Wednesday, March 26, 2014

REDEFINING BALANCE PR 2014 ~ getting trashy in paradise

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“look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” ­ - Albert Einstein
REDEFINING BALANCE PUERTO RICO ~ adventure retreats in paradise filled with surfing, yoga, rock climbing, slacklining, AcroYoga, Thai Massage and... trash collection?! Yup, we got a little trashy this year...and it felt darn good!
Every year these retreats seem to rise above and beyond with regards to the incredibly talented, outgoing cast of characters who travel from countries around the world and join some of the locals from Rincon to create such an amazing weeklong experience.
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The idea had crossed my mind about emphasizing the importance of environmental awareness as one of the principles behind Redefining Balance as a concept to integrate people back into the outdoors. Teaching in an environment where the water is so clear and the rock quality is so pristine allows us to provide amazing experiences with incredible photographs for students to remember. The hope is that these experiences will also help to create appreciation for these parts of the world and inspire small individual acts of conservation and mindfulness to live a more eco conscious and sustainable life when students return to their hometowns.
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Our past retreats have always included beach clean ups and emphasized the importance of carrying reusable bags, a personal water bottle & to­-go ware to help reduce single use plastic consumption. This year we took personal sustainability efforts to a whole new level and actually made it a “challenge” complete with awesome prizes donated from eco­conscious sponsors.

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Based on a “trash tour” that I did 5 years ago to fundraise for children living in trash dumps in Cambodia, the Redefining Balance eco challenge was a one week elective “choice” that the students could take on in which they would be responsible for holding on to all of their personal trash from the week that was plastic or styrofoam (basically anything that would float in the ocean). A big part of the reason for focusing on this particular type of “floating trash” was to raise awareness about the North Pacific Trash Convergence, a large land mass of trash floating in the middle of the ocean. Students who chose to take on the eco challenge strived to keep all of their trash for the week to under the size of a small or gallon sized Zip lock bag.
1557251_759549797408134_1654301496_oMany accepted the challenge and in the end 19 students (of the original 35 on the first retreat) had bags to show for the final awards ceremony. We celebrated the last day of the retreat and the closing of the eco challenge with an outdoor party catered by our friend’s Chilling & Grilling taco truck and Brooklyn Cleanse juice bar...both of whom brought reusable plates and glasses for all of the food & drinks! And to top it off, thanks to goal zero we were able to power a turntable and mixer off of solar panels, a battery pack and portable speakers so as to throw in some live music from one of Rincon’s favorite locals, DJ Don.
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All in all it was an amazing way to wrap of the first retreat and the first ever group eco challenge which then had many students from the second retreat also requesting that they get to do the eco challenge as well. It was kinda awesome...people were actually requesting the ability to carry their own trash for the week!
Our second retreat, called Redefining the Inner Balance, has all of the same activities as the original Redefining Balance but with a group half the size and a focus on daily meditations based on the 5 elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. Kadri leads the group through amazing meditation techniques to help you to tune in to these principles and then we apply connection to the elements when we are out climbing (earth), slacklining (air), surfing (water), acro & yoga (fire) and practicing thai massage (ether) to release all those sore muscles!
1620386_758463127516801_1642117455_nFor Redefining the Inner Balance the eco challenge was renamed the “eco meditation” and rather than competing for prizes students were encouraged to just observe their actions and see what came up with regards to trash and consumerism. It was really cool to have the group get together for the closing group circles at sunset and talk about their experiences with trash and what was challenging, especially in a town where so much of the food is still served on styrofoam plates with plastic utensils. 1549215_770948132934967_1053068822_n
All in all the eco awareness spread throughout town with local businesses actually changing the way they served food simply because so many students complained about the disposable single use straws, plates, glasses & utensils. Rincon is slowly catching up and working towards a plastic bag banaswell. And on behalf of all the students who helped make the Redefining Balance PuertoRico 2014 season possible we are donating 5% of our proceeds from the retreats to the Surfrider Foundation & the Access Fund two amazing organizations that fund initiatives to preserve surf breaks and climbing areas around the world.
966160_759555934074187_1173378221_oSpecial thanks to prAnagoal zerococo hydro / big tree farmsJoshua Tree OrganicsOcean State of Mindthe uncharted studio and Raw Revolution for sponsoring the 2014 eco challenge and for all of their amazing prizes & support.
1511805_758465184183262_188983080_nAnd congrats to CHELSEY GREENE for winning the eco challenge with just one plastic straw to show for a week’s worth of trash!!!
For more pics & info on Redefining Balance please visit facebook.com/redefiningbalance or follow us on Instagram at instagram.com/redefiningbalance
As for the rest of the retreat adventures...we’ll let the pictures tell the stories Enjoy!
~ adi
photos courtesy of: Brian Mosbaugh // slacklinemedia.com, Ryan Martin // of­rion.com, Kadri Kurgun // kadrikurgun.com, Danielle Robidoux // daniellerobidoux.com, Tamar Melen and Richard Baimbridge
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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sleeping on Ice

