Monday, November 21, 2011

Streetmovement goes abroad – Norway

All too soon my time in Denmark came to an end and I found myself in the airport yet again.  However, this time was different.  Not only because I was doing quadrepedal movement and handstands on the rolling walkways of the airport terminal, but because I was traveling with other people for the first time in ages.  Martin and Mikkel from Streetmovement had invited me to join them for two workshops that they would be doing in northern Norway.

The first workshop was with a group of Norwegian naval commandos, known as the FROGS (I don’t know why they have continued the SEALS tradition of the cute and cuddly animals).  Streetmovment had done a workshop with them the year before in which the commandos had referred to the quadrepedie workout as “dynamic yoga” so I was looking forward to meeting these guys.  Unfortunately the visit was cut short by some airplane delays, and despite arriving in the late evening, the fact that we were only about 300km from the North Pole meant that the sun made it looked like we had arrived in the mid afternoon.  By the time we had been picked up in the black unmarked van, driven to the base, turned off all electronic equipment, gotten something to eat, and gone a quick tour of the facilities, it had progressed to "late afternoon", which I was informed was as dark as it gets at that time of year.  This was somewhat disconcerting, especially as the base did not at all fit with the image I’d had in my mind of an impenetrable mountain ice fortress surrounded by polar bears.  Instead it looked more like a small village whose residents had a penchant for long, barracks-like houses, drab paint colors, and big metal boats.

While I wasn't allowed to take pictures, this picture pretty much sums up the breathtaking natural surroundings.

So the name is about as "cute and cuddly" as the FROGS get, everything else about them, including their crest, encourages one not to make too many jokes at their expense.
We were up early the next morning to eat breakfast and meet up with the guys that we would be training with that day.  I won’t be giving too many details on the rest of the day’s activities because I was kindly asked not to by the commanding officer, nor will I be supplying any photos of the training.  One of the highlights of the visit was the opportunity to try out the brand-new obstacle course that had just been built on the base.  The commander was very proud of this course, in which he had included a number of “modifications” to traditional military obstacles.  The result was pretty cool, and lots of fun to go through.  While the traceur’s path through some of the obstacles was definitely much lighter and faster than the commando’s routes, the lack of military boots, big backpack, and a weapon made our progress a lot easier.  That being said, there were a few obstacles that definitely make us hesitate for a moment or two, including a rolling log obstacle that seemed to work better when wearing boots, and the last one, which had a nickname that I don’t feel comfortable publishing on the blog.  Essentially a giant version of a “Giant’s Ladder”, it was made up of a “ladder” that had one end anchored in a pier protruding out over the fjord, and the other end that extended out over the water at an angle.  The “ladder” was about 14m tall and composed of 6 cylindrical rungs, spaced every 2 meters (6+ feet) and each about a thick as my torso.  The objective was to ascend the ladder by jumping from rung to rung and then jump from the last one to the icy depths 14m below.  And survive.

When we got to the last obstacle Mikkel generously (or foolishly) offered to go first, and as the military guys watched in amusement he made it to the top, and after a few moments of hesitation, took the 14m drop down to the water below.  After watching Mikkel fall for what seemed like a maddeningly long time, Martin and I both only went halfway up before dropping into the frigid depths below, which in reality was probably the worst part since it was paralyzing cold and swimming in shoes and sweatpants in near-freezing water was not an enjoyable experience.  After some long hot showers to restore feeling to our limbs we packed up to head over to the next workshop with a slightly less intimidating group of participants. 

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