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31 December 2021

8 Inspirational Adventure Stories from 2021

Athlete Stories

8 of this year's most inspirational adventure stories straight from the SunGod community...

For SunGod, everything we have done in 2021 has been about the pursuit of better. And every day, this inspiration to be better has been fuelled by you, the incredible SunGod community. This year, we’ve seen you win Olympic medals, climb (literally) the highest mountains and explore the farthest corners of the world. We’re proud to have seen SunGod sunglasses on the faces of each of you as you’ve smashed your goals, fought for your beliefs, and found belonging in the things that matter. Each year we're humbled and energized by your adventures and stories of resilience, so before we look ahead to 2022, we're reflecting on the best and most inspiring adventures taken by SunGod Ambassadors in 2021...

1. Jon Gupta - Summitting K2

High altitude guide and mountaineer Jon Gupta is no stranger to the world's highest peaks. This year alone Jon's highlights include summiting Everest, Lhotse, Manaslu, Ama Dablam and, for the first time in his career, K2...

"When K2 was proposed to me, my acceptance was initially cautious. I never thought I’d get the opportunity to climb this mountain, let alone guide it. Was it even guidable? Are there any other mountains in the world that have seen so much tragedy and disaster, where so many legendary lives have been taken? An hour or two below the summit of K2, the sun gently started to rise and I could finally see the route to the top. I paused and breathed heavily into my oxygen mask, bent double with my arm resting on my higher leg. I gently shook my head and squeezed my eyes tight as they filled up - the realisation that we were definitely going to make it began to sink in. This is simply the world’s greatest feeling. It’s pure magic. Spellbinding. I don’t think I can find the right words to explain it properly. I will never forget the final steps onto the summit of K2, a memory etched onto my timeline of life. We did it and did it really well." Jon Gupta (@mountexpeds)

2. Yael Margelisch - Red Bull X-Alps

This summer, Verbier local and professional paraglider Yael competed in the Red Bull X-Alps, one of the most revered paragliding races in the world. The race involves paragliding, speed hiking, running and climbing to cover a mammoth 1200km distance over 12 days...

"The race combines all my passions - paragliding, sports and the mountains - so qualifying alone was a dream come true. Of course, as a competitor, you want to get to the finish line, but I knew what a huge challenge that would be - it’s such a hard race, and I had no idea how I’d perform, particularly as I was one of only three women in a field of over 30. So I gave myself other goals along the way: getting as far as possible, creating a great team spirit, staying healthy and of course, having fun. There were some incredibly special moments in the race, and one that stands out for me was on Day 11, getting from Courmayeur to Verbier. After a poor night’s sleep and a gruelling 57km/2500m+ hike the day before, I was in a really bad place, struggling to make decisions. Once I took off and saw home - Verbier - beneath me, I was suddenly totally recharged, and had an incredible flight despite terrible conditions. I then hiked the final ascent to Verbier, cheered on by my friends, and felt on top of the world. Competing in the toughest race in the world was such a crazy experience, and I’m incredibly proud of my performance." Yael Margelisch (@yaelmargelisch)

3. Thomas Goyard - Winning Olympic silver

French professional windsurfer Thomas Goyard won his first Olympic medal this year in Tokyo when he took Silver in the RS:X class...

"France is a nation of windsurfers, and getting to represent them at this year’s Olympics was a dream come true. It was intense and it required a huge amount of focus, with lots of pressure and a very high level on the water. It was long and exhausting, and the pressure in the final was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. But there’s no question that the shared happiness amongst my family, friends, teammates and supporters made it all worthwhile. I was so happy, not just for myself, but for everyone who believed in me - and the best part was being able to inspire others to work hard, think positively, push their limits, do sports that make them happy and healthy, and become the best version of themselves. The Olympics were never my main goal - instead, I wanted to use the competition as a way to push myself to improve. That’s what I want people to take away from my experience - that it’s not about winning, it’s about becoming the best version of yourself every day." Thomas Goyard (@thomasgoyard)

4. Chris Hall - Badlands ultra-distance gravel race

In September this year, Chris completed the infamous ultra-distance ‘Badlands’ gravel bike race, crossing 725km of Spanish desert in gruelling heat...

"I love cycling in Spain and I’ve always wanted to see some of the Spanish deserts, so Badlands seemed like the perfect way to get to explore that part of the world. The injuries I experienced in 2021 meant that I couldn’t race competitively - instead, I used the race as a chance to explore the area. The race was tough - in a word, it was HOT. Temperatures hit 50+ degrees celcius - honestly, I can’t explain how that kind of temperature feels. I headed into the race on just one week of training, having been struggling with injury - the combination of extreme heat and a lack of fitness made it seriously tough. But ultimately, by removing the competitive element and just making my only goal to finish, it meant I could really admire the scenery and sunrises, and I was also able to get my confidence back and reassure myself that I can actually do this kind of unsupported race." Chris Hall (@chrishallrides)

5. Atlantic Antics - Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge

In January, Flo, Georgie and Hannah - who together make up Atlantic Antics - rowed 3000 miles across the Atlantic in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, becoming the youngest female trio ever to do so...

