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Travels

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.

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.

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.