The Red Bulletin April 2021 (US)

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BEYOND THE ORDINARY THE RED BULLETIN 04/<strong>2021</strong><br />


THE GAME<br />


Pro cyclist J<strong>US</strong>TIN WILLIAMS aspires<br />

to do more than win big races—he’s<br />

out to transform bike racing in America<br />

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FOR<br />

THOSE<br />

THAT<br />

RISE.<br />

To live, To is live, to rise.<br />

to rise.<br />

And whether And whether you like you it or like not, it or adventures not, adventures don’t don’t<br />

fi t conveniently fi t conveniently into a 9 into a 5. 9 to 5.<br />

So you, So yeah you, you, yeah wipe you, that wipe sleep that out sleep of out your of eyes. your eyes.<br />

Wake Wake up. Lace up. up. Lace Gear up. up. Gear Now, up. fl Now, y. fl y.<br />

It’s a new It’s a day, new and day, there’s and there’s daylight daylight to burn. to burn.<br />

It’s time It’s to time rise. to rise.

With the sun setting over Malibu, Joe Pugliese captures Justin Williams in repose.<br />


SEEING<br />

THE<br />

LIGHT<br />

Bicycles are simple tools.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y’re just two wheels<br />

and a frame, a handlebar<br />

and some pedals. And yet<br />

there’s something magical<br />

about them; even today<br />

physicists don’t fully<br />

understand why they’re so<br />

stable in motion. <strong>The</strong>se<br />

machines can multitask as<br />

transportation workhorses,<br />

race vehicles, instruments<br />

of self-expression or toys<br />

for recreation. Bikes can<br />

help people get fit, lose<br />

weight, find grit, express<br />

individuality and otherwise<br />

change their lives for the<br />

better.<br />

Two features in this issue<br />

demonstrate the power of<br />

bikes to truly move people.<br />





Williams did some hard sprint efforts on<br />

Saddle Peak with Pugliese on his tail.<br />

Our cover story, “Power<br />

Broker” (page 22), profiles<br />

Justin Williams, a pro bike<br />

racer whose life has taken<br />

him from a tough L.A.<br />

neighborhood to become<br />

one of America’s top<br />

criterium racers. And along<br />

the way, he’s transforming<br />

the demographics and<br />

future of his sport.<br />

In a similar vein, “Taking<br />

the Leap” (page 34) explores<br />

the past, present and<br />

future of Formation, a<br />

groundbreaking event that<br />

is changing women’s place<br />

in the freeriding mountain<br />

bike universe. <strong>The</strong> story<br />

details the history of this<br />

landmark event and offers<br />

some wisdom on how<br />

women want to express<br />

themselves on bicycles.<br />

In short, bikes can take<br />

you where you want to go.<br />

We hope you join the ride.<br />

PARIS<br />

GORE<br />

Already a veteran of shooting<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull Rampage, Gore was<br />

excited to shoot the first<br />

Formation. “I knew many of<br />

the riders prior to Formation,<br />

so it was really exciting to see<br />

them all challenge themselves<br />

in new ways,” says the<br />

Bellingham, Washingtonbased<br />

photographer, who has<br />

shot for National Geographic,<br />

Bike and Outside as well as<br />

brands like BMW, Patagonia<br />

and Arc’teryx. “<strong>The</strong> way the<br />

women supported each other<br />

brought a unique vibe to the<br />

whole event.” Page 34<br />

JOE<br />


<strong>The</strong> Los Angeles-based<br />

photographer has shot<br />

presidents, Hollywood legends<br />

and moguls but has long had a<br />

personal passion for bike<br />

racing and jumped at the<br />

chance to shoot Justin<br />

Williams. “I’ve known Justin<br />

and his brother, Cory, since<br />

they were junior racers,” says<br />

Pugliese, who has also<br />

photographed Kate Courtney<br />

and Ken Roczen for <strong>The</strong> <strong>Red</strong><br />

<strong>Bulletin</strong> and shot covers for<br />

<strong>The</strong> Hollywood Reporter,<br />

Fortune, Variety, Outside and<br />

many other titles. Page 22<br />

EVAN<br />

MAJORS<br />

“After interviewing Blxst, it<br />

was clear to me that he’s an<br />

artist I think we’re going to<br />

hear a lot from in the future,”<br />

says Majors, who profiled the<br />

rising hip-hop star. “I think<br />

he’s going to be one of those<br />

rare artists who is going to<br />

move fluidly between all<br />

genres of music as a producer<br />

and songwriter—he has that<br />

‘it’ factor.” A part-time writer<br />

who has penned features for<br />

Bleu magazine, Majors is a<br />

casting director and talent<br />

executive who resides in Los<br />

Angeles. Page 9<br />

D<strong>US</strong>TIN<br />

SNIPES<br />

“I spent months researching<br />

night-sky photography,” says<br />

the Los Angeles-based portrait<br />

and sports photographer, who<br />

after meticulous preparation<br />

was able to capture an<br />

extraordinary shot of the <strong>Red</strong><br />

Bull Air Force descending over<br />

Marfa, Texas, on a starlight<br />

night. “I feel very fortunate to<br />

get to work with people who<br />

continue to push the<br />

boundaries of creativity.”<br />

Snipes’ work has appeared in<br />

ESPN <strong>The</strong> Magazine, Sports<br />

Illustrated and <strong>The</strong> New York<br />

Times Magazine. Page 44<br />



<strong>April</strong><br />


22 Power Broker<br />

Champion cyclist and sprinting specialist Justin Williams wants<br />

to do more than win big races. He wants to change his sport.<br />

34 Taking the Leap<br />

How the women of Formation, a groundbreaking event in<br />

Virgin, Utah, transformed freeride mountain biking forever.<br />

44 Bright Lights<br />

In Marfa, Texas, one photographer sets out to capture a<br />

different kind of flying object: the <strong>Red</strong> Bull Air Force.<br />

58 Raising the Reef<br />

A group of young Polynesians are fighting to protect the<br />

world’s reefs against the effects of global warming.<br />

68 Driving Change<br />

An unlikely alliance between motorsports and eco-activism<br />

spawned a new racing series with a mission to save the planet.<br />

44<br />


Strange lights have<br />

long attracted<br />

curious visitors to<br />

Marfa, Texas. This<br />

time it was the <strong>Red</strong><br />

Bull Air Force.<br />


26<br />

ANGYIL<br />

Tyler Blevins—known<br />

to his tens of millions<br />

of Fortnite fans as<br />

Ninja—knows how to<br />

balance his fame and<br />

stay grounded at home<br />

and on the road.<br />

22<br />


“I like to win, but I’m<br />

more interested in<br />

pursuing a greater<br />

good,” says Justin<br />

Williams. <strong>The</strong> gifted<br />

bike racer put on<br />

his <strong>Red</strong> Bull helmet<br />

for the first time<br />

on January 20.<br />

THE<br />


Taking You to New Heights<br />

9 L.A.-grown artist Blxst<br />

carves out his own lane<br />

12 A British curator puts<br />

diversity in the picture<br />

14 Autumnal mountain biking<br />

in the forests of France<br />

16 Ice-cool surfing in Alaska<br />

18 Body-positive surfers share<br />

their fight for recognition<br />

19 Common shares top tracks<br />

with the power of change<br />

GUIDE<br />

Get it. Do it. See it.<br />

81 Urban escapes: How to find<br />

close-to-home adventures<br />

84 Fitness tips from freeride<br />

MTB prodigy Jaxson Riddle<br />

86 Dates for your calendar<br />

88 <strong>The</strong> best trail-running gear<br />

94 Helmets for all seasons<br />

96 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Red</strong> <strong>Bulletin</strong> worldwide<br />

98 Rallying in Saudi Arabia<br />


58<br />


In the South Pacific,<br />

cultivated coral is<br />

fixed to a dead or<br />

damaged reef with a<br />

few dabs of marine<br />

cement.<br />


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THE<br />


<strong>The</strong> L.A.-grown, multihyphenate<br />

artist carves out his own lane<br />

—and makes no apologies.<br />


Since the release of his<br />

debut EP, No Love Lost,<br />

last September, Blxst<br />

has been busy working<br />

on his forthcoming LP.<br />


T H E D E P A R T U R E<br />

Living in L.A. can feel<br />

like a vacation—the<br />

sun-soaked days,<br />

towering palm trees, vast<br />

mountain ranges and<br />

beautiful beaches. It’s lovely<br />

for many people, but in South<br />

Los Angeles, there is a<br />

different existence, one that is<br />

distracting and dangerous and<br />

surrounded by gangs. This<br />

was the reality for the multihyphenate<br />

rapper, singer,<br />

songwriter and producer<br />

Blxst, who grew up near 75th<br />

Street and Central Avenue.<br />

“When I was young, living<br />

with my mom, my school was<br />

eight blocks away from my<br />

house,” says Blxst. “It was<br />

literally between two gangs,<br />

where anything could happen<br />

on any street.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> twentysomething<br />

artist has been singing for as<br />

long as he can remember, but<br />

September 2020 marked the<br />

release of his debut EP, No<br />

Love Lost, on <strong>Red</strong> Bull Records.<br />

In just a week, the collection,<br />

which seamlessly blends rap<br />

and R&B, picked up 4 million<br />

streams and reached 75<br />

million streams as of January.<br />

<strong>The</strong> deluxe version, which<br />

dropped in December,<br />

features bonus tracks with Ty<br />

Dolla $ign, Tyga, Dom<br />

Kennedy and Bino Rideaux.<br />

His versatility, DIY ethos and<br />

singsong, melodic funk sound<br />

have been compared to the<br />

“King of Hooks”—the late hiphop<br />

legend Nate Dogg.<br />

Growing up, Blxst dreamed<br />

of playing in the NBA, but he<br />

eventually fell out of love with<br />

basketball. To escape the<br />

trappings of South L.A. street<br />

life, he relocated to the Inland<br />

Empire with his dad.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Inland Empire—or<br />

