Though these athletes have been schooled by everything from diabolical rivers to brutal Himalayan routes, the terrain wasn’t the biggest teacher. These eight top adventurers share the lessons they learned from their moms.
“My mom is still the first one I call when I need to make a big decision,” says Lynsey Dyer, big mountain skier, Jackson-resident, and co-founder of SheJumps.org, a charity that inspires women to get involved with sports. Over the years, Dyer has won every freeskiing competition she’s ever entered and has starred in films by Teton Gravity Research, Warren Miller and more. “My mom is the toughest person I know,” Lynsey says, “but she is still very much a woman. Watching her, I’ve learned what it takes to make it in a man’s world—it’s about hard work balanced with softness, the ability to nurture—and flawless taste in footwear.” Look for Dyer in her film Pretty Faces, slated to release in fall of 2014.
One of Outside’s 2013 Adventurers of the Year, Kilian Jornet is the top ultramarathoner in the world. He garnered attention last year when he ran from the Italian town of Courmayeur, at the base of 15,771 foot Mont Blanc, to Chamonix—a total of more than 26 miles and 24,000 feet of elevation change—in eight hours and 43 minutes. He's pushing the limits of ultrarunning into a new category all its own. Jornet is all too comfortable in some of the most extreme landscapes in the world, and he credits much of that to his mom—er, mum.
“My mum used to be the one who would take me into the woods at night with no torch," says the Spanish athlete. "Our eyes would slowly get used to the dark, and we would learn to hear the sounds that make the forest. She’s been a great support throughout my career, like when she would wake me very early before school so I could train.”
Try to track down Chris Korbulic, and you probably won’t. He’s likely in the most remote part of the Himalaya, Central Africa, Venezuela, or India. But one thing is for sure: he’s paddling class V whitewater. In fact, last year he paddled a 100-foot waterfall in California, turning more than a few heads in the paddling world. Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent sends him all over the world to knock out descents of unknown rivers and photograph all of it. Korbulic wrote us from an expedition in Papua New Guinea to say it was his mom who led him to this career path"
“She was always snapping photos and bringing me on adventures, like on Oregon’s Rogue River. But I can’t believe how supportive she’s been of my career. Every time I leave for a trip, we hug and laugh and she tells me to be safe. But what I am thankful for is that I have a great friend who won’t falter—she is always positive and calms my concerns about this kind of work.”
If there’s one woman pushing snowboarding for women, it’s Kelly Clark. Over the last two winters, Clark won 16 of 17 halfpipe finals making her the most decorated woman in halfpipe history. She consistently pushes the boundaries of women’s riding, completing the first 1080 ever seen in women’s competition in 2011. She has an Olympic Gold and Bronze, multiple X Games medals and 60 career wins (more than any other snowboarder, male or female), making her a pretty sure bet for the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia.
“If things weren’t easy, my mom always worked to make her goals a reality,” Clark says. And her mom came out to cheer her on no matter how cold her local New England events were. “She instilled good values and good work ethic. I’m grateful that her standard is now mine.”
There is so much more to this Brazilian bombshell than what meets the eye. Maya Gabeira is equal parts beauty and badass. She surfs some of the heaviest waves in the world, including Teahupoo, made famous by Laird Hamilton, and Mavericks. She also holds the record for the largest wave ever surfed by a female with her 45-foot ride at Dungeons in South Africa. That said, she still needs her mom.
“She gives me comfort as well as courage,” Gabeira says, “She supports me even with all of the risk that’s involved with my activity. That proves her love and trust is beyond her fears.”
Gabeira is heading to Antarctica to ski to the South Pole in August.
One of the best freestyle pipe skiers in the world, Simon Dumont brings in some of the most consistent scores of any skier out there. So it’s no wonder that Dumont, a native Mainer with 10 X Games medals to his decade-long career, is a hopeful for the 2014 Sochi Olympics in the debut of the ski halfpipe event.
After several bad injuries this year, including a blown ACL and two shattered wrists, Dumont stomped the Aspen X Games by earning a bronze medal. He thanks his mom for much of that.
"She wasn’t over-protective; she let me experience anything that interested me even if it seemed dangerous. I got my first dirt bike at two years old, so there was no stopping my adrenaline seeking from that point on. She also wouldn’t let me win anything unless I earned it on my own, and she always told me to have weekly goals to achieve my main goal. She is one of the most influential people when it comes to me as a competitor and athlete.”
If anyone’s mom should be nervous, it’s Bear Grylls’. Her son has done everything from eat a raw zebra carcass to escape from quicksand to give himself an enema on a raft in the middle of the ocean on his hit television series Man vs. Wild. But, credit where it’s due: Grylls’ mom always encouraged him to have dreams and go for them.
“Don’t listen to the dream-stealers, she’d say,” says Grylls of his mom. It seems he took her advice—perhaps a little too far. He jokes that she now tells him to “smell the roses more.” Regardless of how extreme Grylls gets, he says, “My mom is a constant source of support in good and bad times.”
Grylls’s new show, Get Out Alive, in which contestants compete to survive sticky situations on New Zealand’s South Island, premieres on NBC on July 8.
As one of the most acclaimed expedition photographers and filmmakers in the world, Jimmy Chin, whose work has been featured everywhere from the editorial pages of Outside and National Geographic to advertisements from North Face and Apple, rarely has his feet on the ground. More often than not he’s dangling from a rope hundreds of feet up, trying to get the right angle. Or skiing from the summits of the highest mountains in the world (yes, he has a ski descent of Everest under his belt) or ascending unattempted lines with the best alpinists in the world.
“I think my mom had some very different ideas of what my life would look like when I grew up,” Chin says, “So I know it took a lot for her to keep encouraging me to follow my path. I don’t think she was excited when I said things like, ‘I’m going to Tibet for two months to try an alpine style ascent of the North Face of Everest without oxygen or fixed ropes.’ But it was her unwavering confidence that stuck. She always encouraged me to strive for excellence, but that failure was okay because it was a part of achieving something great. It’s been the only way I understood the world.”
Next Up: Mother's Day Gifts for the Outdoorsy Mom