With the long withstanding heat wave that has hit the UK in May, and hasn’t left since, the idea of wearing a wetsuit for an after work wakeboarding sessions sounds like my idea of torture, to me!
Wearing just bikini bottoms is just a little bit too risqué for my liking, and I always find it hard to find shorts that fit me right, that’s when the ‘surf leggings’ seemed like the ideal solution.
Protest Surf Leggings
The first thing that caught my eye with these Protest surf leggings was the unmistakably loud pattern. Normally I would shy away from such a bold pattern on my lower half, as I have been cursed with stumpy legs, however because of the block of black on the thighs – it offers a flattering look.
The leggings are extremely comfortable; and thanks to the Elastane nonrestrictive.
Another added bonus, for all the fair skinned gals out there, is these leggings come with SPF 50+ protection; which is comforting to know that you will be protected from the sun’s UV rays all day on the water. It also means you won’t have to reapply/use sunscreen, which not only is annoying, but can often be harmful to the environment – especially if you are swimming in waters with coral reefs.
These leggings would be perfect for wakeboarding, SUPing, kayaking (saves getting a soggy bum!), snorkelling and any other water based activity! Plus the fast drying fabric means you can hop in and out of the water all summer long.
This isn’t a review of the classic Walt Disney film The Lion King; which by-the-way is excellent. No this is the nostalgic ramblings of someone who forty years ago, at the age of fifteen, travel to the Alps with the intent of climbing the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc!
Allegedly, at the time, my peers and I were potentially the youngest people to try this. But just as noteworthy; is that we all came from the outskirts of London, which is not renowned for its hills, let alone mountains!
How it all began
So how does a group of kids, more accustomed to playing in the streets, get to attempt such a feat! Well it’s all thanks to Rick Grice, and the London Borough of Havering (Havering)!
Consequently, two bus trips away from my house, was a disused gravel pit called Stubbards. Not the vast complex that is now Stubbards Adventure Centre; but a few lakes where you could learn to kayak and sail. Havering also ran a minibus to Harrisons Rocks, East Sussex to learn climbing. Unknown to me at the time, but these were the same rocks that were so influential to the legendary mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington!
Throughout the summer, for a small fee, I would spend many days at Stubbards and Harrison Rocks. Soon a merry band of climbers formed, and at the end of summer Rick asked if anyone was interested in doing more climbing. At this point I am not sure if Rick had the alpine expedition planned, but he was keen to provide an opportunity for those interested in more climbing. We travelled to other parts of the UK – Derbyshire, North Wales, Lake District, Cornwall and ultimately Scotland – in the familiar Havering minibus. The numbers dwindled; until a core group of young people were offered the chance to go to the Alps and attempt the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
Intense training pursued. We travelled to the Highlands of Scotland in winter, and we improved our fitness by running up and down the stairs at the London Borough of Havering offices, before on the 21st July 1978 the expedition set off for the Alps – in two Havering minibuses!
We camped in the Chamonix valley; and our first objective was to acclimatise to the altitude and become familiar with ice. We had practiced ice-work in the Highlands of Scotland; but here we had massive glaciers. I understand these glaciers have now receded an astounding amount, since we were on them in the 70s, a result of ‘climate change’! We climbed the Aiguilles (needles), that overlooked the valley, and notch up many classic routes. All in preparation for the instantly recognisable Matterhorn (4,478), our first objective!
We slept on a small ledge, part way up the Hörnli ridge, ready for a sunrise attempt on the summit – in fact we would start in darkness. In summer the snow and ice will melt, on the mountain, which can instigate rock falls. Consequently time is your enemy! 400m from the summit a small team, including me, had run out of time. Rick knew we couldn’t make the summit, in time safely, so we had to turn back. Disappointed at being so close, we made our way back down. Later that same day we heard the news that a ‘handful’ of climbers had died, in a rock fall, on the Matterhorn!
