With a fashion model’s physique and an explorer’s sense of discovery, Elaina Hammeken, 27, is living proof that urbexing isn’t just for the boys.
Urbex stands for urban exploration, and those with a fear of heights may want to binge carefully as the most daring and charismatic urban explorers infiltrate areas like a dazzling skyscraper in Dubai and a guarded bridge high above Moscow to share the heart-stopping views – as well as deeply personal stories that explain why, and how, they live life on the edge.
A citizen of the world, Hammeken known as “East Coast Chick” was born in Switzerland, grew up in the United States and then moved to Denmark to get her master’s degree.
It was in Copenhagen that she discovered urban exploration and found not only a passion, but a community of like-minded individuals who question the rules and pursue their own perspectives. She was a contestant on “America’s Next Top Model,” where she felt she wasn’t “girly” enough to fit in.
Currently in South Africa to promote the URBEX, A RED BULL TV ORIGINAL SERIES, Hammeken took some time out of her busy schedule to tell LaMaZingMedia about her adventures whilst taking part in this exhilarating sport.
Tell us how you got involved in growing sport of Urbex.
Apart from climbing trees and exploring drain pipes in my neighbourhood as a kid, when I first found Anders G’s Instagram account with urbex photos all over Copenhagen, I was hooked. When I was out in the city, Id look for the silhouettes across the skyline and try to figure out how to get up.
Share details of your first climb – just how hectic was it?
My first climb was the golden girls in Copenhagen. The view the first time was undescribable. I had finally convinced Anders to let me tag along. We had to traverse small beams, climb ladders and drain pipes to reach the top and I was hooked. I had needed Anders’ help to make it up the drain pipe and from there, I was determined to make it on my own. I was addicted.
How do you physically and mentally prepare?
Preparation is a fine line between planning and timing. In the Urbex world, timing is everything, but planning is essential; it really is the perfect balance. From looking at the buildings from Google Earth to locate a mode of entry to scoping out the location during the day to get a better look, it takes a lot of planning and understanding your limits so as to not end up in a dangerous, but if you plan too long, the spot will be gone.
You have seen breathtaking beauty in exotic cities, like Dubai, Kuala Lumpur & Melbourne. Where in SA would you want to climb?
I am really excited to explore South Africa. Joburg is such a beautiful city with so many amazing views. A couple nights ago, we went on an instameet on the rooftop of the Franklin building. To meet so many nice and amazing people with the same passion was as astounding, as well seeing the South African sunset for the first time. If you’re interested, the images can be found under #urbexlive
Seeing some of the world’s best cities from a very different perspective. Just how thrilling is it? Tell us about adrenaline rush?
It feels like you have a little secret. Almost as if we are thieves of the moment. Usually, it’s the challenge that’s half the fun.
Tell us about your Scariest experience – when you were most fearful, could have fallen?
My scariest experience is usually before I have climbed anything at all. Almost as with any project or just life in general, the scariest moment is usually just the first step. It’s the fear of getting caught, fear of the unknown, really fear of failure. When I’m on the roofs, I’m usually not scared at all because I stay within my limits. I don’t do anything that is beyond my abilities.
From social media to TV – how do you feel about the hype?
Im still pretty underground in the social media community, what I take out of it is the ability to bring so many people from so many different places around the world together who share the same passion.
Top 5 Urbex wow moments
In the first episode, Oleg runs across the edge of the blue towers, the jaw-dropping view as you are taken POV style is definitely one of the most nerving parts of the series. From handstands on bridges to dodging security, its difficult to pick just 5 wow moments out of the series.
Overcoming and controlling your fear
For me, I’d define fear as anticipatory anxiety more than anything, almost a fear of the unknown. If we let that fear control us, we’d never experience anything in life. We’d never try, we’d never grow, we’d never live. Its all about understanding your limits, fear is a logical response to risk, but life without risk is not living at all. Have you ever been afraid to go to a new place, drive somewhere new for the first time, meet new people, everyone is a little afraid, but if you remember the feeling when you faced your fear and overcame it, its wasn’t really so bad afterall now was it?
Selifie culture – is it really about the selfie?
For me, the selfie became a large part of my urban exploration. Being the first one kicked off Top Model and agencies telling me I was too brown to model, it became a way to say to the world, that I can be anything I want to be and I don’t need permission from anyone to make it to the top. 😉
Tips for someone who wishes to explore the sport
Always remember to stay within your own limits. You don’t have to do the craziest things in the craziest places to be an urban explorer, its about checking behind that door, feeding the curiosity and just taking a second from our busy lives to really appreciate the moment.
What would you be doing if you were not involved in Urbex?
Probably staring at endless spreadsheets for the rest of my life in misery…
Start your own exploration: Urbex premieres on demand with all episodes available at once on August 1, 2016 – only on Red Bull TV. Tune in to redbull.tv or download the app or connect via your Smart TV