Axe-throwing, fire-building and logger sports fit the description of hyper-masculinity. Yoga and self-discovery, not so much.
But veteran CFLer Shea Emry has been bringing them all together through his initiative called Wellmen — a “men’s adventure club,” as he describes it — which has the goal of getting guys to break down barriers of masculinity through healthy expression.
“I essentially had this intuitive thought process around getting guys to engage in hyper-masculine activities, but also combined with activities that are good for the soul,” said Emry, a Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker originally from Richmond.
“Every activity is included with a specific purpose in mind, and it’s to get them to a point where at the end of it all we can just, as dudes, sit around a big bonfire … and have conversations around what the real experience is for men in the 21st century.”
Wellmen was born a couple of years ago out of Emry’s anti-bullying and mental health advocacy after he began sharing his personal story of depression and abuse. But the 29-year-old had “no clue” that it would organically evolve into something much more — a way for men to gain a greater understanding of their own physical, mental and emotional wellness through activity and dialogue.
“Really, it’s there to re-wild men back to nature, to connect themselves with themselves, and disconnect themselves from technology. We really want to take them outside their daily grind and the monotony of always having their cell phone,” said Emry. “We throw axes. We build fires. You’re gonna have fun and it’s going to be physically challenging.
“All that organic conversation and growth is going to happen under the table. You’re not even going to know it’s happening until after the fact.”
Emry said a Wellmen adventure in Squamish in late November was a hit, and there are more upcoming in the Vancouver area on Feb. 20 and March 13. Space is limited to about 20 participants per gathering and those who have subscribed to the newsletter at www.wellmen.org will be getting the first invites.
“We’re going to be ramping up here in Vancouver and I’m excited about getting back to my home base and getting it operating here while I can,” said Emry.