After some rest, and a few more peaks, we focused on Mont Blanc (4,810m); the highest mountain in Europe. We spent the night in the Gouter Hut, ready for another early morning ascent. The hut was not as big, back then, but still extremely popular; as I remember sleeping curled up next to the u-bend under the kitchen sink. The following morning we climbed the Bosses ridge to the summit. Unfortunately no spectacular summit views, because we were in white-out conditions, but triumphant in our success!
Since that trip to the Alps, I have taken part in many outdoor pursuit activities with Rick, and fallen ‘in love’ with the great outdoors! Time spent in the mountains, rivers, lakes and sea; is time well spent. My family and I love the great outdoors!
Rick died the summer of 1986, I understand attempting to reach two other friends and colleagues who had fallen on a climb in the Alps. There is a memorial climbing wall at Stubbards Activity Centre dedicated to him. I do believe many people have, and will continue to be introduced to outdoor pursuits, thanks to Rick.
Circle of Life
So why ‘Circle of Life’? Presently I am the manager of Tallington Lakes Activities Ltd; a disused gravel pit in Lincolnshire where we introduce people to kayaking, sailing and climbing. We also offer other activities such as stand-up paddle boarding, open water swimming, skiing and snowboarding. And coincidently there are no notable mountains, or hills around us.
I am most-definitely not as competent as Rick, in climbing, mountaineering, kayaking etc; and although passionate about the great outdoors, nowhere near as infectious. But I do manage a team of young people who can show you a new activity; a new activity which, like me, may inspire you to #getoutside!
With the ski season coming to the end I needed to find a new way to keep fit throughout the summer. Working at Tallington Lakes gave me the perfect opportunity to swap two skis on snow covered mountains (or Dendix) for one ski behind a boat on the water.
Glide Soul Wetsuit
The water is sill a bit nippy, this time of year, so I took the opportunity to try out a women’s wetsuit, from a new brand to the Pro Shop, Glide Soul. Having not heard of this brand before I didn’t know what to expect, and the colour wasn’t exactly to my liking either, so I was a little apprehensive. However once I got it on I was impressed. It was easy to put on and take off and the quality neoprene felt great too – very stretchy! I usually struggle with how tight they feel around my neck, as it makes me feel very uncomfortable, but I didn’t feel restricted in this at all! The seams are glued and blind-stitched, as you would expect from a quality wetsuit; which did not hinder movement either as I attempted to run the course. The Supratex knees feel great and give remarkable flexibility especially when you’re curled up in the water-start position.
As I feel the cold quite a lot, and like to stay warm, I will wear this 3mm wetsuit throughout the whole summer. So even though the colour is a bit ‘loud’ for me the performance of this wetsuit is fantastic. So don’t let the colour, of this women’s wetsuit, put you off because the performance itself is actually quite flattering; and we’ve got plenty of other Glide Soul colour-ways to choose from in store!
One such ‘All-Terrain’ item is the Brixton Transport 20 Cargo Shorts. The shorts are made from 4.5 oz ripstop nylon (98%) and elastane (2%); and have a water-repellent coating. The cut is an athletic fit with a straight leg of 20”, and adjustable waistband. There are some nice features, and additions, which make these shorts stand out. A good number of pockets, which are zipped, is very practical; and they have even included a small ‘pocket size’ dry-bag to keep your wallet dry – however I’d be tempted just to have few notes and coins rather than a bulky wallet. Another nice addition is the ‘knot book’ (a handy, roped together, collection of cards). This simple practical guide takes you back to your scouting days; and makes you hunt out a piece of rope and practice figure-of-eights, clove hitches and more!
So it seemed appropriate to review the Transporter shorts whilst rock climbing; to see how ‘all-terrain’ they are!
First impressions, when you put them on, are ‘very comfortable’; partly thanks to the elastane but also the cut. The reinforced seat reiterates you are going to be active; so once the climbing harness, helmet and other equipment was on, I was ready to ascend the gritstone crag. Still comfortable under the harness; the shorts allowed unrestricted movement. The lightweight material keeps you cool, even when things get tricky on the tense crux of the climb. What goes up must come down; and the shorts were equally comfortable during the abseil!
