing helmets due to compression to the head. There are specific techniques for jumping which are taught you by the Guides. 

A defining factor of coasteering is the opportunity provided by the marine geology for moving in the “impact zone” where water, waves, rocks, gullies, caves etc., come together to provide a very high energy environment.

The Jurassic coast is perfect for Coasteering especially around Dancing Ledge and Durdle Door where you will find various companies running tours.

Both areas boast outstanding natural beauty that make it an ideal location for Coasteering, full of wildlife, caves, underwater tunnel systems, blow holes, pure limestone cliffs and more. Just ask the guides anything about where you are and they should be able to tell you. 

 

Coasteering should never be undertaken alone, or without the necessary recommended qualifications and Protective Equipment and general knowledge of the area. If you want to try Coasteering then I highly recommend contacting a local Outdoor activity supplier who will happily take yourself, a group, hen/stag party, or the family out on a guided tour of the coastline to show you some of the most amazing caves and features that you would miss walking along the coast path, also there is a chance of seeing some fabulous wildlife including Puffins, Seals, Dolphins, Cormorants, Gannets, Peregrines etc while Coasteering. 

All the Guides are Beach Lifeguard qualified, British Coasteering trained and qualified, and also have a wide range of expert skills to help deliver a fantastic and memorable session. Please do not miss read this as tomb stoning. 

For more information and to book a session then contact Cumulus Outdoor who are located in the beautiful Purbeck Hills. 

 

Vortex Shop Sessions

Well, what can I say? We have an incredible town here by the sea, and it would be silly not to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings that line the coast here and not make good use of it. 

  As most people work, go to school, or are busy, fitting time into skate becomes ever more difficult, it was only right to dedicate one evening/night a week so we could all meet up and skate.

So throughout most of the year, “Vortex” longboard store puts on their Thursday shop sessions.

They have established the “Thursday night skate night” where you can meet shop owner Patrick Marsh (when he’s not out working around the world), Dan Hellyer (shop bitch), and 

Jonathan Braund (team rider), and a whole bunch of crazy good skaters, and up and coming groms at Branksome Dene chine car park to get your shred on. They aim to try and attract new people, kids and adults alike to come and have a go, learn to stand on a board for the first time or to learn to slide, carve, or to just come to meet some new people, Vortex riders will likely be there any weather, so come pick their brains for technique and some tips on how to learn that slide shov. 

  

Don’t worry if you don’t have a board as the shop usually brings demo boards and wheels for you to try out or will bring the latest products down, we highly recommend you bring a helmet and they might even have some spare gloves for you to borrow if you ask nicely...every week they try and have competitions that vary, slalom, biggest standy, best bail, fastest speed, hippy jumps, Patrick loves his gadgets so every week he will have something new to play with down there including the speed trap however, as winter approaches and the nights set in, Paddy has purchased some new free standing flood lights for corners, and some colorful lasers. 

The venue we use generally is situated on the South Coast, in-between Bournemouth and Poole, it’s a hidden car park along the cliff top overlooking Poole Bay, Its fantastic as its easy to spot, and has a toilet block, the car park its self is situated on two levels, where it’s a smooth, relatively fast gradient through the cover of the tree’s, sweeping to the left and then it straightens for about 50 meters, where you then have two options to take a relatively sharp left that can be gripped, that then drops down to the lower level car park with a sharp, gradient right that you can drift or from the straight you can grip up or drift around a nice right hander down to another section of car park, the options are fantastic for developing your racing and freeriding techniques although through the summer as it gets busier we do sometimes have to move to other local hills but this all gets arranged well in advanced for the younger ones to sort out lifts. 

  Safety is a priority as they don’t want to ruin any relationship with the council or local authority, they’ve never had any issues to skating here, people can see that they are professional although there not an official club, we use a “longboarders in road” sign at entrance to car park, and spotters along the corners and road to warn drivers, they are hoping to have some free standing flags to add to the collection of goodies.  

To end the evening throughout the summer they’ll usually get the BBQ burning and all Patrick ask’s is for you to bring some meat, maybe a few buns and we’ll do the cooking, as night falls you may need a head torch but we try to lighten it up as best we can with glow sticks and torches....safety first!

