Any serious outdoor athlete will tell you the same thing—the variables are always infinite. The one thing you can count on is that the plan will change. The monster storm will flame out, or the wind will whip up at the wrong time. But just as often, the scales tip in your favor. The swell comes in bigger than predicted, or the evening light will be majestic. You just never know. Which is why you need to be like the five guys below: focused on your passion, always prepared, up early, and out late, so when the time is right, you're ready to answer the call.
Nicolas Müller, professional snowboarder
“It sounds weird to say that you can have a spiritual moment in a helicopter, but when we’re flying to the mountain and the sun is rising and it’s really cold but here comes the sun’s rays of warmth, it feels like one of life’s most beautiful moments.”
The Alaskan winter can be frugal with its windows of good weather. A low ceiling of clouds and a lodge full of pro snowboarders waiting to shoot a film is a brutal combination that Müller is all too familiar with. When the clouds do finally break, the work lasts as long as skies stay blue, and there’s little time for sleep. Müller, who gave up the competition circuit in 2008 for the creativity and personal expression of making films, finds motivation in the opportunity to inspire people through his snowboarding. His forthcoming film, Fruition, has been in the works for three years. It’s Müller’s biggest project to date, and for him, some of the most challenging work has been in the studio. In the city, he sleeps for nine hours and wakes up tired. But on the mountain, he can charge for days on end. “After long day on the mountain, I feel tired and really grounded. You hang up your gear to dry, scrape together something for dinner, and sleep really, really well. Then you get up before the sun and do it again. That’s the best kind of healthy.”
Jon Rose, surfer and philanthropist
“Whenever I arrive in a new place, on a coast in a new country, I always make sure to catch the sunset the first night there. It helps me calibrate myself with the place, and it’s something I’ve been doing since I was a kid.”
Jon Rose doesn’t have a workweek. He doesn’t have traditional office hours or off days. Since 2009—when the former pro surfer set up the aid organization Waves for Water to bring clean water to those who need it—he’s been charging hard. And with Waves for Water programs running in 17 countries, as he says, “It’s always prime time somewhere.” Over the past four years alone, W4W has responded to almost every major global disaster, earthquake, or tsunami, from preventing cholera in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti to creating clean water infrastructure following last year’s major earthquake in Ecuador. When he’s on, he works from dawn to dusk for weeks or months at a time. And when he’s off, he’ll unplug entirely, travel to a quiet break somewhere off the map, and do nothing but surf all day for two weeks. Two or three trips like that a year are usually enough to keep him going. Wherever he is, he usually rents a motorcycle. “I either get out early when no one is on the roads,” he says, “or, like in Ecuador where we were just working, I ended each day with a ride at dusk in the beautiful sunset light.”
Erik Boomer, kayaker and Arctic adventurer
“I need every minute of the day. On long expeditions, the minutes add up to hours of travel, which over the course of months add up to days of travel.”
On serious adventures in remote places, the kind where bad weather, curious alpha predators, or running out of food are always on your mind, it helps to get up early and get a jumpstart on the day. There’s a constant push to make headway, to log the miles, to be as efficient as possible. For Erik Boomer and his girlfriend Sarah McNair-Landry, who last year circumnavigated Baffin Island—the fifth biggest island in the world—by dogsled, there’s another reason to get up before first light: You’ve got to feed the team. On serious dogsled expeditions, the dogs need time to digest the high-calorie seal meat before they lean into their harnesses, and that means doling out breakfast in the predawn Arctic. For Boomer, who thrives on long-form adventures, that motivation comes easy. “The formula for dealing with tough days is hours of hard work,” he says. “You have to turn that feeling of struggle into something that makes you get up even earlier.”
Mike Wolfe, ultrarunner, coach, and persistence hunter
“Getting up early, getting out the door, sometimes sucks. Sometimes you feel like crap and you don't want to go, but every time we do, it's worth it.”
Mike Wolfe’s alarm has always been going off early. The Bozeman, Montana, native grew up hunting, but that was just the start. He’s climbed El Cap in a day, raced collegiate Nordic skiing, and once spent three months paddling to the Arctic Ocean. But the predawn beeping usually means one thing: time to run. As a professional mountain ultrarunner, Wolfe has competed in more than 100 ultra-distance mountain races around the world over the past decade. Which is even more impressive when you consider he’s also a father, practicing attorney, coach (he just opened his own gym, The Mountain Project, in his hometown), and the founder of one of the most technical mountain-running races in the world, called The Rut. “I have enough perspective now to know that I can take life in stride,” says Wolfe, “like focusing my energy on the gym, while still finding time to spend time with my family and do what I love.” His latest project? Combining his love of running with his passion for hunting. Wolfe is part of an extremely small group of distance runners who attempt to chase down pronghorn antelope, the fastest animal on the continent, on foot. It’s called persistence hunting, and while Wolfe has yet to succeed, he’s not about to stop trying. Which means lots of long walks, at sundown, miles from the parked car, alone and exhausted.
Cedar Wright, professional climber and filmmaker
“Some of my hardest climbs have gone on for more than 24 hours. To see the sun rise and set and then rise again and to know that you’ve been pushing your body that whole time, there’s something addictive about that.”
As a professional climber and filmmaker, Cedar Wright needs to be on the mountain early. In his latest film, Fledglings, Wright and his buddy and fellow pro climber Matt Segal paraglided from the summit of Mexico’s Pico de Orizaba (18,491’), the third-highest peak on the continent. The only safe time to launch a wing off the mountain is the brief, windless window at dawn, before the sun’s thermals move the air but with enough light to safely fly. Wright and the crew left the trailhead at 8 the night before to be ready to go for what Wright calls dawn’s glory hour. The other advantage to getting up early is to catch the soft, low-angle light that makes the landscapes come alive. No film shoot or summit attempt comes with a guarantee of fulfilling the objective, but, as Wright likes to point out, if you stay at home, you can be sure that nothing will happen. “You make your own luck. It all comes with a price. You gotta get your ass out of bed early and go make it happen.”
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