Comfortable and unrestrictive the Transporter 20 shorts performed well on the gritty rock face; and I believe they will perform just as well behind the wheel of a speeding wakeboard boat, or leisurely paddling a stand-up-paddleboard. So are they All-Terrain, yes they are, both on land and on water!
The few that have kept skiing, even when the lifts have stop turning to ‘earn their turns, spring has been a quick and warm few months! The ski season is well and truly over with the last of the spring snow gone; and now the skis are serviced and the batteries are removed from our trackers it’s time to reflect. Here are my thoughts on Black Diamond’s Mission Shell Jacket and Sharp End Pant
Coming into this year’s ski season I was super keen to increase the hours I spent touring; so a nice lightweight breathable outer shell setup was going to be a must. However, moving to Vail Colorado, one of the world’s largest ski resorts, with ‘day in day out use’; protection from the elements and durability where going to be a key factor.
Being almost 6ft 4in tall I often find that technical apparel never quite fits right; having to wear larger sizes to accommodate for the extra length, but then finding it way too baggy everywhere else. With Black Diamond I settled on ‘large’ for both pant and jacket, although I could have been a medium in the pants. The large pant gave an extra 2.5cm inseam, and with the integrated belt system tightening up the waist, the large was the better fit. The large jacket was a great fit right from the start, with the under arm gussets giving a great range of movement. The super adjustable cuffs, powder skirt, and Cohaesive cord-lock technology hood all contributed to sealing up the jacket from the elements. Full Gore-Tex construction gave both the jacket and pant excellent waterproofness and breathability, needed to keep the metres of powder snow at bay and disperse all the heat from those warm spring days or sweaty mid winter ‘pushing-the-envelope’ moments!
After six months of clattering through tree runs, being stuffed in a bag, ploughed through countless feet of snow, and some rain, this setup has proven its worth many times over. And still now, all be it not smelling quite as fresh, it looks as good as it did when it came out of the packaging.
So if you’re looking to progress into the off-piste and earn your turns, ski groomers all day, or go get buried waist deep and send powder shots overhead this Black Diamond Mission Shell jacket and Sharpe End pant combo will keep you dry and warm on the way down; and well vented and breathable on the way up. From freezing chair lift rides, to climbing across cornices, it’s great to have 100% belief in the kit you’re using – and Black Diamond didn’t disappoint. And not having the extra worry of being too cold or too warm; you can just focus on the objective in front of you.
It seems like everyone is starting to do their part when it comes to cleaning our aquatic playgrounds; everything from reducing agricultural pollutants in our waters to reducing plastic waste. But how many of us have stopped to think; how eco-friendly is the wetsuit I’m wearing, in the water, when participating in my favourite water sport?
Picture Organic Clothing has taken the plunge into the wetsuit market, with the same company policy: ‘sustainable development and conservation of the environment’. Consequently we have seen the emergence of wetsuits made from NaturalPrene – 85% natural rubber and 15% synthetic chlorine free rubber. So what are these eco-friendly wetsuits like? Well I took one water skiing and wakeboarding at Tallington Lakes, and body-boarding/surfing in Cornwall to try – and the odd open water swim.
Glued and blind stitched seams, with solvent free water based glue, and a fully recycled polyester lining; make these wetsuits comfortable and ultra-quick drying. The additional DryNow fibre lining, in critical areas, is ultra-wicking and will keep your body’s core warm.
The zip-free entry design means your cold fingers do not have to struggle with a zipper; which along with the fully waterproof collar, including a glideskin neck seal, will ensure minimal water intake. If you are a surfer, or just take hard hits wakeboarding like myself, then the double NaturalPrene comfort zones protect your ribs perfectly.
Consequently Picture Organic Clothing has been able to dramatically save their carbon footprint, in the manufacture of good quality wetsuits. Instead of giving us the figures in a scientific number, that better minds that my own can’t comprehend, they give us an easy understandable representation: the emissions saved are the same as driving 56,000 kilometres in a car.
So high quality wetsuits, that perform in the water, following a 100% eco-friendly policy – done!
