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16 women blazing a trail in the outdoors

If you have ever felt doubt creep in as you looked around and thought there's nobody with my background doing this, then you'll know how much representation matters in encouraging participation. The outdoor industry can be guilty of only reflecting one type of customer and not showing the diverse range of people active in the outdoors, whether thats in terms of gender, colour, size, orientation or disability. That's what led me to create a list of inspirational women, across different ages and ethnicities, who are carving their own path in the outdoors and redefining what it means to be 'outdoorsy'. I'm certain there are many, many other women out there that deserve a place on this list, so please let me know who you think is missing. 

And so, in no particular order, here are some fantastic outdoor folk worthy of your admiration. 

  1. Jenny Tough - Solo adventurer, running across a mountain range on every continent. Well with a name like Tough, why not? 
  2. Bethany Hamilton - One armed pro surfer. Yes you read that right. Bethany lost her arm in a shark attack at the age of 13 and returned to surfing just a month later. Get the full story on her incredible comeback here
  3. Mirna Valerio - Known to her followers as The Mirnavator, Mirna is an ultra runner and diversity campaigner. As a black woman its fair to say she doesn't correspond to the typical image of an ultra runner, and has had to deal with the comments that come with that. 
  4.  Jen Scotney - Training for ultra runs in between a job and recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Anyone else feel guilty for sitting on their ass right now? 
  5.  Danielle Williams - Danielle is an African American skydiver, the founder of Diversify Outdoors and editor of Melanin Base Camp, her projects promote access to the outdoors for all and increased representation of diversity in outdoor spaces. In her own words her love of adventure sports began when the army threw her out of her first plane.
  6.  Sophie Power - Sophie broke the internet when a photo of her simultaneously breastfeeding and expressing milk while on a rest stop during the Mont Blanc ultra run went viral. Is there something about names like Power and Tough which mean you are automatically destined for greatness? 
  7.  Shauna Coxesy  - Shauna is the UK's first ever bouldering World Champion, and one of only 4 women to have climbed a bouldering route graded 8b+ (the third most difficult rating you can get). As if that's not enough she'll also be on the Olympic team for the sport's debut. Goals. 
  8.  Kelly Roberts - Kelly is the creator the @Badassladygang running community. In a world of insta skinny 'strong is the new sexy' memes (yet still strangely managing to conform to the usual slim body ideals) the #SportsBraSquad is a breath of fresh air. Her motto, health is a lifestyle not a look. 
  9.  Jasmin Paris - The first woman to win the Montane Spine Race, a gruelling 268 mile race along the Penine Way. She beat 136 competitors from 15 countries, including 125 men, and broke the men's record by over 12 hours. Oh and she did it while expressing milk for her 14 month old son along the way. Absolute legend.  
  10.  Sarah Outen - Sarah has broken records for rowing solo across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and completed a round the world journey by rowing boat, bicycle and kayak. 
  11.  Jenny Graham - An ultra endurance bike rider, and the fastest woman to circumnavigate the world by bike. Just the 18,000 miles then...
  12.  Sue Barnes - Sue discovered the duathlon in her 50s and, not one to do things by halves, qualified for Team GB. Listen to her talk to her daughter, and occasional training partner, Alice Millican on the Push the Tempo podcast.
  13.  Sarah Gerrish - Founder of the Wonderful Wild Women community, keen fell runner, open water swimmer, mountain biker, climber and yogi. I think there's room for at least another couple of hobbies if she scales back the sleeping to 2 hours a night... 
  14.  Jo Moseley - Billing herself as a joy encourager, midlife adventurer and beach cleaner, Jo is inspiring women to take up adventure no matter what their age. Oh and she is also the first woman to SUP C2C!
  15. Catherine Hew - Sailor and Skipper who charters Antarctic expeditions as well as taking bike tours across Mongolia and sailing around the world.  
  16. Sabrina Chapman - Sabrina is a Canadian climber who started the sport in her mid 20s and is now working on climbing some of the toughest routes in the game. 

I'm sure these ladies are just the beginning, so now it's over to you. Tell me who else should be on the list in the comments or over on Instagram @breatheoutdoor

1 comment

  • Julia A HAmilton

    Kate Steels should be on this list, she has almost completed 7 ice miles, one on every continent in the past 12 months as well as representing Britain in the ice swim championships and running the English Ive Swim Championship

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