“the IE”— is a short drive east<br />

from Los Angeles, but worlds<br />

away from South L.A. Known<br />

for its harsh deserts, mountain<br />

towns and sprawling suburbs,<br />

the IE is where Blxst picked up<br />

a new love—skateboarding.<br />

“I was definitely invested in<br />

skateboarding,” Blxst says<br />

during a phone interview on<br />

MLK Day. “I was skating every<br />

day, like to the point where I<br />

thought it was going to be my<br />

future—until I got a reality<br />

check and broke my ankle.<br />

That led me to picking up a<br />

laptop. I started recording<br />

myself and taught myself how<br />

to make beats when I was<br />

around 16 years old.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> change of scenery<br />

allowed Blxst to hone his craft<br />

and his sound, but more<br />

importantly, learn how to be<br />

his authentic self. “Living in<br />

the IE was the complete<br />

opposite of South Central,”<br />

says Blxst. “It was more<br />

suburban. <strong>The</strong> school system<br />

was strict, but it also made me<br />

keep to myself. I didn’t really<br />

know anybody out there, so<br />

that’s how I fell into the pocket<br />

of being home and just<br />

creating music.”<br />

For Blxst, the decision to<br />

lean into his music career<br />

eventually paid off, but it<br />

wasn’t without contention<br />

from some of the people who<br />

were closest to him. After the<br />

release of his first single,<br />

“Who Would’ve Thought,” in<br />

2016, and his 2019 breakout<br />

hit, “Hurt,” Blxst’s rising<br />

success and the amount of<br />

time he spent focused on his<br />

work caused some friction<br />

with friends and family.<br />

“Sometimes people around<br />

you can’t understand,” Blxst<br />

explains. “It takes separation<br />

for elevation. Being away from<br />

everyone gave me a different<br />

perspective, a sense of<br />

discipline. I decided I wanted<br />

to do things for myself and<br />

have a different dedication<br />

towards my music.”<br />

With this newfound focus,<br />

Blxst teamed up with R&B<br />

sensation Eric Bellinger to<br />

produce the 2018 track “By<br />

Now.” In return, the singer<br />

appeared on Blxst’s single<br />

“Can I.” Picking up on this<br />

momentum, Blxst joined<br />

forces with Bino Rideaux for<br />

the collaborative Sixtape in<br />

2019. To date it’s generated<br />

nearly 5 million total streams,<br />

flaunting fan favorites such as<br />

“Selfish” and “Bacc Home.”<br />

“I felt the pressure early<br />

on trying to build my<br />

foundation,” Blxst says of his<br />

career beginnings. “I didn’t<br />

even know where I was going<br />

to lay my head at a certain<br />

point. I was just trying to<br />

follow through with the plan,<br />

just strategizing and executing<br />

and believing in myself.”<br />

It was around this time that<br />

Blxst came to a difficult fork in<br />

the road, where he had to<br />

make a choice between the<br />

people he loved and chasing<br />

his dreams. “That’s what a lot<br />

of No Love Lost is about,” Blxst<br />

says. “It’s saying ‘no hard<br />

feelings’ to my loved ones, to<br />

my friends—that I had to take<br />

time away from them to be<br />

self-sufficient and support<br />

myself. Sorry, not sorry.”<br />

But it’s also that type of<br />

perspective and selfassuredness<br />

that’s led Blxst to<br />

find his own lane in an already<br />

crowded hip-hop space. “I<br />

create music for the soul,” Blxst<br />

says. “No matter what genre it<br />

is, it’s going to be intentional.<br />

I create what’s missing in the<br />

game. I feel like people are<br />

missing that love connection,<br />

that honesty, that soulfulness,<br />

and I want to be that.”<br />

As he wraps up work on his<br />

first full-length album, set to<br />

be released later this summer,<br />

Blxst continues to stand firm<br />

in his own truth as an artist.<br />

“[My music] is about being<br />

authentic and being real with<br />

myself,” he says. “I’m opening<br />

up and giving the listener an<br />

opportunity to know that<br />

they’re not alone, no matter<br />

what emotion they’re feeling.<br />

I just want to be able to show<br />

people that it’s cool to feel, it’s<br />

cool to love. It’s cool to be who<br />

you are.” —Evan Majors<br />


“I create music for<br />

the soul,” Blxst says.<br />

“No matter what<br />

genre it is, it’s going<br />

to be intentional.”<br />






T H E D E P A R T U R E<br />

Bolanle Tajudeen<br />



This U.K.-based creative, activist and entrepreneur is<br />

reinventing the education system with her Black<br />

Blossoms School of Art and Culture.<br />

When Bolanle<br />

Tajudeen began<br />

frequenting<br />

galleries and museums eight<br />

years ago, while studying PR<br />

at the University of the Arts<br />

London (UAL), it changed her<br />

life. She fell in love with art. But it<br />

was the inequality the Nigerianborn<br />

Londoner encountered in<br />

both the education system and<br />

the mainstream art world that<br />

prompted her to become a<br />

curator. “I was around so many<br />

creatives of color, but I didn’t see<br />

their work reflected in the<br />

industry,” she says. At UAL,<br />

Tajudeen began displaying the<br />

work of Black artists for Black<br />

History Month. By 2019, she’d<br />

hosted successful exhibitions and<br />

taught a sell-out course, Art in the<br />

Age of Black Girl Magic, at Tate<br />

Britain. Yet she was struggling: “I<br />

worked in a fried chicken shop to<br />

pay the rent. I was applying for<br />

museum and gallery roles and<br />

not getting them. I grew up in<br />

[public housing], so I had to build<br />

my own network. No one knew I<br />

was broke.”<br />

Fast-forward to <strong>2021</strong> and the<br />

32-year-old has found a way to<br />

bypass traditional institutions<br />

and promote a more diverse<br />

perspective on art. Her Black<br />

Blossoms School of Art and<br />

Culture curates affordable,<br />

accessible online courses that<br />

aim to decolonize, deconstruct<br />

and democratize the education<br />

system. And, Tajudeen says,<br />

that’s just the beginning.<br />

the red bulletin: What does<br />

art mean to you?<br />

bolanle tajudeen: I never<br />

went to galleries growing up—<br />

they didn’t feel like spaces for<br />

me. But art was everywhere.<br />

At Nigerian parties, the way<br />

people would tie their head<br />

scarves was artistic. Even how<br />

the boys would hang around<br />

our [home]—compositionally,<br />

it was an aesthetic. I feel seen<br />

when I see art that speaks to me<br />

or has been made with me in<br />

mind. I’m very political, but I’m<br />

over standing on a soapbox.<br />

I believe art can be a tool for<br />

change. It speaks to me being<br />

a woman, being Black, being<br />

a mother. Art helps me articulate<br />

feelings that I might not be able<br />

to with words.<br />

What hurdles did you face in<br />

becoming a curator?<br />

I’m not from a curatorial<br />

background. I’ve educated<br />

myself. I’ve taken courses and<br />

attended conferences and<br />

artists’ talks to really understand<br />

the history of Black art in this<br />

country. And I’ve got a teaching<br />

qualification. But I didn’t want<br />

to study art history. <strong>The</strong> courses<br />

don’t talk about the things I<br />

want to discuss. I didn’t want to<br />

spend more money just to learn<br />

about old, dead white guys.<br />

Was that sentiment why your<br />

Tate Britain course sold out?<br />

It was one of the first courses of<br />

its kind at any major institution.<br />

It focused on the historical and<br />

contemporary practices of Black<br />

female and nonbinary artists,<br />

using the Tate collection and<br />

work outside of that, too. I put a<br />

lot about activism in there; how<br />

artists have responded to social<br />

upheaval and political change.<br />

It spoke to people, as there was<br />

nothing else like it.<br />

Is that why you founded your<br />

school, Black Blossoms?<br />

I first thought about it while<br />

working as an education<br />

officer at UAL after my studies.<br />

I wanted to decolonize the<br />

curriculum, get more authors<br />

of color on reading lists,<br />

more [minority] lecturers<br />

teaching courses. <strong>The</strong>n, when<br />

[COVID] closed museums and<br />

galleries, I decided to teach<br />

online. I realized I knew so<br />

many great experts and this was<br />

our chance to make a change.<br />

For me, the pandemic took away<br />

the power of universities and<br />

other institutions. We can all be<br />

curators now; we’ve got Zoom,<br />

and people are doing courses<br />

at home in a way that felt<br />

unnatural in 2019. Before,<br />

I never had the confidence, the<br />

social clout or the capital to say,<br />

“We don’t need the backing of<br />

an institution—we can do it<br />

ourselves.”<br />

What has been the response?<br />

Amazing. People have said it’s<br />

revolutionary.<br />

What’s next?<br />

I’m working on opening 40 artist<br />

studios, a gallery and a website<br />

where artists and writers of<br />

color can write about the art<br />

world. My ideal would be for<br />

all Black households in Britain<br />

to have a Black Blossoms<br />

subscription. A lot of Black<br />

people don’t feel comfortable in<br />

museums and galleries—this<br />

could be their entry point.<br />

Basically I’m hoping for a mini<br />

Black Blossoms empire!<br />

black-blossoms.online<br />




“GROWING UP,<br />




FOR ME.”<br />


T H E D E P A R T U R E<br />

Brioude, France<br />



In life, sometimes everything just comes<br />

together. Take Jean-Baptiste Liautard’s<br />

last-minute assignment to shoot mountain<br />

biker Amaury Pierron. Following a flight<br />

from Vancouver, then a long drive, the<br />

photographer arrived in south-central<br />

France, tired and short of ideas. Enter a<br />

sudden snowstorm. “I remember running<br />

in every direction, trying to figure out the<br />

shot I should do and the lighting needed,”<br />

he says, “but I’m glad I had time to set up<br />

everything before it stopped snowing.<br />

We were even lucky with the fall tones of<br />

the trees perfectly matching Amaury’s<br />

gear and bike.” Thank you, Mother Nature.<br />




Yakutat, Alaska<br />


Action sports photographer Dom Daher<br />

was working at the Freeride World Tour in<br />

Haines, Alaska, when he received a text<br />

from former freeride medalist Anne-Flore<br />

Marxer. “She said it was pumping in Yakutat<br />

and we should go right after the event,”<br />

recalls the Frenchman. “So the next day<br />

we flew there—in a very small plane.”<br />

Yakutat in southeast Alaska has a<br />

population of just 600—“the town cop<br />

knows everyone’s home phone number by<br />

heart,” reports Daher—and a wave that<br />

local surfers keep a fiercely guarded<br />

secret. Nevertheless, resident teacher<br />

Andrew (pictured) was on hand to add a<br />

human element to this dramatic shot.<br />


T H E D E P A R T U R E<br />



<strong>The</strong> true surfing<br />

community has never<br />

been as tanned and<br />

toned as the marketing lets on.<br />

While brands push the image<br />

of six-packs and supermodels,<br />

anyone who has surfed<br />

California’s breaks will know<br />

that the wisest surfer in the<br />

water is often some crazy old<br />

dude on a longboard. Now,<br />

a new online movement is<br />

giving a platform to a surfing<br />

On board: Social<br />

influencer Elizabeth<br />

Sneed is among<br />

those challenging<br />

outdated surfing<br />

stereotypes.<br />

Body-Positive Surfers<br />


<strong>The</strong> plus-sized women board riders fighting<br />

for recognition in the surf community.<br />

demographic that has too<br />

long been overlooked: plussized<br />

women. A growing<br />

collective of professional<br />

board riders, including<br />

Brazilian Silvana Lima and<br />

American Bo Stanley, as well<br />

as amateurs such as fitness<br />

coach Kanoa Greene and<br />

online influencer Elizabeth<br />

Sneed, are pushing a new<br />

narrative in surfing that has<br />

space for women of every size.<br />

Texas-born Sneed, who<br />

owns the Instagram account<br />

@curvysurfergirl, only began<br />

surfing three and a half years<br />

ago after moving to Honolulu<br />

for work. She quickly fell in<br />

love with the sport and then<br />

looked for role models to<br />

follow. “But there are no<br />

images of curvy female surfers<br />

online,” Sneed explains.<br />

“So I got in touch with surf<br />

photographer Tommy Pierucki<br />

and asked if he wanted to<br />

create some shots.”<br />

Six months later, Pierucki’s<br />

images of Sneed have been<br />

viewed by more than 18,000<br />

followers on her Instagram<br />

and have sparked a global<br />

trend for surfers to post their<br />

own photos with the hashtag<br />

#curvysurfergirl. “We have<br />

to believe that we’re worthy<br />

and belong in the surfing<br />

community,” says Sneed.<br />

“You don’t have to stress out<br />

about your body or your<br />

insecurities. Seeing women<br />

of different body types in the<br />

water is so encouraging.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> body-positive surf<br />

