Before we get stuck into Sam Maffett’s interview I would just like to say a quick thank you: We are very fortunate in Australia to have so many amazing volunteers within our various clubs and associations. These people consistently step up, plan and manage events for the adrenalin hungry endurance athlete. It seems like there is a well organised event scheduled for every weekend somewhere nearby these days. On behalf of every athlete that participates in these events I would just like to say thank you so much for donating your personal time to allowing us to get out there and chase our dreams.
Clubs and Associations provide the important foundation and forum for the social & elite athlete to hone their skills and build an endurance base to then launch into a format surrounded by some of the best athletes on the planet. Well managed Event Management organisations are the critical ingredient to a format that exposes and increases the profile of our world’s best athletes.
In this following interview with Rapid Ascent’s General Manager Sam Maffett we will delve into what makes one of the world’s best and most recognised Adventure/Endurance event management companies so successful. Feel free to add additional comments/questions for Sam at the bottom of the post.
Here is a brief introduction to Rapid Ascent: Established in 2004, Rapid Ascent is now regarded as Australia’s leading Adventure Sports Event Management company, Rapid Ascent organises off-road, adventure and niche sports events across Australia ranging from mass participation adventure races (the world’s largest!) to boutique mountain bike festivals. We conceive and host our own events and offer other organisations and brands custom event management services.
Rapid Ascent currently hosts eleven major events across adventure racing, multisport, mountain biking and trail running disciplines. In addition, we are also contracted to manage the logistics for three more events – a recreational road ride, called the Ford Otway Cycling Classic, one of Australia’s largest regional fun runs, Run Geelong, and the world-renowned Mark Webber Challenge adventure race in Tasmania, for which John and Sam set the course.
Importantly, Rapid Ascent races and events are about much more than the sports they happen to love, they’re about appreciating the great outdoors, promoting environmental awareness, healthy lifestyles, community participation and creating a friendly festival atmosphere for everyone.
The usual personal stuff……..
SM: Yup, wife of 5 years Kate, and two little boys, Tom who’s nearly 2 and Ollie who’s 3 months old.
SM: Plenty of pet hobbies but no pets of the animal variety.
RB: Favourite place in Australia?
SM: Just one place? Geez there are so many… I think the Surf Coast and Otway Ranges are pretty darn good, but I love Mt Feathertop in Winter and usually get up there skiing at least once a year.
RB: Favourite place in the World?
SM: Once again – there are so many good places but a few favourites that spring to mind would be Cerro Torre in Patagonia, French Alps, Canadian Rockies and…
RB: What’s your Favourite YouTube clip?
SM: Danny Macaskill is the master.
SM: Nope, not really.
RB: What MTB do you currently ride?
SM: I’ve got a few, Scott Spark carbon 26” hard tail is current favourite, Trek EX8 dually and a Dialled Bikes steel hardtail – but that has Tom’s ‘WeeRide’ baby seat on it at the moment.
RB: Thoughts on the 29” v 26”?
SM: Yeah, I’ve only got 26” myself but believe the science and would like to give a 29” a good test one day (I haven’t ridden one properly yet).
SM: Used to own a number of white water kayaks and an XT, but am kayakless now because Rapid Ascent has a fleet of boats we can paddle at any time (not that I seem to get around to it though).
SM: My Mountain Designs Goretex jacket. If you’ve got that on it means that you’re somewhere in the weather, most likely on a mountain with snow around which is a good thing. Once you pull it on you just feel bulletproof and cocooned in your own little world.
RB: Favourite race format?
SM: Stage race of some sort – either a mountain bike race over 2 or more days or an adventure race over a few more.
RB: You’re a little fella…..ever get sick of the small man jokes?
SM: Nope – not when they hear how loud my voice is.
SM: He’s soft.
RB: Mmmm. interesting answer Sam. Tell us a little about Sam Maffett the Athlete.
SM: I’m probably a bit of an all-rounder. I’m not a bad runner I guess, and spent much of my youth and school days running cross country and athletics. I like mountain biking and I guess go alright at that although there are plenty of others just as quick. I don’t paddle much anymore – other than to catch big waves at Pt Danger sometimes and other sports, well I’ll give anything a fair go.
Events wise, I’m a bit competitive and have tried to push myself to the limit whilst racing, but don’t take things too seriously once the race is done and we’re all over the line. We’re all in it together.
SM: Winning the Mountain Designs Geoquest 48hr on two separate occasions.
RB: Any personal upcoming events planned?
SM: Yeah, my target for the first half of the year is the Gold Coast Marathon in July. After that I might take it easy and find a few mountain bike races to do.
Now for the events management stuff…….
SM: Yes, that is correct.
RB: Where is HQ based?
SM: We have a pretty sweet office in Gilbert Street Torquay, Victoria, Australia. We are about 150m from the beach and 50m from the bakery – ideal.
RB: Was your business background events management prior to joining Rapid Ascent?
