Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sarah Knapp (CAS '10) Reconnects New Yorkers to Nature

We've heard stories about students who live in Bobst and have interviewed alumni who have used it to write screenplays and books that would eventually become bestsellers and blockbusters. Sarah Knapp (CAS '10) has been working out of Bobst on her start-up, Outdoorfest. For 10 days, Outdoorfest will bring outdoor adventure to NYC's 5 boroughs with kayaking, surfing, biking, trail running, climbing, and more. Read our interview with Sarah.

How did the idea for Outdoorfest come about?

In New York City it's easy to feel like there are no outlets for someone passionate about outdoor recreation. The amazing thing is that there are resources, people and inspiration all over the place it's just not obvious or easy to find. OutdoorFest is a response to that - and an effort to create a community around our central passions.

You majored in History at NYU. Was Outdoorfest something you were thinking about starting as a student? How did your liberal arts education prepare you for being an entrepreneur?

When I was at NYU I was actually planning my escape out west. I actually moved out there before I even graduated (in December) and finished writing my papers from the middle of the Alta Lodge while taking breaks to go skiing. I always knew I loved the outdoors but it wasn't until I moved away from New York City that I realized I loved it here just as much. Moving back was when I realized I needed to follow a career path that included both New York and the outdoors. As far as how this relates to my history degree: I think a liberal arts education requires you to approach information in a different way - especially as a history student you learn that one account is never enough and as you work through various sources you see how narratives are influenced. Every entrepreneur faces the daunting task of building a brand out of scratch - for me this background and understanding in shaping, defining, and unpacking narratives has influenced how I assess my own forms of communication.

We hear you currently work out of Bobst. Can you talk about this and how you decided to set up shop there? 

It was easy actually. I've been participating in the NYU Triathlon club since I was an undergraduate. When you sign up for the gyms here they require you make a donation the university - I realized that if I made my donation to Bobst I would have the double benefit of a gym and a place to work from every day. I guess you can say it was the "whole package!"

There are a number of national parks right here in New York City. Do you think this is something a majority of people know and if not, do you think NYC would benefit from incorporating this fact into an advertising campaign for the city?

Yes, I think advocating for local resources is something that will hugely benefit New York City. While the ten days of OutdoorFest will be a ton of fun - the goal is to have people learn about new resources and go back not just this summer but year round. Ultimately, I think encouraging and inspiring people to connect with local outdoor recreation can reshape how people view their lives in cities in general.

Do you have a favorite NYC park and/or outdoor activity?

I don't have a favorite park - I love exploring new ones as much as possible. I'm equally as fickle with sports - I like cycling, kayaking, running, climbing. My new favorite find for activities is surfing in Queens. It's always something I've wanted to do but the first time I ever got out was this past March. Brrr... it was awesome.

What advice would you give to someone who lives in NYC but feels disconnected from nature?

I would encourage them to come join our Mappy Hours (monthly happy hours for outdoor enthusiasts) and try to meet other people with shared experiences. It's often unsafe to go out into the outdoors alone so having a network of reliable people is key.

How can alumni get involved in Outdoorfest?

Alumni in New York City can sign up for our newsletter  and of course attend the festival from May 30 to June 8. And everyone can participate and get great prizes by supporting us through Indiegogo.
If anyone has any questions about the outdoors/ adventuring in NYC they can email me directly at

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