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 Finding Myself

With worldwide concerns over mental health never more prevalent, producer and storyteller Sami Sauri’s first independent film production is a clarion call for the benefits of spending time outdoors. Catching up with Sami from her home in Girona, and with a conversation punctuated with bursts of laughter, we discuss the personal nature of this poignant and beautifully realized project, her own lessons from lockdown and how it feels to see yourself on screen. So sit back and enjoy a thrills (and some spills) tour through Sami’s past year.

Far Ride
The last time we spoke over a call was way back in March when Spain was in full lockdown. And I was wondering, looking back over all this time, how was it for you?

Sami
Fucked [laughing]

Far Ride
That bad?

Sami
I think maybe it’s been tough for most people? And in some aspects, I’ve been fortunate. Lockdown didn't make that much of a difference because I was already working from home in my role with Komoot. I've since changed to having a co-working space so I can separate the professional and personal aspects to my life. But back when we were in the strict lockdown, I basically had to solve all my problems, and I had the time to think. To think about a lot of things [laughing].

Far Ride
Possibly too much time?

Sami
That, for me, can be very difficult. Because if I have things on my mind, normally I would just throw myself into activities. But we couldn't even go riding and I’d been training really well. I tried to keep the intensity going, but I don't really like to ride inside on a trainer. It's not really my thing. So riding-wise I was a little bit down, but I still wanted to move my body, so a lot of yoga. And I suppose the biggest outcome of all of this is that I really know how to be alone. Before, it was a hassle, but I've learnt how to be by myself, in my own space. And as I've been injured for the past four weeks, it's fine. I can deal with it. Before, I would have freaked out [laughs].

Far Ride
Over the past year, I've listened to a few podcasts featuring professional cyclists who tried to keep to their training blocks but on the smart trainer. And then two weeks became two months and they needed to alter their mindset when it came to their levels of fitness. They found they couldn't maintain such a rigorous training regime without some defined goals.

Sami
Totally. There were some strong people that could do it, but not me [smiles].

Far Ride
Was your role with Komoot as the Spanish community manager affected by the various restrictions?

Sami
Where it was safe to do so, some events did happen, but we also tried to do alternative things that people could still join. Online rides and webinars.

Far Ride
Even though the impact of the pandemic has been quite unprecedented, it did encourage people to be very creative in the way they approached cycling—ideas such as Dirty Kanzelled which had a massive impact, an event that you'd actually raced the previous year.

Sami
That was Laurens ten Dam. The cleverest outcome from a cancelled race you could imagine. It was insane how much reach he got. Super, super smart and maybe an approach we'll need to take this year if things turn out the same?

Far Ride
I was fortunate that, even during lockdown, I was allowed to do a solo ride once a day. But you couldn't exercise outside at all. That must have been difficult?

Sami
52 days in total without outdoor sports. And then, when we could go outside, we had to stay within our own municipality.

"I've learnt how to be by myself, in my own space."

Far Ride
And I’ve seen your recent posts with you on crutches and wearing a big plastic boot. What's been going on there?

Sami
As I said before, 2020 wasn't exactly my best year [laughing]. Back in October, I was going out horse-riding and it was a young horse and he just took off with me on top of him. We were in a parking lot so he could get used to the noise of traffic, and something must have spooked him. His ears were back, which is never a good sign, and he was running towards the road so I tried to turn him and lost my balance and fell. But rather than just falling off, my foot was caught in the stirrup and it was just like a Western movie with me being dragged along [laughs].

Far Ride
I guess it wasn't so funny at the time?

Sami
It took a big hole out of my knee and the first time in my life that I've needed stitches. I had to wait 10 days to have them removed before I could ride again. But a few days later I was out on my bike, and I was stupidly looking at my phone - swapping it between hands - and I crashed.

Far Ride
So that's injury number two.

Sami
I was booked on a flight to the Canaries a couple of days later but had to postpone the trip. When I did finally make it out there, I had 20 amazing days working on a new video project before flying home. But then my foot slipped when I was out trail-running and I broke some ligaments.

Far Ride
Horse, bike, running. You're kind of covering all bases?

Sami
That was my 2020. And it's funny because I've just signed with Merrell as a partner for their running shoes. Super cool and we were working towards the release of the collaboration and the irony is that I'm on crutches [laughs]. 

Far Ride
You mentioned a new video project. That sounds exciting.

Sami
Well, I've kind of got this history of working with video. Both in front and behind the camera. And somebody just suggested that I do something for myself. My first reaction was, naahh, there's no way. But I kept coming back to the idea for six months until I thought that maybe I should. You always hate your look or your voice when you see yourself on a video but I decided to go for it.

Far Ride
So what was the first step?

Sami
I contacted a photographer called Sergio Villalba in the Canaries. He does amazing surf shots, and I knew he was starting to do videos of cycling. So we got in touch, and I explained that I wanted to do this inspirational film to empower people to engage in outdoor sports. He was immediately onboard with the idea, and we decided to shoot the footage on Lanzarote. It took three days, and we're now ready to release the film.

Far Ride
You must feel so proud?

Sami
It's really hard when the project is about you [laughs]. And to be honest, it's been a bit of a rollercoaster. David Millar helped me by looking over the text, but even as recently as yesterday I had a complete freak-out. Asking whether he thought it was correct? If the video even makes sense? Does my accent work, speaking in English?

Far Ride
So you produced and directed the film. Did you script it too?

Sami
I wrote a long text with notes about my feelings. It was originally twice as long as the final version. But I decided it needed some gaps otherwise it's basically just me chatting. And even though it's still quite personal, there was a lot of insight into my life and it was like, oh shit, maybe that doesn't need to be included [laughs].

Far Ride
But you still took the decision to refer to your childhood in the narrative?

Sami
I feel like a lot of people can relate to this. And one of the most difficult things is not having regrets, right? So this all leads into the message of the project. That no matter what, the outdoors is a healthy way of recovering and filling you up with good energy.

Far Ride
Did you write the script and then fit the shots? What was the process?

Sami
The basic idea of encouraging people to enjoy being outside came first. Then I wrote the script before sharing it with Sergio. From there, we worked on a list of shots, and he knew so many amazing locations as he's from the Canaries. All these different aspects were then tied up to match the mood of the moment.

Far Ride
The result is really beautiful.

Sami
We used an actual 8mm camera - that's not a filtered effect - which looks really cool.

Far Ride
How does it compare producing someone else's film to your own?

Sami
Good question [laughs]. If it's not your project, you're not necessarily working with a style you want. On this project, I had the freedom to experiment and try out different approaches knowing that it was my own time.

Far Ride
It's quite a journey from first featuring in films to now working on your own projects. Does that feel satisfying?

Sami
Totally. I would love to give my one hundred percent to this. But right now, with the world as it is, I'm not quite ready to take the plunge. Hopefully one day. For now, the idea is that this project will lead to more adventures for me this year. So this film is the first but definitely not the last one [smiles]. 

Photos by Sergio Villalba and Rubén Plasencia (gallery)
Interview by Chris Hargreaves

Photos by Sergio Villalba and Rubén Plasencia (gallery)
Interview by Chris Hargreaves

PURCHASE

Volume 12

Waiting to Ride Out
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DUST
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Badlands
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