The Red Bulletin December 2020 (UK)

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DECEMBER 2020, £3.50





How Nepalese

climber NIMS

PURJA smashed

a century of











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Editor’s letter



The best way to predict the future,” US computer scientist Alan

Kay once said, “is to create it.” And in uncertain times this may

be better advice than ever – no matter what your walk of life. It’s

an idea our cover star Nims Purja (page 32) embraced when he

set out to smash the record for summiting the world’s 14 highest

peaks. His success has changed the face of mountaineering and

stretched our understanding of what humans are capable of.

We caught up with the Nepalese climber in the French Alps and

discovered that even his downtime is high-octane.

Innovating in the face of serious setbacks are the classical

dancers (page 48) taking to the streets of London to perform. As

theatres and performance venues have been shut down during

the pandemic – with those able to open sporadically empty of

audiences – these performers are taking matters into their own

hands. Despite injury, police raids and plenty of uncertainty,

they have created a series of distanced shows that are bringing

their talents to unexpected places – and people.

Plus, Birmingham-born rap star Stefflon Don (page 56) tells us

why social media is

killing creativity, and

how we can fix it. And

we hear about the

thrills and spills that

went into Europe’s

most ambitious bike

film (page 62), from the

riders who star in it.

We hope you enjoy

the issue.

Dual focus: photographer Sandro Baebler keeps Nims Purja

in his sights during our shoot in the French Alps Page 32




The Swiss photographer may

spend a lot of time shooting

actors in LA, but thanks to his

mountain-village upbringing

he felt at home in the French

Alps with our cover star,

mountaineer Nims Purja.

“Nims was really focused on

the goal of the shoot,” he says.

“Even in the studio without

aircon, he kept on his Summit

suit, built for the extreme

cold, for two hours.” Page 32


“Lockdown and its aftermath

has been tough for everyone,”

says the Athens-based writer,

who was pleased to be in

London to catch DistDancing,

a programme of outdoor

performances by some of the

world’s leading dancers. “It

was great to link up with Chi

and her team, who, despite

all the restrictions, are doing

everything they can to dance

and entertain in a unique and

inspiring way.” Page 48




Endura introduce the fourth generation of award-winning MT500 Waterproof Jacket as chosen by

Rachel, Dan and Gee Atherton. Slicker, sharper, Hi-fi Sci-fi that stands firm side-by-side with our awesome

helmets and protection. This kit is committed, feature-packed and delivers monster breathability. (40000g/m2/24hr)

According to Gee ‘It’s a must. Unless you know it’s an absolute hot dusty beach summer, it goes in the bag for sure.’

The collection includes the coveted Onesie which Rachel uses for race training. ‘I would say if you’re born in the UK you

should be given an MT500 Waterproof Onesie at birth because you need it all the time.’ Turns out it’s even suitable on

and off bike for Dan, ‘Honestly, no joke, I wake up in the morning and I put it on, and that’s me, all day on the diggers.’

What sets this latest iteration apart from the pack are the collection’s eco credentials using an environmentally friendly

PFC free DWR treatment. This fabric is also certified as MadeKind, having been produced in a way

that eliminates harmful substances from the supply chain and the environment.



December 2020

8 Gallery: vertiginous volleyball

in the islands of Norway; taking

the tube in Tahiti; and riding

rock faces in the Swiss Alps

14 Chop local: New York rapper

Benny The Butcher serves up

some home-reared prime cuts

16 Rising inflation: up, up and

away in my beautiful balloon…

to the edge of space

19 Rolling back the years: how

one skateboarding diehard is

preserving its legacy in print

20 Flight of fantasy: experience

all the fun (ahem) of air travel

without leaving terra firma

23 Urban growth: meet the

Vietnamese visionary sowing the

seeds of change in architecture


Inside line: the

stories behind

the stunts in


movie adventure

The Old World


24 Sophie Williams

The Black activist and writer

on race, momentum, and why

people are listening at last

26 Fantastic Negrito

Inspiring words from the

Grammy-winning guitarist

who has truly lived the blues

28 Jenny Schauerte

The downhill skateboarder who

found the path to enlightenment

in the mountains of Turkey

32 Nims Purja

Climbed a peak today? Catch

up! This unstoppable ex-Gurkha

has – and he’ll probably fit in

another two before teatime

48 DistDancing

When lockdown hit, the world

of dance didn’t rest its feet –

instead, it stepped up its game

56 Stefflon Don

The Birmingham-born star on US

attitudes to UK rap, and why

she’d rather spit bars than sip tea

62 The Old World

Behind the scenes of a genuinely

epic, globe-spanning bike movie

75 Hunting high and slow: the simple

pleasures of kayaking off the

coast of the Scottish Highlands

will reconnect you with nature

80 Cold looks: ski goggles that adapt

to changing weather on the slopes

82 One-track mind: how to find mental

solutions for physical challenges

84 On the button: tracing the

evolution of gaming technology

87 Sharp eye: Razer’s Min-Liang Tan

– gaming innovator and cult hero

88 The revolutionary Yoga Shred:

old downward dog, new tricks

90 Sound purchase: our pick of the

best small speakers and wireless

earbuds you can buy right now

92 Essential dates for your calendar

98 Board and dodging: skate highjinks

in a giant’s labyrinth game






What sport instantly springs to mind on seeing

this image? That’s right: beach volleyball. World

Championship medal-winners Anders Mol and

Christian Søren – that’s them playing a rally

between the two peaks – decided there was no

better spot for some pre-match training last

month than Lofoten in their native Norway. The

150m-high granite pillar known as Svolværgeita

(or ‘The Goat’) and the surrounding archipelago,

which sits inside the Arctic Circle, provide a

dramatic setting for this shot, taken by their

countryman Petter Forshaug. But we can only

imagine the scenes when they had to ask,

“Please, mister, can we have our ball back?”





Blue steel

When one of the world’s top surf

photographers teams up with one of

Tahiti’s most exciting young board riders,

magic happens. It was at Russell Ord’s

photography workshop in Teahupo’o last

year that the Australian snapper took

this jaw-dropping shot of local surfer

Matahi Drollet riding the perfect tube.

Drollet, now 23, was only eight when

he first surfed Teahupo’o’s notoriously

gnarly wave. Thank goodness they

gave the kid a break…




Sheer nerve

Some kids have a muddy patch of grass or a yard

at home to kick about in; for others, a trudge

to the local park is necessary. Self-proclaimed

“professional frozen water shredder” Nicolas

Vuignier and his brother Anthony, on the other

hand, had the luxury of Crans-Montana, a twintown

ski resort in the Swiss Alps, on their

doorstep. Here, we see the freeskier on home

turf (or rather, rock) as an adult, caught on film

by Geneva-based photographer Dom Daher. On

Instagram, Nicolas modestly describes this

extraordinary image as a “rainy wallride shoot”.

Who knew defying gravity could become so






his chops

The New York rapper and

member of hip-hop collective

Griselda shares four classic

tracks from the Big Apple

that shaped his career

New York hip hop is enjoying a

renaissance right now, and among

those leading the charge is 35-yearold

rapper Jeremie Pennick, better

known as Benny the Butcher. Benny

and his hip-hop collective Griselda

– formed in Buffalo, NY, in 2012 –

have taken up the mantle laid down

by the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and

Mobb Deep in the ’90s, delivering

their own take on the hardcore

East Coast sound. In 2017, Eminem

signed Griselda to his Shady

Records imprint, and last year

Benny inked a deal with Jay-Z’s

management agency, Roc Nation.

With more than 15 years in the

game, payback has been a long

time coming for Benny. Here, he

pays homage to some of the tracks

that helped get him there…

Benny The Butcher’s new album

Burden of Proof is out now on

Griselda Records;

Marley Marl feat

Masta Ace, Craig G, Kool

G Rap & Big Daddy Kane

The Symphony (1988)

“My pops was one of the biggest

hip-hop fans alive. He listened

to everything, and I got to take

it all in from the back seat of the

car. That’s how I first heard The

Symphony. Those keys Marley

Marl took from Otis Redding

were stupid, and the way Kool

G Rap rhymed his syllables was

crazy. A monumental record.”

The Notorious BIG

Juicy (1994)

“Juicy was a huge moment for

New York. It came out at a time

when the West Coast had the

game in a headlock, so we

were happy to have a record

like this. I remember being a

kid and whenever it came on

the radio everyone would just

smile. It’s not just one of the

biggest New York anthems

ever, it’s one of the biggest

hip-hop anthems, period.”

Nas feat Lauryn Hill

If I Ruled The World (Imagine

That) (1996)

“Hearing Nas and Lauryn on

a record together was special;

there’s no way this would have

been the same without them.

It was so New York – the video

was shot in Times Square – yet

it had an undeniable universal

appeal. It ended up being a

blueprint for so many artists

who wanted to recreate that

same feeling for years to come.”

Puff Daddy & The Family

It’s All About The Benjamins


The first time I heard this, all

I could think about was how

crazy the beat was. Then this

verse from Sheek [from guests

The LOX] got me: ‘I’m strictly

tryin’ to cop those colossalsized

Picassos.’ I mean, c’mon.

Puff is so good at putting

people together; it’s like he’s

coaching an All-Star team. It

definitely influenced Griselda.”



Commemorating the very first aviators and explorers

sharing their heritage with Longines.

Howard Hughes,

a famous inventive

pioneer in the world

of aviation, circumnavigated

the globe

in record time, using

his trusted Longines

aviation chronometers

and chronographs

to guide him safely

over land and sea.

In 1935, Howard Hughes was

the fastest flyer in the world.

He set the airspeed record of

352mph (566 km/h). But

what makes Hughes’ story so

especially impressive, is that

the plane he flew in, was of

his own design. Hughes was no

ordinary record-breaking

pilot — he was also an aeronautical

engineer, business

magnate and successful

Hollywood movie producer.

Yet it was his fighting spirit

and courage in the face of

the unknown, that compelled

him to keep pushing forward.

Just a few years later, Hughes

circumnavigated the globe.

His journey took him only

3 days, 19 hours and

14 minutes… and of course,

he was the fastest man to

do so. Hughes always trusted

his Longines astronavigation

chronometer to determine

the exact position of his

airplane at night, in total

darkness and over the many

vast oceans he crossed.

How we face the fall is what

separates the pioneer spirit

from the rest. Falling with

elegance, when all the odds

are stacked against you.

Trying, failing, fighting and

triumphing with elegance.

This is what’s remembered,

what remains — when all

else has been stripped away.

The Longines Spirit Collection

was crafted to embody precisely

this. A careful blend of

elegance, tradition and performance

— with the same distinct

features that were tailored

to assist the very first aviators:

from the proofed accuracy to

the oversized winding crown,

to be adjusted easily while

wearing gloves; prominent

high-contrast numerals; and

hands with luminescent

coating, for nighttime flying.

A powerful reminder that

the pioneer spirit lives on.

Raising expectations: an artist’s impression of the balloon and capsule – think Major Tom rather than Phileas Fogg


View from

the top

This company plans to float its passengers to the edge

of our stratosphere using a space-age hot-air balloon

Sipping a cocktail aboard

a spaceship while admiring

the view of Earth might

sound like something plucked

from science fiction, but from

next year it could become

reality. Space Perspective is a

spaceflight startup co-founded

by married US couple Jane

Poynter and Taber MacCallum,

who plan to send passengers

into the stratosphere in style

in Spaceship Neptune, a

pressurised, eight-person

cabin attached to a 198m-tall,

hydrogen-filled balloon.

Launched from NASA’s

Kennedy Space Center in

Florida, the capsule will travel

to an altitude of up to 30km,

where passengers will have

a couple of hours to gaze

down on their home planet

through Neptune’s huge

windows before descending

back to Earth.

Space tourism first came

into being in 2001, when

American entrepreneur Dennis

Tito bought a flight to the

International Space Station

for a reported $20 million

(almost £16 million), and

subsequently prices have kept

such an experience exclusive to

the super-rich. But Spaceship

Neptune, while only taking

you close to the edge of space,

promises to be far cheaper.

“Our prices will start off at

$125,000 [£98,000], but

should come down pretty

quickly,” says MacCallum.

The Space Perspective

experience also feels more

attainable in other ways. This

is not an intense lesson in

space travel – the capsule has

a fully stocked bar on board,

as well as “the toilet with the

best view in the known

universe,” says MacCallum.

“[On Neptune] you can have

a glass of champagne with

your best friend and look out

at the curvature of Earth.

I think that will be a very

moving experience. We also

have Wi-Fi, so it will be the

ultimate social media post.”

Poynter and MacCallum

have worked in space

development for decades,

and were part of the original

crew that spent two years in

the early ’90s sealed inside

the closed ecological research

facility Biosphere 2 in the

Arizona desert, to better

understand the challenges

of intergalactic colonisation.

The more people who think

about the world in the context

of space and the solar system,

the more we’ll see support for

the space programme and

science in general,” says

MacCallum. “Organisations like

Space For Humanity [a nonprofit

aimed at democratising

interstellar travel] are coming

to us to send teachers, poets

and artists, because they want

to break down that barrier.

Having those experiences and

conversations is important

because it makes you think

about our Earth and how we’re

all in it together.”





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Inside San Diego resident

Kevin Marks’ home sits the

world’s largest collection of

skateboarding magazines.

His enormous library spans

multiple rooms, from floor to

ceiling, with issues fastidiously

filed by title, date and country

of publication, ranging from

the earliest independent zines

all the way to last month’s

Thrasher. It’s a passion project,

certainly, but this collection

is more than a mere hobby –

Marks is on a mission to find

and share with the world’s

board-riders every skate

magazine from history, to keep

the scene’s print legacy alive.

In 2020, skateboarding

lives online. With millions of

YouTube edits and dedicated

social media channels, anyone

looking to immerse themselves

in skate culture need only turn

to their phone. But back in the

’80s it was a different story.

“My love of skate magazines

originated from the fact that

I grew up skateboarding in the

middle of Kansas,” says Marks.

“I felt very far away from the

culture, but once I found [US

publications] Thrasher and

Transworld [SKATEboarding]

and got subscriptions, they

became my lifeline.”

He moved his growing

collection around the US for

30 years until 2015, when he

decided to put it to good use by

launching Look Back Library, a

public archive allowing access

to like-minded skate fans. “The

primary mission was not have

them sit in my home,” says

Marks, who previously worked

for a non-profit organisation

promoting skating in Colorado,

as well as singing and playing

guitar in local punk and metal

bands. “It was to build smaller

collections and get them out

to places where they can be

read, like skate shops, indoor

skateparks and skateboardrelated


Look Back Library is no

longer a singular collection

but a sprawling community of

libraries and exhibits all over


Flick through the past

Skate enthusiast Kevin Marks owns the world’s biggest archive of

skateboarding magazines, and now he’s sharing it with all of us

Marks with his trove: “And this one’s about... skateboarding”

the US. On his travels by van

across the country, Marks has

collected thousands of unloved

and forgotten magazines from

homes, as well as set up many

exhibitions and repositories in

skateparks and skate shops,

both temporary and long-term.

“I left San Diego in April

2019, thinking that I was going

to build about four libraries,

but I ended up creating about

30 in six months,” he says.

“It has given me the chance

to work on something I love,

as well as the opportunity to

meet and work with other

skate nerds just like myself.”


Good news: there are cartoons. Bad news: here’s your meal. Worse news: you just dropped your stirrer


Fasten your


Prepare for take-off in a new kind of flight simulator.

