Women To Take Over Te Anau
Te Anau township has been briefed to expect 500-teams of women for the 16th edition of the Spring Challenge all womens adventure race being held on October 1st in 2022.
The event creator is 6-time adventure racing world champion, and multiple GODZone winner, Nathan Fa’avae. In 2006, Fa’avae, somewhat frustrated by a belief within the sport that it didn't appeal to women, and should primarily focus on mens competition, launched the Spring Challenge in 2007 to prove his point that the sport has huge appeal to women.
Adventure racing combines outdoor sports such as rafting, kayaking, mountain biking and hiking. Any outdoor adventure sport can be included in an adventure race, with navigation being a theme throughout the events. Teams of 3-women navigate through a series of stages and disciplines, connecting checkpoints. Teams navigate using only maps and compasses.
There are three main categories, these are known as the 3, 6 and 9-hour events. As a guide, that translates to beginner, intermediate and advanced. The numbers are the winning times for each category, the course is open for 18-hours, from 6am to midnight on the event day. The majority of the teams complete their challenges in daylight, but some of the 9-hour teams can be racing into the night to reach the finish line. Spring Challenge caters for all abilities, from first time adventure racers through to the world’s elite female athletes.
White it is a race, and Fa’avae
says he protects the integrity of a sporting competition,
for most of the women the event is about personal
“I know that the benefits the women receive are as much from the journey as the event itself. For most entrants, there are quantifiable benefits and proven outcomes, from being part of a team, to be working towards a goal, training for the event improves health, and learning new skills is in itself a journey of self-improvement. It is empowering and builds confidence. The Spring Challenge has done amazing things for thousands of women, and the credit goes to them for stepping up to the challenge”
Entries for the event opened on October 7th and organisers say the event has nearly sold out.
“It’s important for anyone wishing to take part to get their entry in, some categories fill up very quickly’.
Moving to a new location each year, Te Anau will be following the successful 2021 event which was recently held in Greymouth.
Fa’avae explains how the event relocates “a core part of adventure racing is visiting unique and interesting places. Because navigation is a key factor in the events, no course can be used twice. It makes it fresh and exciting for the teams also, they get to travel around the country visiting places they probably would never have the opportunity to otherwise.”
Te Anau will be the furthermost south the event has been staged, it was in Queenstown in 2013, Wanaka in 2015, and more recently, in Cromwell in 2019.
Fa’avae explains “we’re well aware that spring in the south can overlap with winter, and for that reason we’ve tended to stay in more northern regions, but as the event grows, so does the participants abilities, and we know they’re ready to tackle what the south can deliver. Adventure racing has been a huge part of my life, Te Anau and Fiordland is very significant for the sport, it is the official home of adventure racing as the first ever race finished there in 1989. The landscape, mountains, lakes, rivers and weather, have a power to them that is unprecedented. The people and communities of the south are really authentic and genuine, I feel very privileged to be taking the event to Te Anau, I have a strong sense it will be a very special event”
Te Anau will welcome the influx of teams for the event, and with it being held on the first weekend of the school holidays, many teams are planning to stay longer, extend their adventure by exploring the region and participating in other activities. The event will have 1,500 participants, approximately 5,000 supporters, and Fa’avae has a staff team of 150. The Spring Challenge course design team have stated that their challenge is to design a course that best showcases the region.
“One reason we chose Te Anau is that we are aware of the benefits to a township by hosting the event. Not just economically, socially it’s powerful as local people and businesses can have a strong sense of pride, the event meets many health objectives and promotes environmental preservation. We believe there is a social responsibility for us to be thoughtful and considerate where we take the event, to the communities we can reach. In 2020 we took the event to Christchurch because they had been dealing with the Mosque shootings, in 2021 we went to Greymouth because that community had been hit hard by the Pyke River mining disaster. We know Te Anau is hurting because of Covid, and if we can ease just a small bit of the pressure, we’ll give it our best. We not driven by economics, as long as we can keep our event operating sustainably to provide the opportunity to women, and support communities, that's more than enough”.
Fa'avae said Great South, the Southland Regional Development Agency were really encouraging and supportive when we first raised the idea of a Te Anau Spring Challenge, back in 2020.
Entries for the event are selling quickly, for many teams the lure of the pristine wilderness and breathtaking landscapes will be enough to justify the trip to one of New Zealand ’s best kept secrets. For now, all the participants will know is that Te Anau is the location. The exact course is not released until the eve of the race. Teams will be briefed on what equipment to bring, what time to be there and to have a healthy appetite for adventure.