Not long after learning to walk Rebecca Hufflett was flying down mountains on her bike.
Her passion for riding did not wane over the next 12 years, and now the 14-year-old holds a slew of national and international titles.
Rebecca recently raced in the South Island Secondary Schools in Methven and absolutely destroyed the competition, winning gold in all three events, the enduro, downhill and cross-country.
Her dominance can be attributed to years of graft on the unforgiving Nelson trails.
She says cyclists are bred tough in the region thanks to its rugged terrain and steep hills.
“Nelson can be straight up and straight down, so you have to stay on your toes. The rule of thumb is that Nelson is two grades harder than anywhere else, so it prepares you well for other trails”.
Also, with no gondolas or shuttles, riders are forced to walk or ride their bikes to the top of trails adding an extra element of fitness to her training.
“There are a good variety of rough, natural trails that aren’t too manicured with lots of rocks, roots and other challenges in there.”
Rebecca wasn’t content with just beating the girls in Methven, she also kept a close eye on results in the highly competitive boy’s division.
“I was about top ten, so I was pretty happy with that, I made a few mistakes but had clean rides with no crashes.”
Her wins are made more impressive by the fact her preparations for the event were hampered by the effects of the Tasman fire.
Rebecca was forced to ride on the road with all the local tracks closed due to fire risk.
The Nelson Mountain Bike Club member says riding Nelson trails can take a toll on the body.
She says some of the climbs can be “nasty” and a deterrent for young mountain bikers.
“It can be really hard getting motivated to get to the top, especially in the heat but I try to take a friend with me, chat away and just ignore the pain.”
Her passion and persistence paid off and she currently holds national titles in U15 women’s downhill and cross country.
She is also the U15 Oceania cross country champion.
The Nelson College for Girls student is training five times a week as she prepares to defend her national secondary schools title in Dunedin later this year.
However, she says it is never a chore.
“You get such a rush going downhill it just makes you happy, I ride for the descends because they are always worth it.”
Though yet to take a particularly brutal tumble, Rebecca remains weary of the risk.
“Fear is always in the picture, there will always be a trail that could get the better of you so managing the mental side is also really important.”
She says mountain biking has been part of her life for as long as she can remember, and it will continue to be.
“I never regret going for a ride, it just fixes whatever I am feeling.”