movement is about more than<br />

self-confidence and good<br />

vibes, though. Sneed says<br />

that in her early days of<br />

surfing she struggled to even<br />

find performance gear that fit<br />

her. She now hopes the world’s<br />

biggest surf brands will finally<br />

pay attention. “This movement<br />

is a direct communication to<br />

them that there are women<br />

in this demographic who have<br />

a demand for surfwear and<br />

activewear [made for] the<br />

water,” she says. “Every single<br />

person who follows my<br />

Instagram is testament that<br />

something needs to be done.<br />

“I hope there are more<br />

photographers who will be<br />

inspired to turn their camera<br />

towards curvy women and<br />

create more images of people<br />

like me, so that in the near<br />

future we have a lot of curvy<br />

surfers out there shredding.<br />

We need to show all women,<br />

of every shape, that there’s a<br />

future for them in surfing.”<br />



T H E D E P A R T U R E<br />

Playlist<br />

SING THE<br />


Rapper, actor and activist<br />

Common shares four songs<br />

that embody the sound of<br />

revolution.<br />

Social activism and<br />

promoting positivity have<br />

long been trademarks of<br />

Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., best known<br />

as rapper and actor Common.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Chicagoan, a regular on the<br />

frontlines of protest in 2020, is the<br />

author of two best-selling books,<br />

has appeared in films including<br />

2014’s Selma—for which he<br />

co-wrote the Academy Awardwinning<br />

song “Glory” and starred<br />

as civil rights leader James Bevel—<br />

and has recorded 13 albums. With<br />

his latest, A Beautiful Revolution Pt.1<br />

(out now), the 49-year-old Oscar,<br />

Emmy and Grammy winner wants<br />

to heal and inspire those affected<br />

by racial and social injustice. Here<br />

he lists four classic tracks with the<br />

power to change the world.<br />

thinkcommon.com<br />



“IMAGINE” (1971)<br />

“This song has always resonated<br />

with me because I’m a dreamer<br />

and I really believe in a better<br />

world, full of love, compassion<br />

and happiness. Imagination is a<br />

powerful tool. So many things<br />

we create start off as an<br />

imagined thought or hopeful<br />

feeling. John’s inspiring words<br />

make me feel like change can<br />

happen. That, to me, is one of<br />

the seeds of revolution.”<br />


“UNITY” (1993)<br />

“<strong>The</strong> end result of revolution<br />

should be unity. Throughout<br />

history there’s been an<br />

imbalance of male energy and<br />

dominance that has negatively<br />

affected the world. Queen<br />

Latifah is empowering women,<br />

telling them they’re queens and<br />

they should demand respect.<br />

<strong>The</strong> revolution is nothing without<br />

women in power, in leadership<br />

roles, with respect and honor.”<br />


“UMI SAYS” (1999)<br />

“Mos played this to me before<br />

it came out, and I remember<br />

telling him, ‘This is one of the<br />

greatest records I’ve ever<br />

heard.’ It felt so soulful and<br />

uplifting. When I think of this<br />

song—especially the lyric ‘My<br />

Umi [‘mother’ in Arabic] said<br />

shine your light on the world’—<br />

I see it as an act of revolution.<br />

If you’re shining your light on<br />

the world, that’s part of it.”<br />



BE TELEVISED” (1971)<br />

“I was really young when I first<br />

heard this song. It was unique to<br />

me, because I’d never heard<br />

spoken word on a song before.<br />

As I got older, I really took heed<br />

of what he was saying. Gil Scott-<br />

Heron represents the true core,<br />

heart and purity of what<br />

revolution is: being unafraid,<br />

courageous, clever and having<br />

power in what you say.”<br />



7-Eleven employees give back to<br />

a local Feeding America food<br />

bank in 2019.<br />


How 7-Eleven and its customers are set to fight hunger through<br />

an innovative campaign.<br />

<strong>The</strong> past year has doled out a lot of harsh<br />

and unexpected adversity and demanded<br />

adaptions that no one could have imagined<br />

before the world turned upside down. Take the<br />

problem of hunger. Already a sweeping systemic<br />

issue in the U.S., things got tougher when the<br />

pandemic brought a steep rise in unemployment<br />

and triggered an increase in demand for food<br />

assistance. Feeding America® has projected that<br />

more than 50 million people, including 17 million<br />

children, could be food insecure due to the ongoing<br />

economic fallout from COVID-19.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re are no easy solutions to a problem of that<br />

enormity, but 7-Eleven is stepping up with a new<br />

campaign, a collaboration between the conveniencestore<br />

giant and Feeding America, the largest domestic<br />

hunger-relief organization in the country, that at once<br />

draws attention to the issue and promises to make<br />

a positive impact. Through an inventive program<br />

that will run from February 24 through <strong>April</strong> 27,<br />

7-Eleven—the company that invented to-go coffee<br />

and self-service soda fountains—expects to help<br />

provide an estimated 20 million meals* to the<br />

Feeding America network of food banks.<br />

*$1 equals at least 10 meals secured by Feeding America on behalf of member food banks.


“BRANDS CAN SIMULTANEO<strong>US</strong>LY BE A<br />


“I’m a big believer that brands can<br />

simultaneously be a force for growth and for<br />

good,” says Marissa Jarratt, 7-Eleven’s Chief<br />

Marketing Officer. Noting that 7-Eleven has<br />

roughly 10,000 stores in the U.S., while Feeding<br />

America is a nationwide network of 200 food<br />

banks, Jarratt sees an obvious synergy between<br />

the two community-based organizations.<br />

“7-Eleven franchisees are small business owners<br />

who really care about their communities and have<br />

a daily relationship with customers that’s deeper<br />

than just transactions, so this is a great chance to<br />

make a difference.”<br />

Here’s how the program will work. With<br />

every purchase at participating stores and via<br />

the company’s 7NOW delivery app, 7-Eleven<br />

customers will be able to round-up to contribute to<br />

the program—and thanks to zip code analysis, all<br />

the proceeds will be digitally routed to the nearest<br />

Feeding America member food bank. 7-Eleven will<br />

separately be making its own donations—last year<br />

the company helped to provide 1 million meals and<br />

donated more than $1 million in organic juices to<br />

21 food banks in 13 states.<br />

In order to drive engagement, 7-Eleven will be<br />

running a number of customer activations during<br />

the two-month program. Some will be exclusive<br />

to members of the company’s 7Rewards loyalty<br />

program, but others are open to all. Every Friday,<br />

for instance, the company will help provide one<br />

meal to Feeding America with the purchase of<br />

any large fountain, coffee or Slurpee drink. And to<br />

celebrate Pi Day—March 14 if you need help with<br />

the math—every participating store will be selling<br />

large pizzas for (wait for it) $3.14 and providing a<br />

meal with the purchase of each pie, whether it’s<br />

delivered or purchased in-store.<br />

Jarratt is excited how a few of 7-Eleven’s key<br />

partners have stepped up with creative prizes—<br />

what she calls “prizes that money can’t buy”—like<br />

a one-on-one virtual date with NFL Hall of Famer<br />

Emmitt Smith. Or an all-expenses-paid trip to<br />

Iceland (“when travel is back, of course,” says<br />

Jarratt) to see the Northern Lights. Anyone who<br />

rounds-up their change and scans their 7-Eleven<br />

app upon checkout in-store, or orders a delivery<br />

order through 7NOW and opts-in to round-up is<br />

eligible for these and other sweet prizes.<br />

In the end, though, this partnership isn’t about<br />

a fantasy vacation or even a deliciously affordable<br />

pizza—it’s about community engagement to help<br />

fight hunger. “Food insecurity has long been a<br />

problem in America but it’s spiking right now,”<br />

says Jarratt. “At 7-Eleven we talk often about<br />

wanting to activate awesome. Getting 7-Eleven<br />

franchisees and our customer and the company<br />

to work together to help provide millions of<br />

meals—that’s awesome.” —Peter Flax<br />



<strong>The</strong> program will urge<br />

customers to give—and<br />

ensure donations help<br />

provide meals to people in<br />

the same community.

POWER<br />

BROKER<br />

Justin Williams wants to do more than win<br />

big races. He wants to change his sport.<br />

Words PETER FLAX<br />

Photography JOE PUGLIESE<br />

“I like to win, but<br />

I’m more interested<br />

in pursuing a<br />

greater good,” says<br />

Williams, who was<br />

photographed in<br />

Malibu, California,<br />

on January 26.<br />


I<br />

It’s true that you can’t really win<br />

important bike races without raw watts,<br />

without unbridled speed. But it’s also<br />

true that you can’t come close to your<br />

full potential as a racer without<br />

something intangible—let’s call it<br />

racecraft. This amorphous term helps<br />

describe one’s ability to master tactics, to<br />

assess the competition and the course<br />

and the moment, to intuit several chess<br />

moves in the future. A bike racer who has<br />

an aptitude for racecraft has a huge<br />

advantage because he fully understands<br />

where to position himself for success.<br />

Justin Williams understands<br />

racecraft. He triumphantly posts up at<br />

a lot of bike races after a turbocharged<br />

sprint in the home stretch, but those<br />

wins are almost always set up through<br />

tactical acumen—knowing how and<br />

when to conserve energy, how to move<br />

fluidly toward the front, how to marshal<br />

teammates or foresee obstacles. In a<br />

similar manner, Williams, 31, has<br />

developed an acumen to chart his own<br />

course to break free from and possibly<br />

transform the often-inflexible sport in<br />

which he competes. “I want to change<br />

the sport of bike racing in America,” he<br />

says without swagger. “It has to be<br />

different, so it’s more vital and appeals<br />

to a broader group of people. It’s a lot of<br />

responsibility to take on that change,<br />

but I stopped letting people control<br />

what my destiny is going to be a long<br />

time ago.”<br />

On his unconventional and ambitious<br />

path, Williams has founded his own<br />

team and a development squad, both<br />

of which seek to win races but also<br />

provide better opportunities for young<br />

Black and Hispanic athletes. He<br />

simultaneously lives the lives of a<br />

professional athlete, a businessman and<br />

a content creator. And Williams is fully<br />

invested to both defend and grow the<br />

distinctive American discipline of<br />

criterium racing. “I obviously like to win<br />

but I’m more interested in pursuing a<br />

greater good,” he says. “I made some<br />

sacrifices—I let go of some other dreams<br />

to get here, but I’ve known for a long<br />

time that I want to be more than just<br />

a great athlete.”<br />


Including track and<br />

junior titles,<br />

Williams has won<br />

11 U.S. national<br />

championships and<br />

is the reigning<br />

criterium champ.

