Customer of the month - Penny Zannikos

Customer of the month - Penny Zannikos

We love celebrating our customers, you're all part of Team FINDRA. Our November customer of the month is Penny Zannikos.

Hey Penny, thank you so much for chatting to us. We love what you do, but what sports or activities do you enjoy the most?

It is impossible for me to choose just one here!  I love being active and I push myself to go as hard, as fast and as far as I can whenever I'm outdoors.  I'm by no means an athlete and my "fast" or "far" is probably slow and short to someone else. But, I'm not in competition with anyone but myself and strive to get as much out of my time outdoors as possible. One of my favourite activities is yoga which I try to do most days at home, this is my time, in the present and nothing else matters. I've found yoga is the perfect compliment to my other favourite activities being hiking, mountaineering, climbing and cycling.

That's fantastic. Yoga has a lot of healing qualities. How did you discover your love of the outdoors?

Since being a little girl I've always been active. I did gymnastics both for school and club, danced and was a member of the school's many sports clubs. After school, I trained to be an aerobics instructor and then I studied sport and physical education as my BA degree.  My love for the outdoors was discovered much later.  My family were not really 'outdoorsy'  kind of people but I knew I always felt at home outdoors.  The outdoors, to me, gave me this feeling that nothing else gave me.  I have always loved walking but that was about the limit - until I decided to join the York Mountaineering Club, and that was where I found myself!

I went hiking with the club and had my first taste of scrambling, mountaineering and climbing, yes climbing!!  Learning these things was a big challenge for me as, being in my mid-forties, I have struggled with a paralysing fear of heights for my whole life. I felt sheer fear every time I went to the climbing wall, like an animal going to the slaughter - it was horrendous!  But it was always worth it for the proud, elated feeling I would have in the car returning home. I felt self-belief and such a sense of achievement, telling myself that if I can learn to climb, I can do anything!

I progressively did more challenging things like long distance hikes, thru-hikes, wild camping and some famous ridges.  That feeling after a long hard slog; carrying your over-sized pack through every terrain and every weather condition, pushing your personal boundaries, you finally reach your destination. You can kick off your boots, peel off your socks to red sore feet, feel aware of every part of your body as you ache and hurt in areas you didn't even know you had. You look out to the most incredible view with a drink in hand and reflect on what you have achieved, discovered and overcome; one of the best feelings in the world and one I would never trade now I've found it!

That's so inspiring! Where have your adventures taken you?

My adventures have taken me to most corners of our country; Scotland, Wales, The Lake District, The Peak District, The South Coast, The East Coast and ... London??  This is a different animal an urban adventure with many obstacles.  I have spent one day hiking around the Atlas Mountains in Marrakesh, (I'm no Jenny Tough and totally admire her, always looking forward to reading up on her next adventure), as well as different locations in Greece and Spain. I am currently looking forward to my next big adventure in November, where I will thru-hike and bike pack across the North and South islands in New Zealand.

Penny in the hills

Do you ride with any groups of motivational people?

I don't ride in a group as I generally prefer to ride alone, with a friend or my partner. However, I have many friends that are keen cyclists with some, in particular, having a great deal of experience. Knowing these people has made me rekindle my love with cycling; I used to mountain bike as a teenager when I was unbreakable and fearless - or so I thought. I am definitely considering planning some bike packing and mountain bike weekend trips away soon.

Is there anyone who has inspired your love of the outdoors?

Many.  Chris Townsend wrote Rattlesnakes and Bald Eagles, which is a hugely inspirational transcription of his journal whilst he thru-hiked the PCT.  Joe Simpson and Simon Yates have sheer determination, even in unimaginable conditions. They set themselves achievable goals and never gave up during their disastrous climb of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Liz Robbins and Lynn Hill are two incredible and awe-inspiring climbers - they make me want to climb better and to keep pushing and learning.

Most importantly, I am surrounded by amazing, passionate friends who educate me every time we have an adventure. None more so than my partner who teaches me, keeps me safe and makes me laugh endlessly, I've very lucky!

How did you discover FINDRA?

I first heard the name FINDRA last year when we were planning who we wanted to see and watch at Kendal Mountain Festival in 2017. My partner saw FINDRA's 'Women in Adventure' event and knew it was perfect for me, immediately booking me a ticket.

Prior to this, I had seen the FINDRA stand at Basecamp and thought that I must come back here as the clothes looked amazing. Of course, I went along to the session and have never looked back.  I was sat there on my own with my mouth gaped open, thinking "I want to be like you! I want to be one of you incredible women, inspiring and encouraging others and talking about adventures." Jenny Tough, Lee Craigie, Emily Chappell, Megan Hine, Rickie Cotter - you were all fantastic and certainly inspired me and gave me more confidence.  The theme that ran through with each of these women was one of humbleness, like 'if I can do it you can do it'. They were not professional athletes but self-taught and self-motivated, having that fearlessness and gumption to get up and do it, making their own stories and memories. I didn't want the event to end, I didn't want to leave! So I hung around for as long as possible before heading back to Basecamp to go and buy my first FINDRA garments.

The feeling I had watching the ladies whilst they were speaking only continued when I got to the stand. The customer service was great and this was mirrored in the brilliant products. I loved the styles and designs and how the garments felt. I wanted to be a part of this, and that feeling has stayed with me. It encourages me daily when I read about all the other ladies that followed FINDRA and found 'FINDRA love'.

It's very humbling to hear that, thank you. Since buying your first item at Kendal, what is your favourite piece of FINDRA?

It has to be the first item I bought at Kendal, which was my navy Marin Sweater. This has always been a part of my adventures, I can't live without it. I have recently bought the Route Merino Short Sleeve T-Shirt in Peacock - the colour is gorgeous and in the heat of this summer so far, the performance is equal to the style, keeping me cool when the heat is rising.

 Since chatting with us, Penny has joined Team FINDRA as a brand ambassador! She is also part way through her journey across New Zealand. You can catch up with what she's doing over on her Instagram.
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