An interview with Dana Miskulnig and what she was telling people about it during the inspiring women’s talk (see article: Inspiring Women of the Outdoors)

I’m originally Austrian but was born and raised in Dubai and yes… I’ve seen the place change A LOT!

To give you a bit of a background I grew up riding dirt bikes in the desert, wake boarding, waterskiing, surfing, skating (basically avoiding ball sports) and recently picked up kitesurfing and am lucky enough to be supported by Naish here in Dubai.

How I Got Started
Well the way I got started is that I was lucky enough to have a dad who got me into it at just the right time. One Christmas when I was 16 years he got my mom and me a dirt bike as a gift and together we learnt how to ride this motorcycle. So if anyone thinks you can only learn these things at a young age my mom was around 40 at the time (sorry mom) and trust me when I say, if she can do it there’s no reason you can’t!

My Struggle and How it Gave me Confidence
At the time I was personally struggling a bit with myself, I was in a very low place mentally, emotionally; I basically wasn’t on the best of terms with life at all. They say money can’t buy happiness but that bike did something that switched my lights back on (and made me want to make sure they stay on). I went from a really dark place, not really putting much value on my life to not being able to get enough of it. I was enjoying every moment of life I could get and it gave me that self-confidence back. I was looking forward to every weekend, I would leave parties early and didn’t drink because I wanted to make sure I could get up at 5am and go ride early the next day. I pretty much spent my last two years of high school with my parents every weekend riding every dune that is out there. Moms and dads, if you’re worried about your kids doing action sports because it might be dangerous, the kids I went to school with who got wasted every weekend looked a lot worse for wear than I did by the end of the weekend and I’m pretty sure they didn’t learn much out of it.

My Crash
I was asked if I was going to share something about a big crash I had and at first I thought it might be a bit counterproductive because telling you how I broke my arm and had to get a titanium plate to put it back together and go through physio to get my hand working again from nerve damage might be a bit off-putting..
But it taught me some valuable lessons First: I really wasn’t thinking Second: It gave me some much-needed respect for things that could be potentially dangerous. Because as long as you respect the machine you’re on, the terrain you’re in or whatever activity you are doing you make sure you do it right instead of going balls to the wall with no thought behind it. Balls to the wall are no problem, but assess the situation so you get out of it in one piece!

Lessons Learned
Getting into this sport made challenges I faced in life a little smaller because it brought back some confidence in myself. Riding taught me the patience and perseverance to keep going. It pretty much opened me up to a lot of life lessons just by pushing through that sport. Every time I learned something out in the desert I learned something for life and it gave me a chance to switch off from whatever was getting to me. When that helmet came on, nothing else mattered.

Community and Travel
Riding opened me up to a whole community, (being a girl) I’m sure you have the same in most if not all sports whether it’s cycling, yoga or whatever sport you do, they come with a community, and being part of something like that, especially as a teenager who felt utterly lost is so valuable. It gave me a place to feel safe, a sense of belonging(especially as an expat) and people I could go to, People I looked up to and wanted to learn from. This sport opens up the world, literally. When I look at a country I think about what it’s like to travel through it by motorcycle, and I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden through South Africa and Namibia with my parents.

How to Learn
First of all, if there is someone in your circle of friends who rides, you can always go and ask them! Either they can take you out and show you the ropes or they can point you in the right direction where you can learn. When it comes to learning how to ride dirt bikes I can suggest two places: MX Academy and Big Red DXB. No matter who you learn with always make sure you First- Trust the person Second – Wear proper gear to protect yourself, and a little secret…being a girl is a bit of an advantage in male-dominated sports, they’re always eager to have more girls in the scene so they are happy to help out, don’t be scared!

• Size of the bike is no issue, there’s smaller ones
• Don’t worry about getting your feet down
• Learn about the machine you’re working with, get to know what’s on the inside

I did teach a few girl groups last year… big, small, young, old… and the smiles on the girls’ faces and that confidence they get at the end just shows how powerful a change for the good these sports can be on your character! www.lifeofdana.com ■