So don’t be shy, come on down and meet us and have a skate, we’re usually there from half 5/6pm till about 9.30 and shred some thane with us. Keep an eye out on details of nights on the Facebook page (Vortex Longboard store UK).

Jamboo Headphones UK

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So most recently I have been lucky enough to get a hook up with Jamboo headphones UK. 

San Diego based Jamboo Headphones, came to life by raising money from the well-known crowdfunding website Kickstarter. With a 30 day campaign to reach a goal of $12,000, longtime childhood friends, Scooter Vaughan and Austin Glenn were able to gain support from around the world to raise over $20,000. That money was used to bring Jamboo Headphones to fruition and give customers a unique, style-driven choice in the cluttered headphone market. They strive to produce a fashionable, long lasting, and inexpensive headphone. Jamboo Headphones are a unique, tangle-free, headphone solution that will grab people’s attention while giving off a natural vibe to fit your personality.

Most recently, that have been set up here in the UK by JL distributions based in London, I was lucky enough to get in contact with Joe, the owner and he sorted me out with some headphones to get me started. All their heaphones are pretty funky, with cool colour patterns and the ear pieces and 9mm jack is made from Bamboo to keep to its ethical nature. 

I managed to receive 3 sets of headphone's:

Meet Harmony Tree, It's colour way is taken from the natural environment of any rain forest or woodland, very earthy feel to these headphones which make them great for any festival. 

 

 

 

These are Rasta, using the standard Jamaican colour way of black, red, green and yellow, these headphones suit anyone that follows that lifestyle, or just wants to kick back ad chill out. 

 

 

Finally, these are Night Sky. Perfect for anyone that doesn't want loud, bright colours, and want to keep a more subtle look while out and about. Following the night sky colours of black, white and grey they look awesome when wearing a coloured t shirt as they then stand out. Perfect for all occasions. 

 

There are still a few other styles available from Jamboo, including the Sound Wave, Blossom and Shine, You can probably guess what the colour ways would be with these. They have also recently brought out the Eagle, The first pair to be built with a speaker for handsfree calling. I look forward to adding to the collection.  They have an incredibly comfy in-ear style ear piece that sits snuggle into the ear, this makes the headphones sit securely in your ear without falling when jumping around, skating etc... 

The design of the headphones have been weaved so that they don't tangle up, which makes life so much easier when your in a rush to listen to your favourite tunes. 

As their relatively new to the UK the aim is for me to increase awareness of the brand here in the UK through my longboarding and other sports that I get involved in, through social media, by sharing their posts, images, etc and to include my own content of photos, videos, and posts too both on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

I look forward to seeing the development and increase of business for brand as they stand for something that slowly more and more people are becoming aware off, Doing their part for the earths survival. 

If your interested in seeing more from these guys then check out there website:

 

http://www.jambooheadphones.co.uk/

Instagram: Jambooheadphonesuk 

Twitter: @UKJamboo




Coffee and Carves

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Coffee and Carves with Roots Longboards

Specialising in unique, custom, handcrafted longboards, their fresh designs are created from a selection of beautiful woods including solid Oak, Baltic Birch and Canadian Maple. The "running gear" for each complete has been carefully selected to deliver the essence of longboarding to their customers. 'Ride and Glide'.

It was the first day of brilliant blue sky that we had seen since before Christmas, so the guys from Roots had arranged to head down South, to Boscombe and I would meet them there. I'd spoken to the guys a few times through Facebook, but I had not yet met them in person so was feeling a little apprehensive about meeting up with them. Don't know why, because as soon as I saw them I felt completely comfortable and at home. I'm generally pretty laid back and easy going, so meeting new people isn't really a problem once I pass the initial greeting. Just be confident and smile. Hyped to get riding!

On the drive over to Boscombe, I wasn't sure whether the roads would have dried up from the night before. The only hope was that the rising sun would dry out all the south-east facing roads and hills that weren't covered by trees and building's. 

Dean Bullion, shaper and designer from Roots arrived early and got himself acquainted with the local coffee from Urban Reef that is situated right on the promenade with incredible views of the beach and the sea, while waiting for myself and Martin Dix to arrive. 

As I arrived and walked down to the sea front, I was greeted by Martin Dix ( Co-Owner and shaper), Dean Bullion (shaper and designer), and their good friend and rider James Eveleigh. 