On January 20, Williams celebrates his new helmet with (from left) Payson McElveen, Colin<br />

Strickland, Reggie Miller and Kate Courtney.<br />

From the beginning, Justin Williams<br />

was the farthest thing from a typical<br />

American bike racer. He was born in<br />

South Los Angeles and was raised on<br />

39th Street at a time when everyone still<br />

called the neighborhood South Central.<br />

His family was from Belize, which<br />

actually has a pretty crazy bike racing<br />

culture. His father, Calman, had some<br />

success as a racer. But it’s safe to say that<br />

very few kids in South L.A. imagined<br />

themselves racing bikes—it was an<br />

activity that existed in a distant universe.<br />

But sports were important from the<br />

start. “I was lucky enough to grow up<br />

with a massive family,” Williams says,<br />

noting how he was always playing in the<br />

alley behind their apartment building<br />

with his brothers and “like 15 or 20 older<br />

cousins.” Naturally, when many of them<br />

came together to form a Little League<br />

team, they called themselves the Alley<br />

Cats. Williams saw the value in that<br />

community early on.<br />

Williams was into football initially,<br />

but he had issues with injuries and his<br />

mom’s disapproval. That’s how he got<br />

into cycling when he was 13. In an<br />

interview several years ago, he told me<br />

about how his father didn’t exactly make<br />

it easy for him at the start. His dad<br />

insisted that he ride on an indoor trainer<br />

nearly every day for two months and<br />

then took him on a pretty brutal maiden<br />

voyage—a 70-mile loop up to Malibu.<br />

After the young teenager got disabling<br />

cramps, Williams’ dad left him on the<br />

side of the road until an aunt drove up<br />

to get him. Williams expressed more<br />

bemusement than trauma when he<br />

recalled this story. “I understand what my<br />

dad was trying to convey,” he told me in<br />

that 2017 conversation. “Racing bikes is<br />

hard and you need to be serious about it.”<br />

Over time, Williams got pretty damn<br />

serious about it. He won a bunch of<br />

junior national titles on the track and<br />

had success on the road, too. He was on<br />

a professional squad as a teenager and<br />

after a few years was invited to join the<br />

prestigious Trek-Livestrong U23 team in<br />

Europe. For so many promising young<br />

elite racers, competing in big European<br />

events on a legit team is the equivalent to<br />

making the major leagues. But despite<br />

some promising results in races, Williams<br />

“IT’S NOT ENOUGH FOR ME TO J<strong>US</strong>T<br />




struggled. It can be tough for any young<br />

athlete to adjust to a new culture, but it<br />

was different for a young Black man<br />

from South L.A. with immigrant parents.<br />

“Going over to Europe made me feel<br />

really isolated,” he says now. “It was a<br />

mix of people making me feel like I<br />

didn’t belong and my own odd kind of<br />

experiences with being different.”<br />

<strong>The</strong>re were too many challenges and<br />

not enough support, disappointments<br />

that ultimately would inform and<br />

motivate future career moves in the sport.<br />

“When I was over there I just kept<br />

thinking if there was a way that I could<br />

continue to do the thing that I love doing,”<br />

he says. “I was thinking about Southern<br />

California and criterium racing.”<br />

In the following decade, after a period<br />

of ups and downs and team dramas that<br />

have been described elsewhere as his<br />

“wilderness years,” Williams eventually<br />

carved out his place as one of the top<br />

criterium racers in the U.S. In 2016 and<br />

2017, despite some tension with his<br />

team, he won a combined 30 races. And<br />

in 2018, racing as a sort of privateer with<br />

With three other <strong>Red</strong><br />

Bull cyclists (and an<br />

NBA Hall of Famer),<br />

Williams hits the road.<br />


a sponsorship from Specialized, he<br />

finished in the top 3 in a remarkable 30<br />

out of 35 races, found immediate success<br />

in <strong>Red</strong> Hook criteriums and won national<br />

championships both on the road and in<br />

the criterium.<br />

For those who don’t know the<br />

criterium discipline well, these races<br />

involve multiple laps on a closed course.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y typically last an hour or two—<br />

significantly shorter than a road race at<br />

the same level—and tend to be flat,<br />

relentlessly fast and full of sharp turns.<br />

“It’s a fast-moving, high-stakes chess<br />

match where if you make a mistake,<br />

you’re sliding across the ground in a<br />

millimeter-thick piece of fiber that does<br />

very little to protect you,” says Williams.<br />

“From the start I loved how the physical<br />

element reminded me of football. You<br />

know, when you’re playing wide receiver<br />

and you have a corner on you trying to<br />

jam you on the line; in a crit you often<br />

have to put a shoulder into somebody to<br />

slightly shift them. It’s a contact sport.”<br />

Colin Strickland has felt that<br />

shoulder. Now a winning gravel racer,<br />

Strickland used to compete against<br />

Williams in criteriums all over the<br />

country. “Justin’s assertive when he<br />

races—he knows what’s his and takes it,<br />

but he’s never a dick,” says Strickland.<br />

“<strong>The</strong>re’s a culture of self-importance in<br />

U.S. racing culture but he’s not like that.”<br />

When asked to assess the strengths of<br />

the newest rider to strap on a <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

helmet, Strickland quickly outlines<br />

Williams’ physical gifts and his racecraft.<br />

“Physiologically, he’s got a knockout<br />

punch,” Strickland says. “He comes out<br />

of the last corner and he can throw on<br />

afterburners and punch it in a worldclass<br />

way. On the intangible side, he’s<br />

a master of navigating, brilliant at<br />

positioning his bike and body. So with<br />

200 meters he’s in the winning position.<br />

He’s just a master of the craft of racing.”<br />

And yet, despite all his racing<br />

success, even with dozens of victories<br />

including two national titles, Williams<br />

ended his 2018 season wanting<br />

something bigger. “Winning all those<br />

races was fun, but I wanted to start a<br />

new chapter and share that experience,”<br />

he says. “It’s not enough for me to just<br />

do something on my own. I need to<br />

create something, to grant opportunities<br />

to people who I love that I know deserve<br />

it, while simultaneously putting<br />

criterium racing on the map.” This is<br />

how L39ion was born.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re is a conventional, well-trod<br />

path for professional bike racers<br />

looking for results, money, fame<br />

and other markers of success: Join the<br />

biggest, best-funded, most prestigious<br />

team you can and leverage its resources<br />

to pursue common interests. It’s a<br />

system that has operated for decades,<br />

but generally speaking it hasn’t exactly<br />

served the interests of athletes like<br />

Justin Williams.<br />

That’s why Williams and his younger<br />

brother Cory—himself a super-talented<br />

crit racer—decided to start their own<br />

team. One that was focused on<br />

criteriums and had roots in their<br />

community and gave opportunities to<br />

people of color and otherwise exploded<br />

the stereotypes of how a racing team<br />

operates. Cory suggested the name<br />

Legion, and it stuck. “It was this perfect<br />

balance of something serious but<br />

unintimidating that I immediately<br />

“J<strong>US</strong>TIN IS GIVING A WHOLE<br />



wanted to be a part of,” Williams says.<br />

“When we show up to races, it says that<br />

we’re not messing around, but it’s subtle<br />

enough where we can shape our own<br />

identity in using the word.”<br />

Williams has always had an interest<br />

in typography and design and he went<br />

to work to shape the team’s logo and<br />

identity to shape a stronger narrative.<br />

“Legion” became “L39ion” to reflect his<br />

family’s roots on 39th Street in South<br />

L.A. And the image of a lion was<br />

integrated into the branding of the<br />

squad—symbolizing both his childhood<br />

Alley Cats team and an icon of<br />

Rastafarian culture in Belize. <strong>The</strong> whole<br />

backstory and vibe was light-years away<br />

from the traditional aesthetic of European<br />

teams, where everyone wears a matching<br />

tracksuit to dinner.<br />

Anchored by the Williams brothers,<br />

the L39ion squad has a diversity that<br />

reflects the vitality of a big U.S. city like<br />

Los Angeles, a vitality that has been<br />

nearly absent in American bike racing<br />

culture. <strong>The</strong>y also started a development<br />

squad called CNCPT—which assembles<br />

young Black and Hispanic athletes as<br />

well as some cool creatives into a racing<br />

team. Among many other things,<br />

Williams is making personnel decisions<br />

on both teams, building sponsorship<br />

relationships, managing schedules,<br />

executing content plans—all while trying<br />

to win races at the highest level.<br />

“Justin is literally giving a whole<br />

demographic an aspiration to get into<br />

bike racing,” says Strickland, who<br />

himself turned down a WorldTour<br />

opportunity to chart his own path in the<br />

U.S. domestic scene. “If younger athletes<br />

don’t see someone who looks like them,<br />

they likely don’t consider a sport. Justin<br />

is such a selfless, positive person—and<br />

he’s a winning machine—and he likes to<br />

spread the gospel of cycling. Being a<br />

Black athlete in our sport is a rarity,<br />

and he could help change that.”<br />

Of course, in this game, having good<br />

intentions and a cool story will only take<br />

you so far—the concept only takes flight<br />


Williams founded<br />

the L39ion team,<br />

lined up sponsors<br />

and created the<br />

team’s branding.

Since the small<br />

Black community<br />

in cycling helped<br />

him in a big way,<br />

Williams is<br />

determined to pay<br />

it forward.<br />

if the team wins bike races. That box,<br />

fortunately, has been checked. In June<br />

2019, wearing his L39ion kit, Williams<br />

rocketed out of the final corner at the<br />

<strong>US</strong>A Road National Criterium in<br />

Hagerstown, Maryland, to win with a<br />

big margin. He thus again earned the<br />

Stars & Stripes jersey given to national<br />

champions, a title he still holds since the<br />

race was not contested in 2020.<br />

<strong>The</strong> last official result that Williams<br />

had before the virus changed everything<br />

was last March at the Tour de Murrieta,<br />

a big weekend race series in California.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re, the team founder played the role<br />

of team player. When the dust settled, the<br />

final omnium standings had Williams<br />

finishing third, with his brother Cory on<br />

the top step and another young<br />

teammate, Tyler Wiliams (no relation), in<br />

second—a L39ion sweep. Justin Williams<br />

was no longer playing by someone else’s<br />

rules, and he was winning.<br />

<strong>The</strong> pandemic has shut down road<br />

racing in the U.S. for about a year now,<br />

but Williams is hopeful that he and the<br />

team will take up where they left off<br />

when it does. He hopes to defend his<br />

national crit title this summer. He’s<br />

definitely thinking about the 2024<br />

Olympics in Paris, which might have<br />

a finale that suits pure sprinters.<br />

In any case, the downtime has given<br />

him the bandwidth to get control of his<br />

team management role—and to ponder<br />

the future. “Last year I was teetering on<br />

this fine line, like can I be an athlete who<br />

wins a national championship while also<br />

managing the logistics, the management<br />

and the vision of a pro team,” he says.<br />

“And now it’s transitioning to this place<br />

where all I have to do is manage the<br />

vision. I have the people in place to help<br />

me, and I just have to manage the vision<br />

and make sure that we stay true to what<br />

we’re trying to accomplish.”<br />

It’s happening. On a cool, sunny day<br />

in January, Williams went for a ride in<br />

the hills above Malibu—not so far from<br />

where his first training ride went<br />

sideways two decades earlier—with<br />

a small squad of <strong>Red</strong> Bull cyclists. His<br />

HE’S EYEING THE 2024<br />



buddy Colin Strickland was there, as<br />

were mountain bike powerhouse Kate<br />

Courtney and gravel and XC marathon<br />

racer Payson McElveen. NBA Hall of<br />

Famer turned cycling fanatic Reggie<br />

Miller was there, too. <strong>The</strong>re, up in<br />

a spot known as Saddle Peak, with a<br />

backdrop of big sky and big ocean,<br />

those riders surprised Williams with his<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull helmet and welcomed him to<br />

