"So, what is KOTWF?" is a question we get a lot. While we can't deny we quite like the air of mystery and intrigue we've apparently given ourselves, we also want clarity in our identity. After all, it's hard to know where you're going if you don't understand where you came from. Sam Village, who founded KOTWF in late 2019, gives a bit of insight into the mission, the brand pillars and the future of our community.
What is KOTWF?
First of all, the name isn't as meaningful as may seem. When Sam was looking for inspiration for his business, he turned to his uncle. "Well, I just listened to this Adam Ant record called 'Kings of the Wild Frontier'. Why don't you just call it that?", he said. And that was that.
At the time, Sam had an idea to start an adventure training brand, so the title really fit. "I wanted to start this business where we would take people on training camps with an element of challenge and adventure. For example, we could go surfing in Morocco, or we could go skiing, strap on some touring bindings and skins and practice for a heli jump on the last day. I basically wanted to train people without them necessarily being aware that they were training, the training was the trip," he explains. There was no intention to build anything physical at that point.
However, Sam's career as a trainer and performance coach then pulled him into the high-octane world of F1 and motorsport in 2013, and the project got parked. It wasn't until November 2019 that Sam stumbled upon a space in Brentford that he thought would be perfect for his racing drivers. "There were all these really cool vintage cars, with lots of other exciting businesses moving in, and I just thought it would be the perfect place to coach my drivers away from the big gyms."
The first KOTWF hub was born, but Sam's mind quickly began racing almost as quickly as his drivers. He had a background in triathlon, a passion for endurance sports and had just completed a Masters degree in psychology. Why not extend the service he provides for his racing drivers to endurance athletes too? In his words: "We provide physiological testing, strength and conditioning, sports therapy and nutritional support to my drivers and professional athletes - many of the things a national federation would offer. In a sense, I wanted to become a sort of 'independent federation' that could offer that same support to endurance athletes so that they can maximise their potential and live their athletic dreams. If you want to stick to the driving theme, I wanted to provide a pit crew for athletes of all levels."
None of this would be possible without a fantastic team of seasoned experts and colleagues. Ed Hewett, who had worked alongside Sam in F1 and Formula E for many years, co-founded the business and sits as a director. He also leads on the apparel front, but more on that later. Ben Hammond, MSc in Space Physiology, recently came in after a successful time at McLaren Human Performance to help manage and act as a Senior Performance Coach. His analytical style dovetails really nicely with Sam's holistic approach to help the drivers reach and maintain their potential.
On the endurance coaching front, professional triathlete India Lee, who had known Sam since 2014, quickly came on board as KOTWF's first sponsored athlete and triathlon coach. Matt Welsh raced triathlons alongside Sam since 2011 and also joined the crew. He coaches a fantastic group of runners at premier London athletics club Belgrave Harriers and brings that same expertise to KOTWF.
Of course, it's very hard to train smart without data. Esther Goldsmith, who works as a sports scientist for Orreco and its FitrWoman app, is our physiologist. Everything from VO2max and lactate testing to hormone profiles is her bag. She is backed up by Saj Imran, a professional Muay Thai Fighter and Boxing Coach, Heloise Brown, a sports science student at University of Surrey, our former professional dancer and pilates instructor, Melissa Hetherington, and the magic hands of Cristian Stanis who is always on hand for sports therapy. It's fair to say our Wild Frontier royalty is catered for on all fronts.
One of Sam's racers just became the first ever Chinese driver in F1. Which makes it three current F1 drivers to have been coached by him and another one as a full-time reserve. Not to mention the group of young guys coming up through the ranks that will be the future of the sport.
In parallel, we have a professional long course triathlete and a handful of ambassadors from the endurance world. Sam can safely say he has established the foundations of his vision for KOTWF. However, during lockdown, he spent a lot of his time in his native Peak District where the wheels began turning again...
"My brain started whirring away. I've always had this dream of opening a cafe with a performance studio on the side," he recounts. "I've ridden and run in the Peak District and more specifically Bakewell my whole life and I've never actually come across a place to stop for a nice coffee and a pastry that caters for cyclists and runners and I've never really found that social spot to start or finish runs. What if we created that for others?"
A venue was purchased in the heart of Bakewell, right on the side of the famous Monsal Trail, and a cafe was built. Summat will officially open on 12 December 2021 and add another level to KOTWF's community. "We have the exact same aim as in London, but in the Peak District," enthuses Sam. "There is such a wealth of athletic talent and passion up here that hasn't been appreciated enough, in my opinion. We want to offer physiotherapy, personal training, physiological analysis, running gait analysis, strength and conditioning and other things, but most importantly a relaxed, friendly space where athletes of all levels can come and have a coffee and a chat."
In the future, he envisions the Brentford gym as a place where London-based elite athletes can come for their testing, treatment and training, and Summat as a high-performance social hub for run and cycling clubs, adventure expeditions and training camps. Oh, and did we mention the cafe will be serving Workshop coffee? Yep, enough said.
"I know it's a bit of cliché, but coffee is so important in sports. It marks the beginning and the end of a workout, or it can be a lovely stop in the middle of a long ride with mates. As a social lubricant, as an occasion, as a treat, it's just great. Getting the opportunity to work with Workshop is a real honour for us. Summat simply would not work without fantastic quality coffee, so our partnership with the best roasters in the country is a massive asset to us," gloats Sam.
You've seen the Pillars Cap and you love it. In Sam's words, "the cap is a reflection of our brand pillars. The people in our community proudly wear it to showcase they believe just as much as we do in adventure, challenge, support, awareness, sustainable growth and competition. It's sustainably sourced, race-ready and we're very proud of it."
But the cap is only the beginning. Soon, KOTWF will be expanding its apparel range to provide high-performance clothing and equipment to support its community through their journey. And those ambassadors we mentioned a bit earlier? Well, they should soon become the first members of a highly competitive racing team that will represent and champion our values on the national and international circuits. Consider yourself teased...
At the end of the day, Sam isn't a man for big words or long speeches. KOTWF is about "great people, having good times, in cool places." Whether you're a professional or an amateur, sport can be a lonely world, but KOTWF is an opportunity to be a part of a community that is in the same boat as you. When the mental barriers come into play, we have friends to fall back on. When the competition gets absolutely ruthless, we'll always have people in our corner. When the routine gets a bit monotone, we'll have teammates to help us switch it up. "If I'm in the middle of a session with a professional F1 driver and someone walks in to see our sports therapist Cristian, then we aim for everyone to be introduced, we want everyone to be able to say hi to each other," smiles Sam.
So, we hope that cleared things up a bit. If it didn't, that's fine too. We do like that mysterious intrigue... There are exciting things coming, so keep your eyes peeled for big updates coming soon. In the meantime, why not pop in for a session and say hello?
Summat will officially open on Sunday 12th December with activities and special guest appearances. A full programme will follow in the coming weeks. The cafe will be open on weekends only until spring 2022. Drop in, take a pew and let's have a chat.