There are no tricky landings to execute or enemies

to shoot down, but your seat back might get kicked

Everyone has their own

relationship with flying. Some

find it exciting, some relaxing;

others consider the whole

process terrifying. It’s an

experience that has inspired

the world of gaming for

decades, with hundreds of

titles – most recently, the

2020 iteration of the popular

Microsoft Flight Simulator –

putting the player in the

cockpit to see how they

perform under pressure.

Of course, for most of us

flying is experienced as a

passenger, not as a pilot. And

that’s what games developer

Hosni Auji (below) has

replicated in Airplane Mode.

In the New Yorker’s unique

spin on the flying simulator,

you control none of the action

but instead play the passive

role of an everyday passenger

on a real-time long-haul flight.

Airplane Mode places the

player in an economy-class

seat on a six-hour flight from

New York’s JFK Airport to

Reykjavík, Iceland, or a

shorter two-and-a-half-hour

hop to Halifax, Canada. No

two flights are the same, and

the only certainty is that the

mundanity of the gameplay

will match the reality it’s

mimicking. Babies might cry,

turbulence may occur, and

the Wi-Fi will most likely

drop out; iPhones need to be

charged, movies played and

magazines read. In-flight

food and wine are served,

and the flight tracker on the

screen in front of you shows

how far you’ve flown.

“What I found interesting

early in the process is that

everyone seemed to have a

strong opinion about flying,

more so than any other form

of travel,” says Auji, originally

from Beirut, Lebanon. “At

some level, every part of

flying is unnatural. As a

species, our urge to fly broke

through our evolutionary

limitations. That we fly at all

is crazy; that we fly while

begrudgingly sipping wine on

reclining chairs is patently

absurd. By putting players

in the position where they’re

confronting flight – not how

they’re used to seeing it in

games but more how they see

it in life – we hope to capture

a bit of that absurdity.”

At a time of restricted

travel, it may have surprised

us how much we crave not

only the thrill of visiting

destinations but also the

process involved in getting

there. Auji’s game questions

why we yearn for what is a

tedious and often torturous

necessity. “Our intention

is to give players a unique

gaming experience, and

the flights are meant to be

nostalgic,” he says.

So that players are truly

immersed in the simulation,

there’s no option to pause it

and return later. “We decided

the player would need to

complete the flight in one

sitting – the game doesn’t

save your mid-flight progress.

You will get those air miles

once you land, though.”












As the booming commercial

hub of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh

City is a whirlwind of chaos.

But in the eye of the storm

sits a cluster of houses where

humans, trees and birds

coexist peacefully. People

occupy the lower levels, but

the roofs are giant plant pots,

each with trees sprouting from

a thick layer of soil. Chirping

birds nest in their branches,

quelling the noisy invasion

of traffic and construction.

House for Trees is an

experimental project by Vo

Trong Nghia (pictured below),

the Vietnamese visionary

whose commitment to the use

of natural building materials

has earned him the label ‘the

bamboo architect’. Nghia, 44,

wants to see greener and more

liveable cities in his home

country and beyond. House for

Trees’ forest canopy provides

natural shade from the tropical

sun, while the soil absorbs

water and reduces the risk of

flooding. The houses were also

cheap to build – each one cost

around £120,000.

“It’s about reintroducing

nature into modern life,” says

the devout Buddhist. Nghia

harnesses mindfulness to

keep his firm’s commitment to

green architecture on track;

his employees’ job descriptions

include two hours of meditation

each day. He also asks that

his staff at VTN Architects

observe the Five Precepts of

Buddhism: no killing, no lying

or gossiping, no stealing or

cheating, no engagement in

sexual misconduct, and no

consumption of intoxicants.

The practice of meditation

coupled with a respect for the

Five Precepts makes Nghia’s

20 or so architects “10 times

more efficient,” he says. The

small team undertakes an

extraordinary number of

increasingly ambitious projects.

In 2016, on the outskirts of the

old port town of Hoi An, VTN

Architects designed the Atlas

Hotel in simple brick, but with

exteriors hung with greenery.

Putting down

roots: House For

Trees resembles

five giant planters


Bloom town

This Vietnamese architect is cultivating inner-city happiness with

flourishing vegetation and a spiritual homegrown philosophy

Three years later, in Da Nang

– another of Vietnam’s fastdeveloping

cities – it gave the

entire 21-floor Chicland Hotel

a façade of lush foliage.

At its HQ in Ho Chi Minh

City, the firm is now working

on enormous green apartment

blocks that will house

thousands of people, and

also office buildings designed

to connect employees with

nature. “I want the whole city

to look like a huge park,” he

explains. But Nghia knows

that for his architecture to be

truly sustainable, his buildings

must be timeless in their

design and long-lasting in

their structural integrity. “The

most important thing,” he

says, “is that all my buildings

outlast me.”


Sophie Williams

Starting the


The author and activist has been talking

about race for as long as she can remember.

Now, she says, people are listening



Sophie Williams is back at her flat

in London after recording the audio

version of her new book, Anti-Racist

Ally. “As a child, I’d listen to an

audiobook every night,” she says,

“so it’s funny to find myself reading

out the ‘written by Sophie Williams,

read by Sophie Williams’ bit.”

The situation is all the more

surreal for Williams because at the

start of 2020 the book wasn’t even

part of her plans. In January, the

former chief operating officer (COO)

in advertising started an Instagram

account to build a community for

Millennial Black, her guide for Black

women and business owners, out next

April. On May 28, she posted a set of

slides defining the difference between

being non-racist and anti-racist, and

offering advice for would-be allies.

It blew up. “I saw the number [of

likes] go up and up,” she says. “You

can see on my Fitbit stats, there’s an

evening where I’m going to bed, all

chilled out, then I get a message:

‘Is this your post on Justin Bieber’s

grid?’ My heart rate spikes!”

Since then, Williams, 33, has

gained more than 180,000 followers

and, among many other things, run

a poster campaign in London, set up

an online merch store in aid of mental

health charity Black Minds Matter,

written for The Guardian about world

change, and finished both books.

But, as strange as this year has been

for Williams, she was ready. “I’ve

never been good at picking my

battles. I’m someone who’s always

had these conversations. The change

now is that people want to listen.”

THE RED BULLETIN: What was the

strategy to get your message heard?

SOPHIE WILLIAMS: Actually, the

reason I felt able to start posting is

because I didn’t think anyone was

listening – I had only a couple of

hundred followers. I really don’t

know what changed that. I made my

first post because the day after the

murder of George Floyd I spent the

day crying. Bad stuff kept happening

to Black people, things that were

literally costing people their lives.

Then there was the conversation

about COVID and how that was

disproportionately affecting Black

people, and it all felt like too much.

And that led to Anti-Racist Ally…

Yes, it became clear there are people

who want to start their ally-ship

journey, and I wanted them to have

something physical to refer to. It’s a

deliberately small book, 180 pages,

as cheap as my publisher would

allow. I want people to treat it as a

shareable resource. It’s a beginners’

guide. Every other page has a graphic

statement like, ‘Not being racist is not

enough,’ along with advice. It’s broken

down for people who want to be part

of this but haven’t yet been able. Or

for those who have started and want

to keep up the momentum.

How do we keep it up?

What I’m seeing now, which is scary,

is that people are already losing

momentum in this conversation. It

makes me so sad; it feels like the only

thing that keeps people galvanised is

a new video of a Black person being

murdered. I don’t want any more

videos, but I do want people to stay

interested. I ask them to change oneoff

actions into habits. So if anyone

is donating, I ask them if they can

make it a standing order. You can

make a template for people to write

to their MP – that will help many

others. You can form an accountability

group: on my social, I ask what people

have done that week. Being able to

check in with others and have them

check in with you is really valuable.

Millennial Black addresses issues

faced by Black women at work. Was

personal experience an influence?

Yes, I wrote it because I needed it.

I was a Black COO in an ad agency

and people didn’t know what to do

with me. When third parties came

in, they’d presume I was the person

who’d be taking notes or making the

coffee. [With this book] I wanted

to first of all say [to Black women],

“You’re not alone.” And I wanted

to tell business leaders, “This is the

business benefit of including this

group of people.” I’ve found that

the most effective approach. What

I didn’t want the book to do was tell

Black women they need to change

themselves to succeed. I ended up

speaking to many amazing people,

like [model and transgender activist]

Munroe Bergdorf, [author and

influencer] Candice Brathwaite and

[Star Wars actress] Naomi Ackie –

inspirational Black women from

different industries and backgrounds,

with different experiences.

Can you see change happening?

We’re in a civil rights movement, and

people ask, “How will we know when

we’ve won?” There are no quick wins.

I’m having the same conversations

my mum did, and her mum before

that. These are multigenerational

struggles. But hopefully, together,

we can make iterative changes over

time. I just ask that people read

about race, understand race, and

understand white people are not

raceless people. Letting something

happen and not speaking out is an

action, too. I hope that change

happens – and I want to be part of it.

Williams’ book Anti-Racist Ally is out

now, published by HarperCollins.

Instagram: @officialmillennialblack;





happen and

not speaking

out is an



Fantastic Negrito

Taking an

outside chance

The Grammy-winning blues guitarist reveals how

a hard-learnt education in hustling helped score him

one of the most unlikely careers in music


Photography LYLE OWERKO

In 1996, Xavier Dphrepaulezz was

bound for superstardom. After being

taken under the wing of Prince’s

former manager, the guitarist had

just signed a million-dollar deal with

major label Interscope – not bad for

a young man who grew up in a house

with 14 siblings, ran away at the age

of 12, and got involved in petty

crime during his teens on the streets

of Oakland, California. But then

life took another U-turn. His debut

album was a flop. Then, in 1999,

a near-fatal car accident put him in

a coma and mangled his strumming

hand; Interscope dropped him.

When Dphrepaulezz picked up

his guitar again several years later,

he had a new mantra: don’t try to

please anyone and don’t chase trends.

He reinvented himself as delta

blues guitarist Fantastic Negrito,

playing raw protest songs, dressing

outlandishly, and making statements

others might find uncomfortable.

This new direction has earned the

52-year-old the Grammy award for

Contemporary Blues Album in 2017

and 2019, and praise from the likes

of Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders.


aim when you write a song?

FANTASTIC NEGRITO: Basically, every

song I write, I write for my kids.

I ask myself, “What do I want to tell

my kids?” The things I sing about

are openness, equality, healing,

accountability, a little bit of the

middle finger. I think we need all of

these things in our toolbox in order

to navigate through this construct

of society. Most importantly, I want

them to know: don’t let anybody tell

you what you can or can’t do.

Is that a rule you live by?

I mean, look at me! I released my

first Fantastic Negrito album at 46.

People in the music industry, they’re

bean counters. They didn’t get it at all.

They’re like, “Wait a minute, you’re

not a rapper, you’re not a pretty

white girl singing pop.” I didn’t fit

into any of these categories, and yet

here we are. So I like to think that

Fantastic Negrito is for all the people

who’ve been told no; all the people

who didn’t get picked for the team.

So Fantastic Negrito is the patron

saint of outsiders?

Absolutely! Aged 12, I ran away from

home and never saw my family again.

I was living on the street. I was

hustling for food, for water, trying to

find an abandoned car to sleep in.

I was hustling to that mentality of

surviving. I wasn’t hustling to rip

people off – although I did do some

of that – I was mostly trying to eat!

When it came time to create Fantastic

Negrito, I picked up the guitar and

was like, “I know how to do this: you

just don’t take no for an answer.”

What makes a good hustler?

It’s someone who gets things done;

someone who turns bullshit into the

good shit. When I was homeless, I

faked my way into the University of

California, Berkeley. I pretended to be

a music student coming to practise.

I sat there and just listened to what

people were playing, to learn. The

first thing I did after my accident was

lease a grand piano so I could just

clunk with my hands. I don’t believe

in giving up. I’m a lifelong hustler.

How does a two-time Grammy

winner hustle?

I’m still on the outside of things.

People still ask me, “Why don’t you

do something easy, like this ’60s

retro thing?” They’re basically asking

me to make them feel comfortable.

But listen, I don’t give a fuck about

making people feel comfortable.

Being an artist is about confronting

society. Making people comfortable?

That bores the shit out of me. I don’t

care about selling records; what I care

about is liberty as a human being.

What does liberty mean to you?

It’s about not giving a fuck. It’s the

most powerful thing you can do. All

my heroes made their best music

when they didn’t give a fuck, when

they didn’t try. I’m a firm believer in

that. Because when you give a fuck

you lend yourself to this repressed

fantasy that people in power have

of where we should fit. So that they

feel comfortable. Why are we living

in a society that’s openly medicated?

I don’t drink or smoke – I don’t need

that. Because I feel liberated, I don’t

give a fuck. It’s a beautiful thing.

How do you get there?

Through failure and disappointment.

I got there from watching my little

brother killed at 14, seeing him on

the ground with a hole in his head. I

got there from seeing my 16-year-old

cousin in a casket. I got there from

losing my playing hand. But I also

got there from walking the streets as

a kid, trying to find a way. Finding

out who I am, embracing who I am,

then celebrating who I am and, most

importantly, not making apologies

to people for who I am. I don’t need

anybody’s permission, because I feel

amazing. And I want to pass that on

to people who may not feel amazing.

That’s what I want to pass on to my

kids, your kids, your grandkids. I

feel like that’s my mission.

Fantastic Negrito’s third album Have

You Lost Your Mind Yet? is out now;


“I don’t need



because I

feel amazing”


Jenny Schauerte

The road

less travelled

The German downhill skateboarder

came to the UK to learn about adrenalin.

She left with the key to inner happiness


Photography TOMÁŠ TEGLÝ

When Jenny Schauerte began

downhill skating six years ago, she

says she found the key to inner

happiness. The 32-year-old has since

become one of the world’s best in the

sport, which involves racing down

steep roads on a longboard at speeds

of up to 100kph, often – outside

competition – while negotiating

oncoming traffic. It has introduced

Schauerte to lifelong friends and seen

her travel extensively; she has also

used her passion for sport, adrenalin

and filmmaking as therapy in testing

times. Her latest project, the fly-onthe-wall-style

film Woolf Women, is

the story of a skate pilgrimage to an

ancient monastery in the Turkish

mountains. A celebration of downhill

skating, travel and sisterhood, it

marks the German’s transition from

lone wolf to head of her own pack.


downhill skating in London,

which isn’t exactly known for its

mountains. How come?


Bavaria in Germany, but I did my

bachelor’s [degree] in graphic

design in London. Then I was

accepted by Central St Martins to

study my master’s in communication

design, and my thesis was about

adrenalin and how it can influence

our emotions. I started doing

research, looking at sports that are

really connected to adrenalin, and

I found downhill skateboarding.

So you had never skated before?

Why did you have such an interest

in adrenalin?

I had some experience. I was three

years old when I first learnt how

to ski, and then at the age of nine

I learnt snowboarding, so actually

I’m a snowboarder. But when I did

the research and found downhill

skateboarding, I thought, ‘Wow,

it’s like snowboarding for summer.’

So I decided to look into it a bit

deeper. I had to know how it feels.

The first time I longboarded

properly was in Crystal Palace Park

[in southeast London].

What did you expect to discover

about the effects of adrenalin?

I wasn’t sure at the start. But

experiencing it on my own body

changed a lot. I knew how it was

when I was snowboarding: you don’t

think about anything but what

you’re doing in that moment; you

have to focus. But [downhill]

skateboarding requires even more

focus, because you do fall and crash

a lot at the start. To have that

singular focus and not think about

anything else but what’s happening

with your body right now in this

moment was mind-blowing. It

changed my whole perception of life

in some ways. I was going through

depression and I found [skating]

could really take me out of it. A

regular adrenalin rush is, in my

eyes, the secret to inner happiness.