the family. All of these athletes had<br />

spoken up and written testimonials<br />

about Williams to help make this<br />

moment happen. “Justin is an extremely<br />

talented athlete with great results, but<br />

I’m equally if not more impressed by the<br />

many ways he is working to redefine<br />

what it means to be a professional<br />

athlete,” Courtney says.<br />

“He’s such a nice human,” Strickland<br />

adds. “<strong>Red</strong> Bull is like an amplifier—you<br />

plug in and whatever you’re doing gets<br />



Defending national champion Justin Williams deconstructs a high-level<br />

criterium bike race in his own words.<br />

In the beginning, it’s chaotic and people have so much<br />

energy. I’m just dodging grenades as people take bad<br />

corners. I’m usually just looking for a space to save<br />

energy, hold momentum and prepare myself for what is<br />

coming later. As a sprinter, I need to be as explosive as<br />

possible at the end of the race. But in the beginning—<br />

man, people are crazy. It’s four guys fighting for an apex<br />

that’s wide enough for two riders. Or riding through it as<br />

fast as they can, wasting energy and then slamming on<br />

the brake, creating this accordion effect.<br />

Fortunately, in the middle of the race it settles down and<br />

you start to see more dominant riders finding their way<br />

to the positions that they want to ride, where they can<br />

kind of manage what they’re doing. If it’s to go up to the<br />

front, they take the front. If it’s to wait for the sprint,<br />

they’re toward the middle. And all the people who early<br />

on rode above the level that they’re supposed to are now<br />

just looking for anywhere to hide and they’re not<br />

thinking anymore. You can see on people’s faces—when<br />

your heart rate gets above 175, it’s hard to think about<br />

your next move.<br />

<strong>The</strong>n there’s this moment of calm right before everyone<br />

tees up for the finish. If that’s a sprint, that moment of<br />

calm ends pretty quickly and then it goes back to a<br />

chaotic environment like it was in the beginning. But<br />

now you’re doing it with the guys who can actually win<br />

the race. So it becomes a little more intense because<br />

these guys are a bit more skilled.<br />

Usually with about three laps to go, the field starts to<br />

accelerate and the real contenders lock into the<br />

positions that they need to be in. If my team is strong,<br />

I have five guys in front of me. And then with one lap to<br />

go, there’s two scenarios. If my team’s done it right, it’s<br />

strung out and we’re going 35 miles an hour, and my<br />

guys are taking their final pull in their effort to get us the<br />

win. If they do their job perfectly, we’re in a straight line<br />

going 35 and it’s my job to go from 35 to 40 and then to<br />

42 or 45.<br />

In other races, if my team falls short—maybe they did<br />

too much work early, maybe the course is difficult—then<br />

it’s this pinball game to try to find position and be in the<br />

right place. But that can be volatile because we’re<br />

fighting for position on every turn. And when I don’t have<br />

a team around me, that becomes nuts, man. But that’s<br />

one of my specialties, that’s the reason I’m still able to<br />

capture a lot of wins when I race on my own. I can put<br />

out the watts to compete with the best in the world, but<br />

really, navigating through chaos is my real talent.<br />


Williams, wearing the jersey of the reigning national champion, wins the first criterium at Oklahoma’s Tulsa Tough in June 2019.<br />


louder. Justin is a super-exciting athlete,<br />

but results are limited. To do something<br />

bigger we need people who will<br />

advocate for change.”<br />

To that end, Williams and Strickland<br />

have spent training rides and other<br />

conversations brainstorming and plotting<br />

how to reimagine and grow the sport of<br />

criterium racing in America. Williams<br />

imagines a format that resembles other<br />

professional leagues, with wellorganized<br />

and well-funded franchises in<br />

big cities competing against each other<br />

in spectator-friendly contests.<br />

Strickland imagines race courses<br />

being built in these cities that can host<br />

these races and weekly community crits.<br />

Both of them imagine a future where<br />

young people of color have a venue to<br />

get involved in the sport. “<strong>The</strong> culture of<br />

our sport needs a serious shake-up,” says<br />

Strickland. “Justin has the business savvy<br />

to make something happen. He’s not just<br />

looking to make money; he legitimately<br />

wants to change and grow the sport.”<br />

This is the racecraft—having the<br />

foresight when you’re going hard as hell<br />

to think through your next moves.<br />

Williams isn’t satisfied being the Black<br />

kid from South L.A. who struggled in<br />

Europe but came back to be America’s<br />

crit king. He wants to be more than the<br />

guy who bounced around teams and<br />

finally started his own pro squad. He<br />

wants more young people to get the<br />

opportunities that he had to battle for, to<br />

see the sport he loves grow to reach its<br />

full potential.<br />

When asked to explain where this<br />

hunger comes from, Williams takes it<br />

back to 39th Street. “I will always<br />

remember my parents really going out of<br />

their way to help people when I was<br />

growing up,” he says. “Like there were<br />

people who would come live in our<br />

house for a month while they got on<br />

their feet if they were moving to America<br />

from Belize. So I think seeing my parents<br />

sacrifice so much, to go out of their way<br />

to help people even when they would get<br />

nothing in return really shaped me. And<br />

then seeing it happen or feeling it<br />

happen to me when I got into cycling,<br />

the way the small Black community in<br />

cycling really helped me, reinforced that.<br />

So naturally, I knew what needed to be<br />

done, to pay it forward. It’s never seemed<br />

clearer what I’m trying to accomplish—<br />

to attract younger people from different<br />

backgrounds to the sport. This is bigger<br />

than me or the team. This is big.”<br />






If all goes well,<br />

Williams hopes to<br />

defend his<br />

criterium national<br />

championship this<br />


Taking<br />

the Leap<br />

How the women of Formation transformed<br />

freeride mountain biking forever. Words JEN SEE<br />


Hannah Bergemann<br />

drops into the top of<br />

her line at the<br />

inaugural Formation<br />

in October 2019.<br />


T<br />

he sun had just begun to rise<br />

near Virgin, Utah, when<br />

Hannah Bergemann began<br />

to climb. Shouldering her<br />

35-pound downhill bike,<br />

Bergemann walked steadily<br />

up a narrow desert ridgeline.<br />

When she reached the top,<br />

she looked down the line that<br />

she and her dig crew had<br />

patiently carved out of the<br />

red desert sand, peeling back<br />

layers of prehistoric stone. If<br />

Bergemann felt any nerves,<br />

she didn’t show them.<br />

<strong>The</strong>n she began to ride.<br />

With precision, Bergemann<br />

followed the narrow track<br />

unwinding along the canyon<br />

wall as the landscape blurred<br />

beneath her wheels. She hit<br />

her first jump, flying over the<br />

gap. <strong>The</strong> ground dropped into<br />

wide-open air beneath her.<br />

<strong>The</strong>n came a series of ledges,<br />

a staircase made for giants<br />

formed out of rock layers,<br />

none of them laid straight.<br />

A steep chute sent her<br />

hurtling down until, at last,<br />

Bergemann arrived at a final<br />

jump. She soared over the gap<br />

cleanly, her bike’s suspension<br />

compressing under the force<br />

of the landing.<br />

Bergemann had come<br />

to Virgin for Formation, a<br />

freeride camp for women.<br />

<strong>The</strong> groundbreaking October<br />

2019 event brought together<br />

six of the world’s best freeride<br />

mountain bikers and gave<br />

them the opportunity to ride<br />

in the storied Utah terrain<br />

made famous by <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

Rampage. A few of the riders,<br />

like Bergemann, had ridden<br />

there previously. But for<br />

the others it was all new.<br />

Certainly, it was all the riders’<br />

first opportunity to work<br />

collaboratively to push the<br />

boundaries of their sport.<br />

After five days in the<br />

desert, the women of<br />

Formation had transformed<br />

the landscape of women’s<br />

mountain biking. No longer<br />

could anyone say that women<br />

lacked the skills to ride the<br />

intense and unforgiving<br />

terrain of the Utah desert.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y had united to create the<br />

foundations for women’s<br />

freeride to fly. Together, they<br />

had created a new beginning.<br />

“It gave me confidence to<br />

start from a blank slate on the<br />

mountain and make it into<br />

something rideable that<br />

pushed my limits,” says<br />

Bergemann. “<strong>The</strong>re hasn’t<br />

been a lot of space for women<br />

to pursue freeride—I feel like<br />

this is the start.”<br />

While getting down<br />

the canyons near<br />

Virgin requires skill<br />

and verve, the trip up<br />

demands simpler grit.<br />



It was the riders’ first chance<br />

to collaborate to push the<br />

boundaries of their sport.<br />

Veronique (“Vero”)<br />

Sandler throws down<br />

a suicide no-hander<br />

near the bottom of<br />

her line at Formation.

