Rachel Māia is a mum to three amazing kids; a passionate advocate for the mental well-being of young Kiwis; and the 4th ranked lower limb amputee para-climber in the world. When she was 16, Rachel had a seemingly innocuous, controlled fall while she was indoor bouldering at a high school competition in Christchurch – one ankle shattered and dislocated, the other broke. Since then, she’s lived with chronic pain and limited mobility. In mid 2019, Rach made the decision to amputate below her left knee. She shares her journey in a raw, authentic and incredibly inspirational way. Rachel is a woman on a mission to remind each and every one of us that we all have unlimited potential.
Let’s start with a hard one – how old are you?
Four months younger than Chris Hemsworth… is that specific enough?
Where are you from?
Can you describe yourself in 50 words or less?
I’ve got a creative brain, which means I’m disorganised, but I thrive on the pressure of a last minute deadline. I can’t keep my room tidy and I am always losing my keys at the bottom of my climbing pack. But it also means I’m an adaptive thinker and I love problem solving when it’s just me against the climbing wall. The world becomes smaller, just my own breathing in my ears…and my own voice telling myself nothing is impossible. And my own inner strength reminding me not to give in to my fear of heights. Yeah. A rock climber scared of heights.
What’s your earliest adventure memory outside?
Climbing a tree in Primary School and being unable to get back down. I spent most of the next class hanging out up there on my own. Later as a teen I started tramping and have good memories of the Kepler Track and Percy Burn.
What do you love about being a Macpac ambassador?
I am amped to be a part of a brand that feels like a family, and to be a part of something that has its history in New Zealand is important to me.
What piece of Macpac kit do you never leave home without?
The Macpac keep Cup. I’m a mother to three, and one is super powered… so unless someone invents intravenous coffee, I’ll have that cup at hand always.
Tell us about your best day in the outdoors.
Sitting on top of an Austrian mountain in 2018, breathing deep and making the decision that it was time to ask for an amputation. We took a gondola ride to the top, and then I was assisted by a friend who had a prosthetic. Seeing how much my adaptive family were accomplishing on prosthetics, and sitting high above the tree line with silent fog rolling in, I found the clarity I needed.
Who’s on your fantasy dinner party guest list?
Aqua Man. 100%. A dance off between him and Thor if I’m not allowed both. Although Aqua Man has brought out his own chalk bag and climbing gear bags, all complete with his arm tattoo pattern on them so… Aqua Man.
If the world was about to end, where would we find you, what would you be doing, and who would you be with?
With my kids. Probably in our PJs, snuggled under rugs by the campfire outside and roasting marshmallows. And asking each other “would you rather” stories… which when you’re playing with boys goes something like “would you rather step in dog poo barefoot or eat three raw slugs”.
How would you sum up your approach to life?
One hold at a time.
Its not meant to be perfect. Everyone’s life is messy, complicated, hard, brutal at times. But one hold at a time you find the resilience to push on and thrive and enjoy the sunshine and the little wins. And all those wins add up to something spectacular.
There are no limits. None. Set a goal, adapt, then fight for it – cry and scream and bleed for it. Feel the panic. Feel the struggle. Acknowledge the fear of failure. Be real about the journey. Be keep taking steps towards that goal until you have it.
Follow Rachel’s journey on Instagram @rachelmaianz