The plan for the day was to try out two new Pin-Tail Longboards that Martin and Dean had been building the night before and the result was astonishing, Martin was up until the early hours of the morning tweaking and testing the boards on his local hill outside his house. 

We headed for the famous Boscombe pier, lit up by the sunshine and made our way to the end of the walkway and set up base for a couple of hours. We made the most use of the empty pier to test out the new boards to their maximum potential, carving in and out of the seated areas that were totally empty. I don't personally ride flexible, loose, pintail boards as I'm more of into my stiff freeride and downhill boards, but much to my amazement the pin tail felt fantastic underfoot. 

We were also met by local guy Andy White, Andy has grown up surfing and skateboarding around these areas too, owning YDNA skate shop in Southbourne, then recently creating Chariots of the Sun, bespoke vintage looking wetsuits which are really incredible. Check them out: at http://chariotsofthesun.bigcartel.com/homepage

There was a father and his little boy at the end of the pier, the little boy kept looking at the skateboards, so I jumped off and started to show it off to the little guy and then Pops put the little guy on it and instantly, a smile beamed across his face as we pushed him around. Afterwards, Dad thanked us for letting him push his son on the longboard. It feels so good when you can help someone to get on a longboard and to experience it for the first time - potentially that could be one more longboarder when he gets older. 

The two new pintail boards were set up with Revenge 180's and Randall 150's. They'll be sold with Paris 180's, Randall or Paris 150's with an option to reduce the price with Vault 150's or 180's. 

Wheels were 68mm Road Riders and on the other 75mm  'Buttery' Avillas. They suspect they will be releasing them 3dm's I guess for that absolutely buttery flow! It had a beautiful dark wood finish to it, this wasn't intentional but didn't want to leave the boards plain looking, so applied this beautiful dark colour tint to the wood to finish it off for the demo and it looked gorgeous. 

The ride was smooth, buttery and a joy to be on, straight away I felt comfortable. Finding the best foot placement didn't take long and was quickly carving and pumping around the pier. The Revenge trucks gave an awesome response kick back to the carve, however it wasn't  so fierce that it would throw you off. The flex of the board was spot on, even for myself who is touching (ahem) 14 stone. The board had enough flex without bottoming out; they have built in 1/2 inch concave into the board which was perfect to lock your feet into place. 

They also brought some other boards with them that were truly awesome. The 34 inch Roots cruiser (Penny Killer), The Knot (with twin kicks), you find more about these boards by visiting their website

After the pier session, we headed up to Urban beach for some lunch. As it's out of season down here the local cafe/bars were shut to our annoyance, so we rocked up to Urban Beach to grab a light bite and a drink. Proper man chips, chunky as hell!!

The plan for the afternoon was to take the cars and boards and head over to Slade's farm skate park. If you don't know it, then Slade's is an old park, built back in the 70's, has a good snake run concrete bowl, various rails, and added fun boxes, very old school, its a bit rough around the edges but hey, thats why we love it. 

However, when we arrived there it was still pretty moist with a couple of large puddles still in the snake run, so we headed over to another area. The Velodrome. It is what it is, a cycle velodrome for racing, but we got ourselves on there in the hope that the sun had dried it out, disappointingly, we only had corner to play on and have a pump about on. So we headed back to the pier to catch the sunset on the pier. 

Arriving back to the pier, after parking the cars up, the pier was shut! this was so annoying as the pier offers excellent lighting running the length of the pier and with the added sunset it would of been insanely good to capture the boards in action. So we made the most of what we had and skated along the promenade, cruising, pumping and carving our way along, the sun started to set in front of us so we stopped for another coffee at Urban Reef where it gave us time to reflect on the day and talk about events and the boards that we had just spent the whole day with, whilst capturing some awesome sunset pictures as it disappeared behind the pier and the Purbecks. 

To end the day we headed back up to the cars, where we had ignored a perfectly smooth, low gradient road which we could carve and pump about on which gave us a sweet view over-looking the pier and along the coastline. Here, we shared around the boards, getting low, performing some low manoeuvre turns and cornering in and out of the car park. As it got dark, the chill of the night reminded us that it was only January, compared to earlier in the day where we had been riding around in just T-shirts, you could of thought it was Spring and been anywhere in the world. 

