Q & A with Natalie Fox - Drift's surf and yoga instructor
Nat, where in the world are you and what are you doing there?
I am in the beautiful, snow topped French Alps, in a little resort called Morzine. I’ve had this place on my radar for a few years and I’m stoked to be running a chalet for Cold Fusion here this winter. I’m also teaching “yoga for the slopes” and getting my powder fix. I learnt to snowboard last year, and am totally hooked, so I’m doing a full season to really give my riding some focus and attention, and hopefully progress a bit more.
You seem to have a pretty good set up with summer waves / winter snow, what are the pros and cons of this nomadic lifestyle?
Well, the pros are freedom and constant change. I cannot stagnate in any way living life this. I am also totally in the present… There is no wishing away the seasons when you’re living in conjunction with the cycles of mother nature. I truly appreciate natural circadian rhythms and know I am a happier and healthier person when I am able to live like a human, not a robot.
I also meet so many awesome people, who are living alternative lifestyles - it’s incredibly inspiring.
The cons are not having security as in a proper home or stable job, but to be honest, I discovered security is kind of an illusion and striving for it created fears that just boxed me in. I’ve learnt that actually, you only get one life, and you’re responsible for everything you accumulate in it. Anything is possible if you get creative! I’m intent on exploring what it is I really need. Namely; new experiences, adventures, health / wellbeing, community, exorcise, loving/relationships, being of service, enjoying space alone and working towards my best self. I’m trying to let go of things I don’t need but there are certain essentials that make me happy - mainly books, a surfboard, a snowboard, a vehicle, fresh fruits and veggies and like minded folks.
Any tips for self care on the road?
Going from different temperatures wreaks havoc on my skin and hair. Oils are fantastic for when its cold, jojoba, sweet almond and argan are my faves. I’ve discovered I don't really need a lot of cosmetics, but to always have some coconut oil handy - it has multiple uses! Also sleep as much as you can, I've become a pro at sleeping in the most awkward of places! And wherever you travel to; once you've arrived, get your shoes off and feet on the Earth as quickly as possible.
You often talk about the benefit of yoga for surfing / snowboarding - what other benefits of yoga do you get when you practice?
Well, I would say that everyone is different and it’s such a personal journey, but one thing that seems to weave its way across the board though, is awareness. The space yoga creates in our bodies and minds, could be translated to moments of enlightenment (which yoga was originally intended for). I think regular practice accelerates those lightbulb moments which happen outside of regular patterned thinking or behaviours.
We then have the choice to fill that space, or enjoy it or observe it or go deeper; but without yoga (being connected: body, mind and soul) we are still asleep, just going through our programmed habits and missing out on the magic of everyday life.
Also, it gets us in direct communion with our nervous system, simply by the power of breath. In modern life we are continually triggered into the “stress response” and yoga, especially yin, can slow us right down, taking us into parasympathetic mode - allowing our body to “rest and digest” and digestive/reproductive systems to work without that extra pressure of blood energy going to our limbs and lungs.
And of course it allows us to explore the balance of strength and flexibility within our muscles, which are responsible for holding us upright against the force of gravity.
Any tips for people who would love to do yoga more than once in a blue moon, but are just incredibly busy?
I would say find a type of yoga that will help balance your lifestyle. For instance, you might be super busy but need to exorcise so doing vinyasa or ashtanga will help you exert and make you feel like you've had a work out. Or it could be more beneficial to do something restorative so you can actually just relax properly. Remember, yoga isn’t something to put on your to do list, because I’m guessing it will always end up at the bottom. People don’t put cleaning their teeth on the to do list. It needs to be something you do because you want to, not because you think you should do.
It’s a lifestyle, a state of being. Even if you spend 5 minutes sitting on a bus with your eyes closed, following your breath, thats a practice. When you’re standing in a queue, you could stand on one leg. When you get into bed, practice savasana. Just utilise every moment you have. Maybe you will become more aware of when your energy is being wasted… then yoga becomes like putting in an energy saving lightbulb! If you put energy into your practice you will get more out of it, I swear.