Formation’s roots go<br />

back to 2017, when<br />

Rebecca Rusch traveled<br />

to Rampage as a guest. A<br />

decorated endurance<br />

mountain biker, Rusch had<br />

never seen the iconic event in<br />

person. She stood in awe of<br />

the riding skills on display but<br />

couldn’t help wondering why<br />

no women were competing.<br />

She began to ask questions. “I<br />

was the pot stirrer,” she says.<br />

Rusch learned that<br />

Rampage had never<br />

specifically excluded women.<br />

But none had ever qualified.<br />

“I felt like I had to be the one<br />

to push. I was not a freeride<br />

athlete, so it wasn’t like I was<br />

out for myself,” she says. “I<br />

had no skin in the game; it<br />

was just the right thing to do.”<br />

With that push, the<br />

conversation about where<br />

women fit into the Rampage<br />

picture began in earnest.<br />

“<strong>The</strong>re were some hard<br />

conversations,” Rusch recalls.<br />

<strong>The</strong> next year, a crew of <strong>Red</strong><br />

Bull athletes, female gravity<br />

riders and Rampage veterans<br />

gathered around a table to<br />

discuss the idea of a women’s<br />

event in Virgin. Should<br />

women be added to Rampage?<br />

Should there be a separate<br />

event? No one knew exactly<br />

what equality and inclusion<br />

for women looked like in the<br />

context of Rampage.<br />

“I think people just could<br />

not picture what it would look<br />

like for a woman to ride it,”<br />

recalls Katie Holden, a nowretired<br />

downhill pro who was<br />

at the table that night. “It’s<br />

just this dude environment.<br />

It’s hardcore, and it’s gnarly.”<br />

Holden had her own<br />

history with Rampage. Like<br />

many female riders, Holden<br />

had started her career as a<br />

racer, but it had never felt like<br />

the right fit. When the offer to<br />

partner with women’s brand<br />

Liv came along in 2013, she<br />

jumped at the chance to do<br />

something new. She became<br />

a brand ambassador and built<br />

a portfolio of travel, filming,<br />

clinic events and freeriding.<br />

Holden’s new role also opened<br />

the way to chase her dream of<br />

qualifying for Rampage.<br />

“<strong>The</strong>re wasn’t a path to<br />

Rampage for women, because<br />

it had never been done<br />

before,” she says. “I just tried<br />

to spend a lot of time out there<br />

and be a sponge and learn as<br />

much as I possibly could.”<br />

After spending several<br />

years digging at Rampage and<br />

riding the terrain in Virgin,<br />

Holden put all her chips on<br />

the table. Together with a<br />

filmer and photographer,<br />

Holden went to the desert to<br />

make a movie she hoped<br />

would score her an invite to<br />

Rampage. “I put everything<br />

into it,” she says. Her attempt<br />

ended quickly, though, when<br />

she crashed and tore her calf<br />

muscle. “It was really<br />

emotional,” she says. “I<br />

realized that dream was not<br />

going to come true.” Two<br />

years of injuries followed,<br />

while the level of riding at<br />

Rampage rose exponentially.<br />

Even as Rusch began<br />

asking questions, Holden still<br />

felt the sting of regret. “I had<br />

wanted to be the girl who<br />

made Rampage,” she says. At<br />

the same time, she had begun<br />

to come to terms with what<br />

had gone wrong for her. In<br />

retrospect, she could see that<br />

though she came close to<br />

reaching the heights required<br />

to compete at Rampage, she<br />

didn’t have the perfect skill set<br />

to do it. And she saw that her<br />

approach had isolated her in<br />

crucial ways.<br />

Vero Sandler digs her<br />

line in the desert sun.<br />



<strong>The</strong> first pioneers at<br />

Formation (clockwise<br />

from top left): Vero<br />

Sandler, Tahnée<br />

Seagrave, Vaea<br />

Verbeeck, Micayla<br />

Gatto, Vinny<br />

Armstrong and<br />

Hannah Bergemann.<br />

So when the chance came<br />

to design a women’s event in<br />

Virgin, Holden was all in.<br />

Here was a way to put her<br />

experience to work and build<br />

a space for women to succeed.<br />

“I don’t like to say that I failed,<br />

because I don’t really believe<br />

in failure, but my experience<br />

was a stepping stone for<br />

Formation,” she says. On a<br />

drive to her mom’s house on<br />

Whidbey Island from her<br />

home in Bellingham,<br />

Washington, Holden pulled<br />

over to sketch the outlines of<br />

a women’s freeride camp. By<br />

the time she arrived, she<br />

knew: Formation was on.<br />

When New Zealander<br />

Vinny Armstrong<br />

stepped off the plane<br />

in Las Vegas, she’d never seen<br />

the desert. “It feels like a<br />

different planet,” she says.<br />

Known for her stylish airs, she<br />

stood at a crossroads in her<br />

career at the time. “I was<br />

really tossing up whether<br />

I was going to keep trying to<br />

be a World Cup racer or do<br />

a freeride career,” she says.<br />

<strong>The</strong> six riders invited to<br />

Formation came from diverse<br />

corners of the mountain<br />

biking world, but most shared<br />

a background in World Cup<br />

downhill racing. As Holden<br />

considered riders, she felt the<br />

experience of learning World<br />

Cup tracks and dealing with<br />

the pressures of racing would<br />

help them navigate the steep<br />

challenges posed by riding in<br />

Virgin. Holden also felt the<br />

need to prove that women<br />

could handle riding the area’s<br />

unforgiving terrain. She<br />

wanted to set them up for<br />

success. “A lot of people didn’t<br />

believe in Formation before<br />

Formation came to be,” she<br />

says. “So I felt like we had to<br />

make it perfect in order for<br />

people to jump on the train.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> sandstone walls of the<br />

canyons around Virgin are<br />

marked with tracks and jump<br />

lines that riders have built<br />

over time. During its 12-year<br />

history, Rampage has used<br />

several sites in the area, and<br />

the remnants of many features<br />

remain. “It was exciting just to<br />

see all that in front of my<br />

eyes,” says Veronique Sandler,<br />

who is based in the U.K. and<br />

focuses on filming. She<br />

recognized a number of the<br />

jumps from seeing them in<br />

Instagram clips from Utahbased<br />

riders such as Jaxson<br />

Riddle and Ethan Nell.<br />

On the first day, the women<br />

headed to one of the original<br />

Rampage sites to acclimate to<br />

the terrain. “Just getting used<br />

to the exposure—there are<br />

times when your brain just<br />

goes ‘no, that’s just not even<br />

something I’m going to try,’ ”<br />

says Canada’s Vaea Verbeeck,<br />

who won the overall at the<br />

Crankworx series in 2019.<br />

Riding in the desert, some of<br />

them for the first time, the<br />

group tested the traction and<br />

braking points as they began<br />

to uncover the desert’s secrets.<br />

“It takes a bit to get used to it,<br />

because you still get heaps of<br />

grip, even while sliding and<br />

drifting everywhere,” says<br />

Armstrong. “It’s just so sick.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> first day also let the<br />

women reconnect. All six<br />

riders knew one another from<br />

past events, but typically they<br />

spent their time competing<br />

against each other. From the<br />

start, Holden envisioned<br />

All six riders knew each other<br />

but they typically just<br />

competed against each other.<br />


With Sandler looking<br />

on, Tahnée Seagrave<br />

drops into an exposed<br />

ridge drop.<br />

Formation as a collaborative<br />

effort to raise the level of the<br />

sport. <strong>The</strong> women embraced<br />

the concept. “We were legit<br />

standing next to each other,<br />

discussing everything<br />

together, brainstorming<br />

together, trying to make it<br />

work together—for each<br />

other,” says Verbeeck.<br />

<strong>The</strong> next day, the women<br />

and their crews headed to the<br />

2015 Rampage site and began<br />

digging the lines they planned<br />

to ride. An often underappreciated<br />

element of<br />

Rampage is the skill required<br />

to dig tracks and features into<br />

the walls of the canyons. “One<br />

of the hardest parts is seeing<br />

raw terrain and being able to<br />

visualize how to turn it into<br />

something you want to ride,”<br />

says Bergemann.<br />

Both Bergemann and<br />

Sandler spend hours digging<br />

at home, but working in the<br />

desert was different. “I do<br />

a lot of digging but it’s so<br />

different out there,” says<br />

Sandler. “Casey Brown was<br />

injured unfortunately, but<br />

she’s done digging at<br />

Rampage before, and she had<br />

tons of tips for us.”<br />

After three dig days, the<br />

women had created three very<br />

different lines. Bergemann<br />

and Canadian freerider<br />

Micayla Gatto went big with<br />

exposed, high-consequence<br />

features. Bergemann and her<br />

dig team built a long, steep<br />

track with multiple drops and<br />

gap jumps. With help from<br />



“A lot of people didn’t believe<br />

in Formation until Formation<br />

came to be.” —Katie Holden<br />

Rusch, big-mountain skier<br />

Michelle Parker and motocross<br />

racer Tarah Gieger, Gatto<br />

sculpted a fast chute down the<br />

narrow spine of a ridgeline.<br />

Her line included two blind<br />

step downs.<br />

Across the canyon face,<br />

Sandler, Verbeeck, Armstrong<br />

and British World Cup racer<br />

Tahnée Seagrave collaborated<br />

on a flowing track that they<br />

dubbed the “party line.”<br />

<strong>The</strong>se riders sought space to<br />

show their style and throw a<br />

few tricks into the mix. “At<br />

first, it was like, ‘this looks<br />

crazy!’ ” says Verbeeck. “But by<br />

the time we rode it, we didn’t<br />

know how easy it would feel.”<br />

<strong>The</strong>ir line included a series of<br />

drops, an arcing berm and a<br />

jump line at the end.<br />

“Every line showed each<br />

rider’s personality, and that’s<br />

what I really love about<br />

freeride,” says Brown, who<br />

competed in Proving Grounds,<br />

a Rampage qualifier, in 2019,<br />

and attended Formation in a<br />

supporting role, due to a<br />

broken collarbone. “It’s an art<br />

form rather than just a race.”<br />

As the first of two<br />

riding days began,<br />

Bergemann set an<br />

early standard. Her line was<br />

done; she was ready. “I was<br />

super stoked and eager to<br />

get on my bike after several<br />

days of digging and thinking<br />

about riding,” she says. As the<br />

other women prepped in the<br />

parking lot, Bergemann<br />

soared over the gap of her<br />

final jump. Seeing Bergemann<br />

ride, Parker, who was present<br />

to mentor the riders, recalls<br />

thinking, “Oh, it’s so on now.”<br />

For Holden, the moment<br />

felt like validation. “It gives<br />

me chills just thinking about<br />

it,” she says. “It was the first<br />

riding day and there was so<br />

much tension. All of a sudden,<br />

we all saw Hannah grease the<br />

gnarliest line. It really set the<br />

tone for the whole thing.”<br />

But learning to ride the<br />

steep terrain had its<br />

challenges. Like her peers at<br />

Formation, Gatto had raced<br />

World Cup downhill. In 2014<br />

a severe concussion put her<br />

racing career on hold, and she<br />

redirected her energy to<br />

filming, bikepacking and<br />

hitting big jumps in her spare<br />

time. “I was just feeling like<br />

I want to ride big chutes and<br />

big ridgelines,” she says. “It<br />

was always this pipe dream to<br />

go and see Rampage and ride<br />

out there.” Formation offered<br />

a chance to chase that dream.<br />

Gatto built a vertigoinspiring<br />

line with steep dropoffs<br />

on either side. It included<br />

a heavy double drop. To make<br />

the first drop meant sending<br />

her bike flying off the edge<br />

of the cliff line. As she<br />

committed to the drop, Gatto<br />

could not see the landing,<br />

which sat far below her with<br />

its edges falling away into a<br />

steep canyon. If she missed<br />

her narrow landing patch,<br />

Gatto would plummet into<br />

the canyon below. “It’s just so<br />

scary, that fear of crashing,<br />

because if you crash, you’re<br />

done,” she says. Gatto ended<br />

up skipping the first big drop.<br />

Across the canyon face,<br />

Armstrong wrestled with a<br />

similar dilemma. As she rolled<br />

up to one of the drops on the<br />

party line, all she could see<br />

was sky. “I couldn’t see the<br />

landing until my front wheel<br />

was nearly in the air,” she<br />

says. After nearly missing the<br />


<strong>The</strong> athletes, dig crews, organizers and mentors who together made Formation a reality celebrate the breakthrough event.<br />

landing spot on her first run,<br />

Armstrong began setting out<br />

small rocks to guide her like<br />

the lights of a runaway.<br />

Each evening at Formation,<br />

the riders and support crew<br />

gathered for a series of roundtable<br />

discussions. One night<br />

they talked about fear. “I<br />

learned a lot about how the<br />

other girls deal with fear and<br />

the processes they go<br />

through,” says Sandler. <strong>The</strong><br />

sessions proved intense. As<br />

she has thought about future<br />

editions of the event, Holden<br />

has wondered how she might<br />

preserve the knowledge<br />

sharing, while giving the<br />

riders more downtime.<br />

<strong>The</strong> insights into managing<br />

fear have had lasting value.<br />

“All these emotions we feel<br />

pushing boundaries, we’re all<br />

doing similar things,” says<br />

Gatto, who found inspiration<br />

from Parker. When she<br />

prepares to ski a big line in<br />

Alaska, Parker channels the<br />

confident voice in her head.<br />

“I named my confident person<br />

Chad,” says Gatto. “Every time<br />

I went to try something, I<br />

could hear the girls yelling,<br />

‘Go Chad!’ ” Since Formation,<br />

Gatto has continued to hone<br />

the mental side of her game.<br />

Next time, she wants to make<br />

sure she’s ready to hit every<br />

big drop.<br />

For women’s freeride,<br />

Formation was just a<br />

beginning. “I’m super<br />

excited to go back, because we<br />

know we can definitely trust<br />

the terrain more and go a bit<br />

harder,” says Verbeeck. Both<br />

Parker and Rusch are eager to<br />

repeat their roles as diggers<br />

and mentors, too, while<br />

Holden is already jotting ideas<br />

in her notebooks as she drives<br />

around Bellingham.<br />

“I was frickin’ blown away<br />

by the talent and the skill of<br />

In five days, the women had<br />

transformed the landscape of<br />

women’s mountain biking.<br />

these women,” says Rusch.<br />

“Seeing it up close was just<br />

really inspiring for me. I want<br />

to go back so much.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> riders all say they’re<br />

