Photos and words by ambassador Jake Hood. Photos Caleb Smith and Jake Hood

Do your friends and yourself ever come up with a totally dumb idea that sort of turns into something that’s really productive. Literally all based on a dumb joke. Well that’s what I’ve found myself in at the start of 2022 

 Welcome to Boatfest 

Before we talk about Boatfest I should probably talk about BeltfestBeltfest comes from the word Belted, as in drunk or drunkish. “Man I got belted last night out of nowhere” and so on. We’ve all been there. So Beltfest came from getting Belted a few nights of a week. It’s a really dumb premise but stay with me. Now around the Christmas/New Years’ period in Queenstown, NZ Beltfest kind of happens, it’s never intended or planned, it kind of just happens. My close group of friends are mostly all off work. It’s the middle of the summer in New Zealand, the days are the longest of the year and the sun is always shining. Beers normally follow an amazing bike ride or other activities, often around someone’s house or the beach. One leads to two cause well you’re thirsty, two leads to four because they taste great and that two beer buzz has kicked in. The sun’s still up and you’re sharing great yarns with your mates. Taking the mickey out of each other, shooting the shit. Next thing you know, Belted, but having the best time of your life.  You wake up the next day get your shit together and get out for activities. This is kinda the way of things for about two-three weeks.  And why not? It’s fun, you spend time with your mates but you still get stuff done. Beltfest. 

So this last Christmas, I flew back down to Queenstown for a month’s break. Back to my NZ home with my NZ family. I really can’t think of a better place to be for that time, I had the most amazing month. Literally didn’t stop doing things from the minute I got off the plane till I got back on the plane.  From riding, partying, BBQing, golfing, overnight trips to islands on the lake, Hikes down in Milford Sound. I just didn’t stop. It was amazing. But come the beginning of January I was broken. Burning the candle at both ends with a blow touch isn’t sustainable as I found out. I was just exhausted.  

A couple of days before we’d been sat round at a mate’s house chilling in the afternoon. I was looking up a video that two comedians had been talking about on one of my favorite comedy podcasts. It was a video of David Goggins and in it, he’s doing a bench press. Going really hard by the looks of it.  Then at one point while he’s benching he goes “Who’s gonna carry the boats?” 

A few days later I was chilling at my other mate’s house, I was feeling broken and exhausted, and he asked me if I had watched that David Goggins video? Then there was that spiderman meme moment, the one of them pointing at each other. “Who’s gonna carry the boats”. He’d seen it a while ago but didn’t think anyone else had seen the video. We talked about it for a bit and laughed. 

The next day I went riding. I was still low on energy but went for a big ride in the morning. I got to this one part of the final climb up to the McGazza bench. There is a steep direct way up (which used to be the only way) or a traverse around. Normally I’d go the traverse since I wasn’t feeling the sportiest that day. But then something clicked in my head. “Who’s gonna carry the boats”. I went and attacked up the steep bit. It hurt but I just kept saying out loud “who’s gonna carry the boats” “who’s gonna carry the boats”. If anyone was around they would have been like “who is this flipping idiot” but that saying got me really fired up. It certainly helped me get up that pinch. At lunch, I was back around my mate’s place again. I was telling him about the ride and he was like “that’s sick.” Our friend was also there asking what the hell we were talking about. So we showed him and he got into it. Then we had a chat about just fitness stuff and how people are so motivated. Gradually we all came to the concussion that we needed to get motivated to stop being sacks.   

Pretty much since I moved to Wellington, I’ve kind of gradually ridden my bike less and less. I’d been coming home from work and just hitting the sofa. I’d been getting comfortable with being comfortable. I’d put on 5kg in the 1.5 years I’d been in Wellington, I just wasn’t stoked on riding.  My riding skills were disappearing. I was only ever motivated to ride with groups and not by myself. I was kind of just being a big sack of lazy potatoes.   

Anyway, back to the story. I was telling them about how I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. 85kg and about the above. They were both in a similar state and were just struggling with motivation to do stuff rather than being on the couch. We just talked and joked away till a hair-brained dumb joke became an idea. Boatfest. 

Boatfest is the idea of carrying a metaphorical boat every day. Aka exercise.  Every day you have to go do some sort of exercise instead of sitting on the couch being a sack.  Doesn’t really matter what you do. Run. Walk. Swim. Bike. Yoga. Gym and so on. Just don’t go home and sack out on the couch straight after work. To make sure we all did it we made a chat/accountability group with rules. We had to share to the chat what boat we had carried that day. Allen and Kep (my two mates) are lucky enough to have smartwatches, so they tracked their activity and sent it through. I would take a picture/video of what I was doing and send that. 

The second rule was that if you missed two days in a row you got kicked out of the group.   

Pretty simple really. 

Kep said he was going to take no rest days till the Queenstown Marathon in March. I called him an idiot and said I’m gonna have two rest days a week. Allen was the same.  