Where has skating taken you?

Everywhere! First, at an

international race in Bavaria, some

girls who weren’t participating took

me to some backstreets to skate.

They were like, “Wow, Jen, you’re

going super-fast.” In the beginning,

I wasn’t able to properly brake; I was

just going as fast as I could, then

realising, “Shit, now I need to stop!”

Skating with these girls was so

empowering, and I knew I wanted to

keep doing it. Then I signed myself

up to a small event in Austria and I

came fourth – in my first race! Little

successes here and there push you

to want more and go faster. I also

got to know the community, and it

was a big family. You feel part of

something, and it’s wonderful – it

really enlightened me. Since then,

skating has taken me around the

world. I’ve seen a lot of Asia, South

America, all of Europe; I’ve been

to the US, South Korea, China…

I started properly skating in 2014,

then in 2016 I came second in the

world championships. I came third

in 2017, and second again in 2018.

Then last year I injured my knee

and couldn’t race.

Injury seems like a regular thing

in downhill skating. How fast do

you actually go?

My fastest recorded speed was on

a racetrack in Vermont [USA], and

the police came with a speed gun to

measure it for fun. I reached 62mph

[100kph]. It’s crazy. If you crashed

and you weren’t wearing leathers,

it would shred you.

So what was it that got you

hooked on the sport?

The adrenalin, of course. And when

I compete, basically I want to have

fun. For me, skating is about

travelling with other skateboarders

too, sharing that like-mindedness,

talking about roads and mountains.

You get a very different perception

of the world. When I was in London

I met a friend, Russ, from Lithuania.

He was the first person to teach me

to do a slide in the backstreets of

Greenwich Park. Then we started

travelling to Wales in my van. You

develop not only a friendship but

you have to trust the other person

with your life. We have to spot for

each other, for example. We have

little systems. When there’s a road

with traffic, we have one person at

each corner, and the first one does

the sign that you can go. If there’s

a car coming, we cross our arms over



changed my

whole perception

of life”


Jenny Schauerte

our faces to say ‘stop’. Travelling

and living together bonds you. That

was where the ‘wolf-pack’ feeling

began. There are not many of us

[downhill skaters] and people just

don’t know about the sport. So by

making a film I wanted more people

to be aware that we exist.

Who are the Woolf Women?

When I started racing around

Europe, I suddenly met all of these

amazing women. It was incredible

that there were all these girls out

there like me, who love to travel,

skate, and are stoked about finding

a nice road. We skated together and

started bonding. I remember when

I was a teenager I always dreamt

of having a clique or a group who

belonged to me somehow, but I was

always alone until that point. Now,

I’m part of a group who like to

explore, who are open to new

things, and who love nature and

the environment. Other people

just do a lot of talking, but when

we have an idea we go for it. We like


fearless but

also curious”

Speed freaks: the thrill of downhill skating is addictive

stepping out of our comfort zone

and feeling the adrenalin. We’re

fearless but also curious. I started

filming everything with my GoPro

because these girls are so cool. I

posted a clip called ‘Woolf Women’

and people really liked it, so the five

of us decided to make a film.

And it came at an important time

for you…

Unfortunately I lost my father three

years ago, which was a real shock,

and I became [depressed] again.

Skating with these women is like

medicine. I knew it would sort me

out and help me process [the loss].

The trip is a bit of a pilgrimage to

light a candle for my father on a

beautiful mountain. And the girls

are there to help me push through it.

So it’s not just about crazy skating –

we had a story to tell. At one point,

all the girls were lying on the floor

and we had this big map, wondering

where we should go. We found

Sumela, a beautiful monastery built

into the [Pontic] mountains in

Turkey, and I knew that was a place

my father would have liked to visit.

And no one had ever skated down

from there. So I prepped my van,

Bimbo, and set off on the 10,000km

round trip to Turkey.

Was making the film the medicine

you needed?

It was fucking wonderful. We tried

and failed to fish, and we almost

didn’t get from Bulgaria into Turkey

as we didn’t have the right papers.

Then, in Istanbul, we met the one

and only downhill skateboarder in

Turkey, who showed us a few great

spots. When we finally saw the

monastery, the view was worth all

the effort to get there. On Google

Maps’ satellite view, the road down

from the monastery looked like

a dirt path, but when we got there

it was fresh tarmac! It felt like

divine intervention. That was the

real highlight – we skated all the

way down from the monastery to

the valley.

Woolf Women: (from left) Jenny Schauerte, born in Boston, USA, but raised in

Bavaria, Germany; Anna Pixner from Austria; Lisa Peters from the Netherlands;

Jasmijn ‘Jas’ Hanegraef from Belgium; Alejandra Gutierrez from Colombia

What does a Woolf Woman do

when she can’t travel?

I was about to go and race and travel

around the world this year, but

obviously COVID stopped that. For

me, it turned into a chance to create

a base, somewhere I can come back

to after living out of my van for two

years. I moved to Innsbruck, Austria,

as most of the Woolf Women live

here, and outside my house you

can go and climb a mountain. You

can explore in the area you live in.

That’s my advice: now is the chance

to discover all the small adventures

around you that you never imagined

were there.

Schauerte’s film, Woolf Women,

premiered at this year’s Raindance

Film Festival and will be released

next spring;



The Outdoors Beckons

Elite Product Testing | Nims Purja, Osprey Ambassador | Chamonix, 2020


climbed a mountain

for the first time.

Eight years later, he

has changed the face

of mountaineering.

And he’s just

getting started…






Nims Purja on Mont

Blanc, September

2020. The Nepalese

climber holds the

record for the fastest

ascent of the world’s

14 highest mountains

In 2017, the Gurkhas undertook

an expedition to summit Everest.

For the elite brigade of Nepali-

Indian soldiers it was a pilgrimage

of great significance – a

celebration of 200 years of

allegiance to the British Crown, and

their second attempt at the world’s

highest mountain after their 2015

mission was aborted when the

fateful Gorkha Earthquake

triggered an avalanche that wiped

out base camp and stranded most

of the climbers at Camp One. Now,

this expedition was also in

jeopardy. Unpredictable weather

meant the official rope-fixing team

had yet to fix a route to the summit

that year. No one could ascend.

“I was like, wow,” says Nirmal ‘Nims’

Purja – at the time a 35-year-old member

of the Gurkha climbing unit. “Everyone

thinks, as a Gurkha, you are not only the

bravest of the brave, but that Everest is in

your back garden. Our reputation was at

risk. But secondly, when were we ever

going to get another chance to climb

Everest using British taxpayers’ money?

I decided to lead the fixing team.”

When word spread around camp

about his plan, there was one reaction:

“‘Does he have a clue what he’s doing?’

Nobody knew who I was,” recalls Purja.

“So I led 13 members of the expedition

to summit – the first team to make it

from the southern side that year. We

came back down into Kathmandu and

celebrated with a week of partying.

Then I climbed Everest again, then

Lhotse and Makalu [the world’s fourth and

fifth highest mountains], all in five days,

with two days of partying in between.”

These days, people know who Purja

is. In 2019, he scaled all 14 ‘eightthousanders’

– the official designation

for mountains that exceed 8,000m in

height – in the fastest time he could. The

record stood at seven years, 10 months

and six days; Purja planned to do it

within seven months. He achieved it in

six months and six days. It propelled the

Special Forces soldier (the first Gurkha

to ever be accepted into the UK Special

Boat Service) into the mainstream

spotlight. It also brought criticism from

alpine purists, in particular for his use

of supplemental oxygen.

“I only do that on the final peak.

I climb, setting a fixed line, everything

without oxygen up to Camp Four,” he

retorts. “People were saying, ‘Oh, Nims


Nims Purja

Nims Purja, the Gurkha

Pictured on his graduation day with the elite military unit at ITC Catterick

in Yorkshire in 2002. “My dad was a Gurkha, my brothers were Gurkhas,

and it’s such a life. People respect that in the Nepalese community.”


did Nepal mountains because he can

use helicopters to the base camp.’ I said,

‘OK, fine,’ so I climbed all the Pakistan

mountains without any helicopters,

running from base camp to base camp –

23 days, buddy. All five 8,000m peaks. I

have no problem with critics. If someone

breaks my record I’ll be the first to shake

their hand, but it’s easy to just say it.

“Please write that when Nims said

that, he said it with a smile, OK?”

Purja’s words may read as defiant, but

in person he gives off a different energy

– a restless cockiness that draws people in,

rather than repels them. Sitting in a hotel

room at the base of Mont Blanc, where

he’s spent the summer vacationing, he’s

all smiles. Muscular, as you’d expect, but

diminutive at 170cm tall, the gentlemanexplorer

moustache Purja sported during

2019’s ‘Project Possible’ missions has been

shaved off to reveal a boyish face that

belies his age. “I’m 38, but to be honest, I

don’t really know how old I am,” he says

(Wikipedia also has trouble, putting it at

‘36-37’). “I never celebrate my birthday,

because age is just a mindset, a way of

letting yourself think that you’re getting

old and having that as an excuse.”

If this self-consciousness is surprising,

it’s just one of many contradictions that

penetrate the myth that is Nims Purja. For

example, the stereotype that a Nepalese

climber benefits from a life raised at high

altitude. “I grew up in Chitwan, which is

the flattest and warmest part of Nepal. It’s

almost sea level. We were a really poor

family in a small house with chickens

next door. I didn’t even have flip-flops.

That changed when my two brothers got

into the Gurkhas.” Wanting a better life

for their sibling, Purja’s brothers sent him


Nims Purja

Annapurna, April 2019

More than 30 per cent of climbers who attempt to summit the world’s

10th highest mountain perish. Avalanche risk forced Purja’s team to

ascend along a rarely-traversed route called the ‘Dutch Rib’ (pictured).

to boarding school, where, by his own

estimation, he excelled.

“I used to be top five; I could have

been first, but I’d finish a two-hour exam

in an hour so I could be first to leave the

test room. But I didn’t want to be a

doctor or an engineer, I had two options:

one was to be the Robin Hood of Nepal,

seeing off those rich people who don’t

pay tax – you know, politicians and all

that – and distributing that money to the

poor.” He chose option two: the Gurkhas.

“Getting in was tough. In my time,

32,000 young Nepalese applied and only

320 made it. I started training at 15, in

a hostel. I’d wake up at 3am and run with

weights strapped to my legs. I had no clue

what that did, but I used to go back to bed

at 5am and pretend I hadn’t left. I passed

the selection on my second attempt.”

Purja’s time in the armed forces – he

joined the Gurkhas in 2002 and moved

to their UK Infantry Training Centre in

Catterick (he now lives in Hampshire),

and the SBS in 2009 – is one he is deeply

proud of, but for every detail he isn’t

willing to reveal (“What I can say is I

have been shot; I have been into the most

sensitive operations across the globe.”),

he is candid about one aspect: “I had

what others didn’t have – I could climb

an 8,000m peak in two weeks. When

I got leave I’d empty my savings and go

climb.” Indeed, when Purja finished

partying after his five-day tour of

Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in 2017,

he had to go straight back to work.

“I was supposed to get a heli ride to

a Special Forces mission, but the heli

didn’t come because of the weather, so

I ran all the way from base camp – six

days’ worth of trekking in 18 hours,



“It’s a thin line

between being brave

or stupid; living in

that moment and

getting yourself killed.

I want to live in the

moment for a long time”

Nims Purja

“I wanted to show

the world what is

humanly possible if

you put your mind,

heart and soul into it”

Purja speed-flying

on Mont Blanc. The

day before this photo

was taken, he went

into a sharp spiral.

“When a force is so

big, you just have to

roll with that force”


“I love what I do to the

bone. And I’m having

so much fun that all

the tiredness goes

away. An 8,000m peak

is where I come alive”

Purja on the summit

ridge of Gasherbrum II,

July 18, 2019 – the

ninth mountain in his

quest to summit all

14 eight-thousanders

Nims Purja


Four days before Purja set off on Project Possible, he attended

the final sitting for a piece of body art across his back. It shows

the 14 mountains he intended to climb – from the smallest

(Shishapangma, 8,027m) at the base of his spine to the tallest

(Everest, 8,848m) below his neck. But this is no ordinary

tattoo – it contains the genetic code of his loved ones.

Inked by London tattooist Valerie Vargas in four sittings,

the process – patented in 2016 by former Navy SEAL Boyd

Renner and business partner Patrick Duffy, and known as

Everence – takes DNA (in Purja’s case, from the hair of his

parents, brothers, sister and wife) and encases it in a medicalgrade

polymer to create powder-sized beads that can be

blended with tattoo ink. This ink was used to illustrate prayer

flags marking out the route on his back.

“I wanted to take my whole family on this spiritual journey,”

says Purja. “But it was also a reminder that, if I was about to

cross the fine line between brave and stupid, I must come home

alive to look after my family, especially my mum and dad.”


running through the night. At that point

I realised: ‘I think I’ve got something.’”

That something, even his fiercest

critics would agree, is an incredible

capacity for recovery. It usually takes

weeks of living at a high-altitude base

camp to acclimatise to the low-pressure

air as your body compensates, increasing

the haemoglobin levels (the protein that

absorbs oxygen) in your red blood cells.

Only then would you attempt an

8,000m+ summit, and you’d need weeks

to recover. When Purja returned to

Everest, Lhotse and Makalu for Project

Possible in 2019, he summited all three

in 48 hours and 30 minutes.

“My recovery time is really rapid,” he

agrees. “It’s a mindset. I love what I do to

the bone. And I’m having so much fun

that all that tiredness goes away. And an

8,000m peak? That’s where I come alive.

I don’t lose any of my strength. That is

my playground.”

Purja hadn’t even worn a pair of

crampons before the age of 29, first

summiting 6,119m-tall Lobuche East in

Nepal in 2012 without any prior

mountaineering experience. Two years

later, he scaled his first eight-thousander,

Dhaulagiri, and discovered his natural

ability to thrive at altitude. “I climbed that

in 14 days without any acclimatisation,

and I led 70 per cent of the route,” he

says. But Purja isn’t immune to the effects

of the ‘death zone’ – the name given to

that space above 8000m – as he discovered

on his first ascent of Everest in 2016.

“I was in camp to carry all my

equipment and oxygen. People were

taking six weeks to get to that phase;

I was doing it in five days,” he recalls.

“As a mountain trooper in the SBS I knew


Nims Purja

Everest, 2017

This shot was taken as Purja fixed lines to the summit as part of the

Gurkha 200 expedition. “The weather was brutal,” he says. “It’s so painful

that you think you’d rather die, but death isn’t the solution.”

I couldn’t go that fast, but my body was

taking it OK. That’s when I had a

pulmonary oedema [fluid on the lungs].

It’s like drowning. More than anything

I was ashamed, because I had the

knowledge to avoid that, but you don’t

know where your limit is until you push it.”

If that attitude seems reckless, Purja

sees it differently. “It is reckless to many.

Even in the Special Forces I was known for

taking high risks, but risk is not one size

fits all. If a BASE jumper does his stuff,

I can’t do that. You live in the moment,

but that doesn’t mean you don’t do a risk

assessment. It’s a thin line between being

brave or stupid; living in that moment

and getting yourself killed. I want to live

in the moment for a long time.”

When Nims Purja was 13,

he decided to swim across

one of the biggest rivers in

Nepal. “I was just in my

underwear. I wasn’t a good swimmer, but

I was committed and got to the bank on

the other side,” he recalls. “Then I was

like, ‘Fuck, now I have to go back again.’”

