WAExpo 2018 Highlights
Words By Jessica Strange
Photos By Frit Sarita Tam
A drizzly morning welcomed aspiring adventurers, but it did nothing to dampen their spirits last weekend as a mass of attendees flocked to the Women’s Adventure Expo 2018.
Hosted at the quirky interactive science museum, We the Curious, early bird guests could take part in a yoga session with Holly, while others, myself included, opted for a much-needed caffeine boost to kickstart the day. As the opening speech from event speaker and decorated adventurer, Anna McNuff, drew closer, the hum around the main stage grew to an excitable measure.
Photo: Anna McNuff Photo: Anna McNuff interview with BBC at WAExpo 2018
The Women’s Adventure Expo endeavours to showcase women who embody the spirit of adventure, and those who bravely explore the world outside of their comfort zone. They’ve set out to celebrate boundless women, to inspire a new wave of wanderers and empower the women’s movement by creating a platform to connect a growing community, and to make adventuring more inclusive and accessible for women everywhere. Supporting this enterprise are female-focused and outdoor brands such as Komoot, Boundless Betty, Mooncup and Adventure Queens who all contribute in some way to the WAExpo’s goal.
Anna McNuff, who once ran the length of New Zealand, took to the main stage to welcome the crowd and stoke excitement levels even further. With the event proceedings out of the way and a quick run-through of the talks on offer, the first speakers began; Misba Khan on Breaking Cultural Barriers, Sarah Tingey on Combining a Love for Outdoor Adventure with a Passion for the Natural Sciences, and Dervla Murphy on cycling from Ireland to India during the 1980’s.
Photo: Misba Khan Photo: Sarah Tingey
Sadly, Dervla took ill shortly before the expo but her good friend, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent was ready to step onto the main stage and lead a compelling and heartfelt talk about the life of Dervla and her incredible achievements. This talk was peppered with clips from her documentary film and littered with humorous anecdotes which only left you feeling quite perplexed as to why she isn’t more well known in modern society.
Photo: Antonia Bollingbroke-Kent
With a quick break in between talks, I caught up with the full-time adventurer and all-around badass that is Anna McNuff. Spending seven months cycling through all 50 states of America and another six months running the length of New Zealand, Anna is primarily a solo explorer, she told me; “I push myself to find my limits, but I need to have more than personal motivation to spur me on during the difficult times. When on an adventure, life is simple; sleep, eat, move on. There are no pressures from social media, the internet, and the busy life back home. It’s the perfect time to take a step back, to reflect and reassess life.”
“The WAExpo is vital for the future of women finding their own adventure, to immerse yourself in this incredible tribe which intensifies the wonderful feeling of sisterhood.” – Anna McNuff
Anna teamed up with a friend and fellow adventure enthusiast, Emma Frampton a little over a year ago to found their not-for-profit support community, Adventure Queens. Together they host events, campouts, workshops and seminars to help nurture women who want to go beyond their comfort zone and try something new. The Adventure Queen grant has also been launched to help facilitate individuals with big plans, with up to £2,000 on offer.
Photo: Adventure Queens
The second block of speakers took their places with Kate Rawles and her bamboo bicycle on the main stage, Jini Reddy and Jen Claydon on Finding Your Own Way in Adventure and Lindsey Cole on Walking the Rabbit-Proof Fence in the seminar rooms. With a morning of remarkable stories, it was time for a long lunch to digest tasty food and a head full of new possibilities.
Photo: Kate Rawles and Woody her Bamboo Bike Photo: Lyndsey Cole Walking the Rabbit Proof Fence
Lunch was deliciously provided for by 91 Ways, and there was plenty of time to browse the exhibitors, chat with the speakers and socialise amongst ourselves, making new friends in the process. I took this opportunity to speak with Easkey Britton who was preparing for her talk later in the afternoon on Reconnecting the Body with Nature. Easkey is a former world-class surfer, passionate about the outdoors and advocate for women in sport.
“Collaboration is important across genders. Accepting help is ok and having input from others doesn’t mean you lose your idea in the process.” – Easkey Britton
Photo: Easkey Britton Photo: Jo Bradshaw, Dwayne Fields and Destiny and Syleeisha from Street2Peak
Easkey’s latest creation harmonises the Luna cycle with a woman’s cycle, tying in elements from ocean tides. Passionate about human’s disassociation to nature, Easkey uses surfing and a vehicle to discuss these more significant issues. “Surfing is still a male-dominated sport, but there is a shift happening with more women’s films and participation growing within the mix. There’s also a great need for diversity in sport outside of gender as well”, she said.
Once lunch had settled, copious amounts of tea consumed and a high number of new adventure plans undoubtedly hatched, it was time to take our seats for the afternoon round of talks. Mel Nicholls took to the main stage to speak about her disability, being a Paralympian and how she hand-cycled the “unrideable” lands of the Faroe Islands. In the seminar rooms, Jo Moseley led a talk on The Joy and Emotional Wellbeing Adventure Brings Women in Midlife as she shares her journey of being a single mum while pursuing her passion for surfing. And Sacha Dench overcame her fear of flying to travel from Russia to the UK, by a paramotor!
Photo: Mel Nicholls Photo: Jo Moseley Photo: Sacha Dench
With a short break between, the final speakers of the WAExpo took their places. Easkey Britton on the main stage, Jo Bradshaw and Dwayne Fields on Unlikely Adventurers and Moire O’Sullivan on Bump, Bike and Baby – Mummy’s Gone Adventure Racing. A wonderful trio to finish up the day’s discussions.
Photo: Moire O’Sullivan Photo: Jini Reddy and Jen Claydon Photo: WAExpo Panel
The Women’s Adventure Expo set out on a journey to bring “together people who want to explore and challenge their own boundaries, grow in confidence and self-belief”, and that’s, precisely, what they achieved with this event, and more. It was apparent that the idea of adventure was on everyone’s lips, and with such a welcoming atmosphere laying the foundation, new friendships had been forged with the promise of seeing new plans through.
What makes the WAExpo even more remarkable isn’t just the feeling of sisterhood, or showcasing the achievements of women, but every pound of profit made is directly invested back into the organisation. This is so that Tania and Bex can offer more events, expand their network and provide further opportunities to help develop projects which engage women in outdoor participation.
Photo: Attendees at WAExpo2018
Watch this short highlights film from WAExpo 2018 hear more about the impact of the Women’s Adventure Expo and their events.
You can also follow more by Jessica Strange on her awesome website Velome.co.uk. which Women’s Adventure Expo highly recommend! Jessica is a passionate journalist, mountain biker and equal rights advocate. When she’s not riding her bike, she can often be found cosied up with a cup of tea and her cat, Gomez Thunderpaws. Follow more by Jessica on @velomejess