Adventure is in her blood. We get to dive into the world of Wildtrail SA owner, Debbie Mostert Agenbag. Debbie has a great zest for adventure sport and has been involved in sports event management for many years. This industry powerhouse is changing the face of event management in South Africa and we chatted to her about her experiences and future plans.
"I’ve always been a keen sports person with a strong passion for running and cycling.Obviously in my younger years trail running did not exist and mountain biking as a sport was nowhere close to where it is today. So I’ve done many, many road triathlons, road runs and road cycling. Unfortunately life happened and I got stuck for many years in the corporate world and only managed to do some running on a less regular basis.
In 2008, the very first trail run ever in Gauteng took place and I thought I would go give a try to see what it was all about. I was instantly hooked and wanted more! But with trail running being a very new and unknown sport at that time, I could not find any other trail running events to do, so I decided there and then that I will organize my own events if that is what it takes to be able to do more trail running and get more people to enjoy it.I established WildTrail SA at the end of 2008 and in March 2009 I held my very first trail running event which, at that time, turned out to be the biggest trail running event ever in SA. Wildtrail SA grew at ridiculous rate with each event getting more and more trail runners until I decided in 2011 to leave the corporate world (as an accountant!) to do events full time.There was a great demand for quality trail events and we could provide them.
In 2012 I started The Warrior Race with my Warrior partner, Pieter Swart. Time wise, the Warrior Race was all consuming and I had to cut down a lot on other Wildtrail events but I met many mountain bikers in the process and started to feel an increasing urge to also move back to one of my earliest loves… cycling. I replaced my 8 year old mountain bike with a nice new carbon one and the cycling monster was instantly brought back to life!
In 2014 I introduced the first mountain bike event, The Namaqua Quest 3 Day MTB Stage Race, to the WildTrail SA annual calendar. A wonderful decision as this race is a firm favourite on the MTB calendar every year.Wildtrail now have a full MTB event calendar with 7 mountain biking events listed on the 2017 calendar with more events, training rides and social adventures in the pipeline. Along with several trail running and adventure events, Wildtrail SA is finally at a point where I can share both my passions (trail running and mountain biking) with like-minded nature lovers out there and I am truly at my happy place. I get to do what I love every single day.
Being a woman in sports event organizing, I have always been super sensitive and almost obsessive about growing both sports among women and was one of the first organizers to offer equal prize money to both male and female podium winners. What was also very crucial to me was to create events with a fun, family orientated environment so that women do not have to stay home to look after the kids but could bring the kids with to enjoy the trails as a family.
My goal as organizer is on creating fun events where the focus in not on the top riders but on fun events that will offer a challenge to those who want it, but also to cater for those who just want to come out and play a bit in nature with the family.The cycling community is actually a very social one and I love to mingle, ride and play with the crowd so I’ve developed quite a strong association with many women specific cycling groups and I receive phenomenal support and event loyalty from them. It is something I am very grateful for and will never take for granted. I love to be out there and give back to those who support me and share the passion for the sport we do.
To be totally honest, I found it quite easy to be a woman in the industry because people pick up on my passion for what I do and the support has been fantastic right from the start from both men and women.Having said this, there are of course always a few exceptions but I usually find that those little issues are more often about the fight for industry “dominance” and about egos rather than about me being a woman. Or maybe it is just me being blissfully unaware of any issues people may have with me as a woman in the industry. Either way i am privileged to be able to do what i do.
A lot of women specific events are popping up everywhere but that is not an idea that I really would like to buy into because I feel that it enforces the perception that men and women should be catered for separately and treated differently. I strongly believe that all events should ultimately be structured and promoted in such a way that they appeal to and cater for every single rider regardless of gender. I would like to think that WildTrail events are all inclusive.
As for the future... we will be launching a few new events in 2017 and they will focus more on fun and the experience as opposed to how tough they can be or how fast you can ride. We will of course have our events for the competitive athletes but we have some exciting events focused on "the experience" in the pipeline for the next year. a brand new venture and shift in focus from an events side. We love to give structure to having fun… in a safe environment. we hope to see you all at a WildTrail event soon! "
For more information and a list of WildTrail events visit: www.wildtrail.co.za