I work for Arctic Trainers organising SUP tours in Joensuu, and I am also one of the two entrepreneurs of the only CrossFit gym in Joensuu with Samuel Lappalainen. My role includes working as a coach, SUP guide, cleaner, supervisor and a jack of all trades.
Sports, the outdoors and having fun are part of my duties almost every day, but sometimes I get a pressing need to remove myself from the comfortable daily life as an entrepreneur and father, and to test my limits within the scope of my hobbies. In addition to CrossFit training, my hobbies include freeriding, surfing and mountain biking, all of which support my beloved fourth hobby: travelling. Often when I set out on a journey either alone or in a group, things start to happen. I have run away from an erupting volcano in Indonesia with my partner. I have almost been stuck under an avalanche on the Mountains of Kashmir, fetched a nurse to stitch my friend’s inner thigh and cleaned another friend’s bruises with alcohol after he fell on a downhill mountain biking trip in Austria. Last time, I thought I was going to drown on a surfing trip in Norway.
After surviving each adventure, I feel little bit stronger as a person. I get the chills when thinking about these situations, but I hardly ever think about what could have happened in the worst case scenario. Instead, I focus on what I did to survive. The adventures of many daredevils are too scary for me, and my adventures may not feel too tempting to many. However, I think that everyone should try to leave their physical and mental comfort zone every now and then, and test their boundaries in a controlled manner. Such situations can be very educational, and they affect your mental and physical skills and boundaries, teaching your how to get around them.
Sometimes it is refreshing to get beaten up
It is a crisp early October morning, and I have just parked my van on the shore of Unstad, a small village in Lofoten, Norway. My van contains food for one week, a mattress, a sleeping bag, a wet suit, a surfboard and a stand up paddle (SUP) board. I watch the waves and listen to the sound of the rough sea, and notice that the 2.5-metre waves are too big for my skills in these cold surfing conditions. As I am out and about on my own, I could decide not to go and tell people at home that I had a great time surfing on my first day. This is not an option, however, and, despite feeling nervous, I start pulling my wetsuit on.
I go to the sea shore and start paddling along the waves towards the open sea. I decide to warm up by catching a couple of smaller waves close to the shore, and move further out thereafter. Little by little I start to remember what surfing feels like, and I move out towards the bigger waves. The dark sea churns with frightening force, as I wait for the right wave. Finally a perfect wave comes. I paddle as fast as I can, jump on my board and… turn just one second too late. The wave throws me towards the rocky bottom from the height of two metres.
For a short while, everything is totally calm, until a mass of water starts tearing me in all possible directions under the surface. I try to stay calm, because I know that oxygen will last for longer that way. After a few seconds I start to swim towards the surface. I am glad there is enough water to stop me from hitting the bottom when the wave throws me around as if I was inside a washing machine. When the wave finally lets go of me and I surface, I know that the next wave will wash over me any second. I manage to fill my lungs with air before the next wave presses me under the surface again.
The best adventures start by chance, and right when you least expect them
The wave comes with such a force that it turns my 100-kilogramme body like a wet rag, while tearing the surfboard off the paddle leash strapped around my ankle. As I surface, I am swimming in the two-metre-high waves of the Norwegian Sea, far away from the shore and without a float of any sort. For a while I wonder what will happen next, and whether I will see my family or my surfboard ever again. Then I gather my strength and start swimming through the waves towards the shore. As I reach the shore, I am entirely out of strength. Luckily I notice the waves have tossed my surfboard far onto the rocks. I sit down by my board and wonder whether it was a good idea to drive all the way here to almost drown.
After my enlightening surfing experience, I hang my head in shame and register into the neighbouring camp site, which also runs a surfing school. I chat with the local surfing instructor, who says that the waves are very big today, but according to the forecast, they should be smaller the following day. I decide to go out on the big waves once more in the afternoon, but stay near the shore and practice. In the afternoon, I have more success and falling off does not cause more than a short dive.
The following morning I wake up early to see what the sea looks like. Compared to the dangerous weather of the day before, the sea looks almost calm with the occasional wave. I take off with my SUP board, feeling positive after the difficulties of the day before. I catch one-metre high waves as far as I can paddle, and head off for lunch with a smile on my face. After lunch, I head out to the sea once more on my surf board, and manage to catch the best waves of my life in the same spot where I had barely survived the day before. In the evening, I think about what a raw element water in motion is, and what a fantastic lesson it taught me on my first day. Everyday life feels wonderful after these experiences.
Adventures and surpassing yourself in everyday life
You do not have to travel to the edge of the world to feel a sense of adventure. Each of us has an opportunity to have small adventures and test our own mental and physical strength here in Joensuu and in our everyday life. For instance, I have always been scared of swimming alone in deep water, which is quite incredible considering I work in water tourism. This summer I decided to change the situation. At first, I made various swimming trips along River Pielisjoki, swimming upstream with a friend and later on my own. I also went swimming in various stunning and clear ponds and lakes surrounding Joensuu. After each swim, I had surpassed myself a bit more. At the end of the summer, it was no longer a problem to swim in the open sea, and for this reason, I managed to survive the waves in Norway without panicking.
During our trips on the SUP boards and at our CrossFit gym, I have seen people surpass themselves. Our goal is to encourage our customers to do something they are a bit scared of, or regard as impossible. For many, this could mean jumping down from the SUP board or completing Cooper’s running test, which is what we will do today. An attempt to surpass oneself does not always have to involve something life-threateningly dangerous or take place far away from home. And the more wildly you surpass yourself, the better you will feel afterwards. If you excel on your SUP board in front of other people or during tough training, your working day and daily chores will feel very easy – at least until it’s time to surpass yourself again.
I recommend that you all leave your safety bubble every now and then, and try to do something that you regard as dangerous or physically challenging. This could mean, for instance, winter swimming or a low-threshold adventure competition in the summer. However, you should stay sensible and don’t get into trouble – the best adventures happen when you least expect them.
Jarmo Laine, Arctic Trainers