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4 outdoor hobbies to pick up for a healthy dose of fresh air

After spending the last year and a half indoors, putting together jigsaw puzzles, baking sourdough bread, and binge-watching practically every series on Netflix, it’s time to stretch your legs and pick up a fresh-air pastime.

While you could go the basic route and hike some National Parks or start a backyard garden, consider embracing your thrill-seeking side and trying out these adventurous outdoor hobbies instead. To get started, check out these must-have tips and the how-to clinics worth attending so you can pick up your new outdoor hobby with ease.

Mountain Biking

When you want to boldly go on more challenging mountain biking routes, getting your balance on the bike out of the saddle is the strong foundation you need, says Meagen Dennis, the owner of the Trek Dirt Series mountain biking clinics (90 per cent of the instructors are women). “The ready position — standing on your pedals, off your seat, with your knees and elbows bent and your chin in line with your handlebars — prepares us to roll over anything on the trail,” says Dennis.

To find a route for your level, she suggests apps like TrailForks and MTB Project, which give colour-coded grades (green, blue, black), plus ski hills, photos, descriptions of the terrain, and more.

Rock Climbing

Nothing beats the high of making it to the top, and having solid rock-climbing mechanics is the key to getting you there. “People tend to look up to see what they can grab next, but before that, you want to look where your next step is going to be,” says Alyson Chun, an REI climbing instructor in Northern California. “Think of it like climbing a ladder.” In other words, get your footing first.

If you’re not ready to invest in true climbing shoes for the outdoor hobby, try a hybrid known as approach shoes, such as the Arc’teryx Konseal FL 2 Leather GTX. “These are hiking shoes that have specialised rubber at the toe and ball of the foot and at the heel, which gives more friction on the rock,” says Chun. Half- and full-day clinics taught through REI Co-op Experiences run the gamut of skill levels, so you can work your way up to self-sufficient climber.

 

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Surfing

If you’ve been dabbling in this outdoor hobby — or looking for the next thrill beyond stand-up paddleboarding — there’s still plenty of time to sharpen your surf skills this season. First, rent a longboard as your beginner ride. “I recommend a nine-foot or longer foam board to learn fundamentals like paddling, popping up, and board control,” says Danielle Black Lyons, a cofounder of Textured Waves, a group that promotes inclusion in surfing. “Practise catching the whitewash [the foamy water after a wave breaks] when you’re starting out, and avoid large crowds so you have wiggle room to make mistakes.” Check out texturedwaves.com/community for surf clinics on both coasts, including a new Textured Waves retreat in Southern California this fall.

 

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Sailing

This outdoor hobby experienced a pandemic boom as open water provided an outlet for activity, and it has expanded the vision to taking to the sea not just as passengers. Inspired? “The best way to start is to connect with community sailing programs through US Sailing,” says Dawn Riley, a trailblazer in women’s sailboat racing and the executive director of Oakcliff Sailing in New York. “Be flexible in mind and body,” says Riley. “A boat is always moving, so you need to have good balance.” Go to oakcliffsailing.org for info on its 1- and 2-week intensive programs through October.

 

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