Overall, if you''re looking for a quality deck which is great value for money and better than a Penny board which you want to use for commuting, carving, cruising, playing in the bowls then check out these boards. They have some big plans for this year and will be all over at events and running some of their own, creating some new shapes and you may even see a drop through and a top mount downhill deck. Keep an eye out, these guys are here to stay for the long run and being British, show them your support. 

Ride n Gide. 

Ben Schofield. 

 

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Cycling around San Francisco is FUN!

It was actually a while ago, March 2011 to be precise, but I only just came across this video and thought it was pretty wicked and definitely worth sharing.

So, it was during the first Launch Conference, where I was attending along with 3 startups from the TWiSTldn Meetup that I host.

After the meetup, my buddy Nic drove down to LA with his friend from Facebook, leaving me in San Francisco for a few more days. So I had by first AirBnB experience. Funny thing was, one of the companies I was with was Tripbod. And my host was Jamie Wong from Vayable, what would turn out to be Tripbod's main competitor for authentic travel experiences.

Anyway, Jamie was cool and she organised this tour of San Francisco on bikes, taking in the usual sites - Town Hall, the Ball Park, The Castro etc. but in geeky fashion, it came with a tech startups flavour. We saw the offices of AirBnB, Twitter (and supposedly the park bench where Biz, Ev and Jack came up with idea... whatever) and probably a few more..

But regardless, it was fun and a nice way to see a city - I'd recommend it.

Project 30 - Cycling St Malo to Santander - Day 1

It's been over a year since our little trip, so I decided it was time to get the old videos and photos out and start pulling together a series of documentaries about our trip.

It's put together pretty quickly, since I didn't have much time, but hope you enjoy it - I know we did...

Flight of the Manta Ray at Bodu Hithi Thila, Maldives

We took a trip across the North Male Atoll to see the spectacularly graceful and hypnotic sight of Manta Rays, who come to the area at this time of year to be cleaned. I pulled this video together, as photo stills fail to capture the fluid motion of their effortless travel through the water.

Canyoning and DH Biking in Geneva

My friend James is one extreme son of a gun. And so it was very fitting that his stag do would incorporate some very fun and adrenalin pumping activities. It was also worth noting that Geneva and Annecy are beautiful in the sunshine.

Playing with the Mega Neutron at Westward Ho!

My brother Ben is training to be an outdoor activities instructor and he's a keen kayaker, more specifically, he has really started to get seriously into kayak surfing. I enjoy kayaking too, but up until now, have been more used to the more sedate river running and static wave playboating in a nice steady creek boat. The Mega Neutron was VERY different, but wow, when you get to grips with the instability when you're not moving and catch a wave, you see why the boat was designed like this. The slightest adjustment in weight and your edges did all the work, carving effortlessly through the wave. Ben's now bought the plastic (there's also a posher performance composite version) model and I'm looking forward to pinching it off from time to time...

Snowboarding in the Alps - Chamonix

I've not posted anything for a couple of weeks as I was just lucky enough to spend New Year in the Alps with some very good friends. There was plenty of snow all week and my boarding skills came along well, so a little pat on the back for me, I think.

For New Year, we spent a few days in an apartment in Chamonix. I'm glad we did, as for one, the resorts were bound to have the best snow around due to their altitude and for two, I'd never been to Chamonix and always wanted to experience the Aalpine hustle and bustle. However, it wasn't all rosey. The apartment, which was more box than penthouse, was incredibly expensive, cramped (considering it was supposed to sleep 5, we were lucky their ended up only three of us) and surrounded by loud mouthed and obnoxious Italians. My friend Jim and I were stood outside the apartment, when one Italian guy threw a bottle from his apartment balcony over our heads towards the bins outside, narrowly missing us. Needless to say, a few loud words followed.

After spending an hour or so in a bar, listening to some absolutely battered English guys talking crap really, really loudly, we decided to head back and just drink, be merry and see the new year in our apartment. We went out just after the stroke of midnight for something to eat, and spent about an hour watching idiotic Italians wearing white leather slip-on shoes slipping on the treacherous icey roads. Hilarious.

The boarding was great, as we spent New Years day at Grand Montets and the day after in the powder fields of Brevent.

