The Equites team appeared 12 years ago as little more than a bunch of extreme-sports lovers. Equites members, however, do far more than just beat records and challenge themselves – they have begun to change the whole attitude one has toward taking trips; transforming a relaxing time away into unforgettable adventures. Completely reconfiguring stereotypes about man’s physical abilities, the Equites group has its own philosophy based on taking risks and yet, surviving. We talk to Serhiy Gruzdev of the Equites club here in Kyiv to find out more.
When was the idea of the Equites team born?
It felt as if the idea had been flying about for ages. Firstly, the guys had all been so inspired by the famous Kusto team, and had dreamt of joining in whichever way they could. Honestly, they were ready to be stokers or even carpenters just for the chance to be on board this crew! Then the thought, “why not organise a Ukrainian equivalent?” just sort of popped into their heads, and they started working on that right away. The concept was to gather people who wanted to explore the unknown places of our planet and reveal their beauty to society. Moreover, the idea was to have the travellers challenge their physical abilities as well, with journalists immediately calling them ‘extreme travellers’ due to this boundary pushing.
What was the first ‘big action’ to bring fame to Equites?
The first ‘big action’ was in 2002, when three Equites members dived under the icy Dnipro – from one ice hole to another! Leader of the team, Volodymyr “Goltis” Vuksta managed to dive the longest distance of 37 metres. It was a truly amazing achievement! Diving without any special equipment in water of 4 degrees Celsius seems almost impossible! Nevertheless, the extreme boys proved they could do it!
Generally speaking, a lot of what Equites does is quite dangerous isn’t it?
Yes, it is, but that’s why Equites never dice with death without the necessary precautions. More than that, we always do a full risk assessment before any exploit. Before the big dive in 2002, we had been training for six months. Equites do not do spontaneous tricks. What we really want to say to people is that, “You are powerful, and with the necessary training, you too are capable of anything.” Certainly, one’s abilities are limitless. That’s what Equites demonstrates.
Still, has there ever been a situation where you felt that there was a limit, or a border you couldn’t cross? That the risk hadn’t been estimated and calculated completely?
Of course, nature is unpredictable. Sometimes it can truly shock you with its surprises, and of course, Equites always choose the unknown for their trips. There was one trip where Goltis and another member, Ihor Portnoy, were cycling across Africa, whereby they experienced their own little adventure, which will forever be a lesson to them. While swimming in Limpopo, they saw a young hippopotamus lying not far away and so decided to take a closer look. They got so close, they were able to stroke it, and totally forgot about the possibility that mum may appear at any point. This is exactly what happened, and she was furious! Another dangerous situation also occurred in Africa, when the Equites happened upon a tribe of cannibals! Yes, hazardous situations happen all the time. Nevertheless, our guys have a guardian angel following them everywhere they go.
One of the most well-known Equites adventures was the Columbus Quest of 2008-2009. Can you tell us a little about that?
This is a perfect example of the body’s limitless abilities. Goltis, Andriy Suprun and Constantin Mohilnik set out across the Atlantic Ocean on board a yacht, without any food whatsoever. It took place during Lent, so the guys hadn’t a crumb in their mouths for 40 days. The Canadian doctor with them had thought they were crazy at first, and was sceptical about the whole project. He was certain that he would be overseeing their deaths. Finding them safe and sound after 40 days of starving themselves, sailing the whole time, however, he was dumfounded.
These days, many people call themselves travellers. What defines the Equites members as “vocational travellers”, as you put it. Can anyone gain this proficiency?
First of all, one needs to be prepared. Equites members enjoy some pretty extreme sports and take 'out there' trips, so you should be ready for anything. You need to be very familiar with equipment of all sorts – mountaineering, scuba diving, paragliding – and that’s just getting started! Members of our travelling team have consulted professionals in every sporting sphere there is to gain the necessary knowledge. More than that though, a vocational traveller is always ready to meet nature’s elements such as snowy peaks, sandy deserts, swampy jungles, as well as the deep, dark ocean floor without fear. Our members are ready for any obstacle, at any time.
What if one of our readers wanted to join the Equites team – what might be the first step?
The most important thing is to know your own physical strength. We have had some people with us who were not in the best shape physically, but were able to balance that out with strong mental and spiritual power. But, you must understand and believe that your body is an instrument for exploring, and you must have the strength to deal with any situation. In addition, Equites follow the philosophy of an open heart. The spirit is powerful only if it is reasonable and wise; therefore there is no need to start competing with nature, because it will always be head and shoulders above you. One of the last things necessary to be one of the Equites is to have a love for the natural world. We are its guests, and must respect that. Honestly, among all of the entertainment technology has had a hand in, nature is the best. Travelling is not about transiting from car to airport to hotel. There is so much more worth exploring!