It began the next day. The first week we didn’t really send messages in the chat as we were all riding together in Queenstown. We knew we were all doing it. It didn’t really get going till I flew back to Wellington. I took my two rest days off for the flight home and sorted out my life when I got back (although it seems sorting my life out is a never-ending process). From then we had to document and send it through to the chat/accountability group.  

 The first few weeks were hard. I think I was physically exhausted from my holiday. My body was pretty broken and I wasn’t giving it time to recover. I would show up to the usual crew ride on Thursday after work and only manage a ride for like an hour before I called it. In my mind I was like “ah shit what have I signed up for” but I kept going. Documenting what I was doing and sending it through to the group.  

It was good. It was making me get out on my bike after work instead of sitting on the sofa. About two to three weeks in it all clicked. I started feeling fitter. The weight was starting to drop. I would start adding more and more onto my rides. My motivation levels went up. Yeah there were still days where I would come home and stare at my shoes for 30 mins before I managed to get them on, with the words in my head ‘I really can’t be assed” but then once I put them on and was out of the house it was fine. Often I would come back stoked. Full of endorphins. It was great. The feeling of getting fitter and fitter was addictive. Being able to attack harder on a climb, Leaving from the house and riding nonstop for hours. I was starting to add more to my rides. Making them longer and longer. It was getting a bit out of control at one point.  

It’s pretty amazing the motivation that comes from being in a chat group that you can get kicked out of if you miss two days in a row. It gets you so fired up, that you don’t want to get kicked out. It is also so cool seeing what your mates have been doing. Every day you’re waiting for the ping. Seeing what they have done. Give them props if they crushed it or give them shit if they have missed although the misses are very few and far between. Getting each other fired up to do more. Not letting each other fall back into being a slob. There have been a few times where we have all slipped a bit but then the motivational texts/ borderline bullying comes through and we get our shit together and go smash it again.  

After about a month I ended up downloading Strava as I was interested to see how far I was riding. For years I said I would never download it, I just didn’t like how it tracked everything and then shared it. Secret trails get found out. It makes everything a competition.   

But then I found out you can turn off and hide all activity to the public. Good luck trying to find me. The heat map turned off. Public sharing was turned off. The only person that knows my route bar Strava is me. And I guess Boatfest as I screenshot and sent them to the Boatfest chat. Even with all that stuff off I still didn’t use Strava when we went on backcountry missions. Gotta keep that stuff secret.  

That was until a few weeks ago when maybe I burned out a bit. Work had been super busy. I was getting up at 6.30am. Working 8 till 4. Head home. Chill for 30min. Back out at 5pm till it got dark, around 8-9ish, get home, cook dinner, chill for 30 min and be back in bed at 10.45pm. Rinse and repeat for four weeks. It kind of was a bit too much. I would go out and just be struggling on climbs I had been crushing the weeks before. Something wasn’t right. Turns out I was burning out. No surprises to be honest.

Recently I’ve found a good balance. I have a few days of chilled one-hour/ish spins that still have a good amount of climbing in them on days after I’ve done a big ride. I’ve also started mixing in ocean swim/dips in the morning at 7 am before work or in the evening which makes you feel a million dollars afterward. I’m still running the no days off program but I’m listening to my body. If it’s good I’ll go hard and push. If I’m not feeling it, I’ll just chill and spin.  

As we approach winter here my game plan is to keep this going. I’ve signed up for a swimming membership with the Wellington swimming pools. I’ve replaced riding with swimming. I used to be a big swimmer back in the day but it’s been about 12 years since I did it properly. I try to swim 3 or 4km most nights a week. I could keep riding throughout winter but I feel like the combination of night riding, wet muddy kit to wash, and riding in the rain will quickly kill my motivation and I’ll be back on the couch getting comfortable. I’m mixing up the weekends with Overnight hut missions. Backcountry missions, big bike rides, backcountry bike trips. Or I get up early and head to the pool to get an hour or so in so I’m free the rest of the day to hang out with my friends. 

We’re 4.5 months in now and I’m loving it. I’m more motivated than ever at the minute. Goals that looked out of reach now seem easily achievable, I have a whole new outlook on a lot of things. I’m down from 85k to 76.5kg, feeling fitter than ever. I’m feeling really good on the bike. It’s amazing. I ride to places in Wellington I wouldn’t normally go. I’m learning to enjoy and ride trails that I normally hate. I spend so much time outside, in the trees, riding around the bays, swimming in the ocean. Average days at work just drift away once I’m out on the bike or in the pool. The problems I’m dealing with aren’t problems once I’ve finished carrying my boats for the day. I’m happier, way less stressed, and just enjoying the little things a lot more. I really can’t recommend it enough 

So should you try this? 100%, maybe not to the extreme we have taken this but I would highly recommend getting a chat group with a couple of friends that want to get fitter or do more activities. Be accountable for each other. Call each other out if they start to miss days. It will motivate you and the people in the group. I can safely say that it might be one of the better things I do in 2022.  

Anyway enough with this ramble. I’ve got boats to carry.