As he began his return swim, he started

thinking. “I remembered stories of

people getting attacked by crocodiles. I

was so tired – I came to that point where

you have to give up, so I did. And I stood

up. I found I was in knee-deep water.

I thought, ‘Thank God.’” Purja is giving

an example of his willingness to test his

limits, but he’s aware it also shows his

capacity to perhaps reach too far.

In 2018, Purja was appointed head

of extreme cold-weather warfare in the

SBS. “My job was to learn new climbing

techniques and teach that to my fellow

operators,” he explains. “I said to my

command, ‘Since my job is this and I

have so much leave, I’d like 18 days off to

climb the world’s five highest mountains.

It’s good for the unit.’” His superiors

were ecstatic, then they researched what

he was planning. “They told me, ‘You

cannot take the risk.’ I said, ‘Fine,’ and

that’s when I decided to leave the job.”

It wasn’t a decision he took lightly.

“I was the bread earner for my family.

Every month, I sent money directly from

my pay cheque to my parents. My dad

was half-paralysed, and my mum was

living in a room in Kathmandu to be near

the medical facility. For me to give up

everything now was crazy. My brother

called. He said, ‘No Gurkha’s ever made

the SBS – you’re the first. You’re close to

your pension – why sacrifice that?’ He

was furious. He didn’t speak to me for

two months.”

Meanwhile, Purja’s plan, which had

now become Project Possible, hit a wall.

“A friend who was leading the financial

side said, ‘I’m sorry, I couldn’t raise any

funding after trying for seven months.’

I had only two months to raise £750K.

It was hard, going to every sponsor,

begging. I got £1,000 here, £5,000 there,

but it wasn’t enough; no one believed in

the vision. Some said, ‘If you’re a badass

climber, why have we never heard about

you?’ And I’d say, ‘Because I was in the

Special Forces.’ One guy told me, ‘Maybe

you didn’t get sponsorship because you’re

not white.’ It hit me. I said, ‘You could be

right.’ But at the end of the day, it doesn’t

matter. In life there are harder problems,

but you solve the problem. So I

remortgaged the house, I got the biggest

amount I could – 60 grand – and put

10K aside so, should something happen,

it would pay the mortgage. I started

the mission with five per cent of what

I needed. I was driving down the M3

one day with tears coming from my eyes.

I never cry, but I couldn’t stop. All I could




6 7













The kit that helped Nims succeed

1. One-litre Thermos flask: “I don’t

carry any other water bottles,

but I melt snow using the hot water

in this, so I can make two litres with

one and save weight.”

2. Black Diamond Cobra carbonfibre

ice axes: “Very lightweight

and technical. Used for lead

climbing on technical slopes as

well as self-arrest in a fall.”

3. Baseball hat: “Because you need

to protect your head from the sun.”

4. Sunglasses (not pictured)

5. ThruDark bespoke Summit Suit:

“Designed by my two friends from

the Special Forces, this is the third

generation of the Summit Suit

I have been using. It can go as cold

as -40°C.”

6. Beanie hat

7. Lightweight, waterproof 40m

alpine rope

8. Pair of crampons

9. Duffel bag: “For all of my

expedition gear.”

10. Lightweight harness: “Plus all

my climbing equipment: two ice

screws and a rescue system that

includes a Ropeman [mini-ascender

used to climb up ropes], belay

device [for controlling the tension

of the rope attached to a climber

below], sling and Prusik loop [a

separate rope knotted to the main

line that acts as a friction hook

during abseiling].”

11. Thick socks

12. Three different layers of

gloves: “Working gloves and big

summit gloves.”

13. Base layers

14. Summit boots: “They’re black

because when I asked the brand if

they’d support me, they said no. So

I removed their logo with a marker.”

15. Backpack: “I’m designing the

Nims 120 with Osprey. It’ll be the

ultimate daypack for mountaineers,

made of very lightweight material,

small and compact, but you can

make it massive, because we need to

carry the tent, oxygen, everything.”


“If someone breaks

my record, I’ll be

the first to shake

their hand”

Purja: “Someone said, ‘Do it

next year, Nims.’ Imagine if I’d

tried for this year? If you plan

for the second option in life, you

are already planning for failure”

Nims Purja

think was, ’Why am I doing this project?’

“It was so painful that I just wished

an avalanche would come and kill me.

But it’s not about me. I was doing it for

a bigger reason.”

When embarking on a mission of this

scale, Purja says, you need a purpose.

“If I wanted to just break a record, I

would have said, ‘It’s nearly eight years;

I’ll do it in seven.’ But I wasn’t trying to

be the best; I wanted to show the world

what is humanly possible if you put

your mind, heart and soul into it. And

I wanted to highlight the names of the

Nepalese climbers. For the last 100 years

we’ve been in the background, but

high-altitude mountaineering – eightthousanders

– that is our ground. I felt

I needed to do something about this.

That’s what gives me energy.”

Purja is not of Sherpa ethnicity, but

he identifies with the term as used to

describe any Nepalese who work in the

climbing community. His team consists

wholly of Nepalese climbers, not as

guides or rope-fixers, but as equals.

“When people climb, they want to use

a Sherpa because he knows the route,

he can show you the way. I said, ‘You’re

going to climb that mountain because

this is an opportunity for you too. It’s

equal glory.’ Then he’s also climbing

a new peak and, next time, when he’s

guiding, he can charge double.”

Members of Purja’s team are now

rising stars in their own right, like

Mingma David Sherpa, who, at 31, is

the youngest climber to summit all 14

8,000m peaks. “He’s my right-hand man;

one of the strongest Sherpa I have ever

seen,” says Purja, whose team has given

him a new name: ‘Nimsdai’. Dai means

‘older brother’ in Nepali. It’s the name

Purja now goes by, and how he presents

it on his new book, Beyond Possible:

One Soldier, Fourteen Peaks – Life In

The Death Zone.

On April 23, 2019, the Project

Possible team summited their

first eight-thousander –

Annapurna in Nepal, widely

considered to be the world’s deadliest

mountain. As they descended, Purja got

news that another climber, Singaporean

doctor Chin Wui Kin, had become

separated from his team at 7,500m. Purja,

Mingma David Sherpa and a third member

of his crew, Gesman Tamang, aborted

their mission to go back up and rescue

him (Chin sadly died in hospital). Two

days later, on Kanchenjunga (the world’s

third highest mountain), they deviated

to rescue two more. The stories made

world headlines, alongside a now

infamous photo Purja took of climbers

queuing to summit Everest. “As I ticked

off the mountains,” he recalls, “people

started donating to my GoFundMe.”

More crucially, the sponsors started

rolling in, too. They were finally

believing in his vision.

If Purja experienced any doubt in his

vision, it was at K2, the world’s second

highest mountain at 8,611m. “I checked

the video of where people had given up,

and while I don’t take the word of every

Western climber, when the top Nepalese

climber, who I respect, says, ‘That’s

impossible,’ I think, ‘Fuck, can I make it?’

Other climbers were waiting, thinking

I would fix lines for them, but I didn’t

have to do this. It would have made

more sense to climb nearby Broad Peak,

then everybody could be safe, they could

all go home. But what I remembered

was the UK Special Forces selection –

200 soldiers from the Royal Marines,

RAF, Army, Navy – all thinking they’re

the best, but only four make it. If you

listen to those 196 who failed it, you’re

never going to try.”

Purja decided to ascend K2 with two

members of his team. “I said, ‘If we can’t

“I never celebrate

my birthday. Age

is just a mindset,

a way of letting

yourself think that

you’re getting old”

make it, we’ll come back down, you two

will have a rest, and I’m going to take

you two up. And if we don’t make it, I’ll

take you two – it’s going to be six

rotations before I think about giving up.’

But with just one push it was done.” On

July 24, 2019, Purja’s team summited

K2, a mountain that still, however,

remains unconquered in winter.

“It’s because there’s a very short

window,” explains Purja, when asked

why that is. “But of course it’s possible,

buddy. You just need the speed.”

When Nims Purja – who has

been awarded an MBE for his

high-altitude mountaineering

– takes a holiday at Mont

Blanc, it really is just that. The highest

mountain in the Alps, at 4,808m, is a

cakewalk for him. Or rather a flight. He’s

spent the summer learning how to speed

fly – a revved-up version of paragliding,

with a faster, lighter wing that can fit

into a small backpack, used by extreme

alpinists. “It lets you get down from a

summit quickly, but with style, flying

right next to the mountain,” he explains.

Purja’s idea of fun is always full-on. He

enjoys hard rock, particularly AC/DC

(“I always played Thunderstruck on my

headset in the Special Forces helicopter,”

he reveals), and just before The Red

Bulletin arrived, he’d broken his tail

bone in a hard landing. “I rested for

24 hours, then was flying again,” he says,

nonchalantly. “You’ve got to go with

the energy. It’s like trying to jump off

a moving train – if you don’t run, you’re

going to fall.”

If Purja seems blasé about his process,

he’s deadly serious about his purpose,

and has another to add to the list –

raising awareness about climate change.

“I never used to believe in it,” he says.

“But I climbed Ama Dablam in 2014

and we had snow at Camp One to melt

and cook food. I went back in 2018 and

we had to carry gallons of water from

base camp. I realised, ‘Oh my God, this

shit is real.’

“We are all a part of it. I have this

voice and my power of influencing

people will grow even bigger. I believe

we’ve got these two next decades to

make this change.”

There’s a solution to every problem.”

Purja’s book, Beyond Possible: One

Soldier, Fourteen Peaks – Life In The

Death Zone, is out on November 12;; Instagram: @nimsdai


With most public

performance on an

enforced hiatus,

dancers are finding

new platforms for

their artistry –

bringing their bold

and beautiful

moves to some

unexpected places


Photography THEO McINNES


in step

Crossing over: the

English National Ballet’s

Francesca Velicu

takes it to the bridge;

(left) Polish-born

dancer Andre

Kamienski, who heads

his own contemporary

arts company



“At a DistDancing

show, you

can tell people are

still thirsty for

live performance”

Chisato Katsura


t’s an overcast Sunday afternoon in

East London, and a small crowd

has gathered on the towpath of the

Regent’s Canal. On the other side of the

water sits Hoxton Docks, a renovated

warehouse complex turned events space,

with a floating pontoon just outside its

tall wooden cargo doors. To the left of

the pontoon is a barge carrying a giant

yellow inflatable balloon that looks like

some sort of bizarre sea Zeppelin. To the

right is a family of four model sharks

emerging menacingly from the water.

With just a few minutes to go until

the clock strikes three, you can feel the

energy rise in the assembled throng as

they wait to discover what will emerge

from behind the cargo doors. The crowd

is here for DistDancing, a new series

of free pop-up weekend performances

created by dancers whose regular careers

have been brought to a halt by COVID-19

restrictions that have shuttered theatres

and venues in the UK and beyond.

However, unbeknownst to those

waiting patiently – and socially distanced

– on the towpath, the police are already

inside Hoxton Docks, and the plug is

pulled on the sound system after just five

seconds. What’s more, the organisers are

told they’ll be arrested if they hit play

again. Another van full of police officers

marches onto the towpath and orders the

crowd to leave, just as dancer Rebecca

Bassett-Graham was going to begin her

routine. As the police continue with their

dispersal efforts, the crowd begins

chanting in unison: “Let them dance!”

Inside, there’s an intense back-andforth

between the dancers and police.

Once it becomes clear that only the

organisers would be arrested, not the

performers, freelance aerialist Jackie Le

decides to complete her routine as a

protest. She begins her descent from

rigging hoisted from the roof, hanging

like a spider on a thread as the stand-off

continues on the towpath.

After eight consecutive weekends

of free shows throughout the summer,

this short-lived experimental attempt

to find a way to dance and perform

despite COVID restrictions has been

brought to a close, for now. “At least

we went out with a bang,” says

Chisato Katsura, First Artist of The Royal

Ballet, forcing an optimistic smile.

“But it’s depressing, seeing this come

to an end. It feels like losing a baby,

when we had a whole month of shows

planned. And it really doesn’t make

sense: right now, there are hundreds of

people in the parks, going out in Soho,

or sitting on planes. Yet with all these

gatherings happening we’re the only

ones being shut down.”

Raising hoops:

aerialist Annalisa

Midolo wows the

towpath crowd

Rewind a few days and the mood is

more upbeat – despite the pouring rain

outside – at a rehearsal for the weekend’s

performance. In an elegant, woodenfloored

yoga studio in London Bridge,

Katsura leads the session as Francesca

Velicu, 22, and Erik Woolhouse, 24, from

the English National Ballet (ENB), and

Bassett-Graham, 29, from Company

Wayne McGregor, practise their routines.

The moment is made even more special

by the fact Katsura has been out of action

since October due to a stress fracture to

her left shin, which necessitated crutches.

First, Velicu and Woolhouse, who are

a couple, practise a breezy duet together.

Then, for their solo pieces, Velicu floats



The world’s a stage:

Chisato Katsura,

co-founder of

DistDancing and

First Artist of the

Royal Ballet, is

helping keep dance

alive in lockdown


“I hope people

become more


of what dance

brings to

our culture”

Jordan Bautista

across the floor, seemingly as light as

a feather, and spins on one foot in a

pirouette, every bit the classical ballerina,

while Erik dances with a more muscular

and modern energy, throwing out his arms

and legs in wide, sweeping movements,

like a warrior psyching himself up for

battle. Bassett-Graham shows off her

contemporary, almost glitchy solo, with

her body contorting itself into expressive,

abstract shapes, before all three join on

the floor for what will be the show’s

finale: dancing in synchronisation with

one another. You can feel their sense of

joy and excitement at being able to dance

together again after months of lockdown.

“I remember back in March, slowly

everything was cancelled, minute by

minute, hour by hour,” remembers

Bassett-Graham, originally from New

Zealand. “This isn’t just a job to us,

it’s part of who we are as humans. After

more than a week off, you start itching

for that physicality. The uncertainty

of not knowing when I would be able

to perform again, or when it would be

possible to dance in a studio with other

people again… all of these things really

started weighing on me.”

For dancers, whose very meaning in

life is to move, the lockdown came as a

particularly harsh blow. Not only were

all their shows cancelled and their

companies put on hiatus, but there was

no way of knowing when they’d even be

able to dance again, let alone in front of

an audience. Often confined to small

shared flats – especially those living in

London – and dancing or training in

bedrooms and kitchens, they did what

they could to stay active and prevent

their bodies from losing the intense

physical conditioning for which they

had worked most of their adult lives.

The whole dance community really

pulled together,” Bassett-Graham says.

“Everything went onto Zoom, and people

began opening up their classes to whoever

wanted to watch.” Across the industry,

the barriers came down, membership of

particular institutions no longer mattered,

and professional dancers became one big

family online, sharing tips, classes and

workshops with each other and legions

of amateur dancers, too.

Woolhouse embraced the change in

routine and the opening of his world

to other forms of dance, music and

movement. At 15, he relocated to the UK

from Japan to train with the Royal Ballet

School, and he has been in the ballet

bubble of the ENB for the last five years,

training and rehearsing for upwards of

six hours each day. The ENB’s season

usually starts with an autumn tour of five

or six cities in the UK, then a five-week

“intense marathon” of Nutcracker at

London’s Coliseum, followed by original

shows such as Creature by celebrated

choreographer Akram Khan, which has

had to be postponed due to COVID.