"TWAC was an opportunity for us to experience something that took us away from the mundane routine of everyday life - and lockdown - and to show what women are capable of. Only 10% of ocean rows have been done by all-female crews, which made TWAC the perfect way to support our first charity, Women in Sport. We also supported Rowing Together for Healthy Minds, which is a charitable initiative set up following the suicide of a fellow boat club member. For all three of us, sport has always been a way for us to look after our mental health, so rowing for these two charities, which encourage female participation in sport and amplify conversations about mental health within it, felt fitting. As for the race itself, we had an absolute blast! Mentally, it was tough - unfavourable racing conditions made progress extremely slow - but we made the most of every day and tried to enjoy the lows as much as the highs, finding the silver lining in each day (once in the form of a pod of dolphins at midnight!). If you’ve ever considered rowing an ocean, we can’t recommend entering TWAC enough!" Flo, Atlantic Antics team captain (@atlanticantics2020)

6. Vera Ngosi-Sambrook - Pan-Celtic ultra-distance bike race

This summer, Vera raced in the Pan-Celtic Ultra, which is a self-supported ultra-distance cycling race across the Celtic Nations of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Cornwall...

"Part of me did not believe that I would be capable of completing the Pan-Celtic race. But taking the training week by week and trusting the process (and my coach) meant I was able to achieve my goal of finishing the 1995km event in just over 9 days. Despite the weather, the breathtaking beauty of the route was surreal, particularly the Elan valley and the mountains in North Wales. I couldn't believe this was all in the country I've been living in for 5 years! Ultra-distance cycling can be a lonely activity, but in the Pan Celtic I formed amazingly strong bonds with other riders - meeting a fellow rider on the route brought such joy every time! The entire journey, from planning through training to finishing, felt like a coming-of-age moment for me. As a black woman who never really came across people of colour cycling where I live, I sometimes felt isolated. What I loved most about this challenge was that it allowed me to take so many others on the journey with me, and show that underrepresented groups have a place in ultra-distance cycling too. Cycling has allowed me to find a community where I feel I belong." Vera Ngosi-Sambrook (@pedalling.to.and.fro)

7. Internationelles - Setting a Guinness world record

The Internationelles is a cycling team made up of amateur female cyclists with a shared aim: to take on the world’s toughest cycling challenges, while raising awareness for gender equality in cycling. In 2021 four of the team set a Guinness World Record, becoming the fastest relay team to cycle from Land's End to John O’Groats...

"The idea of setting the record was both exciting and scary. There was a huge amount of organisation, planning and logistics involved to make it official and safe, but it was all worth it because it was an incredible adventure for us, and getting the record meant that our names would go down in history. We would be battling for equality and showing just what we were capable of. As riders we gave it our absolute all to ensure we got the record and our support crew were incredible; we couldn't have done any of it without them. We were also delighted to see so many people coming to the side of the road to cheer us on - that really spurred us on. It was truly surreal when I touched my bike wheel on the John O'Groats sign and realised that despite savage headwinds, heavy traffic and biblical rain, the 4 of us had travelled almost 1000 miles on our bicycles in less than 2 days…” Louise Gibson, Internationelles team captain (@internationelles)

8. Hugo Picard - Mini Transat sailing race

The Mini Transat is a legendary sailing race, where skippers cross the Atlantic single-handedly in the world’s smallest offshore boats. In 2021 - with only a few years of sailing experience - Hugo tackled the race and completed it totally unsupported.

"I only started sailing a few years ago, and crossing the Atlantic single-handed on a racing boat seemed impossible. But the more you think about it, the more you ask yourself, "well, why not me?". The MT lives up to its reputation - unstable weather patterns and total isolation are a challenge - but at the same time, when the fleet spreads out and you haven’t seen anyone in days, without any means of communication, it’s an amazing feeling - just you, your boat and the ocean. Racing is a bit like poker, it’s full of difficult decisions. It’s a gamble - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When you make the wrong call, getting over it can be tough, but once you manage to, it’s worth it. Nothing beats the feeling of my boat gliding on the waves, the amazing sunrises and sunsets, and the starry nights sleeping in the cockpit of the boat. I am lucky to be able to follow my dreams and do what I want to do - that’s sailing." Hugo Picard (@thesailingfrenchman)

The SunGod community has shown its strength this year, and we know we've barely scratched the surface here in sharing only 8 of thousands of adventure stories. We couldn't be prouder of this incredible community - a collective of people united by a love for adventure, who challenge norms, fight hard for their beliefs, battle the odds and ask "why not me?". We've no doubt that with these attitudes, 2022 will bring bigger achievements, bolder challenges and stronger commitments to the causes that matter. Bring it on!