SM: Yes and No. I actually studied interior architecture at university for 4 years and worked in an architectural practice for a couple of years before realising that it was not for me. I still have an interest in architecture and design but not to work in exclusively. So what does a 21year old do then – clear off overseas. I travelled and worked overseas for 4 years and in the process came up with the idea of getting into sports event management, and ideally sports that matched my interests. So I managed to step sideways through a few different jobs, safety kayaker and assistant manager of a rafting company and then for a ski tour company in Whistler. I had a few related jobs whilst living in Scotland and the UK but when I got back to Australia (in 2003) I landed a job with Yachting Victoria organising sailing World Championships for Sail Melbourne which gave me some great experience. Then when Rapid Ascent had just started up and were looking for their first employee I got the job.
SM: 6.5 staff.
RB: Do you have a favourite employee?
SM: Nope – they are all ace.
RB: Fun bits inside event management?
SM: The smiles of satisfaction and enjoyment you see on people’s faces when they cross the finish line at an event, that gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing that they have made a personal accomplishment (and some they have changed as a person) because of the work we have done. I also enjoy the diversity of what we do, I can be speaking into a TV camera one minute and picking up rubbish at an event the next.
RB: Worst bits inside event management?
SM: I take the post event criticisms we receive to heart, and it frustrates me that some people just fire off comments without thinking about what they are saying, without consideration of the other aspects of the event or other people involved.
RB: Any secret’s to Rapid Ascents success and sustainability?
SM: Uummm… We are passionate about what we do. We enjoy what we do. We try to make every event the best it can possibly be with the budget we have. I think the fact that John and I have both done a few different races helps as we can draw from that experience to help make our events better.
RB: I have noticed that since Chris Ord has come on board that the social media stuff has improved significantly.I don’t want to get personal Sammy but were you and John just really shit at it? By the way…I’m loving all the event updates on Twitter (@Rapid_Ascent).
SM: No offence taken (although I am the man behind the Twitter updates and I’ve taken that under my wing a bit). But yeah, Chris is a valuable member of our team who has a terrific ability to convey what he sees on the ground into words on a screen to help spread the message of what is happening… I am glad that someone notices the effort we put into trying to capture media from our races and grow the sports we are involved with.
RB:Someone told me that Rapid Ascent website hits were in the millions (www.rapidascent.com.au)?
SM: Yeah we are getting up there – I think the website has now had over 5million unique visitors and we just cracked 50,000 event entries through the site as well. As mentioned above, we put A LOT of effort into our website to maintain new content and provide valuable resources to competitors about the sports we are involved with.
RB: Have you noticed an increase in athlete participation in recent years?
SM: Yes, (fortunately for us) adventure sports continue to grow in popularity with more and more people entering our events. Point in case being that the 2011 Lorne Anaconda Adventure Race had its largest field in the 6 years it has been running (it was just a pity that the weather was crap so we have probably scared them all away again for another 6 years).
SM: Yes and No. Women’s participation in our events is still very small… something like 10% of all riders (across all distances) in this year’s Kona Odyssey were women, and 8% at Bike Buller. As a matter of fact we are soon to announce that in 2012 we are going to make the encouragement of women’s participation in adventure sports a priority for us throughout the year – especially in the Anaconda Adventure Race National Series. Watch this space.
SM: The Augusta Anaconda Adventure Race in WA. It is nuts over there, the Western Australians just love that event and bring another level of enthusiasm and participation with them. The Kona Odyssey is good too, but Augusta is probably the biggest.
RB: What’s your favourite event to organise?
SM: Either the Bike Buller MTB Festival or the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro. The reason being, that they are multi day events so we get the chance to actually meet and interact with the competitors far more than in the 1 day events. Like most people these days, we spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer and on a telephone, so we really enjoy the opportunity to actually meet and get to know our ‘customers’ over a few days.
SM: None of them – we enjoy what we do and they all give me a great sense of reward.
RB: Any plans to introduce some new events in the near future?
SM: YUP – but you’ll have to stay tuned to the website for details… (of the Surf Coast Century on September 22nd in Anglesea or the Anaconda Mini series of events…!)
RB: Am I giving you the shits with all these questions yet Sammy?
SM: Well it has taken me 4 weeks to finally get around to finishing this interview because I’ve been doing fair bit of work from home in the evenings so have not had time to do this! I hope you didn’t mind the wait!
RB: Elite Adventure/Endurance athletes seem like a pretty chilled bunch. True or False?
SM: True on the most part. Certainly most of them are a lot more chilled than your main steam sports elite.
RB: Favourite current day male and female athlete’s?
SM: Oh geez – I don’t know… it is tempting to say Richard and Elina Ussher as they win everything they enter, but on the other hand it is actually the ‘average Joes’ out there that struggle through our events probably give us the most inspiration. They often have the crappiest gear, are the least prepared and spend more than double the time on the course compared to the Usshers but you know what, they always finish smiling from ear to ear and are the most appreciative of the event and the experience they had. They are probably our favourites.
SM: Hmmm, to establish ourselves as the leading adventure sports event organisers in Australia. The fact that we also run a few on-road events (like Run Geelong) sort of confuse that so it would be good to be good at those too!
RB: Thanks so much for your time Sam and thanks so much for providing the forum to stop hack athletes like me from getting fat. Love your work Rapid Ascent.
SM: Thanks for supporting us Ross and others. We enjoy having you around