It’s an intense schedule that often

doesn’t leave much time or energy for

anything outside ballet. So, during

lockdown, Woolhouse has taken the

opportunity to expand his repertoire

and dance to other styles of music he

enjoys, including jazz, hip hop and

techno. In July, the ENB returned to

training, albeit in much smaller groups

of around eight to 10 dancers, all

confined to their own personal boxes

taped onto the floor, dancing for just



“After more than

a week off from

dancing, you

start itching for

that physicality”

Rebecca Bassett-Graham

four hours a day, Monday to Saturday.

It wasn’t only training and fitness but

also performance that flourished – and

continues to flourish – online. The ENB

joined other companies in offering shows

for free, with its popular Wednesday

Watch Parties helping to open up ballet

to a new audience. For Velicu, who

originates from Romania and moved to

the UK in 2016 after training at Moscow’s

world-famous Bolshoi Ballet, these free

online shows were particularly special

as her mum could now watch all her

performances from back home.

“I really hope the intense interaction

and engagement we’ve had on social

media continues,” Velicu says. “It’s been

so great for bringing in new, younger

audiences. For the first time, people

from around the world can easily see the

work produced in London. My mum is

enjoying it so much, she’s watching an

opera from the Met in New York or a

ballet show from London every day.”

Woolhouse believes the ruptures

created by the pandemic were necessary

for an industry with a tendency towards

elitism. “Dance needs to be more

approachable to the public,” he says.

“Young people nowadays can’t afford an

£80 ticket and a suit to go to the ballet.

That grandness and tradition must be

kept alive, but the industry will die

without the next generation, so I think

something with a more casual atmosphere

is necessary [in order] to move forward.

That’s what’s so great about DistDancing:

you can just drop by with a coffee on the

side of the canal, watch a performance

and realise you really enjoyed it.”

Dance companies around the world

have taken an enormous hit. The ENB,

for example, lost two thirds of its income

and was forced to furlough more than

85 per cent of its staff through the UK

Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention

Scheme. Having received an emergency

grant from the Arts Council that helped

it stay afloat, adapting to a world of

online-only performances is crucial to

the ENB’s survival, as staging shows for

a reduced audience just isn’t financially

viable for most larger companies.

However, Katsura and her Italian-born

colleague Valentino Zucchetti, a First

Soloist at The Royal Ballet and co-founder

of DistDancing, remain passionate about

finding ways to bring live performances

back – both for dancers’ and audiences’

benefit. “Online content is a cure for the

moment,” says the Japanese dancer, “but

it’s just not the same effect as in real life.

Online, people click a button and get

what they want; they get bored easily

and there’s no opportunity for those

chance encounters with the unknown.

“As a performer, you feel the energy

of the audience’s applause,” Katsura

continues. “It’s hard to put into words

how it feels to hear 2,000 people

cheering for you. You can be in so

much pain for two hours, but then you

hear the applause and it just pushes

you through to the end. I want to give

performers the opportunity to feel

that audience response again and keep

doing what they love.”


Stepping out: Velicu has seen

interest from a whole

new audience thanks to the

ENB’s free online content


“Dance needs to be

more approachable.

That’s what is great

about DistDancing”

Erik Woolhouse

Head east along the towpath from

Hoxton Docks and you’ll find

yourself at Here East, a creative

complex that backs onto the River Lee

Navigation and was built for the 2012

Olympics. Here, a corner room has been

turned into a makeshift dance studio for

Company Wayne McGregor’s RESET 2020

programme, which began in August and

offers a free 10-week programme of

ballet, contemporary and fitness training

to both the company’s own dancers and

freelancers who have fallen through the

cracks support-wise. The three-and-ahalf-hour

daily programme is a far cry

from Bassett-Graham’s pre-COVID

routine of being on tour for the majority

of the year or rehearsing in London from

10am to 6pm. But getting back into the

studio with other dancers – even if it is

socially distanced – is still very welcome.

One of the freelancers to benefit

from RESET 2020 is Jordan Bautista

(who uses the pronouns they/them),

a 25-year-old dancer originally from

Gibraltar. After dancing with the Polish

National Ballet in Warsaw, Bautista

relocated to London, and it was while

they were searching for work following

surgery that the pandemic struck. Today,

they’re confined to their own square

opposite Bassett-Graham, which has

been marked out on the floor with white

tape so that they and the other dancers

can train in a COVID-compliant way.

Each square has its own barre, a plastic

box for possessions, and a supply of

disinfectant wipes.

When the class is ready to start, the

instructor reels off a list of positions

so fast it sounds unintelligible to the

untrained ear, like an alien language or

the shipping forecast. But the masked

inhabitants of all 18 white boxes move

through their positions in perfect sync,

throwing their bodies into the kicks,

spins and curtsies of the physically

demanding ballet routine.

“I think one of the changes that will

come out of this pandemic is that both

dancers and audiences are going to be

much more aware of how much it takes

to come together and collaborate to

create work,” Bautista says. “I hope

people will become more appreciative

and understand how much work goes

into things, and how much dance

contributes to our culture.”

In mid-September, following intense

negotiations with the council and

police, and considerable support from

the public, the landlord of Hoxton Docks

allowed DistDancing to return. “We’re

still very much on alert, and there’s the

possibility of another shutdown,” says

Katsura. “We had to change our format

and drop the strict scheduling to prevent

a crowd gathering or police intervention.”

Now, in late September, it’s time

for the final show of the relaunched

DistDancing. It’s grey and overcast again,

but because of the lack of notification

there’s no crowd outside Hoxton Docks.

The Royal Ballet’s Giacomo Rovero walks

onto the pontoon stage and starts his

routine. Passers-by hear the music, stop

to look, and by the end of his threeminute

solo there are 20-30 people

watching in awe. These aren’t the legion

of fans DistDancing amassed through

social media, but rather new people

stopped in their tracks by a chance

encounter with dance – just as Katsura

and Zucchetti had originally intended.

“Things will never go back to ‘normal’

as we know it; they’ll only move forward,”

Katsura says. “When the theatres shut,

we worried we’d lose our connection

with audiences. But at a DistDancing

show you can tell people are still thirsty

for live performance. The connection is

maybe even stronger. I think lockdown

has made people realise how much they

need arts and culture in their lives.”

Fittingly, Katsura is DistDancing’s

fifth and final performer. Due to her

recent recovery, she performs a modified

version of the Emeralds solo from

choreographer George Balanchine’s

ballet Jewels. She avoids going en pointe,

but sweeps her arms gracefully in a port

de bras as her flowing skirt billows

around her, and finishes kneeling with

her arms crossed, facing the audience on

the towpath across the canal. The crowd

has now grown to around 50 spectators,

who applaud wildly as Katsura takes

a bow before being joined on stage by

the other performers.

“We’re so grateful to be able to bring

joy to people again,” Katsura says, relieved

at the hitch-free performance. “The

support we’ve had during the shutdown

has been incredible. To see everyone

come together to keep the arts alive is so

heartwarming. It’s the strength and hope

we need during these dark times.”;; waynemcgregor.

com; Instagram: @_distdancing_


“I make

people want

to rewrite

their bars”

The multicultural


artist has forged

her own unique

style of rap, which

resonates from

London to LA.

Here, she talks

about Drake’s wise

words, the benefits

of speaking Dutch,

and why Instagram

crushes creativity


Photography SALIM ADAM


Red alert: Stefflon

Don never looks

less than 100 per

cent – even, it

would appear, when

doing the dishes

Stefflon Don

When British rapper Stefflon Don arrived

on the scene in 2016, heads were turned.

Her flow on the debut mixtape Real Ting

was seamless, with lyrics that blended

Jamaican patois, East London slang and

US hip hop references. And, in contrast

to the down-to-earth attitude of most UK

rap, she presented herself as glamorous

and brazen, a superstar in the making.

In November that year, she was

longlisted in the BBC’s newcomer poll

Sound of 2017. Four months later, she

signed a £1.2m deal with a major label,

and in August 2017 her single Hurtin’

Me, with US rapper French Montana,

reached number seven in the UK Singles

Chart. Since then, the 28-year-old – real

name Stephanie Allen – has won MOBO

and NME Awards; worked with artists

including Sean Paul, Nile Rodgers, Charli

XCX, Skepta, Drake and Mariah Carey;

and in 2018 became the first British

artist ever to make legendary US hip hop

magazine XXL’s annual Freshman List.

Born in Birmingham to Jamaican

parents, the rapper moved with her

family to Rotterdam in the Netherlands

when she was five, before settling back

in the UK – in Hackney – at 14. As a

result, Stefflon Don’s music is a blend of

dancehall, grime, R&B and house, her

rhymes incorporating influences from

London, Jamaica, Holland and America.

She says that growing up among

different cultures opened her mind and

broadened her music and, in that sense,

is the secret to her success.


unmistakable East London snarl, but

you also use Jamaican patois and US

slang. You even rap in Dutch...

STEFFLON DON: That’s because of my

diverse upbringing. I spent most of my

childhood in Rotterdam. People there

speak American English, and I grew up

in a Jamaican household. On top of that,

I had White friends, Turkish friends,

Moroccan friends. People are really

accommodating there, so I’d learn a lot

about their cultures, about their

traditions, their food, their music.

What were the musical influences you

picked up there?

So, Holland used to control Suriname

[the South American country was

under Dutch rule between 1667 and

1975] and the Surinamese culture has

a heavy influence in Rotterdam – similar

to the influence of Jamaican culture

in London. The language they speak [in

Suriname] is a mix of Spanish, French,

Dutch and English. Growing up there,

I used to listen to Surinamese songs all

the time; we’d also use their slang words.

I think it even left a mark on my

pronunciation: I was in Spain the other

day and some locals thought I was from

there. I’m not even fluent in Spanish!

Do you think being fluent in Dutch has

had an impact on your rapping skills?

Definitely. When I’m speaking Dutch,

I talk really fast. Because of that, I’m

quick on the tongue when I rap. That

was a big advantage when I started out.

You’re known for your eclectic musical

style – on your new mixtape, Island

54, you even add Afrobeats to the

mix. Wouldn’t music executives rather

you stick to one thing so you don’t

overwhelm your fanbase?

Well, I feel like there are certain artists

you can put on any track – whether it’s

a Latin track or a slow jam or an

alternative song – because their voice is

like an instrument. They hold a certain

sound through their voice, and I feel

like I’ve got that. On my next single, I’m

actually speaking Yoruba [a language

spoken mostly in West Africa]. I think

the audience is going to be shocked –

it’s totally different again. But, for me,

this is something that I’ve always been

experimenting with. As an artist, I just

feel so free.

Two years ago, you made history as

the first UK artist to be named on XXL

magazine’s Freshman List. Do you

think your global perspective is the

reason the US audience has embraced

you more than other UK MCs?

Definitely! I feel only now Americans are

more accepting of the British accent on a

rap track. Before that, it was like, “I love

when you guys talk, but when someone’s

rapping I can’t take you serious. I feel

like you eat crumpets and drink tea all

day.” Literally, that’s what they would

say to me! But when they heard my

songs, they’d always say, “OK, so you

don’t really sound that British.” And

again, that comes from growing up in

Holland, where I used to speak American

English. Rapping with a real British

accent was actually a challenge for me

in the beginning.

That reminds me of something your

brother, drill artist Dutchavelli, said

in a recent interview about your

family moving back to the UK from

Rotterdam: “I had an accent and there


“Americans would say, ‘I love

when you [Brits] talk, but when

someone’s rapping I can’t take

you serious. I feel like you eat

crumpets and drink tea all day’”

“Thank God I was just born with

confidence. When the [other]

kids used to try me – and they

would try me a lot – I always

stood my ground”

Stefflon Don

were lots of words I didn’t know.

It messed up school for me.” Can

you relate to that?

When I came back, I had the weirdest

accent. I was torn between American

English and Jamaican patois. I told people

here that I was from Jamaica. They were

like, “You’re not Jamaican. What kind of

accent is this?” It was very difficult.

How did you gain acceptance?

Thank God I was just born with

confidence. When the kids used to try

me – and they would try me a lot –

I always stood my ground. And I think

anywhere in life, if someone tries you

and you continue to stand your ground,

they just have to respect you. After

a while, they were so confused at how

confident I was, and that’s what made

them like me.

How can others achieve that level

of confidence? Any advice?

Stay away from people who belittle you,

whether it’s friends or family. Just don’t

be around people who make you feel less

confident. Or at least try not to ask them

for advice if you know that they’re not

going to have your corner. You have to

realise that nobody has the answers to

everything. Believe in yourself – that’s

how you gain confidence.

Someone who gave you advice early

on in your career is Drake. He said,

“Make sure that, whatever you do,

your opponent is scared of you.” Is

that something you still live by?

Yes, 100 per cent. In anything you do,

whether you’re a plumber or a carpenter

or a gamer, you should always want to

be the best. Else why do it? Coming up

rapping, I was in so many situations

where there was a beat playing and it

was like, ‘OK, who’s going to rap on it?’

And I was always ready in those

situations. I always made sure that I had

many lyrics ready, so whoever was on

the mic I would destroy them.


Yeah, I’ve always had that mentality.

I want to make people want to rewrite

their bars. Because sometimes I used to

feel that way. I’d hear certain females

rap and I’d think, “Oh my God, what I’ve

written is not as good. I need to go back

and rewrite my shit.” That’s how I want

“In anything

you do, you

should always

want to be the

best. Else why

do it?”

people to feel when they hear me.

Because that’s how you keep a healthy

conversation, that’s how you push each

other. If people aren’t challenging one

another, if they just follow others, then

we’re stuck. And that’s what has been

happening for a while. No one is really

trying to be the best. I see a lot of

followers. I see a lot of people who think,

“Oh, this works, this charted. Let me do

something similar.”

Why do you think that is?

As an artist, the way you’re criticised

today is different from when I first came

up. Back then, there were no Instagram

trolls. I wasn’t scared to fail by putting

out videos that might not be what I want

them to be – I just had to do it, because

that’s all I could afford. I can’t imagine

how it is for young artists today with

so many eyes on them; so many eyes

of people who don’t know what they

are talking about, projecting their

insecurities on others on social media.

Platforms like Instagram are responsible

for a lack of creativity in the new

generation of artists. And even for

established ones, it’s very hard to really

say what they want to say, or express

how they feel.

Sounds like you’re talking from

personal experience…

I used to record my family on Snapchat

a lot. I would always speak my mind on

certain topics that got me in trouble a

couple of times. [In 2018, she apologised

for tweets from 2013 in which she said

“dark-skinned” girls would change their

skin colour if they could]. I got in trouble

for stuff I didn’t mean in that way, and

things were taken out of context. It made

me feel like, “Do you even deserve to

really know who I am if you going to take

small parts and use them to make it seem

like I am this person that I’m not?”

That is what the internet has become

now. People are looking at your image

and thinking, “What can I pick up [on]

that’s wrong?” And the second thing is,

“Let me see the comments,” to find

what narrative is being pushed. You’re

not supposed to be yourself. You’re not

supposed to be a self-thinker. It’s all

about playing it safe, about following

others. And I really just want to break

away from that.

Is there a way to make the internet

a place of positivity again?

I actually had a couple of meetings with

one of the heads of Instagram, and one

thing I requested was to take the likes

off the comments.

What do you mean?

There was a time when you could

comment on posts, but you wouldn’t

get likes on your comment. Now that

people are more extreme and meaner in

their comments because they want to

stand out in order to get likes, it’s like a

competition. As a result, you look at your

post and realise that 3,000 people liked

a really hateful comment about you. It

feels awful! I don’t think people realise

how detrimental Instagram is for us

and the next generation. Everyone is

tiptoeing around [the issue] and saying,

“Oh yeah, it’s bad.” But people are so

insecure because of this, people don’t

create because of this, people don’t share

new ideas because of this. It’s a very

serious thing and I wish more people

would speak up more about it and

demand change.