My friends took me to visit their new house build, in the hills around Fillinges in France and only about 25 minutes from the Portes du Soleil resorts of Les Gets, Morzine and Avoriaz. The view was stunning and I was so jealous, but to be honest, building out there is a now brainer. The French seem to really support this new build idea, by offering such amazing mortgage packages and low interest rates, while the local council also contributes to things like connecting services to the land. Fantastic.

We went to see Avatar in English (fortunately) and in 3D, in the Pathe cinema in Geneva. WOW! What a movie, what an experience. I mean experience as in 3D, you literally feel a part of the movie, like you are walking through the forests and giant trees, like you are flying crazy helicopters or riding a winged creature through the floating mountains. I sat there with my jaw open for nearly 3 hours, only moving to dodge the odd flying object which you thought was going to hit you as it was launched from the screen towards you. I recommend this film strongly to anyone, not necessarily for the story, but for the overall experience and the fact that when you walk out of the cinema, you feel like you've earned a rest. And don't be cheap, watch it in 3D.

For the rest of the week, we boarded at Les Gets (Mont Chery side) which was absolutely deserted but also offered some glorious fresh powder; Avoriaz, which was a little bit of a mogul and ice fest, but did include some interesting off-piste tree runs and the hilarious site of one of friends ending up face down, 3ft down in snow under a tall tree after losing it on a tight bend. She had to be freed by one of use unstrapping her bindings and pulling her out. I dread to think what would have happened if there wasn't someone behind. The final days boarding was at La Clusaz, a new resort to us. This was a great day, with fantastic views and some quiet, tree lined pistes. It was a little bit icey, but not unpleasant and you could get some real speed up on the fast piste runs.

A few things wound me up this week. One, the new craze of snowboarders being overly obvious about their consumption of cannabis on the mountain, like loudly talking about it and smoking huge reefers in the lift queue. Does my head in.

I also frustrated myself by singlehandedly cocking up what should have been some quality helmet cam footage, but managing to either miss it by not putting on the button lock on the VIO POV control box, or not cleaning the misted up camera lens. Otherwise, the camera is awesome. User error was rife.

There were the usual crazy ski suits, some real classics.  

I met some amazing people while I was out there, including a cool downhill mountainbiker from Sweden who speaks a billion languages, a dutch couple with their amazing house and adorable 4 month old boxer puppy, and a cool american couple from the bay area who are studying law and were close friends of my friends in France.

An now I'm back and focussing on developing the Fidgetsick website for our impending relaunch, but it was awesome to meet some great people with the same kind of passion and interests as me, in being adventurous and leading a really varied and enjoyable life.

Kayaking on the River Stour - my back yard

Isn't it incredible when you see something you weren't expecting, something so peaceful and natural that you find yourself still, motionless and desperate for the moment not to end. Isn't it incredible when you find those moments on your own doorstep. It's rare, or it has been, for me to find such occurences without travelling for hours to the mountains of Scotland, the Welsh Valleys or even the Alpes - all places that I frequent.

So this morning, I went for a paddle on the Stour, from Bryanston School, headed downstream to the Blandord Weir. What started off looking like a thouroughly miserable actually turned out pretty well, the rain held off, it wasn't overly cold and there was plenty of water in the river.

En route to the weir, we must drop down over the Bryanston Weir, a 6ft drop into a great churn of water. Some of our group got out went round it, others over the edge. It's an exilerating decision to make, gaining the momentum and commiting to drop. Once on the lower level, there's time for a quick surf in the weir and is we did, came a sight not often witnessed in this neck of the woods. Leaping from the lower level, trying desperately to make the distance, were wild salmon. This is the kind of the thing you see on a Ray Mears or David Attenborough documentary, and here they were just on the tip of this lovely Georgian town.

After a few minutes of watching the action, we continued to make our way down to the weir, passing cormorants and kingfishers going about their daily busines. A few hours of surfing, edging and general playboating, we made for home.

Heading back up the river, a heron stood proud on some old reeds that had gathered. It took flight as we approached and stuck close to the water, making a distinct call as it passed low a quick as if acknowledge our presence and amount of distain for our untimely interruption.

