Locked Down | An interview with Spanish Photography Kike Abelleira in CV19 Quarantine

With the world battling Covid-19 a number of our friends are now in full lockdown.

As the UK gears up for futher measures against the virus, we reached out to Spanish photographer Kike Abelleira who is approaching a full week of quarantine.

Duncan Philpott photo

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Kike Abelleira. I’m a mountain biker from Spain that somehow manages to make a living out of shooting photos all around the World of people way more skilled and faster than me riding their bikes and the lifestyle around them.

Can you describe your approach to photography and your photo style?

I like to think that in some way my intention is to show a harmonious relationship between nature and mountain biking. If some tags are needed, at times I’m a merge of an action sports and a landscape photographer.

Within mountain biking, being closer to riding styles such as trail riding, enduro and adventure allows me to merge the two types of photography, mountain bike action and lifestyle with impressive landscapes, often up in the mountains.

Using elements of nature (flowers, grass, trees,…) both as foreground and background in your composition is part of the creativity vision but also a way of showing the value of those elements, the importance they have in our environment.

What are some of the highlights of your career so far?

I spend a good part of the year covering the Enduro World Series season around the World and working for a team like the Chain Reaction Cycles/Nukeproof squad. Being able to use images to tell the achievements of legend sof the sport like Sam Hill, is an experience that I enormously value to hang on my living room wall.

Recently, working as the official Crankworx photographer opening the season in Rotorua, is another highlight.

So what’s the situation with you where you are in Spain?

At the moment, we are in a state of alarm in Spain, a lock down.

The central government declared this situation last weekend in view of the rapid expansion that COVID-19 was having in the country.

Basically, as for daily habits, it implies that citizens can only leave home to go to the supermarket or grocery store, to the bakery, to the bank or the pharmacy. The other shops remain closed, as well as bars and restaurants. Schools are closed obviously.

I’m not allowed to leave home to practice outdoor sports, not even a wee run in the park.

Regarding working conditions, for office jobs most companies promote work from home, although some other jobs as healthcare -the most important ones- transport companies, jobs at factories, the food industry and likewise, need to carry on as usual.

When you first heard about Corona, what did you think? Did you take it seriously at first?

I remember that at first I didn’t give it too much importance. I thought that it was something that wouldn’t go much beyond the Wuhan province in China, thinking that the Chinese government would control it.

Days later, the first weekend of February I was at Iago Garay’s place, shortly before he left to Chile for the Andes Pacifico, and the outbreak was starting to spread outside of China. He thought of buying a mask for the trip and we even joked about it with the masks assortment available on Amazon.

And when did you realise it was more serious?

Just a couple of days later. The flight I had booked to Auckland to attend Crankworx was canceled by the airline, it had a layover in Shanghai. I had to book a new flight avoiding going through China, via Doha in this case.

I contacted Boris Beyer because he also had a flight with a stop in China and eventually he had to fly via Middle East. Being already in Rotorua, the situation in Europe began to seriously worsen, we saw that when the slopestyle rider Torquato Testa was quarantined by the NZ authorities due to coming from Italy.

How long have you been in isolation at home for now?

Six days. It starts to feel long.

How are you finding being in isolation at home? What’s difficult about it? What are you doing to keep yourself entertained?

Honestly, it’s boring, hahaha.

The complicated thing in my case is that I really miss the possibility of going out to ride my bike, a run or just a walk in the woods. I am not a person who likes the gym or exercising indoors.

There are so many hours at home, all of them actually! So I try to set a daily routine of exercise, gymnastics and also rollers or turbo trainer with the road bike. It’s key for both physical and mental health.

Duncan Philpott photo

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Is there anything positive you’ve been able to take from the experience?

My girlfriend is now also working from home, so a positive thing is that we get to share more time than usual around this time of the year.

On the other hand, I’ve finally managed to plan pending tasks at home such as tidying up some rooms, getting rid of old clothing and things I don’t need, cleaning up the bikes room, something that I was always procrastinating! And now I’m also able to focus on doing some other stuff at home that I usually let apart with being more time away.

Do you have any tips for people in a similar situation who are looking for some advice on coping with being house bound?

Trying to set a daily schedule including some daily exercise. I think that a minimum exercise is vital to strengthen health and mood in this situation.

If you weren’t doing it, try to take advantage of the situation and change to a healthier diet, get yourself more time to cook, your body will thank you in a period in which we’re probably going to have insufficient physical activity than ideal and probably burning less calories than we should.

Take the opportunity to learn something new, that will keep you pretty busy. The Internet is full of free info and tutorials.

Bike mechanics… you’ll have time to learn how to do the complete maintenance of your bike, cooking, something about technology, DIY stuff, gardening or growing veggies if you live in a house, whatever you can think of.

Our audience has a lot of people like you that are self-employed or work for smaller bike industry companies. Media guys, riders, small businesses.

How has CV19 affected your business and how are you adapting to it? Do you have any advice for bike industry business owners like yourself in other countries?

My business has been seriously affected. A good bunch of my yearly work goes into covering events and some of them have already been cancelled or postponed, and besides events, shooting projects require of travelling, being with other people, not precisely isolated.

I should be now heading to Colombia and Chile for the EWS season kickoff and then straight to California for two weeks. Instead, if this situation improves enough at Worldwide level, the soonest I might work will be in May.

Being flexible is key I think. That’s my plan for this year, keeping expenses low while at home and trying to adapt to every change in the calendar for the coming months. At the same time, I’ll use this time at home to think and plan for possible future projects.

Duncan Philpott photo

Do you have any advice for anyone in countries where isolation hasn’t fully kicked in yet?

Be aware of the current situation worldwide. This is something that affects us all and eventually it will end up reaching all countries.

Do not act selfishly, solidarity is more necessary than ever before. I see people on social networks doing activities that go against avoiding situations that may require health services.

Lots of people riding bikes… Here in Spain, the police are starting to fine people breaking the curfew that are outside for no allowed reason.

This is not the time to play the accident roulette and strain the national healthcare even more.

Hospitals are working full steam ahead and in many places they are sort of resources, as much from staff as from equipment. Above all, act safely and responsibly.

Be prepared and plan well the time that we have to be locked up at home.

Don’t get obsessed about accumulating groceries like this was a zombie invasion. It happened here in Spain, people were emptying the shelves at the supermarket, big lines, crowds of people at the same store like if there was a massive sale. It just doesn’t make sense, especially when we need to keep a safe distance from one person to another.

Today you can make a normal purchase at the supermarket, they don’t run out of food. Besides, I still don’t know what is behind the toilet paper mystery, do you?

Has the changes in Italy taught you anything about yourself, your work, cycling, life in general that you can share?

Don’t take anything in life for granted. A few weeks ago my working year was set and planned. I was riding quite a few times a week, meeting friends at the neighbourhood pub for beers.

Everything can change so suddenly. So folks, enjoy every trip as it was the last one, enjoy every ride as it was the last one, and so on. Above all, enjoy being surrounded by people, family, friends… time with ‘your people’ is priceless.

What are you planning to do when you’re able to get out of the house again?

Going out for an awesome ride in the woods with my mates, beers at the end.

Thanks to Kike from all of us at Wideopen and best wishes to everyone around that world that’s battling CV19.

Keep washing those hands!

You can follow Kiki on Instagram at instagram.com/kikeabelleira