With that said, what’s your strategy

for staying sane?

I’m so blessed that I have my family.

I bought a big house and my [11-yearold]

son, most of my six siblings and my

mom live with me. That’s the main reason

why I’m OK. Also, I consider myself lucky

that I didn’t come up in the social media

age. I have a sense of reality. I know what

it means to be original. I know what it

means to not really give a fuck about

what no one says. And no one can take

that away from me.

Stefflon Don’s new mixtape Island 54 is

out now;


French BMXer Matthias

Dandois in Paris, August 2019,

performing a steamroller

barspin trick for the featurelength

film The Old World



Seven countries,

15 riders, eight

nationalities, eight

disciplines, numerous

wrecked drones,

multiple injuries,

one epic film. Inside

Europe’s most

ambitious bike movie





It’s early morning in Strandafjellet,

Norway. In winter here, you can ski

from the mountain tops to the fjords

below, but right now, in spring 2019,

a blanket of cloud sits atop grassy

cliffs. From it emerges a bike rider,

Martin Söderström, a camera crew

catching his every move. The 28-yearold

is one of Sweden’s highest-profile

freeriders, yet, astonishingly, this is

his first feature-length film…

“How is it possible that one of the most influential riders in the

world has never had a big movie part?” German pro mountain

biker Andi Tillmann had pondered in 2018. The answer: all the

big ensemble action-sports flicks were made in North America.

They get to choose their regions and the riders,” says the

32-year-old who, together with his brothers Toni and Michi, has

produced and starred in MTB movies that have been seen by

millions, “so top-level European riders were never featured.”

That was the catalyst for the biggest project the Tillmanns – and

perhaps any European bike filmmakers – had ever undertaken.

Two years later, The Old World is complete. It’s a journey

from the fjords of Norway to the suburbs of Berlin and Paris to

the sun-baked dust of La Poma in Spain, gathering together a

roll call of Euro riders never before seen on film. The ride wasn’t

without its bumps – injuries, technical malfunctions, a global

pandemic – and the crew learnt a lesson as steep as their handdug

courses. “In Europe we have a very narrow weather window,

and each country comes with its own drone and filming

restrictions,” says Tillmann, whose hair literally fell out due to

stress. “I was blond when we started, now I’m bald,” he laughs.

Here, Tillmann and some of the riders share a glimpse of

what it took to make Europe’s first bike blockbuster…

The Old World is out November 22. See it on Red Bull TV;

Director Andi

Tillmann films

Martin Söderström

in Stranda, Norway.

Left: Tillmann

(centre) with

brothers Toni

(left) and Michi


The Old World



Riders: Martin Söderström

(pictured), Emil and Simon

Johansson (all SWE)

Discipline: Trail and slopestyle

Tillman: It took a year to

convince the Strandafjellet

authorities to grant us access

– none of the landscape could

be damaged as it’s part of their

slope system. The idea was to

communicate that Scandinavian

perfection of control, and our

three riders are proponents of

something called the ‘Swedish

Style’. We developed a special

rig: a backpack with an Arri

Alexa movie camera on a gimbal,

to be carried by a second rider

– me – at high speed.

Söderström: I’d never been to

Stranda. It was surreal to see

the sunrise with my best riding

buddies, Emil and Simon, and

have the course to ourselves. I

was the first rider from Sweden

to go professional, but a lot of

incredibly talented athletes

have come through since then.

I guess some were inspired by

my riding, and that’s become

the ‘Swedish Style’. We ride a

lot indoors during the winter,

because of the weather. That’s

why most Swedish riders

have a technical background.

We do a lot of barspins and

tailwhips. I value my riding

style more than the tricks I do.

I’d rather do less complicated

tricks and have them look

great than not look in control.


Freeride MTBer

Vincent Tupin (top)

films the ‘summer

segment’ with fellow

rider Robin Delale

in Rhône-Alpes



Riders: Bruno Hoffmann

(pictured above), Mo

Nussbaumer (both GER)

Discipline: BMX street


Rider: Vincent Tupin (FRA)

Discipline: Snow freeride, downhill MTB

Tillmann: Originally, this was a winter-only segment

filmed at Châtel snowpark with a cameraman following

Vinny’s freeride manoeuvres over slopes and jumps.

Tupin: First [in March 2019] it went well. Then I

planted my front wheel in deep snow, flipped and

dislocated my shoulder. Eventually we decided to

come back in better conditions the following winter.

Tillmann: [But February 2020] turned out to be the

shittiest winter of all time. The temperature stayed so

high that even the descent into the valley was closed.

Tupin: Plus COVID-19 began closing the resorts. So we

shot on the slopes near my home [in Maxilly-sur-Léman],

with a final section at the end of summer – in the dirt.

Tillmann: We wanted to show

street riding, so sought out toplevel

BMXers, which was tough

because we’re a mountain-bike

crew and their mindset is quite

different; they have their own

filmers. We shot solely with a

handheld camera, to capture

how they use the restrictions of

the city to express themselves.

Hoffmann: Street riding is

often illegal, so usually there’s

only one filmer and you have to

hit and run. But for this we had

permission for pretty much

every spot. That eased some

of the pressure, but the scale

of the production added more

– we couldn’t just ride around

randomly. For me, BMX street is

more accessible than mountain

biking – you don’t need an

expensive bike or special trails.

When you ride a BMX, you see

a city differently. You look at

stairs, rails, ledges. Everything

is a spot. You never stop looking.


The Old World

BMX street pro

Bruno Hoffman

in August 2019:

“I love coming to

Berlin, especially

in the summer”

“When you ride

a BMX, you see a

city differently.

Everything is a

spot. You never

stop looking”

The Old World

“It’s difficult to

scout spots for

Chris – he rides

the stuff nobody

else wants to”

MTB trials rider

Chris Akrigg in the

Scottish Highlands,

September 2019:

“Each morning,

the schedule would

change due to

the weather”


Rider: Chris Akrigg (GBR)

Discipline: MTB trials

Tillmann: Chris is known for

his humour and a crazy-yetdedicated

riding style. It’s

difficult to scout spots for him

– he rides the stuff nobody

else wants to, and still makes it

flow. We scouted the Highlands

and the islands, but it was all

for nothing: as we flew in, bad

weather meant that we couldn’t

shoot at any of them. So we

had to work on the fly instead,

finding locations and shooting

on the spot.

Akrigg: The Scottish landscape

is so vast, but I don’t need

huge slopes, I dial it down

into bits. When I reach a

location, my mind starts racing.

Sometimes I just need five

minutes to think about how it

could work. It can be hard to

convey the technicality of the

more intricate stuff on video.

Halfway into the shoot,

I jammed a radio antenna into

my ribs, clipped a pedal and

went head over heels. When I

landed, I folded myself in half. I

had a radio, and it sounds funny

but it was down my pants and

got stuck between my thigh and

ribcage. I don’t know what it

did in there, but it wasn’t good.

I managed two or three more

days of riding, but it got to the

point where it was distracting

me so much that I just couldn’t

ride. I ended up taking copious

amounts of painkillers.

“When filming

something like

this, you want

to be on top of

your game”


Rider: Rachel Atherton (GBR)

Discipline: Downhill MTB

Tillmann: The theme of this

segment was ‘dedication’,

but that took on a whole new

meaning. Our original idea was

to film only with drones, but at

our first session on Cadair Idris

[mountain in Snowdonia] the

wind and rain made that less

than ideal. Then the drone

crashed at the first shot, so I

ran down the whole mountain

to get the spare, only to find it

had a software problem. Then,

before our next filming session,

Rachel tore her Achilles…

Atherton: I can remember it

like it was yesterday [the injury

occurred in July 2019]. It’s a

process you go through, almost

like grief. You feel angry and

upset, then just devastated.

Getting injured mid-season [in

the UCI Downhill MTB World

Cup], you go from winning

races to almost nothing. It

takes a lot to change your

mindset and focus on the long

road ahead. It was nine months

before I even picked up a bike

Downhill MTB pro

Rachel Atherton

films around

Cadair Idris, Wales

again. When filming something

like this, you want to be on top

of your game. I was nervous,

because I didn’t know if I was

going to be fast or look good,

so I put it off to the last minute.

But I think it was the right

choice, because I did feel I was

riding well when it came to

filming again. The first half was

all mountain stuff – outback

riding and big mountains, all

about freedom. The second

half was on tracks near my

home in Wales. Having a big

injury halfway through filming

changed the plan a bit, but

hopefully the hard work and

the dedication to return comes

across. To be back up to speed

and feeling like a racer again –

that’s what I’m looking forward

to the most. When you don’t

race for so long, it takes away

who you are. [Racing] is in

my blood. Being back on the

track makes you feel like

everything makes sense again.

[Just weeks after this interview,

Atherton announced that

regrettably, as a result of her

ongoing rehab, she wouldn’t

be racing again this year.]



Rider: Matthias Dandois


Discipline: BMX flatland

Tillmann: In Paris, Matthias

delivered his smooth

interpretation of BMX

flatland. Finding a new

perspective on the city was

hard, as he has filmed so

much here. We developed

a fresh way of filming his

riding style with a gimbal

on a Segway and a 600mm

super telephoto lens to

capture the technicality of

his tricks. We shot a lot in the

outskirts, and the production

car got broken into. All our

laptops and hard drives were

stolen. Fortunately, all the

footage was backed up.

Dandois: Getting clearance

to film in a city like Paris takes

months, but having a big,

professional crew made

things easier. For 20 years,

I was kicked off almost every

spot I rode on, and now – paf!

– authorisations. In Barbès

[in northern Paris], we were

accompanied by police to

ensure our safety, but

nothing happened. When you

film in working-class

neighbourhoods, colourful

characters always show up,

like the drunk guy who gives

you riding tips [laughs].

The Old World

August 2019:

Matthias Dandois

performs a onehand

MC circle

in a bustling Gare

du Nord, Paris


The Old World


Riders: Nico Scholze (GER, pictured left), Dawid Godziek

(POL), Diego Caverzasi (ITA), Bienve Aguado Alba (ESP)

Discipline: Dirt jumps

Tillmann: Dirt jumping has a strong community vibe at this

bikepark [30 minutes outside Barcelona], almost akin to surfing.

We shot with a big cable cam and a crane. Diego arrived with an

injured thumb, then, on the third day of shooting, Nico slammed

hard and broke part of his back. Fortunately, it wasn’t serious.

Scholze: It was a routine trick – a 360 tailwhip on the biggest jump

– but I came up short and went straight over the bars. I was only

just saying to Andi beforehand, “It’s going to be a good day.” I wanted

to show it’s possible to do freestyle motocross tricks on a mountain

bike – there’s a similar rotation and airtime. I watched guys with

FMX bikes on a shoot once, and I knew I could do the same tricks.

Polish dirt jumper

Dawid Godziek

initiates a one-foot

tabletop at La

Poma bikepark

“I wanted to

show the world

it’s possible

to do freestyle


tricks on a

mountain bike”


Vink pulls off a

‘flaming’ manual:

“Andi told us to

bring an extra

helmet because

they might set us

on fire. It was still

a bit of a surprise”


Riders: Nico Vink (BEL, pictured right),

Szymon Godziek (POL)

Discipline: Big air

Tillmann: This was the opposite of Norway

– that was about control, but this is about

the edge of control. We filmed big air and

high-speed riding with a crane, a $100,000

[£77K] camera backpack and a Super 8.

The insane course will blow people’s minds

– and we set the guys on fire. A stuntman

usually doubles for the actor, but obviously

they couldn’t ride the course. The stunt

team only agreed to it after seeing the

athletes wouldn’t panic when set alight.

Vink: I’d ridden through fire, but I’d never

actually been on fire. We had underlayers

that were covered in a protective gel, then

fuel was added to the top layer – that’s

what was set on fire. The sections we were

riding weren’t super-long, and there were

two extinguishers at the bottom, but if you

crashed partway you were burning. We had

to do it a couple of times. Sometimes they

didn’t add enough fuel, and once there was

too much. It got a little hot, but I never got

cooked. When you’re riding, it’s all about

being on the limit of control – you’re close

to the edge, but getting away with it. That’s

the line any athlete in extreme sports is

riding all the time. It’s our life.



Maxx-D Mk13

4000 Lumens

Handlebar mounted

Reflex Technology

Diablo Mk12

1800 Lumens

Helmet mounted

TAP Technology


Enhance, equip, and experience your best life




Summer Isles,

northern Scotland




The pleasure of a sea kayak is

you’re in the water rather than on

it, which provides a connection

with wildlife that’s hard to achieve

in another boat”

Will Copestake, adventurer and guide

It’s six in the morning and, on the

horizon, the sun is creeping over

a panorama of jagged mountains,

adding a shimmer to the sea. I’m awake

before my guests who, as the dawn

light brings heat to their tents, are just

starting to stir in their sleeping bags.

It’s a typical summer morning in the

Scottish Summer Isles – calm with a

gentle breeze that smells of the sea,

the slow rhythmic rumble of the surf

rolling against cliffs nearby, seals singing

melodically from the rocks.

Since 2013, I’ve pursued adventures

around the world, both personal and

through leading others – from a yearlong

journey kayaking, cycling and

climbing through Scotland to a 1,000km

expedition kayaking through deepest

Patagonia. But it’s the Summer Isles

I call home. As an outdoor activity

provider running our company Kayak

Summer Isles, it’s my job and pleasure

to encourage venturing off the beaten

track and pausing there. We deliver the

confidence and skills to enjoy what’s

around us while visiting remote places

and reconnecting with the natural world.

My day is mostly spent teaching then

leading along natural archways, caves,

cliffs and wild sandy beaches amid this

stunning landscape.

At my side, my mocha pot gurgles

on a stove as I prepare my morning

‘guide coffee’. I was first introduced to it

by a tutor at university, who explained

that the idea wasn’t the brew itself but

allowing yourself a small slice of time

before the day begins. Time to think, to

plan, to gain a sense of calm and place.

It’s a practice that goes hand in hand

with the rising concept of ‘slow tourism’,

the counterpart to ‘tick-list’ landmark

bagging. Drinking a coffee quickly fills

the need, but when you pause to enjoy it,

it becomes so much more. There is a

drive – partially fuelled by social media

– in the travel industry at the moment

to ‘experience’ as much as possible in

a short amount of time. It’s a quick way

to see a lot of great things, and fits in

with the busy lives many of us lead.

But fast travel has huge limitations, too.

Few who do it allow the time to truly

experience the communities, landscapes

and wonders they fly past en route to the

next attraction. Travel, after all, is about

the journey as much as the destination.

During the lockdowns earlier this year,

it was inspiring to see so many of our

neighbours discover the local gems that

have been seldom explored. Encouraged

by necessity to explore nearer to home,

many have learnt more about their

backyard and their own personal

interests in these short months than in

decades of living here. Personally, I’ve

never been at risk of taking the stunning

scenery of the Summer Isles for granted,

as I regularly get to see the expressions

of amazement on my guests’ faces.

Water man: the writer, Will Copestake, knows the Summer Isles like the back of his hand





How to

get there

The Summer Isles – an

archipelago of around

20 islands, rocks and

skerries (islets) – lie

off the northwest

coast of the Scottish

Highlands. They can be

reached by boat from

Achiltibuie harbour,

which is just under

two-and-a-half hours

by car from Inverness.