I also always recommend online yoga if you’re strapped for time. I make videos and courses with an energetic focus for KaliMukti online, so you can check them out at here.
You originally came from a landlocked part of the world, what made you fall in love with the ocean and now mountains?
It may sound cheesy, but its because of the feeling I get. I feel so alive and free when I’m in the sea. I love looking toward the land, at the scape it provides and I guess… back at my life from a different perspective. It helps me think clearer, or not at all. I remember staring out of my window which was overlooking a main road, in the suburban midlands, as a kid and wondering "is this it?" When I look back from my surfboard, I know "yes! THIS is it!".
I feel so so grateful that I have the opportunity and the privilege to simply go surfing. It’s also so blimming fun, it literally makes me radiate pure joy!
The mountains are a bit different as I’m quite new to the scene here, but I love it because they seem to keep me grounded. I’m just so happy to wake up and see the snow, the trees and the mountains and am so exhausted falling into bed at night. These are the moments I look to, to decipher if I’m in the right place or not. I’ve avoided winter for almost 10 years and actually it left me quite out of sync, I feel much more balanced with this season as part of my year - but with blue skies, fresh air, powder days and a fabulous community who seem to be stoked on yoga too!
Any tips for people for whom the idea of surfing / sea swimming is a bit out of your comfort zone?
I would say first, that the key is understanding that these activities are not just physical pursuits, they challenge us emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. We come in contact with our fears; some of which may be locked deep inside of us, we face our mortality, but we also come face to face with our aliveness! Our comfort zone is exactly what it says on the tin - comfortable. So just take it slowly and tentatively when venturing out of that safe place, find a trusted guide or mentor, listen to your body, be kind to your self and have fun learning; it makes the process a lot easier when there’s less pressure. And always do it for yourself - not for anyone else.
Can you tell us about some of the environmental initiatives you’re involved with?
Absolutely! I recently returned from Sumatra with Becs where I was stoked to give a “plastic is not fantastic” talk at the annual Bukit Lawang Conservation Festival, which situated on the edge of the leuser ecosystem. It links into the work I have been doing with Surfers Against Sewage, supporting their Plastic Free Coastlines campaign, but was eye opening to see the issues facing a jungle habitat as I am so used to coastal environments. On that thread I have also joined Whale and Dolphin Conservation's #notwhalefood campaign as an ocean ambassador, so am looking to create some interesting initiatives in aid of whales and dolphins; who are directly affected by the marine plastic crisis.
In the mountains I am meeting with the group Protect Our Winters to find out about how I can join the fight against the impacts of climate change on the alpine ecosystem.
How are the mountains? How do you drive in the snow?
In a high gear, with low revs! Haha I literally just learnt to put snow chains on and drove myself (into) and out of a ditch. The weather is crazy here! This winter is phenomenal in terms of early snow, but its not a joke. I like to err on the side of caution and if in doubt - walk!
What’s your favourite thing about Drift?
Goodness, there is no way I can nail it down to 1 thing… for a start I love the team, the core crew… and I knew from day one it would be awesome to work with Becs and Gem because we met on the beach, laughed till we cried and it was just so natural. I love the special guests that come along… er hello Bindy!!! The experts like Mike, Lucy, Sara and Kazz, who that add that extra special energy. I love the people that join us, the drifters, as they absolutely make the retreats unique. We attract people with such big hearts, we are so grateful we get to share and connect with them. I love how we get to create our dreams with Drift; with the Drift Aways, Snow Drift and Drift Wild, we take our original concept and expand on the themes of travel and culture, mountains and ecology - all of which I am super passionate about!
And even though I no longer live in Jersey, it holds a special place in my heart. The tidal range is intense and the beauty of St Ouens Bay continues to dumbfound me. The waves are some of my favourite in the world (now I’ve come to terms with the fact there is only one surfing beach!) and watching the sunsets over the expanse of West Coast water is one of my beloved pastimes.
So my favourite thing is that it brings all of these together and allows me to go back and treasure them for 4 action packed days!
Check out Nat's YogaRama website.