Good Team at Switchbackr
Q&A With Ambassadr Nahla Gedeon Achi
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
We are beyond excited to announce Nahla as our newest Ambassadr!! She is currently based in San Francisco and goes on incredible adventures in the surrounding waters, peaks and forests.
What are your outdoor activities?
Surfing, backpacking & hiking, skiing, scuba diving & freediving (really anything that involves being in the ocean), mountain biking (very much still learning), and climbing (would call this more of a dabble).
What’s the piece of gear you’ve owned the longest?
This scuba mask :) I’ve had it for almost twelve years now. I hadn’t used it in a while, but recently went freediving & spearfishing with a friend just north of San Francisco and it was amazing being back underwater and exploring California’s marine ecosystems!
What’s your favorite memory with it?
I used to work as a dive instructor in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. On one of our trips, we were lucky enough to be in Saba when ostracods (microscopic crustaceans) were mating. As part of their mating ‘ritual,’ the ostracods create small spirals of blue bioluminescence, which you can see on night dives. We spent two nights diving the same spot, totally mesmerized by the blue bioluminescence from the ostracods and the greener bioluminescence we were sparking as we moved through the water. It felt like we were diving in a constellation.
When did you first fall in love with the outdoors?
This is a tough one, and I feel like I can’t do justice to the many times and many ways I’ve fallen in love with a new aspect of the outdoors. But I guess one of my very first memories of being totally in awe of an activity and place was in the French Alps (where my family lived part time growing up), hiking and picking wild strawberries with my siblings. We were so late coming home from picking way too many strawberries and struggling to hold them in our shirts as we essentially tumbled down the mountain that our mom thought we’d gotten lost. I just remember laughing my way through the entire day and feeling so peaceful and elated and wanting to spend the rest of the summer exploring trails through the mountains and picking wild fruit with my family.
If you could change something about outdoor culture, what would it be?
Accessibility, inclusion, social engagement. As is all-too-clear, mainstream outdoor culture is inherently inaccessible (expensive, steeped in historical injustices, reliant on ‘in-groups,’ spatially restricted…) and exclusionary (white, ‘Western,’ able-bodied, heterosexual…). Until recently, mainstream outdoor culture (and the institutions it relies on — National Parks, organizations like The Nature Conservancy etc.) also worked hard to stay detached from contentious social issues, despite the fact that most of the people who make up the mainstream outdoor community (me included) are the beneficiaries of fundamentally unequal systems.
Changing the way we understand what ‘outdoor culture’ even means and who gets to define it is probably an essential first step in trying to make this space more inclusive and accessible… On a slightly different note, as someone who doesn’t really know where I come from, I sometimes feel like the mainstream outdoor culture in the U.S. is very U.S.-centric. It’s great to see people, organizations, and companies starting to grapple with systemic problems in the U.S., but I wish there was more engagement with the global impacts of the outdoor culture and outdoor industry as it exists here.
All photos courtesy of Nahla Gedeon Achi.