PC2 to Sleeping on Ice

Jumping crevesses was fun.  For the first 4 hrs! 
Team Four Continents were finally gaining some headway! From dead last at the beginning of the race (after the flat tire) we moved to 8th place. We had an enormous ice field to cross and a gigantic will to do so. Stjepan Pavicic, race director, was at PC2. He gave us a huge smile, laughed with us at our 57 seconds closed call at PC1 and gave us the good-to-go authorization if we happen to miss the PC3 cut off at 11 pm.  I put on my ToeSox liners,  waterproof socks and crampons. Sam and Tom also crampon-up. Taz felt there was no need to do so. After all to make it to PC2 we walked on the glacier crampon-less for a while. We said our good byes and headed onto the ice.

Soon we were jumping and skipping crevices. Taz decided to crampon-up while we waited on ice. What was supposed to be 10 km of glacier walk turned to be about 20 km. Walking on a glacier, filled with crevasses, is the equivalent of walking on a huge and cold labyrinth. We walked back and forth for hours making slow progress.

Nighttime and bad weather was approaching   
It was my very first time walking on ice, using crampons, and even seeing a crevasse! My first jumps were unimpressive. Tom and Sam had to help me cross and gave me a crash course on crampon use. I was so grateful to have the easy to use Kahtoola Crampons and my super light Leki poles! After a few steps I forgot I even had them on. Little by little I gained confidence and started to make some progress. By the end of the glacier crossing I felt pretty confident. After all I had about 20 km of experience! 

It is very easy to feel small in this terrain.
The Tyndall Glacier is part of the Campo de Hielo Sur (Southern Ice Fields). The section we were on has big crevasse fields on either side with a river running down the middle flanked by flatter ice. Needless to say that was the easier terrain to travel. But we didn't know that! We only realized that after experiencing it during the race and after seeing our track on the DeLorme inReach site with their excellent detailed aerial imagery. Had we seen this before hand the story to follow would have been very different. After about 2.5 hrs of crevasse dodging and jumping we found the flat grounds. But we didn't know we should have follow it until we were almost parallel to PC3 and then move parallel to the crevasses off of the glacier. Instead we keep trying to go more directly towards the checkpoint at an angle; finding in this way even bigger crevasses and iceberg-like formations.

Walking at night became a real challenge.
Our Fenix headlamps had to work overnight... literally! 
Nighttime came and with it a huge storm. Darkness made navigating even more challenging and the rain and the wind made it colder and scarier to walk around or jump the huge crevasses. By then we had joined in with one of the Chilean Teams: Kaweskar. The other Chilean Team: Yagan, was also on the ice, but took a route that brought them to the edge of the ice early on.

Team Kaweskar and us happen to come together in the ice and started heading in the same direction. Soon we were blocked from forward travel. We came to an area of huge ice formations, too tall and steep to climb or to jump around. After a number of futile attempts to find a path through the crevasse maze team Kaweskar decided to make camp on the ice. They had ice screws and a tent that would withstand winds. Our tent in the other hand would require 6 ice screws (that we didn't have) and would not withstand the winds. We had a decision to make: continue on our own or stay with the Chilean team. 

A 4 person tent, hosted 8 hungry and tired racers.
If we continued without finding a way off the ice, it meant not having a tent to pass the night. We were already in survival mode. It also meant 'leaving them behind' and even thought this was a race, human nature always points us to stay together in dangerous situations. So we did.

After searching for a while we found a place that was sheltered from the wind, somewhat level, and not completely flooded (we were in a world of melting ice in a rainstorm after all). A few feet from where we planned to set the tent there was a hole where melt water disappeared into the glacier. We made an attempt at leveling and trenching a platform by scraping off the ice with our Kahtoola Crampons and set up and anchored the tent. We used the Jet Boil to heat water for some very appreciated dehydrated AlpineAire meals and all eight of us - got into a 4 person tent, ate some food, shared some stories, and tried to sleep. It was very cramped to say the least. To fit 8 people in a 4 person tent meant trying to sleep sitting up or lying knees bent on top of another person. We did both. 

Sleeping with your body all tight-up after cycling 108 kms, trekking 21 plus kms and walking on a glacier for at least 20 kms was not really pleasant. During the night you could hear random wines, cries and complaints whenever someone tried to move or stretch.

Morning came and both teams continued hiking towards PC3
Morning came and both teams continue walking towards PC3. All of us wanted to continue the race. After several attempts in the direction of PC3, we back tracked to the smoother ice and headed down the glacier. Wind gusts were still about 85 km/h, but there was light and the rain had subsided. We were moving fast.


In the direction to PC3 we saw a person. Yes! We are in the right place! Then another, and another, and another. The other Chilean team and a group of photographers and race personnel were heading back to PC1. PC3 was closed. The race was over for all of us.