If I’m honest, I reached a plateau in my skiing some years ago; I kind of accepted that I’d reached the limits of my body. I wasn’t too unhappy with this as I felt that my skiing was quite good, at least for my age. But wouldn’t it be nice to get just a little bit better? Which is why I was attracted to Carv Digital Ski Instructor.
I’ve been skiing for almost 40 years – and, no, unlike my 14-year old son, I didn’t start at the age of 3! Perhaps I should have, as he’s now far better than me. I look at my son’s skiing with unashamed jealousy and wonder why I can’t be as good as him. Well, I’m not the kind of dad who simply rolls over and lets the younger generation through! No sir, I’ll try anything to regain my dignity and rightful place in the family hierarchy!
Carv Digital Ski Instructor
I think I’m right in saying that our sets were from the first full-scale production run for the product. I say ‘we’ because my son was so impressed by the concept that he also had to have a set – bah, there goes my secret weapon. At £250 a set, it wasn’t exactly an easy decision to commit to, especially as there were no independent reviews out there. But the concept was just so enticing (as was the desire to improve my skiing).
Carv is exactly what it says: it’s a digital ski instructor. It monitors your skiing performance turn-by-turn and talks to you as you’re skiing (of course, you can switch this off). Unlike a human instructor, who will tell you afterwards that you’ve done it all wrong, Carv tells you in real-time, so you can, on the next turn, change what you’re doing and get it right. Carv works with you on separate parts of your skiing: balance, angle, pressure, etc, but it doesn’t overload you with advice and information.
Carv comes in 3 parts: the insole (the core of the product), the tracker (essentially a battery and a communication device to connect to your smart phone), and an App. Let’s take a look first at the insole.
This is the clever part of Carv. The insole is packed full of sensors that monitor various parameters of your skiing: edge angle, balance, pressure, G-force, and others.
Because it’s sized to your ski boot, if you had a crazy idea of sharing it with someone else they’d have to have a similar Mondo size boot. The insole doesn’t appear to have been designed to be moved regularly from one person’s boot to another –the setup video mentions to take care not to bend the insole excessively when fitting it, suggesting that it might not like being moved between boots frequently.
The insole fits between the boot shell and the liner. Before I took delivery, I was a bit worried about this as my son’s ski boots are fitted for racing and are therefore very tight. I was concerned about the insole raising the foot up and therefore squeezing the top of the foot against the boot. Well, that wasn’t an issue; the insole is amazingly thin, so thin that you don’t know it’s there. If you have moulded insoles (as I do) then don’t worry, they won’t conflict.
The insole connects to the tracker (one for each boot) via a hard-wired cable to the insole. The cable needs to be disconnected from the tracker to allow it to be recharged. We recharged the batteries every evening so didn’t really road test its endurance. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t a quick charging process, so to avoid losing power when skiing I’d recommend recharging them daily.
The brains of Carv is the App. We were using iPhones, but there is an Android version. The App provides you with lots of functionality, from drills, to challenges, to monitors, to free sessions. I started with the drills, but quickly (in my dreams) progressed to the free sessions.
I found the drills and challenges a mix of annoying and inspiration. The annoying bit for me was the Super Mario type sounds that resulted from achieving the goals, and not achieving these. But, this pales into insignificance when compared to the improvements to be had in skiing ability. It genuinely does up your game to another level – and beyond. I was able to work on those things that had held me back for years – remember my plateau comment? – and seriously improve my skiing. In fact, I’d honestly say Carv exceeded my expectations.
Carv analyses your skiing and awards you a skiing IQ from each of your runs. This IQ is averaged and can be uploaded onto a leaderboard so you can see how good, or bad, you really are. It was very pleasing to see my IQ progress steadily as I worked through the drills and challenges. It was less pleasing to see my son improve faster and move into the top 25, leaving me down in the 80s!
I can see the Carv team continuing to develop the functionality as they learn more about the product. I just hope they don’t get it to the stage where it tells you that maybe you’d be better off trying some other sport – I’ll leave that to my son!