Getting close to the Bryantson weir once again, a couple of us were ahead of the rest up stream. We heard some distinctive squeeky noises from the far side of the river and made our way over, somewhat curious as to who was leading this high pitched conversation. We nestled next to some reeds and just watched, as not one, not two, but three large otters gradually appeared. One was on the bank keeping watch, as the other two dived and resurfaced, their highly distinguished heads breaking the glistening water as they searched out the salmon we witnessed earlier.

The group of otters looked at us closely to begin with, edging slightly closer to get an idea of what we were about. As the rest of our party arrived, the otters obviously felt a little outnumbered and made for the bushes that lined the river bank. The others departed and I stayed, quiet and still hoping that they'd return.

A couple of squeeks and some splashing at the base of the weir and I was priviledged to be the only member of the audience at this special show of playful interaction and industrious workmanship. Before I realised, the others were gone and me and my new buddies were all alone, having lost track of the time I spent observing and listening in this peaceful place. And so, I too made for home leaving the otters to their games and work.

I kicked myself that I left my house without my camera, but at the same time, feel that beyond the rawness of my presence in such a traditional watercraft (OK, so it's made of plastic, but you know what I mean) that my experience would have been less spiritual if my main concern was how good my shots were going to turn out.

So as I right this, the smile on my face suggests a new and envigorated appreciation for my local town and the pleasant surprises it still has up its sleeve.

Outdoor Capital of the UK is closed in November

I just got back from a trip to Scotland, it's a trip we make at least once a year simply because parts of Scotland are the most delightful places on earth to be. We generally stay at a beautiful highland estate, called Kingairloch, which has so captured my heart, sould and imagination - so much so, I married my wife there in April this year.

So, as is the norm for me, when I'm in Scotland, I go looking for things to do, extreme things. Things like long kayaking expeditions or canyoning down beautifully crafted waterfalls, evidence of mother nature's nack for the masterpiece.

As always, the first place I look (being a jack of all adventure sports and master of, well none, but I hope a few maybe close...) is the commercial activity providers of the area. Now I appreciate that this is the week after half term, and the weather was pretty crappy, but that week we had 3 good solid days of blue sky sunshine. Could I find any company who would humour my intention to get outside and get active? Could I heck.

So I phoned at least half a dozen, maybe more, companies when I was there, every day, multiple times per day. I even had the gaul to predict it may be tricky to organize, and so to help out, emailed the companies a couple of weeks in advance.

So, of those I called, only Rockhopper Kayaking actually came back to me. Highland Activities, G2 Outdoor and Vertical Descents didn't even though I left multiple messages. Snowgoose Mountain Centre was closed and the Ice Factor was shut for refurbishments. Monster activities answered and were honest that they couldn't accomodate. So, overall, not very impressive in my opinion, particularly where there was no response, not even a voicemail message saying they were closed for business which is quite unprofessional, in my opinion.

So, Archie and I were forced to go and find a mountain to climb on our own. Nay bother, we had a great time, but I can say that next time I'm in the area, I will think hard before deciding who I ask to take my money.

BUILD AN IGLOO, CANADA AND THE GOOD LIFE

After watching the Ray Mears World of Survival repeat on the BBC this week, my mind has been captivated once again by the wilderness of Northern Canada. Mrs S and I are now planning to go on a wilderness and survival trip next year. I found a cool trip on www.woodsmoke.uk.com, especially this trip into the Maine Woods. Ideally, I think I'd prefer the Yukon so will be scouring the web for the best expedition packages, let me know if you know of any you'd recommend.

Personally, I'd love nothing more than to live a life of basic survival, but unfortunately, there aren't many log cabin plots in the Yukon with decent WiFi access. So let's start with a trip and see where the urge takes us.

It really didn't help that I just finished reading "The Good Life - Up the Yukon without a paddle" by Dorian Amos. It is a wonderful tale of how a couple with an urge for a different life make the big leap and head out into the Canadian wilderness in search of fullfillment of a non-materialistic kind. They settle in (or just outside) Dawson City with their dog, a cross between a German Shepard and a BASSET HOUND! I don't know how that dog managed to survive it! Must get the sequel now - "The Good Life Gets Better".

Anyway, not wanting this to turn into a book review, I'd definitely recommend this witty and inspiring read about a life journey that we all secretly long to for, but few have the balls to carry forward.

