Named one of the World’s Most Adventurous Women 2019 By Men’s Journal Anita Naidu is an all mountain matador, award winning humanitarian and aspiring astronaut. Featured in the upcoming film ” Project Wild Women” for her pioneering role in gravity sports, Anita is a frequent keynote speaker and passionate campaigner of human potential to create meaningful social shifts. Over the past decade, her work has taken her to some of the most arresting places in the planet…leading projects from the global refugee crisis to human slavery to women’s advancement. Anita is internationally recognized for her work in providing technical solutions for social impact and human rights advocacy.
A former investigative documentarian and one of mountain biking’s most in demand coaches, she is noted for her efforts in bridging the gap between mountain biking and social advocacy. Anita holds a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Masters in Environmental & Chemical Engineering and rides for Rocky Mountain Bikes, Troy Lee Designs, SRAM, Rockshox and Clifbar.
This will be her first time at Mountain Life’s Multiplicity Event and we sat down to learn a little more about her.
Hi Anita! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an Olympic yoyo soloist hopeful… just kidding! I don’t have the perfectly opposable thumbs for that sort of magnificent! I am mostly a humanist who likes to play hard in the mountains and is deeply curious about finding solutions to the ethical problems of today.
Where in the world is Anita right now?
Bouncing through small towns in Latin America – currently researching domestic slavery/human trafficking and investigating technological solutions.
Tell me about your early years—how did you get into the mountain bike world?
Biking followed naturally from an obsession with climbing, skiing, skateboard etc. However the first ignition point happened when I came across a book called “Ms. Teeny Wonderful” when I was very young. The protagonist is a Canadian girl who jumps over garbage cans to win a beauty pageant. I read the book cover to cover at least ten times. I had ZERO idea what jumping a bike entailed but it sounded like a hallucinating amount of fun! I got a bike shortly after….it had no brakes and I went down the steepest hill I could find and very narrowly missed getting hit by a car. It was the most freedom I’d ever felt in my 8 years of existence! Later as a teenager I got my first real mountain bike but it wasn’t until I discovered the freeride scene that I actually learned to jump—Whistler’s jump trails eliminated the need for stacked garbage cans.
I have to say, you seem like a bit of a unicorn with your intelligence and amazing athletic ability—who did you look up to as a kid to become what you are today?
The impetus behind many of my pursuits stems from the fact that I couldn’t find any role models as a young person seeking a prescribed ritual for whom I wanted to be. It was challenging to find mountain athletes who were profoundly committed humanitarians, people from traditional eastern cultures in gravity sports, female astronauts of color etc. It was an incredibly important life lesson to learn as a kid… build the world you envision. It’s never been so critical that we escalate mountain culture to be complementary to empathy, intelligence, diversity and a social vision rather than exclusive to them.
You have a whole other side to your skillset—tell me about your history with humanitarian work, and what led you to a masters in environmental and chemical engineering?
I was particularly attracted to engineering for it’s gender bender and challenging the status quo but it was during my studies (I have an undergraduate in electrical engineering and a masters in environmental/chem engineering) that I became aware of the power of technology to bring about great change. Everything shifted for me once I recognized this.. .that we could find solutions and alleviate the suffering of others. It was this understanding that led me to humanitarian work and social advocacy projects all around the world.
I heard a quote from you—“What are the things are the things that inherently bother you. When do you feel that tremble of indignation with injustice? When does that happen to you? When that happens, that’s when you need to do something”—when did you first feel something that bothered you?
Growing up between different countries and cultures resulted in observing suffering and deep inequality as a young child. I was keenly aware that people who looked like me didn’t share my privilege. Mental fortitude, empathy and tolerance weren’t catchy memes, they were a necessity for understanding life around me. Those early instances shaped my present beliefs: that feeling the injustice against someone else as your own is fundamental.
How about with mountain biking?
Biking is so powerful because is has the power to unite. So whenever I witnessed it being used divisively, whether it’s to cater solely to those who can afford it or is exclusive of diversity or for purely selfish interests I felt compelled to change that… either through providing free/low cost coaching, offering it in various languages, to the hearing impaired, travelling to remote areas where it wouldn’t normally be available, combining bike skills with social impact training etc. I think biking should be used for moral adventures as much as any other kind of adventure! It not enough to proclaim “Let’s have fun!”. How about “Let’s change the world and have fun doing it!”?
Have you seen the lineup of other speakers? Who are you most excited to see?
I have! I’m curious to hear Mario Rigby speak and hear what he observed about human development along his walking journey.
Let’s end it off with something simple—what are your plans for your talk? What do you hope people take away from it?
I’ll be speaking on “ The Meaning Gap: Finding Purpose in the Mountains”. I hope to inspire people to breathe fire, to rise to advocate for things they believe in, and to listen to their moral calling both within and outside their sporting lifestyle. I particularly want to show how mountain culture (and those in it) have a unique ability to find creative solutions to societal problems. One of the struggles of modernity is finding ways to contribute meaningfully, yet the truth is every one of us can shape the world in a way that provides an unrivalled sense of identity and purpose.
Imagine sitting around a campfire telling stories, then take that experience and multiply it. That’s MULTIPLICITY 2019. The annual event, presented by Mountain Life Media, captures human beings’ rich tradition of storytelling, then elevates it, adding in visual elements of photography, slideshows and video. The result is best compared to a TEDTalk® on adrenalin, with stories brought to you by explorers, athletes, outdoor thought-leaders, and passionate personalities from the mountain world.
Hosted by Mountain Life editor and emcee extraordinaire Feet Banks, MULTIPLICITY is a must-see celebration of true-mountain and adventure culture, and one hell of a good ride. Plus, the event is a special flagship fundraiser for the Spearhead Huts Project.
This event premiered in 2013 and has been a sell-out success each year since – don’t miss out. Grab your tickets today.