Interview with… Steph Bolam

Steph Bolam is an extreme sports pro, from participating in Arctic expeditions to sailing, and rock climbing to dirt biking. She is also co-founder of Filthy Cute with Emily Malice, and mum-of-one to extreme sports pro-in-the-making, her daughter Lola.

How did you get into extreme sports (you do so many!) and how easy was it to get Lola into them? Also, what inspired you to start Filthy Cute?
I grew up sailing with my Dad and that gave me a love of being outdoors in the elements and having mad adventures. Then when I went to Uni I started rock climbing and that really took over my life. All I could think about was being in the mountains and training to climb as hard as possible. It’s so much more than a sport it really is a way of life and has a great community of lovely people. Then came motorbikes, another lifestyle sport really, but even more dangerous and exciting. I was addicted from the start. Again it came with a great community of people. Being part of something really motivates me to get involved. Ultra running is just suffering, I don’t do it because I love it, I do it because I like pushing my mind to move beyond suffering and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Steph Bolam and her daughter Lola

With Lola it was easy to involve her, I started by teaching her to sail just because she was there on the boat with me and even from a very young age we could do it together. Then climbing I think comes quite naturally to kids and mostly I sold it as us going for a picnic somewhere beautiful outdoors. She often doesn’t even want to climb and that’s fine, I just want her to enjoy being outdoors. And motorbikes is a bit tougher as it can be dangerous but we were lucky enough to have Docklands Dirt riders club in London when she was learning and Chris was a great teacher. Involving kids is just about showing them that it’s fun to be outdoors, to use your body and your mind.

Filthy Cute began out of years of friendship with Emily Malice, I love her Art and believed it would be cool to make a proper high-quality ethical brand. We are just a two-man team, we make stuff that we would wear ourselves and we have fun doing it. We design and print it all here in London. It’s very time consuming but we love it and enjoy making things people love too. It’s inspiring to do something you love with people you love.

Steph Bolam and Emily Malice

Have you had any ‘pinch me’ moments during your career?
I definitely had a ‘pinch me’ moment crossing the finish line in Mongolia after running 100 miles. I couldn’t believe I had made it, I was in so much pain but just kept running. So many wonderful people had sponsored me and we had raised £6500 for Children with Cancer UK, I just wanted to make everyone proud and complete the mission, but it was so hard I was pinching myself for sure when I actually did it.

What would be your advice to someone looking to innovate and start their own business?
To anyone wanting to start a business I would say don’t be afraid to fail. Try to look at the things you already love and already inspire you.

What inspires your work?
I get a lot of inspiration from other mothers/ parents, its an endless juggling act and whilst I am a confident mother I look to others to see and learn how to do better and how to best negotiate work, sport and child-raising. I can end up feeling very guilty if I spend time away from Lola when I am mountaineering or running or riding and I have to decide how to take value in what I am doing and give that back to Lola in some way.

Any fun plans for 2021?
I am pretty excited for 2021, hopefully from May we will be racing again and I will be racing my 1972 Bultaco in the UK and European Flat track championships. This is racing a motorbike on dirt, as fast as you can with no front brakes. It’s huge in America and it’s a growing sport here, with more and more women getting involved. I am involved with a flat track training school “Dirt Craft’ and we hope to get as many women riding and racing as we can this year.

Also, I have entered another Ultra Marathon in October which I am surprisingly excited about. So it should be a fun year.

Favourite TGF Piece?
I Love TGF’s Shackle Bracelet and of course the Mum Ring.

Favourite Record
AC/DC ‘Little Lover’

Favourite Book
A. C. Grayling – ‘The Good Book: A Secular Bible’

Favourite Podcast
Dolly Parton’s America