Skydiving with The Red Devils at Netheravon, Wiltshire

Massive day today, as I let myself plummet towards the ground from over 13,000 feet in a 50 second freefall before deploying the chute and enjoying a stomach turning 5 minute canopy ride back to the landing zone. The drop zone was Netheravon in Wiltshire, run by the Parachute Regiments Red Devils Team, and it was easily one of the most inspiring, exciting and adrenalin fuelled things I have ever done. It was so surreal, from the exit of the plane, the spiralling freefall, the sting of the clouds on my face as they pass at 120mph, the jolt of the parachute being deployed or the twists and turns of the canopy aerobatics being displayed by my tandem instructor, Billy.


A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. More amazing, the man who was celebrating his 92nd birthday, by jumping with his son, and having the permanent grin of a 17 year old who just popped his cherry.

PREDATOR VX360 VS VIO POV.1.5

I was at the Animal Windfest last week, where I got introduced to the new Predator VX360. There's been loads of press about this new camera over the last few weeks, and much of the hype is well founded, it would appear. It's a pretty tasty looking product, it feels pretty solid and well constructed and provides some real flexibility when it comes to shot angles and positioning. I didn't find too much wrong on a short term review, so really it's up to sustained and prolongued testing periods of intense use to put it through it's paces. Hopefully I'll get my grubby mits on one again soon. In the meantime, here's some footage shot at the Windfest, which was great event down on the Sandbanks Penninsula, with perfect weather!

I also have in my possession, currently undergoing some pretty serious testing, is the ActionCameras.co.uk distributed VIO POV.1.5. This camera is around the same price as the Predator - £500.00 and again, really does feel the part as a solid, well manufactured and well designed piece of equipment. The results of my testing and review will be posted onto Fidgetstick/ in the next few weeks - watch that space! Here's some of the IOV promotional footage for your delight...

OPEN WATER SWIMMING IN THE UK

I've really been getting into this recently, as I found swimming pools really inaccesible - either the public swim times didn't fit with my schedule plus it's just getting so bloomin' expensive. So, I was really excited when I was listening to the IM Talk podcast and they recommended this website - cheers guys!

The Outdoor Swimming Society is a great site that includes loads of tips and advice about open water swimming. Most interesting and useful, is the Open Water Swimming Map. This gives you a whole load of different locations, many you wouldn't have even thought about visiting, let alone swimming in.

I think we'll be adding a load of these swimming locations to the Fidgetstick/ Triathlon Places section in the near future...

Casual Coasteering with my bro at Durdle Door

Ben and I headed down to Durdle Door, near Lulworth Cove in Dorset - an iconic landmark on the Jurassic coastline, for a spot of coasteering and to test out the Boxit waterproof mobile phone case and the Aquapac DSLR waterproof cover.

Lot's of fun.

Day Skipper Theory with Sailtime, Poole

Having never set foot on a sailing boat before, I was well up for the challenge of going from zero to hero (theoretically speaking) and passing the Theory component of the RYA Day Skipper course.

Held at the beautiful RNLI building in Poole, Dorset, the course was very well run and the tutoring aspect was very informative.

Pleasingly, for such a newbie, I gathered and assimilated the information well, quickly rising to teacher's pet as I began to master my charts, line of sight, meteorology, seamanship, pilotage, collision regs, emergency procedures and rules of the road.

I'm pleased to say that after some swatting, I passed with flying colours and am now looking forward to the practical aspect part (with severe trepidation - remember, not been on a sailing boat before, it's all theory to me). But I'm up for it, I could be a sailboat captain yet...

Microlighting with Swallow Aviation, Salisbury

Turning up towards the address I had for the airfield we were looking out for the tell-tale signs – a glimpse of a control tower, a wind sock, a small fleet of planes glistening in the glorious sunshine, a foreboding sense of realisation began to sink in. On approach, I recall some jokes about the strip of grass mown into the crops of the adjacent field to the farm road we were driving up being our runway. The slack-jawed silence became all telling as we rose up to the brow of the hill to find anything but what we expected. As the eye followed the natural line of grass strip and found focus on the gleaming aircraft proudly sitting as if basking in sunshine and admiring itself. To the north, a couple of cars. North west, an old caravan that had seen better days. Gulp. What had I got myself into this time...