ready for more chances to lift<br />

their freeride progression.<br />

Brown, for example, values<br />

the pressure that competitive<br />

events put on her to hit new<br />

features, but she’d love to see<br />

more events that share<br />

Formation’s noncompetitive<br />

nature. “I think a lot of women<br />

get out of the sport because<br />

they feel that the only places<br />

to participate at a higher level<br />

are contests and not everyone<br />

is made for that,” says Brown.<br />

She is hoping to see more<br />

space for women in freeride<br />

events such as the Fest Series.<br />

Already Formation has<br />

changed career trajectories for<br />

some of the women. “Even in<br />

the past year, the industry has<br />

invested in women in a way<br />

that they haven’t before,” says<br />

Holden. Shortly after<br />

Formation, Bergemann and<br />

Sandler received invitations to<br />

travel to India with Teton<br />

Gravity Research and ride in<br />

their high-profile film project,<br />

Accomplice. Bergemann now<br />

has sponsorship support from<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull and Transition Bikes<br />

to chase her freeride dream.<br />

Armstrong says new doors<br />

have swung open for her, too,<br />

and she’s shifted her focus<br />

away from racing to freeride.<br />

After the COVID gap year,<br />

planning is underway for<br />

Formation <strong>2021</strong> to happen<br />

this fall. Though she may<br />

tinker with the details,<br />

Holden expects the event to<br />

look similar to the 2019<br />

edition with a combination<br />

of digging, riding and roundtable<br />

discussions. She remains<br />

committed to keeping<br />

Formation a noncompetitive<br />

event. Holden has found a<br />

deep satisfaction in bringing<br />

her own experience with<br />

Rampage full circle and<br />

showing the world just what<br />

women riders can do.<br />

“I just have this full-body<br />

high from knowing that<br />

women can ride there, and<br />

people believe and know that<br />

women can ride there now,”<br />

says Holden. “To see a<br />

collective of women look<br />

good out there—once people<br />

could see that, it just changed<br />

everything.”<br />



Vero Sandler shows<br />

her classic style as<br />

she charges down<br />

the mountain.

Space<br />

Oddities<br />

Those squiggly lines in the<br />

night sky aren’t UFOs, but<br />

four members of the <strong>Red</strong><br />

Bull Air Force: Captain Jon<br />

Devore, Amy Chmelecki,<br />

Jeff Provenzano and Sean<br />

MacCormac. <strong>The</strong> team<br />

was photographed on<br />

November 15, 2020,<br />

near Marfa, Texas.<br />


Bright<br />

Lights<br />

In the remote town of Marfa, Texas,<br />

strange lights have long attracted curious<br />

visitors from around the world, but one<br />

photographer set out to capture a different<br />

kind of flying object—the <strong>Red</strong> Bull Air Force.<br />

Words NORA O’DONNELL<br />

Photography D<strong>US</strong>TIN SNIPES<br />


Like many a wild adventure,<br />

it all started with a crazy idea.<br />

In the high desert of West<br />

Texas, the veil of the Milky Way<br />

drapes over a night sky bursting<br />

with stars. Near the small town of Marfa, the high<br />

elevation and lack of light pollution make it the<br />

perfect spot to view such astronomical wonders—<br />

and to examine some of its mysteries. For more than<br />

a century, locals have observed strange, pulsing orbs<br />

of various hues, commonly known as the Marfa<br />

Lights. Maybe they’re UFOs or simply atmosphere<br />

reflections; the fun lies in the speculation.<br />

Which is why photographer Dustin Snipes leapt<br />

at the opportunity to capture the <strong>Red</strong> Bull Air Force<br />

against this celestial landscape. What if these worldclass<br />

skydivers embodied this phenomenon and<br />

actually became the Marfa Lights? “<strong>The</strong> crazier the<br />

idea, the better,” Snipes says. “Because that means it<br />

probably hasn’t been done before.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> L.A.-based photographer spent months<br />

planning out the concept, weighing hundreds of<br />

variables with a team of experts. “More than any<br />

shoot I’ve done, there were so many unknowns,”<br />

Snipes says. After scrutinizing iconic local<br />

attractions as potential backdrops, Snipes and the<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull Air Force settled on the historic Cibolo<br />

Creek Ranch, which spans 30,000 acres and<br />

provides plenty of room to arrange a shot from a<br />

faraway distance. Snipes also consulted with the<br />

International Dark-Sky Association to decipher the<br />

best time to capture the Milky Way as it moved<br />

along the sky.<br />

But even after calculating the perfect nighttime<br />

position, Snipes still had to figure out how to<br />

photograph illuminated bodies falling from more<br />

than 10,000 feet in the air with only a few minutes<br />

on the clock. <strong>The</strong> entire setup used nine cameras,<br />

including six Canon 1 DX Mark III DSLRs that Snipes<br />

mounted to a custom-built base that allowed him to<br />

shoot a 180-degree view.<br />

<strong>The</strong> final result is otherworldly, but the following<br />

pages also provide a glimpse into the monumental<br />

effort it took Snipes and the <strong>Red</strong> Bull Air Force to<br />

pull off this feat.<br />

“Whenever I do shoots like these,” Snipes says,<br />

“I always think of that JFK quote about going to the<br />

moon—that we didn’t do it because it was easy, but<br />

because it was hard. You don’t want to just sit there<br />

and do a cakewalk all day.”<br />

Los Angeles-based photographer Dustin Snipes (pictured) first traveled to Marfa in September 2020 to scout potential locations<br />

for his shoot with the <strong>Red</strong> Bull Air Force. “It took months of planning,” he says. “<strong>The</strong>re were a lot of moving parts.”<br />



Wide Angles<br />

Snipes and the <strong>Red</strong> Bull Air<br />

Force settled on the historic<br />

Cibolo Creek Ranch for their<br />

shooting location. <strong>The</strong><br />

rugged, 30,000-acre<br />

property allowed Snipes to<br />

set up his cameras 2 miles<br />

away from where the<br />

skydivers planned to jump.<br />

“<strong>The</strong> ranch went on forever. We drove all over<br />

the place—there were endless possibilities.”<br />


<strong>The</strong> <strong>Red</strong> Bull Air Force did one daytime practice jump while Snipes set up his equipment on the ground. Here, Captain Jon Devore and<br />

Sean MacCormac capture GoPro footage from the air. Each team member has logged more than 20,000 jumps over the past two decades.<br />

Southwest of Marfa’s town center, the Cibolo Creek Ranch sits nestled in the Chinati Mountains. Starting in the 1850s, Cibolo was a cattle<br />

ranch and trading post, but since the 1950s, Hollywood has occasionally used the location in films such as Giant and <strong>The</strong>re Will Be Blood.<br />



“<strong>The</strong> crazier the idea, the better. Because that<br />

means it probably hasn’t been done before.”<br />

DAN WIX<br />

Gearing Up<br />

Shortly after sunset on<br />

November 15, Snipes readies<br />

his gear for the first of three<br />

evening jumps by the <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

Air Force. <strong>Red</strong> lights are an<br />

essential tool for night<br />

photography because they<br />

prevent the shooter’s eyes<br />

from readjusting.<br />


“You’re in the middle of nowhere. And then you<br />

look up and see the most amazing stars ever.”<br />

Under the<br />

Milky Way<br />

<strong>The</strong> abandoned sign of the<br />

Stardust Motel is one of<br />

Marfa’s most photographed<br />

attractions. At one point,<br />

Snipes considered it as a<br />

potential foreground for the<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull Air Force, but the<br />

nearby landing site was too<br />

unsafe. “And there would be<br />

too many telephone wires in<br />

the shot!” Snipes jokes.<br />


To make themselves visible in a moonless sky, the <strong>Red</strong> Bull Air Force wrapped themselves in LED lights, but they also added pyrotechnics<br />

to help show the speed and energy of the team while they are in freefall. <strong>The</strong> added effect makes the skydivers appear like human comets.<br />


During the three jumps, Snipes had the skydivers experiment with using just the LED lights in some shots and pyrotechnics in others.<br />

“<strong>The</strong> LED just looked like squiggly lines,” he says. “But the pyro added so much randomness and gave it more of a mysterious look.”<br />


“When there are shoots with this many moving<br />

parts, you have to think differently.”<br />


Made to Order<br />

To capture the <strong>Red</strong> Bull Air<br />

Force with a panoramic view,<br />

Snipes built a customized<br />

mount for six Canon 1 DX<br />

Mark III DSLR cameras. Each<br />

camera took eight different<br />

long-exposure shots of the<br />

jump from start to finish.<br />

<strong>The</strong> mount had to be light<br />

enough to travel but sturdy<br />

enough to hold all the<br />

equipment. It took Snipes<br />

five days to build it.<br />


“We needed more pyro, so we asked the<br />

athletes, ‘Can you be on fire any longer?’ ”<br />



Burning Man<br />

To fully achieve a comet-like<br />

effect, Snipes needed the<br />

skydivers to shoot<br />

pyrotechnics for as long as<br />

possible. No one on the team<br />

balked at the request. <strong>The</strong><br />

trickier part? Seeing the<br />

landing area when it’s pitch<br />

black outside. Only the<br />

headlights of two pickup<br />

trucks marked the spot.<br />


Money Shot(s)<br />

This image is actually 48<br />

photos perfectly stitched<br />

together. Six cameras each<br />

took eight long-exposure<br />

shots, following the <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

Air Force as they jump from<br />

the airplane, go into<br />

formation and finally<br />

disappear behind the<br />

mountains. “<strong>The</strong> result is an<br />

abstract light painting with<br />

an endless night sky,”<br />

Snipes says.<br />


“<strong>The</strong>re were so many unknowns with this<br />

shoot. But you do it because it’s hard to do.”<br />


New life: Cultivated<br />

coral is fixed to a dead<br />

or damaged reef<br />

with a few dabs of marine<br />

cement. This is applied<br />

using a form of piping bag.<br />


Raising<br />

the Reef<br />

A group of young Polynesians<br />

are fighting to protect<br />

the world’s reefs against the<br />

effects of global warming,<br />

one piece of coral at a time.<br />


Photography RYAN BORNE<br />


Deep concerns: 22-year-old Taiano Teiho (left) and one of his fellow Coral Gardeners set off on a restoration mission.<br />

