An Interview with OutdoorFest and Mappy Hour Founder, Sarah Knapp
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
Sarah Knapp is someone who just wants to connect the poles of the world together; east and West, young and old, rural and urban. Though we all live on the same planet it is surprising how easy it is for us to become trapped within our bubbles and comfort zones, especially in the age of social media. Today we dwell within a well curated digital space, tailored and edited to our whims. Sometimes we forget to even look up from our screens, read a book, say hi to a friend, or go to the beach. That’s where Sarah comes in. Knapp is the founder of Mappy Hour and OutdoorFest, two programs that aim to unite urban dwelling adventure enthusiasts together. No, not online but in person and out in the fresh air. You know, the old fashion way.
For this episode of Life in Motion, Jeremy Lux sits down with Knapp to discuss her programs, the joy of the outdoors, and the art of making friends.
When it comes to adventuring let’s just say Knapp took some baby steps.
“My story is that I am from New Jersey. I grew up in the suburbs and I would say I had a connection with nature but not in the way the industry might define it in terms of backpacking or surfing and all that stuff,” she explains. “When I was in high school I volunteered to clean trails…that’s kind of how I discovered that this world even existed.”
After college Knapp moved to New York City and learned how to enjoy the outdoors from the heart of the concrete jungle. She went kayaking in the Hudson River, volunteered in an estuary oyster restoration lab, biked all over the city, took hikes upstate, and much more. In a way Knapp discovered the best of both worlds; on one side was the urban cultural mosaic of New York City and on the other was the beloved outdoors she knew growing up.
It was a watershed moment for Knapp.
“I had no idea that you could even think about being outside in New York City and be in the great outdoors. Like of course, you don’t move to New York City to be outdoorsy, but you can live in New York City and still participate in the outdoors and be part of a community that really values it,” she explains.
And that’s how Knapp’s OutdoorFest came to be, a 10-day event that connects urban adventurers with countless nonprofit nature orgs, trail guides, and gear companies. But this fest isn’t just about marketing and making connections, Knapp is trying to get these New Yorkers outdoors. Festival goers can hop right off the Brooklyn subway and onto Queens' Beach to learn how to surf with professional guides.
“So all of these people come together and create this,” says Knapp. “We do about 40 events to hopefully create this narrative that New York is so much more than just concrete and glass, and that there are different ways to connect with nature here. Whether it's a walk on the beach, a full on surf session or anything in between.”
OutdoorFest continues to grow as it goes into its sixth year.
While Outdoors Fest is geared towards bringing people outdoors, the second program, Mappy Hour is about helping these strangers become friends, because as Knapp puts it, it’s really hard as an adult to make friends and meet new people. In all honesty though, a great deal of trust comes with learning how to surf or going camping with a group of people you may have just met.
Naturally, the outdoors not only gets the blood pumping but it also turns complete strangers into good friends. So what does a Mappy Hour meet up look like? Well imagine about 10-15 people in a bar sitting around a table chatting about their last surf trip, sipping beers, and swapping stories. The mood is light, airy, and intimate. Mappy Hour has blown up so much NYC meet ups now attract upwards of 40-50 people. The program has only caught on like wildfire across the country.
To date, Mappy Hour has groups in Chicago, Springfield, Cleveland, Richmond, Detroit, Austin, Denver, New York, DC, LA, Philadelphia, and lastly the program’s first international group in Calgary, Canada.
“I kind of see that Mappy Hour is like a curated version of your typical meetup. We have chapter leaders who are trained and tasked with creating a space that is not only positive but lives up to our values,” says Knapp.
So what is the key to building community? Knapp says it’s all about consistency.
“I think you can literally just say, ‘Hey, we're meeting up’ and just be there for people.” Consistently show up and create that space for people.”
As mentioned before, we live in a highly digitized and curated world, and though we enjoy the social conveniences and circles it provides it never hurts to leave that bubble every now and then. There are friends to be made and memories to be had out in the world. The first step is just walking out that door and being present in the moment.
For more information on OutdoorFest, Mappy Hour or possibly joining a chapter in your area, check out www.mappyhour.org as well as Mappy Hour’s socials on Facebook and Instagram @mappy_hour. If you happen to be in the New York area and would like to experience OutdoorFest firsthand the fun starts on June 5 to June 14, 2020. To listen to Sarah Knapp’s full interview, check out the Life in Motion podcast with Jeremy Lux on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.