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Interview with our main organizer Karen Kayser

Fanahytten, built in 1934 and later expanded in 1977 and 2013, is not only Norway's finest club cabin. It is also the center of an event that will put Bergen on the map, literally. In the summer of 2024, the prestigious Fjord-O will be held here. I have the pleasure of sitting down with the woman behind the scenes, the passionate Karen Kayser (66), the main organizer and the brains behind this major sports event.

Karen says she has always loved nature but didn't start orienteering until adulthood. Coming from an outdoor-loving family and being a scout in her youth, she has never been afraid of getting a little cold, wet, or dirty. Kayser respects that everyone values different things, but for her, outdoor life has always brought the most happiness.

What do you like about orienteering?

I like being outdoors in the woods with many beautiful nature experiences and staying fit almost without realizing that you're running and getting tired. Orienteering is a sport where absolutely anyone can participate and experience achievement regardless of age and skill. For the younger ones, it may be more of a competition, but I see that you've also built strong bonds thanks to the sport. Orienteering is a sport that anyone can engage in as long and as seriously as they wish. It's not like you're done when you turn 20; there are so many races and competitions you can attend both here in Norway and around the world.

What inspires and delights me the most in orienteering is when more newcomers (both young and old) join and find joy in orienteering events.

Unfortunately, orienteering is not exactly Norway's biggest sport, so I wonder about something many ask me. How and why did you start orienteering?

I got into orienteering through corporate orienteering. My first race was in Kanadaskogen, and I got completely lost. Nevertheless, I found it very enjoyable, and despite many mistakes, I had a good experience. Maybe I felt a desire for revenge or that I had unfinished business? In any case, I came back the following Wednesday for the next corporate race. Since then, I've just been running more and more. I've never learned orienteering the way you young ones do now, with a coach as a supporter. I learned orienteering by trial and error in the woods. I learned by getting completely lost and finding my way back on the map. I don't think we're ever completely learned in orienteering; we can continually develop and experience more mastery.

Fjord-O is one of Norway's largest orienteering events, and you're the top boss. How does it feel, and do you feel like you're in control?

Both yes and no. We have control over what we need to have control over now. And the tasks ahead of us, we will also manage to control. Fortunately, I have a skilled team with a lot of O knowledge, so this will be good. The first week of July, we are ready to welcome many orienteers from both domestic and international locations! And I promise it will be a proper celebration. I'm looking forward to it greatly.

Why should they come to Bergen and the West Coast?

Here on the West Coast, we have a completely unique terrain, beautiful mountains, and fjords. We have a terrain that only exists here. At Fjord-O, athletes will encounter the terrain near Totland close to the city and proper mountain terrain on Kvamskogen. It's not just the orienteering skills that make it worth coming here; I believe many will have fantastic experiences if they come to the West Coast. We have unique nature experiences in Hardanger, such as Trolltunga and Dronningstien. Bergen is Norway's second-largest city, with a lot of history and culture. "You can visit one of Norway's largest tourist attractions, Bryggen, which is on UNESCO's cultural heritage list."

What do you think we can entice less experienced runners with? Do they have something to do here at Fjord-O?

"Absolutely, Fjord-O is an event for everyone, even those who have hardly touched a map or compass. We will offer a crash course for those who want to try for the first time and participate in the hiking class. There is timing, but no official results. Here, you can take the time to enjoy the view with a small snack if desired. This will be an experience you will never forget.

"This will be an experience you will never forget." With Karen Kayser as the guiding star, there is little doubt that Fjord-O 2024 will be an event filled with mastery, nature experiences, and a community of participants from around the world – all in Norway's beautiful West Coast area.

Tiril Hausberg Kåstad December 2023

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