Slow and low: sea kayaking amid the picturesque scenery of the Summer Isles is the antithesis of ‘fast travel’

Glowing report: awe-inspiring sunsets are commonplace in this part of the country

It’s the last day of our multi-day

adventure, and before setting off we

discuss how to pack a kayak: loading

the boat equally with the weight centred

around the hull, packing multiple small

bags rather than a single large one, and

keeping metal objects away from the

in-deck compass. We finish by packing

the remaining spaces with litter

collected from the foreshore – an

endless stream of ocean plastic brought

in by the waves. It sparks a discussion

on the human impact on such wild areas,

how we ultimately leave our footprint

wherever we travel. Already we’ve

ensured to remove all trace of our tents

and have packed our bagged waste, yet

still a few footprints remain behind. As





Food supplies, sleeping bag, sleeping

mat, tent poles and pegs, cooking set

(pot, cutlery, bowl and mug)


Pencil and waterproof notepad,

compass, head torch, night paddle kit,

spare knife and flares, chocolate bars

Kayak loading

The formula: well stocked but also

perfectly distributed


Medical kit, hypothermia pack, bothy bag,

emergency repair kit, Thermos with hot

sugary drink, tarp, quick stove and gas


Food supplies, clothing and spare layers,

boots, tents (but not poles – no metal

items allowed under deck compass)









a company we won’t use this site again

for a few months, to allow regeneration

between our uses.

A wave breaks over my bow as I push

my kayak from the shore with a whisper

of seaweed beneath my hull. The crisp

water catches my hand as I dip my

paddle for the first stroke of a new day

ahead. ‘Psht’ – a seal breaks the surface

behind me as it escorts us from camp.

The pleasure of a sea kayak is you’re

in the water rather than on it, which

provides a connection with wildlife

that’s hard to achieve in another boat.

Through connection comes care, and

through care, ultimately, comes a

sense of stewardship to preserve the

environments we enjoy.

When working in Patagonia over my

winter seasons, I admired the Chilean

approach to managing sustainable

adventure tourism, which, just like the

north of Scotland, grew exponentially

faster than the infrastructure to care for

it. Flow, friction, rhythm: slow the flow,

reduce the friction, plan for the rhythms.

Encouraging visitors on a day’s kayaking

or hiking adventure siphons numbers

to a wider area, slowing the flow from

the main roadside. Where busier tick-list

attractions exist, frictions are managed

by facilities and infrastructure.

Understanding the rhythms of summer

booms and winter quiet allows the

chance to adjust and restore.

Seabirds take flight from the nearby

cliffs with a clatter of wings, bringing

a smell of fresh guano that stings my

nose. I don’t smell much better after

a few nights away from the luxuries of

home, but with that minor sacrifice

comes a restoration of energy, rolled

into the soul as the swell rolls life into the

ocean. The kinship with our surroundings

and between us as paddlers grows on

the water. When we return home

refreshed by genuine escapism, we will

have a new story to tell with the next

morning coffee.

Will Copestake is an adventurer,

photographer and guide who leads

outdoor pursuits and expeditions in

Scotland, Patagonia, and around the

world. Follow his adventures at and learn

how to travel with him at

Total ice-olation: when kayaking in Patagonia, you’ll

have entire glaciers and icebergs to yourself

Change of pace

Embrace slow travel



The nearby towns of Ullapool and

Achiltibuie make a great jump-off point

for some of Britain’s wildest places,

a UNESCO GeoPark, and a thriving hub

of traditional arts and music.


The Cairngorms are a good year-round

centre for adventure, with skiing in the

winter and more trails than you could

complete in any holiday. Activities cater

to beginners and experts alike, from

mountain pursuits to watersports.


With stunning coastlines and beaches

with hundreds of coastal trails to explore,

there’s something in Cornwall for every

interest. Base yourself in one of the many

communities and explore the vibrant

culture, arts and music, as well as walks

and swims along the way.


Without doubt one of the wildest trips you

can do by kayak anywhere on Earth. This is

real wilderness that takes effort and intent

to reach, with whole icebergs and glaciers

to yourself as a reward. You won’t see

anyone other than the guide for the

majority of this trip.


The Icelandic capital offers a fantastic

base to find an adventure that fits you, be

it snowboarding the mountains, soaking

in a mud bath, or learning to guerrilla-knit

a jumper for a tree (yep, that’s a thing).

A short hop from the UK, the city is a true

unsung hub for adventure.







Interstellar RIG Reflect goggles

have a toric lens (more asymmetric

than a standard lens) for less edge

distortion and greater impact


Flight Path XL Factory by OAKLEY

allow you to switch between seven

lens types for maximum visibility in

all snow conditions. Quick-changing

Ridgelock tech seals the lens as it

snaps into place,

ZEAL OPTICS Pando goggles use

Observation Deck tech inspired

by air traffic control towers – the

bottom of the lens tilts towards

your face to increase vertical

peripheral vision,


have a 100-per-cent UV-protected

lens that can be popped out and

locked into place with levers. OTG

means ‘over the glass’, so specs can

be worn, too,






Slope into view Switchable-lens goggles for optimal vision on-piste

From top: POC Cornea Solar Switch

goggles don’t feature swappable

lenses; instead, the glass

automatically adapts to the light

for you. Faster than previous

light-reactive technology, the

award-winning liquid-crystal lens

changes its tint near instantly to

suit every condition, from midday

glare to serious cloud cover, and

the whole process is powered by

solar energy,

RED BULL SPECT Magnetron goggles

come with two lenses: contrastenhancing

(shown fitted) for bad

weather, and mirrored (below) for

fair, each with moisture canals to

prevent fogging,

Enigma Elements Water by KOO

sport a silver mirror Zeiss toric lens

for high glare protection, easily

swappable with the included Sonar

lens (pictured) for better visibility

on an overcast day,



How to...

Sophie Radcliffe has

twice completed

Ironman, cycled

from London to Paris

in 24 hours nine times, crossed

the US from coast to coast by

bike, and set a world first by

climbing the highest peaks in

eight Alpine countries and

cycling between each of them

– the equivalent of scaling

Everest five times in 32 days.

And yet she wasn’t always so

sporty. In fact, at school she

was the last person who

wanted to put on sports kit.

“When I was younger, I was

very unfit and never a natural

athlete,” admits the 35-yearold

Brit. “I had a different

body to other girls and felt

uncomfortable about it.”

The problem, Radcliffe

came to realise, was never to

do with her body – it was in

her head. And it’s an issue she

discovered is common among

young women: “The rate of

drop-out for girls in sport is

huge when they hit 13 or 14.

Body image, eating disorders,

mental health [issues] and

suicide are all rising.”

So, in 2013, Radcliffe quit

her job at a tech start-up and

became an endurance athlete

and motivational speaker.

Today, she runs TrailBlazers,

a not-for-profit youth initiative

that equips teenage girls with

the confidence and skills to

live active lives to the best of

their abilities. “I want to show

them that it doesn’t have to be

about sport itself – it’s about

how you feel about yourself.”

The key, Radcliffe says, is

simply starting somewhere.

“Making yourself physically

strong has a knock-on effect

on your mind and the rest of

your life, but you have to start

any sport from a place of

passion and curiosity, thinking,

‘I’m going to find what it is I

love.’ Challenging yourself and

doing things that are difficult

and scary, like a physical


Live courageously

In her teens, Sophie Radcliffe hated sports. But then the adventurer

changed her mindset and made fitness an unbreakable habit

challenge, creates adversity

and forces us to find out who

we are. All the things I wanted

to feel in life – confidence,

motivation, feeling energised

– have come from facing

challenges in the outdoors.”

As a friend of Radcliffe told

her the night she quit her job,

“A ship in a harbour is safe,

but that’s not what the ship

was built for. Go sailing.”

You can follow Radcliffe’s

personal journey on

Instagram: @challengesophie.

And check out TrailBlazers


Radcliffe poses with her team during

the Ragnar White Cliffs Relay in 2017

Find your

new path

Five trailblazing tips

from Radcliffe to

help fire up your

mental approach

Try many different

types of sport to

find what you love:

“People say to me,

‘I really have to go to

the gym soon.’ Why?

The only way to get

into fitness long-term

is to find an activity

you love. I discovered

that I’m made for

endurance sports.

I just never knew

that before.”

Just get outdoors:

“A great way to do

this is by making

your commute an

adventure. Start

cycling in, or walk

part of the way into

work. Find ways to

spend more of each

day outdoors.”

Help others along the

way: “Throughout my

journey, people much

more experienced than

me took me under

their wing. Those

people helped me so

much. The idea of

mentoring and giving

back is crucial.”

Shift your perception:

“What I tell people is:

simply set yourself

a challenge, which

can be big or small.

It can range from

going for a run to

the power of lifting

weights. Discover

the other world of

outdoor and

adventure sports.

Do a boot camp in

a London park, or

burpees while

watching the sunrise.”

Commit yourself to the

fact that it’s a journey:

“I love pushing myself

physically and

mentally. I love being

in the pain cave,

because it’s there

that I find out the most

interesting things

about myself; things

that help me learn

and grow into the

person and athlete

I’d love to become.”






The next issue is out on Tuesday 8 December with London Evening Standard.

Also available across the UK at airports, universities, and selected supermarkets and retail stores.






Evolution of play

In 1972, the world's first commercial games console,

the Magnavox Odyssey, was released. Its controller

– a box with three rotating knobs – was a revolution in

digital input. Games controllers have come a long

way since then. With the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series

X/S being released this month, three gaming experts

look at how controllers have changed the way we play...


“With the PS3 [in 2006], Sony faltered

with a wireless pad that swapped

vibration for motion controls, but fast

returned with this rumbling DualShock.”


The first PlayStation controller is an

icon in its own right,” says Tailby. “The

triangle, circle, X and square buttons

have remained in every iteration.”


Released with the PlayStation 2. “Two

analogue sticks made 3D games easier

to navigate, and rumble [vibration]

made the action more impactful.”


Larger grips, a touch sensitive pad, and

a button to share your gaming moments

with friends. “Absolutely Sony’s best

controller at the time.”


"PlayStation 5's controller is the series’

biggest design departure yet,” says

Tailby, “and it delivers more nuanced

vibrations through haptic feedback.”

PLAYSTATION “I‘ve grown up with the PlayStation’s DualShock controller,” says Stephen Tailby, associate

editor for PS gaming website Push Square ( “The ergonomic hand grips, which gave the device

a unique silhouette, have influenced controller design ever since.” However, Tailby believes that the DualSense

controller, which debuts with the PlayStation 5, will transform that gaming experience. “The haptic feedback

and adaptive L2 and R2 triggers [on the top], which make it easier or harder to press down depending on what’s

happening in-game, should enhance immersion in tactile ways. But the fundamentals remain intact – the DNA

of Sony’s very first controller exists in all its successors.” PlayStation 5 is out on Nov 12,





XBOX, 2001

The ‘bulky’ original Xbox controller. “It

led to a more compact design hitting

the market soon after,” says Gilbert.

“But fans are very nostalgic for it.”

XBOX 360, 2005

The design was modernised, with

additional shoulder buttons and a

headset and add-ons port, and it was

significantly more comfortable to use.”

XBOX ONE, 2013

Gilbert describes the evolution here as

“quality-of-life adjustments. So popular

was the Xbox 360 controller, there was

no need for radical changes”.


“Improved ergonomics, reduced input

latency, a new D-pad design – the

controller is compatible with Xbox One,

Windows 10 PCs, even Android devices.”

XBOX “The original controller didn't get the best reception back in 2001,” says Fraser Gilbert, news editor

for Xbox gaming website Pure Xbox ( “It was bulky and oversized, but it laid the foundations for

what we've come to expect today in its button layout, analogue stick placement and trigger design.” For the

new controller, Microsoft has taken a markedly different approach to size, scaling it to the hand size of an eightyear-old

after finding that worked equally as well in smaller and larger hands. “It’s an evolution rather than a

revolution. The popularity of each iteration is a testament to how well the company has refined its controller

over the past 20 years.” Xbox Series X/S is out now,





The first gaming mouse. “Prior to this,

mice had a sensitivity of less than 500

dots per inch; this had 1,000dpi.” In

2000, a 2,000dpi version was released.


Eschewing the ball-on-tabletop

mechanics, this was Razer’s second

optical-sensor mouse. “It was more

precise and reliable,” says Jennings.


Pushing that optical sensitivity up to

8,200dpi, with multiple buttons that

players could map to in-game actions.


Razer's first mouse to top 16,000dpi

in optical sensitivity allowed players to

adjust the force of their finger clicks.


Wireless mice can suffer from

latency, but this switches frequencies

on the fly for a fast connection.

THE GAMING MOUSE It’s difficult to remember a time when games were played using an office

mouse with a ball inside, but that was the state of play before the Boomslang launched in 1999. “It was born

out of necessity,” says games journalist Mike Jennings (, who has written for Tech Radar,

Wired, Custom PC, and more. “As PC games became more complex, more buttons and greater precision were

needed.” Since then, gaming mice have diversified for specific genres. “The Naga’s extra buttons were ideal

for MMOs [massively multiplayer online games]; the Mamba’s improved sensitivity for twitchy, fast-paced

shooters. The demands of gamers have driven innovation – these mice excel where office mice won’t.”





The game


How one video gamer’s need to

skill-up changed the way we play

Min-Liang Tan is currently

playing Fall Guys: Ultimate

Knockout, the cutesy

multiplayer battle royale game

that has taken the world by

storm. And the 43-year-old

Singaporean has an edge over

his opponents: all the gear –

including the PC – that he’s

playing on was designed by

him and built by his gaming

company, Razer. The business

earned him a place on the top

40 list of the most powerful

people in video games in 2012,

and five years later, at 40, he

became Singapore’s youngest

self-made billionaire.

And yet the former lawyer's

success in the industry was

merely born out of the simple

desire to be a better player.

“When you miss a shot, you

never think, ‘It’s my skill,’” Tan

laughs. “I just wanted a better

mouse, so we built one.” That

was in 1999, and the result was

the Boomslang, the world’s

first dedicated gaming mouse.

Today, Razer applies that

same mindset to building

gaming laptops, headsets,

smartphones and more, and

the brand – and Tan – have

generated something akin

to a personality cult. “We

get thousands of photos of

people with Razer logo

tattoos,” he says. “Somebody

even tattooed my face on

himself,” Last year, a fan

even named their son Razer

after the company.

For Tan, though, this is

less about corporate success

and more about community.

“I’ve never thought of myself

as a CEO,” he says. “I’ve

always been a gamer.” And

Tan applies that ethos to

everything he does: “It’s

about finding that competitive

advantage to help you win.”

I’ve learnt to trust

my instincts

“With the Boomslang, we

didn’t set out to make a huge

amount of money. It was more

like, ‘This is something I need,

and I’m sure there are others

who’d want it, too.’ When we

redesigned the gaming laptop

to be super-thin, we got a lot

of hate. Everybody said, ‘This

isn’t what gamers want – they

want something thick and

powerful.’ But we brought in

thermal engineers and made

it thin and powerful. Now it’s

the industry standard.”

If it works for gamers,

it’s for everyone

“It’s cool to see non-gamers

using our products. We’ve got

medical professionals getting

them for their precision, and

I’ve seen a space programme

using our mousepads on TV.