So, who is Carv suitable for. Well, I’d rule out beginners, novices and those improving to intermediate. You need to have become ‘one with your skis’ for Carv to be a benefit; besides, when you’re learning it’s so much fun in a class sharing each other’s experiences – Carv would simply get in the way, and it doesn’t laugh when you fall over. So, I’d suggest Carv is suitable for intermediate/advanced, and even expert. My son is using them to improve his racing skills to great effect.
Overall, Carv is for the dedicated and capable skier and it really is as good as their website claims.
The petunia colour and slim fit make these a favourite for my winter wardrobe, and the stretch material made them extremely flexible while still being snug. Not only are they breathable but also waterproof which made for a perfect piece of ski gear.
There are multiple pockets which I could use for my sun cream and lift pass, with a Velcro adjustable waistband which came in handy after a big lunch on the mountainside! The knees and heels are made with reinforced material which made sure they were durable and the material, although unusual, I really liked as opposed to the usual waterproof material.
Skiing around for a week made me fall in love with these trousers and I would definitely recommend them to anyone who loves to look stylish while being sporty!
Capita’s 2018 Space Metal Fantasy snowboard is a superb little snowboard; and absolutely great for its price. This snowboard is ideal for someone who enjoys playing around in the park, popping off kickers, and just all round mountain fun. The reverse camber allows the rider to do jumps with ease whilst at the same time floating in powder surprisingly well for its size.
I am particularly fond of the graphics on the 2018 edition; with the dove on a spacey backdrop. The glittery-shimmer throughout the board really sparkles, on those bright bluebird days, giving it that real ‘space fantasy’ feel; and will no doubt catch people’s eyes.
With a 4/10 flex rating the Space Metal Fantasy is super soft for that flexible and playful feel, great for pressing; and turning with ease. Its especially great at jibbing!
Although it is an all mountain board, and isn’t known to be the best for speed and carving, I personally came across no problems when carving at speed.
There has been a lot of press about the new S/Lab Shift ski binding from Salomon. After nearly a decade of R&D Salomon has produced a ski binding that can deliver downhill performance with touring capability. A ski binding that gives today’s freeride skiers a chance to “earn their turns” by touring uphill and then charging ‘big lines’ on the descent!
Having never ski toured before I was both excited and apprehensive when Shep, Salomon’s friendly ski tour guide, introduced me to ski touring. First the safety kit, including a transceiver which was very reassuring. And then the 99mm underfoot QST skis with S/Lab Shift bindings, and skins. All I will say is; “if you are into Transformers you’ll love these bindings”. A ‘click here’ and a ‘click there’; and you transform a touring binding into an alpine binding, and visa versa – “simples”.
So with the skins attached and the bindings in touring mode, I managed to locate my boots securely. It takes a bit of practice, but I would have experienced that with any ‘pin binding’ – and you soon get the ‘knack’! We set off, nothing too adventurous at the side of the piste, but enough to understand the technique of going uphill with skis – without the aid of a button or chair lift. Needless to say it was more tiring, but it was also more rewarding – I now understand the term “earn your turns”.
It was now time to, ‘click here’ and ‘click there’, and transform the bindings into alpine mode. This I am familiar with, and they felt as good as the bindings I have had on any of my piste/all-mountain skis!
The whole experience was great, and I managed to impress Shep enough to allow me to join a more adventurous trip the following day.
Again it was cold, windy, and in cloud; which gave my first experience of Sweden a rather ‘monochromatic’ outlook. We skinned up much steeper terrain, with a customary ‘zig-zag’, and once again the bindings performed brilliantly in touring mode. Once again the pleasure of being away-from-the-crowds, that ski touring gives you, was delightful. But as Sir Isaac Newton eloquently said; “what goes up must come down”!
I felt sorry for the trees, as we descended the powder fresh tree line. A twig here, a branch there; we became close friends. Too close sometimes; but the bindings, in alpine mode, released with great aplomb! At the bottom it occurred to me, that while my colleagues made light-work of the tree line, it was I that was fully testing the bindings – as I ‘crashed’ my way down!
So what does a virgin ski tourer think of the Salomon S/Lab Shift ski bindings? Rather amazing actually! Here’s a binding that will perform in both alpine and touring mode; and will enable you to ‘earn your turns’ however extreme they may be!