GO! Girls Outdoors

A resource for women in Outdoor Education and Recreation

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Gear Resources
Gear manufacturers have realised that lots of women like the outdoors and they're different shapes from men. Here's what's out there, and where you can buy it.

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Travel Resources
A selection of travel resources especially for women who love to travel. Includes a list of online communities if you do it yourself, or companies if you need a little help.

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Surfing Resources
Listed here are some links to resources from all over the world that cater to women who love surfing.

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Hiking Resources
Extended walks are great for the mind and spirit and lots of women love to take part in them. Check out these resources and get inspired to go on a walking adventure.

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Snow Sports

Snow Sports Resources
Skiing, snowboarding, backcountry, polar expeditions - all done in the snow and all done by lots of amazing women.  Check out these resources to find out more...

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Kayaking Resources
White water, surfing, sea kayaking, sprint racing, marathon racing, multisport, fishing...is there anything you can't do from a kayak? Explore these resources!

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Cycling Resources
A list of resources for all sorts of cycling - mountain biking, road biking, touring, racing, recreation and commuting - all specific to women.

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Climbing Resources
Women can (and have) achieved incredible things in climbing. Listed in this section are a collection of climbing and moutaineering resources that are useful and inspiring for all climbers.

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A list of organisations that cater exclusively to women, or run trips exclusively for women. A great way to find a women-specific adventure in your area.

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Outdoor Industry

Outdoor Industry Resources
Looking for resources to help you plan programs, companies and organisations that cater for women or organisations you can join? Look no further...

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No Ceiling by Heather Swan

No Ceiling by Heather SwanHeather Swan is an Australian BASEjumper and Wingsuit BASEjumper who has travelled all over the world in pursuit of her sport and broken two world records along the way.  She is also a professional speaker, a skilful photographer, a high altitude mountaineer and an author.  When GO! Girls Outdoors last spoke with Heather in early 2009 she was writing the story of her journey from corporate mother to world class athlete, and now the wait is over!  No Ceiling is now available in all good book stores and online at the BaseClimb website (along with Heather and her husband Glenn’s other films and books).  Heather has also kindly offered GO! Girls Outdoors readers a discount on her book!  The details are at the end of this article, so read on!

In No Ceiling we first meet Heather standing on a tiny ledge on the highest vertical cliff in the world, preparing to jump off.  What is a 46 year old mother from Sydney, Australia doing in such a predicament?  Suicide?  Insanity?  No - this is extreme sport!  Heather has just climbed to the top of the 6672m mountain in the Himalayas, and is about to use the skills that she has developed over the past ten years to break the world record for BASEjumping and Wingsuit BASEjumping.  What possesses someone to jump off the highest cliff in the world?  What life choices did Heather make to end up here?  And how does a corporate mother teach herself to overcome her fear and become competent at perhaps the world’s most extreme and exhilarating sports?

Heather Swan WingsuitingTo answer these questions, all I can say is “read the book”!  Heather’s transition from corporate mum to world-record holding extreme adventurer is a nail biting, emotional and often humorous journey.  I had trouble putting No Ceiling down - it’s well written, fast moving and packed full of interesting facts.  Even though I was familiar with the first part of the story - Heather’s introduction to skydiving and BASEjumping and her attempt to jump off the Trango Tower in Pakistan is featured in the documentary BaseClimb2 and her first book Defying Gravity, Defying Fear - I was intrigued to read about how she and Glenn bounced back from that experience and ended up breaking the world record in even more spectacular style.  Even though I knew they had succeeded in breaking the world record, my heart was in my mouth for the whole final chapter, testimony to Heather’s skill for writing and the enormity of the task she and Glenn set for themselves.

No Ceiling was educational as well as entertaining.  Early on, just after Heather decided that she would learn to skydive and BASEjump so they could jump off the Trango Tower together, Glenn presented her with a list of tasks.  These included technical skills such as learning to skydive, rock climb, BASEjump and mountaineer as well as personal, financial and fitness goals.  The enormity of the tasks on the list was huge, but Heather was most worried by the list item regarding her need to reduce her body fat from 36% to 15%.  I’m sure many women would be horrified at the thought of having to lose 21% of their body fat - it sounds like a horrifying figure - and it’s a testimony to the differences between men and women that Glenn thought this was the easiest thing on the list!  Needless to say, Heather did achieve this goal, along with all the others and more.

Glenn and HeatherAnother interesting feature of the book is the reading that Glenn and Heather have done regarding the fear response and the genes that have been found to influence whether we are adventurers or not.  It has been shown that women have a lower fear response than men - women tend to be more fearful, which relates back to biochemistry and the roles of our ancestors.  However, Heather and Glenn undertook tests and found that they both had a significantly lower fear response than usual, which Heather says can be attributed to their meditation, visualisation and breathing control practices.  So it turns out that you can control your fear response - useful information for anyone who likes those adventure activities in which it’s incredibly important to be able keep your head in stressful situations!

It also turns out that there are genes that control our tendency to want to go out and have adventures!  The more copies of the gene you have, the more likely you are to enjoy adventurous activities.  Interestingly enough, Heather says that there hasn’t been any gender bias in the prevalence of the gene - if you have more copies of the gene, you’re more likely to be an adventurer, regardless of whether you’re male or female.  I imagine that there are quite a few copies among the readers of this website!

Heather SwanHeather called her book No Ceiling because she wanted to show that she has overcome society’s imposed ‘glass ceiling’ that tells us what we can and can’t do.  Her story is a wonderful example of how the glass ceiling can be overcome, and how it doesn’t have to hold you back if you don’t let it stop you.  Heather does a wonderful job of explaining how an ‘ordinary’ woman can achieve extraordinary things, and she is an inspiration men and women alike.  What’s more, she never loses her femininity or her integrity, which is apparent from the photograph on the front cover of Heather dressed in her Wingsuit.  Look out for No Ceiling, buy it, read it and share it with anyone who needs inspiration - you won’t be disappointed!

...and you can get a discount (thanks, Heather)!  Here's how it works - go to the BaseClimb website, click through to the online shop, enter "Go Girl" in the notes to seller section in Paypal and receive your discount!  You'll get the book for $25 plus postage.

Make sure you also visit the BaseClimb website for information about Glenn and Heather's latest adventures, and read Heather's profile on GO! Girls Outdoors.

Photos in this article are from the BaseClimb website.

GO! Girls Outdoors

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