People don’t do competitive

Excel spreadsheets, but



Min-Liang Tan: gamer, billionaire businessman and zombie (as

seen in the 2015 gaming spinoff film Dead Rising: Watchtower)

we’ve had requests from the

financial industry saying,

‘Our traders are using Razer

mice and keypads to do fast

actuations. Would you make

office stuff?’ But we’re not

going mainstream – we’re

more interested in the

mainstream coming to us.”

Class of 2020: the Razer

BlackShark V2 Pro, a state-ofthe-art

wireless gaming headset

Bad ideas are poorly

executed good ideas

“We were the first to go with

the whole matte-black theme

that has become the colour

for gamers. Then we added

LEDs, starting with single

colours and then RGB lighting.

Designing with light is

incredibly difficult: if you

use too little, it’s pointless;

too much and it’s garish.

I’m in meetings about how

many millimetres of light

we’re going to put into the

stairway of our new building

– it’s four storeys high, and

we’re doing multiple models

just to get the perfect

amount of light.

Great solutions are

always in demand

“Recently, I slipped a disk.

Then I got a whole bunch

of gamers saying, ‘I’ve got

the same problem from

playing too many games.’

I summoned my head of

engineering and said, ‘What

are you gonna do about it?’

And he goes, ‘You should

be asking an orthopaedic

surgeon.’ But I said, ‘You

guys are going to design

something, because I’m sure

other people will want the

solution. Let’s come up with

something good and maybe

it’ll ship hundreds of millions

of dollars of product.’”

Sometimes I need to

keep my mouth shut

“One gamer really wanted

a Razer toaster. I said, ‘Get

to a million likes and maybe

I’ll make it.’ I check in on

him from time to time. Then

somebody said, ‘I’ll get a

Razer toaster tattoo,’ and

I made the mistake of

saying, ‘Get 10 people to

do it and I’ll make one.’ I think

today they may have 15

people with that tattoo.

I promised to make it, but

I didn’t say when. We’ve had

some early prototypes, but

it’s not up to par yet, So I’m

still working on it. It’s got to

be the ultimate toaster.”







Sadie Nardini discovered

yoga to get back on her feet.

Now she’s reinvented the

practice to work for everyone

Sadie Nardini’s fitness

journey started with an

accident. When she was 13,

a man cannonballed into a

swimming pool and landed

on her head, leaving Nardini

partially paralysed. “The

doctors said I would probably

never walk again,” she

explains. “They stabilised

me and sent me home.”

While Nardini was stuck

inside, day in, day out, her

mother introduced her to

gentle yoga poses, hoping they

would help her body to heal.

And they did – two years later,

she was able to stand again.

Soon, she felt ready to rebuild

her muscles. Then Nardini

discovered power yoga.

“All I knew about yoga at

this point was that you lie

around and breathe,” she

remembers. “When I realised

that there was yoga that could

confront and strengthen me,

I found my calling.”

In her mid-twenties,

Nardini began instructing

around the world and gained a

global following as a rock-star

yogini (female master yoga

practitioner), promoting an

innovative approach to

traditional yoga. “I’d play

David Bowie in my classes

– my message would be all

about fun empowerment,”

the 49-year-old Californiabased

instructor says today.

“That wasn’t being done at

all back then.”

Nardini had the idea for her

most recent workout while

running through the airport in

Paris to catch a plane. “What

I’d been doing for 20 years

was endurance-based slow

strength, but I was terribly out

of cardiovascular shape,” she

says, “so I went to a few HIIT

[high-intensity interval

training] classes. It was fun,

but as an anatomy-and-joint

expert I was horrified. Many

of the moves were too hard

on the joints; people were

hurting themselves.”

So she developed the Yoga

Shred, a cardio workout that

takes the flowing movements

of vinyasa yoga as a starting

point – improving core

strength through a sequences

of poses – and burns fat

through high-intensity cardio

exercises, always with a focus

on protecting your joints. “It

makes yoga people superherostrong

and gives cross-train

people more range of motion

and flexibility,” Nardini says.

“It’s a nice way to get all the

benefits of both practices in

only 20 minutes per day.”

Nardini’s Yoga Shred can

be studied at home through She’s

offering five weeks of fitness

classes for free with the


The Yoga Shred burpee

in six steps

The burpee is a classic HIIT move, but it can be hard on

the joints,” says Nardini. “Modify it with yoga alignment”

1 2 3 4 5 6

1 Stand halfway up your mat with your feet hipwidth

apart. Place your hands on two yoga blocks

(better for the wrists and shoulders) or the mat.

2 Step back into an extended plank with your

knees bent, feet still wide apart. Lift your abs so

that the curve of your lower back is no longer

dropping towards the floor, which can hurt it.

3 Step halfway up the mat with your feet still

hip-width apart. This will position them beneath

your hips for less knee strain and a more powerful

centre of gravity.

4 Lift with your abs until you are in Chair Pose

(standing like a chair). Pull your knees and hips

back to protect the knees.

5 Press down your heels to firm your glutes, and

stand quickly with ‘Fists of Fire’ (bend elbows and

quickly sweep your fists down beside your hips)

6 Alternatively, jump out of Chair Pose with

Fists of Fire into your hips. If you hop, land with

your hips and knees pulled back to prevent

pressure on your knees.






Baby boomers Small speakers, large sound, maximum mobility

Looking for some audiophile advice

on the ideal speaker size and form

factor, and where best to position

it for optimal sound? The answers

are: small, anything that looks cool,

and anywhere you can take it.

Today’s Bluetooth wireless

speakers prove that good sound

is no longer exclusive to a wooden

box plugged into a vacuum-bulb

amplifier. Left to right, from top:

JBL Xtreme 3 with 15 hours of

battery life,; ANKER

Soundcore Rave Mega party

speaker,; URBANEARS

Rålis with 20 hours of wireless play,; SACKIT BOOMit

high-power portable designer


Boom 3 with an IP67 water- and

dustproof rating,;

NAIM Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation,; BANG & OLUFSEN

Beosound 1,






Inner bass Wireless earbuds with big headphone features

The ear is home to the tiniest bones

in the human body, and now it can

house the smallest full-spec speaker

systems, too. Miniature audio tech

has made big advances, bringing us

wireless in-ear ’buds with active and

passive noise-cancelling, touch

controls, water resistance, batterycharging

cases, and sound quality

to match over-ear ’phones. Left to

right, from top: X BY KYGO Xellence,; RHA TrueConnect 2,; CAMBRIDGE AUDIO

Melomania 1,;

BANG & OLUFSEN Beoplay E8 3rd



SENNHEISER Momentum True

Wireless 2,;

TECHNICS Truly Wireless EAH-


Indy Evo,; JBL

Reflect Flow,; JAYBIRD






November onwards

ONE DAY, 4061M & 4478M

The numbers in the title of this film are the heights of Gran Paradiso and the Matterhorn – two peaks

in the Italian Alps that ultrarunner Fernanda Maciel summited in one day (August 20 this year), the

former earning the 40-year-old Brazilian a new female Fastest Known Time (FKT). Her achievement

is made all the more profound by the knowledge that her flatmate lost their life on the Matterhorn

only a year earlier, and Maciel suffered frozen eyes while attempting the climb two years prior to

that. Just a day after her ascent, 25 climbers were trapped in a landslide on its slopes. This is an

inspiring, exhilarating movie about overcoming physical limits and personal demons.


November onwards




The freestyle football scene has

exploded over the last decade, rising

from performance art to pro sport

and culminating in the Red Bull Street

Style World Final (to be held on Nov

14). Mixing acrobatics, dance and

dazzling ball control, Street Style

is a form of self-expression for its

practitioners. This film examines the

evolution of the scene from street to

internet to stadium, to discover what

it takes to be the best.





London’s popular crazy

golf experience brings

its bonkers putting

courses to Peckham –

with social distancing,

of course, and drinks

pinged your way from

the bar. Peckham

Levels, London;






Looking to escape from

2020? This cyberpunkthemed

gaming dry bar

serves up both the

techno future and the

retro past with three

arenas of VR-connected

play and a classic

computer games

lounge, all with COVID

precautions strictly

in place. London;











It’s been a tough year for

cinema, but here you can

catch Xmas films like Die

Hard and Elf, armed with

a boozy hot chocolate

from the heated bar.

Capital Studios, London;


to 19 November



This world tour of the

year’s most incredible

nautical-themed films –

including documentaries

on a 6,000km row

across the Atlantic,

and subzero surfing

– goes virtual for 2020.

Passes also grant

access to filmmaker

and oceanographer

Q&As, and behind-thescenes







For Charli XCX – like

the rest of the world –

2020 has not gone as

planned. Having had

to postpone projects

due to the pandemic,

the British pop star

decided to record

a lockdown album,

How I’m Feeling Now,

which she announced

on Zoom in April and

released to critical

acclaim a month later.

But before social

distancing came into

force, she filmed this

interview with US

music journalist Will

L Cooper in front of

a live audience at

the Hammer Museum

in Los Angeles.

A Conversation

with Charli XCX is a

candid and insightful

discussion of the

musician’s work and







This free museum

dedicated to the study

of human experience

reopened in October

with exhibits examining

how that perspective

has changed. US visual

artist Kerry Tribe’s work

Standardized Patient

looks at doctor/patient

dynamics, while

London-based Sop’s

sound project The Den

explores enforced

isolation. London;




Majestic mountains, breathtaking views, perfect

pistes: Zell am See-Kaprun is a snow lover’s dream

Do you ever just close your eyes

and imagine escaping your

day-to-day surroundings?

After the year that we’ve all

endured, more people than ever

will be doing just that, daydreaming

about whisking themselves off to

far-flung locations.

With its awe-inspiring mountains,

expansive lakes, powdery snow

and perfect vistas, the Austrian

ski resort of Zell am See-Kaprun

is certainly a dream destination.

Around an hour and 20 minutes

by car from Salzburg Airport, and

about twice that from Munich, the

picturesque town of Zell perches

Powder play:

fresh snow

is in plentiful

supply on


in Zell am See-


on the edge of the beautiful Lake

Zell, with the snow-covered majesty

of the 1,965m-high Schmittenhöhe

mountain reflected in its serene

waters. Get your hands on the multiresort

Ski Alpin Card (available at and other outlets) and

you’ll have access to the slopes

of the Schmittenhöhe as well as

two neighbouring ski areas, making

it your pass to a huge snow-covered

playground with 408km of the very

best pistes in Austria.

Zell am See-Kaprun is a snow-sure

resort, largely thanks to the

Kitzsteinhorn Glacier above Kaprun,

which is open for skiing from early

October to the middle of July. The

Kitzsteinhorn is the dominant

mountain in Zell am See-Kaprun.

It’s also the only glacial ski resort

in Salzburg, but it’s super

accessible. A new hyper-modern

cable car from Maiskogel to

Kitzsteinhorn provides ski-in,

ski-out access to the glacier right

from Kaprun town centre.

The Gipfelwelt 3000 Top of

Salzburg panorama platform, which

is situated 3,209 above sea level,

looks out across the pristine

wilderness of the Hohe Tauern

National Park; to the south, you can

see the 3,798m-tall Großglockner

– the highest mountain in Austria –

while to the west is the glaciated

peak of the Großvenediger. Its

name translates to English as

‘Great Venetian’, believed by some

to be a reference to the Venetian

merchants who once travelled

along this route.

The range of skiing on offer in Zell

am See-Kaprun is so vast that,

whatever your preferred style,

you’ll have no problem finding it.

The terrain is ideal for beginners

and intermediates, with the runs

in Zell primarily blues and reds.

Schmittenhöhe is great for

intermediate cruising, and the

long red run to the zellamseeXpress

cable-car station is particularly

fun to weave down.

There are also a handful of

black runs that are especially

good to ride in the morning, and

the 1km-long Black Mamba on

the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier is

so-named because it winds from

the Kristallbahn valley station

to Langwiedboden like the

eponymous snake. It’s also by

far the steepest piste on the

glacier, with a gradient of 63 per

cent – and once you’re on it,

there’s no way of getting off

except by riding it out, so be

sure to go in with confidence!

If off-piste is more your thing,

there are marked freeride

routes and information points

on Kitzsteinhorn, and as well

as the huge panoramas on

the Schmittenhöhe you’ll find

the tremendous Trass ride –

a 4km route dropping 1,100m





Nearest airports:

Salzburg Airport


Munich (206km),

Innsbruck (148km)

Number of lifts:

28 (49 including

Maiskogel and


Total piste


77km (138km

including Maiskogel

and Kitzsteinhorn;

408km with

Ski Alpin Card)



Highest mountain:




tracks: 107km



Piste mode: experience the thrill of freeriding on the Kitzsteinhorn

Magical: the view at night from Mitterberg

in altitude and bringing you back

to Zell am See. If you’re around

for long enough, the Ski Alpin

Card also opens up the Skicircus

Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang

Fieberbrunn, with an additional

270km of pistes, a short bus

ride away. And there’s a natural

snow piste from Saalbach down

to the zellamseeXpress, which

will bring you to the

Schmittenhöhe ski area.

Back in Zell, the architecture may

be traditional – the area has been

continuously populated since at

least Roman times – but this is

a town that certainly isn’t stuck

in the past. Zell’s weekly winter

programme makes it easy to join

in on winter yoga classes, torchlit

walks under starry skies, and

guided snowshoe hikes.

And, if you get lucky, Lake Zell

might even freeze over, giving you

the cue to pull on a pair of skates

and weave and wind your way across

the frozen water against a heavenly

backdrop. Now that’s definitely the

stuff that dreams are made of.






The Red

Bulletin is

published in six

countries. This is

the cover of our US

edition for December,

featuring basketball

star and social justice

advocate Renee


For more stories

beyond the ordinary,

go to:

The Red Bulletin UK.

ABC certified distribution

153,505 (Jan-Dec 2019)


Alexander Müller-Macheck

Deputy Editor-in-Chief

Andreas Rottenschlager

Creative Director

Erik Turek

Art Directors

Kasimir Reimann (deputy CD),

Miles English, Tara Thompson

Head of Photo

Eva Kerschbaum

Deputy Head of Photo

Marion Batty

Photo Director

Rudi Übelhör

Production Editor

Marion Lukas-Wildmann

Managing Editor

Ulrich Corazza

Copy Chief

Andreas Wollinger


Marion Bernert-Thomann, Martina de Carvalho-

Hutter, Kevin Goll, Carita Najewitz

Photo Editors

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General Manager & Publisher

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Managing Director

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Head of Media Sales & Partnerships

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Publishing Management Sara Varming (manager),

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Commercial Design Peter Knehtl (manager),

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Assistant to General Management

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(distribution), Yoldaş Yarar (subscriptions)

Global Editorial Office

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Tel: +43 1 90221 28800,

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United Kingdom, ISSN 2308-5894


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Florian Obkircher

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Enquiries or orders to: subs@uk. Back issues available

to purchase at:

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Austria, ISSN 1995-8838


Christian Eberle-Abasolo


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Publishing Management

Bernhard Schmied

Sales Management The Red Bulletin

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France, ISSN 2225-4722


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Country Coordinator

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Country Project Management

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Contributors, Translators

and Proofreaders

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Germany, ISSN 2079-4258


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Hans Fleißner (manager),

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Country Project Management

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Todd Peters,

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Tanya Foster,


Action highlight

Ready to roll

For his latest video, German skater Vladik Scholz (pictured) and his board

buddies Madars Apse, Gustavo Ribeiro and Jost Arens were shrunk to the size

of woodlice and placed inside one of those labyrinth games that involve

manoeuvring a ball around a maze. Or was it the set that was made bigger?

Whatever, the results are spectacular. Watch the video at

The next

issue of


is out on

December 8



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