Ahead of the event, we talked to the former GB Olympic snowboarder about this extreme sport and why she chose the new TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 to accompany her on this daring adventure.
Can you explain what this challenge entails?
This challenge entails me pushing myself to a new edge. I’ve pushed my body physically through a different element (snow), as a two-time Winter Olympian, and I’m officially retiring from competition this January, so it seemed the perfect timing to take on a new challenge alongside TAG Heuer in a new element (water) in my home city of London: a river and a brand both steeped in history. I think it’s the perfect match for me to push myself in a new domain. Both physically and mentally, it’s exciting, new, different and I am ready to set the pace.
Why did you want to take on this challenge?
I’ve always loved water, whether it be jumping into the deep end of a pool as a youngster, or trying wake boarding, or wake surfing. There is something magical about floating above the water, and in December 2020 I discovered the eFoil, which quite literally ‘levitates’ above the water on a giant foil – it fascinated me with its majestic movements as it literally slices through the water… once you have mastered it! The feeling truly is magic, I can’t think of a way to describe it other than flying at an exhilarating pace at your own control above the water. What a way to travel!
How does eFoil surfing compare to snowboarding?
It’s different in the sense that you have to be very front foot heavy as the board glides up out of the water as you pick up pace. Once you are foiling it’s a very fine line between finding a balance point: pressing down on the back foot, to kick up the foil, like riding powder on a snowboard so you don’t ‘rag doll’ – in snowboard lingo, that’s going over the front foot and forward roll. It is a similar feeling on the foil. It’s about finding a smooth equilibrium, and a flow state that allows you to glide.
What has your training looked like to prepare for this event?
For me, flexibility and agility are important. I actually did my yoga teacher training post-2018 Olympics to add a layer of knowledge to my passion for movement. I’ve been working on my ankle flexibility, as it’s super important to be able to find an active range in the foot/ankle region so you can really root down through your feet to stay on the board. It’s really a mixture of balance work, yoga, and then just getting out on the water as much as possible. I’ve done a bit of wake surfing, after riding the foil, as the surfboard is so much smaller, when you then get back on the foil it’s easier to manage as it is much bigger and sturdier.
What has been your biggest challenge in training?
Probably not falling in the water! And staying away from the eFoil when you do, as it’s very sharp so it’s about learning to dismount safely. My friend actually pierced a hole in his wetsuit (and his gluteus maximus!) at the weekend, so it’s kept me on my toes and I am taking preparations seriously. You have to learn to fall, but as I am going up the Thames, my aim is to stay dry! So I’ve found a ‘safety position’ that I will retreat too if it gets too choppy!
Is there any specific part of the challenge you are particularly concerned about?
Probably my biggest fear is going for an accidental swim as I fly by Big Ben, and also the wake of the Thames Clipper – if you hit the angle of any boat wake at the wrong angle, it can buck you off. The board is a serious bit of kit that I respect and I am definitely not underestimating the challenge. I am nervous but excited! It’s a nice feeling.
How is the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 suited for this challenge?
The brilliant thing about the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 is that it’s solid, sturdy and performs under pressure, and it’s versatile when it comes to taking it into new elements. Plus, you can adjust the strap so it can fit over your wetsuit, which is a real bonus for me as someone who loves to get out and wakesurf most weeks, when there’s no snow in the alps!
Have you been wearing the Aquaracer during your training? Have you also been enjoying it for daily wear?
I love the elegance and performance side of this watch: it’s subtle, with the small diamonds on the dial, yet classy. I feel I can take it into a meeting, as well as wear it whilst performing. For me it’s the ultimate all around performance watch from TAG Heuer.
How important is timing to your sport?
Timing is important to me and my career: whether I am on a photoshoot; presenting; podcasting; or exploring new mountain terrain, time management is very important to me. I believe respecting time, is respecting yourself, as well as your peers and friends. They do say the early bird get’s the worm, and in snowboarding that’s true – fresh tracks and groomed piste! Let’s hope the same applies as I foil up the Thames at 5.30 am. I am hoping for smooth flying conditions!