Interesting days- Radio Debute and Outdoor Retail Revisited

I’ve had a really interesting couple of days. Firstly my first radio experience on Thursday morning and then a day and a half helping out on the Adventure HQ shop floor. The radio was a completely new experience, the shop floor of an outdoor store was revisiting old experiences. Both were interesting and both great fun.

I was invited by Outdoor UAE Magazine, as one of they’re regular contributors, to appear on the Dubai Today Morning Show on Dubai Eye 108.8 FM hosted by Wes. The day started by meeting James, the magazines designer, and Kit, a very enthusiastic fisherman and also a regular contributor to the mag. The chat over a coffee helped settle nerves and establish a couple of key subjects we each wanted to cover and how we could go about it.

It was then off to the station. Once there we had the chance to hang out in the sound room and see into the studio while the Wes and his guests in the segment before ours did their thing. They were talking about restaurants in the region. This gave Kit and myself an opportunity to suss out how things worked, James is a veteran of a previous show a week or so before.

Our segment started quickly and flew by as predicted by James. Wes spends plenty of time out and about so understand and enjoys the outdoors. This also meant he knew the questions to ask. He didn’t cut us any slack and challenged us on a number of points but this was fine from my point of view as it means that subjects arent just all pink n fluffy.

Despite the time flying by the subjects I was keen to cover came up along with others that I found interesting. I also managed to name check the people and organisations I wanted to. It could well have sounded like I was reading a list every now and then, its because I was!!! I didn’t want to get caught missing someone key out 🙂

As quickly as it started we were done. Quick handshake good byes with Wes and Kit and I was back off towards Mall of the Emirates for a chat with Carl at Surf Shop Dubai. My new found enthusiasm for the idea of standing up means I have decided to buy a surf board. I need to come up with a design but that’s going to be whole other post!!

Next I was heading to Time Square. This weekend the Adventure HQ store had its grand opening. This is the first big dedicated outdoor store in the region. Up until now outdoor products have been available mainly through outdoor sections of multi sports stores. Some of these do the job really well and provide an excellent range of outdoor products to their customers along side their other sections of racquet sports, football, fitness and golf. There is not a squash racquet, football shirt, running machine or golf club in sight at Adventure HQ. Its all about 30,000 square feet of climbing gear, kayaks, tents, rucsacs and walking boots. Its the kind of store I used to work in.

In the winter of 88/89 I worked at the then new YHA store in Brighton, 89/90 I was at the Survival Aids shop at Euston, late 90 I stated my stint working for Cotswolds Outdoor (then Cotswold Camping) in Shepherds Bush before moving to North Wales and the Betws shop. I ended my time there in 96 when I went to work for DMM.

My experience of good outdoor shops, and I’ve been lucky enough to work in them, is that not only do they have the range of interesting products to stay in business but they also provide one of the hubs for the outdoor communities to revolve around and this is one of the things I particularly used to enjoy about working in them. Sure the days are pretty long and some incredibly boring but you can find yourself talking to some really interesting people planning some really interesting ‘things’. As a member of outdoor staff in a shop you can find yourself right at the hub of the community helping provide the links that bring that community together and take things off in new directions. You can also really help people find adventures to be had and enjoy them.

A day and a half on the Adventure HQ shop floor took me right back to those days in London and Betws. It weirded me out a bit but I met some REALLY interesting people doing some really interesting things.

So what do I mean by interesting?

Well there was Nikolay, the Bulgarian who is absolutely passionate about canoe polo and is keen to start something up here in the UAE. I’m going to support him in any way I can as its iniative and passion like his that can lead to really exciting outcomes. While he was in the store I was able to introduce him to one of the Dubai schools ‘outdoor’ teachers who has access to a pool (and students of course). I wasnt able to participate in their conversation (unbelievably I was busy talking to another guy about whitewater kayaking in the desert!!) so I dont know exactly which direction it went in but I think its far from being left just as a conversation. I know other outdoor teachers as well as contacts in the Adventure Training section of the UAE Military who could be really keen to start something up.

There was the Iranian guy, and his Romanian friend, who is planning a backpacking trip to India and Nepal. We had a great chat about the merits of travelling light, looked at different Lowe Alpine packs and the advantaged and disadvantages of the different styles before looking at foot wear and clothing options.

There was the Indian guy going trekking in the Indian Himalaya who needed information on outdoor clothing, how big a daypac needed to be and how to keep his camera charged during a long remote trek.

There was the team of guys going to Elbrus. Last year they went to Kilimanjaro so have a lot of the relevant kit they need but are in need of new boots and sleeping bags. I wasnt expecting to be talking to quite as many people as I did about 4+ season sleeping bags and boots suitable for high altitude crampon use as I did on the shop floor of an outdoor shop in the desert.

There were a quite a few World Challenge students around all heading off to fantastically interesting places including Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Malaysia.. One of them was also heading off to a music festival in Belgium and needed a tent.

Other people I caught up with included Brian from Al Shaheen Adventure, Wes popped in with his wife and baby, Enrique from the Dubai Roadsters and a regular wave ski paddler and Daniel from Outdoor UAE was taking photos.

It was the grand opening so there was also a lot of other stuff going on. The wall and high ropes course was ram packed all weekend (it was free of course ad that always helps), the drummers added ‘atmosphere’ at regular intervals and one of Dubai’s radio stations had some sort of noisy in store adventure triathlon going on for a bit as well.

So interesting days. Thanks to Outdoor UAE for giving me the opportunity to experience radio at first hand and to Adventure HQ for letting me play at being shop staff again, I hope I contributed and helped share the load a bit on a busy weekend.

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