Apprehensively I parked up next to the cars (seemed logical, but certainly not a formality) and went to find to my instructor, Paul. There really weren't any options other than to head for the caravan. Cleaning the rust of the old stove in the caravan, we made our acquaintances and I explained more about Fidgetstick/ and what we were trying to achieve. Foolishly, I also inquired as to the whereabouts of the “microlight” that we would be flying in today, as the little aeroplane sitting outside was all well and good, but this was to be a microlighting review. I did my best to gloss over and not convey any surprise over the apparent lack of facilities.

It was explained that I had fallen foul of a common misconception of the uninitiated, in that a microlight is essentially an aircraft that weighs less than 450kg. They come in many guises – from the flex-wing “hanglider and a basket” style craft that I had envisaged to this “little aeroplane” fixed wing aircraft that we were to experience today.

Not to beat around the bush, we were soon strolling towards the microlight and strapping in. Taking off from the airfield at Deptford, just off the main A303 in between Salisbury and Warminster, the airfield abuts the military restricted airspace over the Salisbury Plains. Keeping out of harms way of shrapnel and heavy artillery fire were to be a priority. It's always reassuring when someone asks you “how strong's your stomach?”, you just know what's coming next!

Hard bank to the right just after take off and climbing followed by sharp left and falling quickly. A few more quick changes of direction and I fail to recall the exact moves – by this time I was desperately trying to keep a grip on my camera. A few minutes of showboating and aerobatics and we set a course for the iconic Stonehenge monument. Crossing the Plains in a microlight is a beautiful and enchanting experience, enjoyed by very few. The bright yellow rape seed and sun shimmering off the surface of the lakes made it very difficult to take in anything but the view.

Paul explained, in between a number of bumps and changes in elevation caused by thermal pockets and windy gusts, that their facilities hadn't always been so basic and that this is somewhat of a rebuilding phase. He elaborated that they used to have multiple aircraft that were tethered to and sheltered by a hangar structure. One day, they arrived at Deptford ready for a days flying, following what must have been a particularly wind torn night. They found that the hangar and all three craft had been swept out of their night time resting and into the trees lining the north end of the runway. Everything was written off in what must have been a bitter pill to swallow.

Since that time there have been ongoing challenges with local residents, other airfields and local authorities in trying to redevelop the site to make the facilities much better suited to the people who want to learn and experience flying microlights.

We approached Stonehenge and couldn't help but marvel at the site of hundreds of people, on a scorching hot weekend, marching around and gawping at a big pile of rocks in a field! That said, the sight from the air was indeed spectacular.

We made our way back to land and Paul, who by now I had come to appreciate as an utterly eccentric, extremely competent and totally passionate aviation enthusiast, felt that we could sneak up on the waiting crowds (my wife and two of his students). The plan was to follow the line of the valley from the north of the airfield and down to the west, essentially flying below the level of the cars parked by the runway, hidden by the valley and the surrounding trees. Paul had told me earlier how on a thermal day (and this was one of those) the thermal pockets could cause a craft to drop many feet in the air, and since we were flying so close to the ground, I was a little twitchy.

When close enough, Paul gunned the engines and the aim was to try and get to the onlookers before the sound from our engine did, and as we soared across in a Top-Gun style impromptu and unsolicited fly-by, we were more than a little smug. We drew the line at flying upside down over them just to give them the finger aka Maverick! Gliding gracefully round using little power we landed safely on the grass and brought our short but very sweet adventure to an end.

I hope that Paul and the loyal members of Swallow Aviation can get the approvals they require to give them just the basic facilities they need to provide a service on the ground like they provide in the air and one that would only serve to enhance the enthusiasm, passion, expertise and experience that they so clearly possess. A thoroughly delightful group of people, a buzz of excitement and a nice suntan from sitting in a field soaking up the rays and chatting about flying for the next couple of hours.

A strange experience, as initial hesitation was overcome by the enjoyment of the ride, never once feeling that safety had ever been compromised.

A taster flight with Swallow Aviation costs £25.00 for 15 minutes, up to £99.00 for 1 hour. I recommend at least 30 minutes to get the most out of it. To achieve your NPPL Microlight license, you'll need about £2,500.00 and time to devote to learning – a minimum of 25 hours flying time is required in addition to the ground study. Swallow Aviation provide courses for all of this.