Mountain biking has had a massive impact on my mental health. Why do I ride? For the blank moments. We all know the feeling, when your mind is so focused on what you're doing that nothing in the world matters, for that one moment there is only you. No thinking- just reacting. Nothing else can take me to that place. You'll find most people who are passionate about what they do outdoors are the same way. These are the exact stories photographer John Rathwell and his partner Tracy Guenard aim to capture. Their project titled Searching For Sero (short for serotonin) involves an epic two-year journey across North America!
They both experienced suicide in their families, and these difficult times inspired a two-year road trip across North America in a VW Westfalia to collect stories of mental wellness achieved through sport and outdoor activity. I had the pleasure of linking up with them this week during their visit to Vancouver Island. We shot photos and explored some hidden gems between Sooke and Port Renfrew, BC.
Following a morning of scoping out my trail in Port Renfrew, we headed down to Sombrio beach to check out the surf and catch the sunset. This spot is actually well-known in the mountain bike world. Although there's no riding here, it inspired the name of Sombrio clothing. There's some hidden little zones off the beach. The canyon pictured on the left leads to a waterfall.. perfect for a post-surf shower! There's some kind of magic to this place. This region running along the Juan de Fuca trail is absolutely epic and I still have yet to hike the whole thing.
There's something about being surrounded in the old-growth forest that relaxes you. I can't image what this place must have looked like 200 years ago before any logging went down. It also helps there's no phone service in this empty corner of Vancouver Island. It feels great to be disconnected from the outside world when you're out there, makes riding even more of an escape.
Day 2 in Port Renfrew was off to a smooth start. Nice warm temperatures (for January) and no rain. The conditions were very muddy but we worked with it. Every lap I had to scrape what felt like a pound of mud off my tires, that made riding a little sketchy!
After our session we cruised down to the beach to check out the surf. The only one out there catching waves was this seal who was having the time of it's life!
On the drive back home from Port Renfrew I made a pit-stop to hit one of my favourite trails. Shout out to Darren Berrecloth for putting lots of work into this one!
John plans to publish a best-of photo book at the end of the project. All proceeds will be donated to suicide-prevention charities. Follow their blog at www.searchingforsero.com and stay tuned for their piece on our time together. #FOUNDSERO
All photos by John Rathwell and my GoPro.