Each time freediver Guillaume<br />

Néry disappears into the<br />

underwater world, he learns<br />

something new. It is this<br />

seemingly limitless potential<br />

for exploration that fuels the<br />

Frenchman’s passion. And<br />

being underwater gives Néry a feeling<br />

he can’t find on land. “It’s this sense of<br />

zero gravity,” he says. “When I’m<br />

descending, there’s a moment when<br />

I’m suspended in space and time, and<br />

it really feels like I’m flying. <strong>The</strong>re’s a<br />

sense of freedom—it’s transformative.<br />

I’m switching from a landbound human<br />

to an aquatic one.”<br />

This desire to learn is what has drawn<br />

Néry to the island paradise of Mo’orea,<br />

around 25 miles from Tahiti in the South<br />

Pacific. That and something else unique<br />

to the underwater world: coral. For the<br />

past seven years, the 38-year-old has<br />

come here with his partner—fellow<br />

freediver Julie Gautier—and daughter<br />

Maï-Lou, whom the couple want to raise<br />

close to nature. “I’m lucky enough to<br />

have been freediving for more than<br />

24 years now,” says Néry, who has four<br />

freediving depth world records and two<br />

world championship titles to his name.<br />

“I’ve traveled the world, had experiences<br />

in every kind of underwater environment,<br />

from oceans to lakes, under ice. But<br />

there’s really something special about<br />

tropical areas. It’s the biodiversity you<br />

witness, especially here in French<br />

Polynesia. <strong>The</strong> extraordinary examples<br />

of life you find underwater here are<br />

almost all due to the coral reef system.<br />

It’s an entire, complex ecosystem. It’s<br />

really something amazing to witness.”<br />

But when Néry visited in 2019, after<br />

a rise in water temperature caused by<br />

global warming, he found that 30 percent<br />

of the coral had died. “Dead coral is<br />

monochrome,” he says. “<strong>The</strong>re’s no color.<br />

It’s a place with no life at all, like a desert.<br />

Sometimes you’ll see a fish pass by, but it’s<br />

only looking for somewhere else to go. I<br />

knew this global warming episode wasn’t<br />

natural; it was due to human activity. <strong>The</strong><br />

scientists say there will be more episodes<br />

like that. <strong>The</strong> ocean is resilient, but there’s<br />

a limit. If things change too fast, there’s a<br />

big chance most of the world’s coral will<br />

disappear. When I realized that, I was<br />

terrified.” Now his visits here have become<br />

about more than underwater exploration;<br />

he’s fighting for the reef’s survival.<br />

Néry is working with an organization<br />

known as the Coral Gardeners, who, as<br />

the name suggests, tend to and cultivate<br />

coral. <strong>The</strong>y have shown Néry how to<br />

replant broken coral, and in return he has<br />

taught the group breathing techniques<br />

that allow them to remain underwater<br />

for longer periods while they work. This<br />

is a symbiotic relationship that the Coral<br />

Gardeners—a team of young Polynesian<br />


Coral dilemma:<br />

Freediver Guillaume Néry<br />

became an ambassador for<br />

the Coral Gardeners after<br />

a 2019 visit to French<br />

Polynesia, where he witnessed<br />

the devastating effects<br />

of global warming firsthand.<br />

“<strong>The</strong> more of us who<br />

are concerned about<br />

this, the bigger<br />

the change can be.”

Second chance:<br />

Fragments of damaged<br />

coral are collected by the<br />

team, then transported<br />

here to the “nursery<br />

table” for assessment.

World of difference: <strong>The</strong> seabed is home to in excess of a thousand distinct species of coral,<br />

and more than 170 of these can be found in French Polynesia alone.<br />

surfers, freedivers and fishermen—are<br />

keen to foster; after all, it’s a philosophy<br />

they’ve learned from the very coral<br />

they’re trying to save. “A coral is an<br />

animal, a polyp,” explains Taiano Teiho,<br />

a 22-year-old member of the coral<br />

restoration group. “It lives in symbiosis<br />

with a plant-based life form, the<br />

zooxanthella. This is a form of<br />

microalgae found in the coral’s tissue.<br />

<strong>The</strong> polyps provide shelter for<br />

the microalgae, and in exchange, the<br />

photosynthesis the microalgae perform<br />

will provide 90 percent of the nutrients<br />

the polyps need to create the coral’s<br />

calcareous exoskeleton.<br />

“<strong>The</strong> one cannot live without the<br />

other. When water temperatures rise,<br />

the zooxanthella creates toxins that<br />

the polyp can’t live with, so it then<br />

rejects the microalgae. This leads to<br />

coral bleaching, as it is the microalgae<br />

that creates the coral’s colorful<br />

pigmentation. All you’re left with is the<br />

calcareous skeleton—a dead coral.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> breakdown of this relationship<br />

in the world’s coral reefs is a fitting<br />

metaphor for the ruinous effect human<br />

activity is having on the natural world. “In<br />

the worst-case scenario, we’d see the loss<br />

of all marine life, from the smallest fish to<br />

the largest marine mammals, as we would<br />

lose the nutrient input that comes from<br />

the sea,” says Teiho. “We would also lose<br />

more than half of the oxygen we breathe<br />

if all organisms, such as phytoplankton,<br />

which photosynthesize, died. That’s why<br />

we have to act now.”<br />

“<strong>The</strong> coral reef has<br />

been our playground<br />

and our school. It has<br />

taught us respect.”<br />

One reason why action is happening<br />

now on Mo’orea is local surfer and<br />

freediver Titouan Bernicot, who<br />

founded the Coral Gardeners. “<strong>The</strong><br />

Polynesian people have always had a<br />

strong link to Mother Nature,” says the<br />

22-year-old, who has lived on the island<br />

since he was 3. “I’ve grown up surfing,<br />

freediving, spearfishing, diving with<br />

sharks. <strong>The</strong> coral reef has been our<br />

playground and also our school. It has<br />

taught us humility and respect.”<br />

Bernicot, the son of Tahitian pearl<br />

farmers, has a house on the beach so that<br />

he’s as close as possible to the sea, and to<br />

the coral garden he has created beneath<br />

the surface. “I’ve spent a lot of time<br />

learning how to build up [the coral] and<br />

finding out more about the underwater<br />

ecosystem,” he says. “<strong>The</strong> coral creates<br />

such varied architecture. It’s like a big<br />

city where coral, every species of fish,<br />

every crab and octopus has an important<br />


Depth charge: Teiho keeps a watchful—almost paternal—eye on the coral cuttings in his care.<br />

“Our nurseries are<br />

like little gardens<br />

underwater where<br />

the coral will adapt<br />

themselves.”<br />

role to play in managing the balance of<br />

the reef ecosystem. It’s really like a<br />

[conventional] garden, but instead of<br />

birds we have fish, and instead of a dog<br />

there’s the shark and stingray.”<br />

Bernicot has been tending to his<br />

garden since he was 16. It was then that<br />

a day’s surfing changed his path in life.<br />

Bernicot, his younger brother and a<br />

friend had rowed out to the reef break in<br />

his small aluminum boat. “And as we<br />

were waiting for waves, we saw something<br />

really weird under our feet,” he says. “All<br />

the corals were white—they’d bleached.<br />

That was the first time we’d seen this.<br />

“That same afternoon, I googled it<br />

and discovered two things. First, I learned<br />

that corals aren’t simple stones; they’re<br />

living organisms, and they were turning<br />

white due to global warming. This could<br />

be the first ecosystem on our planet to<br />

collapse, even as soon as 2050. And it<br />

wasn’t happening only on my island of<br />

Mo’orea but everywhere in the world—<br />


at the Great Barrier Reef, at the Florida<br />

Keys, in Indonesia, Egypt, the Maldives.<br />

Second, I learned that the coral, these<br />

little organisms, gave me everything I<br />

need in my life. From the best moments<br />

surfing reef-break waves, freediving and<br />

swimming with sharks, to the fish we<br />

eat—the reef feeds my family and my<br />

community. It also brings tourism and<br />

develops our economy. It protects our<br />

coastline by acting as a coastal protection<br />

barrier, stopping 97 percent of the waves’<br />

energy, preventing erosion. Coral reefs<br />

are also home to a quarter of all the<br />

species we know of in the ocean. Reefs are<br />

like the rainforests of the sea. Scientists<br />

estimate that 70 percent of the oxygen we<br />

breathe comes from a healthy ocean. <strong>The</strong><br />

most shocking thing? Almost no one on<br />

our island realized this. That’s why the<br />

Coral Gardeners exist.”<br />

That day, Bernicot decided he would<br />

devote his life to helping protect the<br />

coral around his island. On the beach,<br />

he met a local who was replanting<br />

broken coral and showed him how to<br />

do it. Bernicot set to work on his own<br />

underwater garden. Next, he sought<br />

advice from marine biologists working at<br />

Mo’orea’s two scientific research centers:<br />

the Gump Research Station, administered<br />

by the University of California, Berkeley;<br />

and the preeminent French institution<br />

CRIOBE (Center for Island Research<br />

and Environmental Observatory), which<br />

has facilitated the study of marine life<br />

in Polynesia for more than 30 years and<br />

now works in partnership with the Coral<br />

Gardeners. But what they told Bernicot<br />

wasn’t what he wanted to hear. “I knocked<br />

on the doors of all the scientific and<br />

research institutions,” he says. “Everyone<br />

told me to finish high school, then do a<br />

three-year biology degree, then a master’s<br />

in marine biology and then, ‘If you’re<br />

sharp enough, go and do a Ph.D.’ <strong>The</strong>re’s<br />

a real need for scientists—today, we work<br />

hand-in-hand with them—but that’s just<br />

not me. I’m more of an entrepreneur.<br />

I told them they were crazy, I couldn’t<br />

do that. It killed my motivation.”<br />

It was actually a stint away from his<br />

island home that eventually gave<br />

birth to the Coral Gardeners. Feeling<br />

defeated, an 18-year-old Bernicot<br />

consented to his parents’ wishes that<br />

he study business in the southwest of<br />

France. He lasted two weeks. “I couldn’t<br />

stand it,” he says. “<strong>The</strong>re I was, all alone<br />

in my little apartment in Bordeaux. I’d<br />

left my island family, my dogs, my<br />

friends, my corals. I called my parents<br />

and said, ‘Sorry, but I won’t be going<br />

back to school.’ <strong>The</strong>y told me, ‘Titouan,<br />

we believe in you, but you won’t have<br />

any more money from us now. You have<br />

to support yourself.’ That was a shock.”<br />

Bernicot decided he would somehow<br />

pay back his parents the €7,000 they’d<br />

spent on his business course, then return<br />

to Mo’orea to try to help save the coral<br />

reef. Aptly, it was the South Pacific Ocean<br />

that provided the means: Tahitian pearls.<br />

“I went to the business center of the town<br />

and created a jewelry company the next<br />

day. I went to every hotel, every winery,<br />

every house, to sell my Tahitian pearls.”<br />

With the earnings, he paid his parents,<br />

his rent, then took a surf trip to Morocco.<br />

His remaining money went into founding<br />

the Coral Gardeners in 2017, following<br />

his return to Mo’orea. “I still didn’t know<br />

it could be my life plan or my career,” he<br />

says. “<strong>The</strong>re was no business model to<br />


“Reefs are like<br />

the rainforests<br />

of the sea.”<br />

International rescue: <strong>The</strong> Coral<br />

Gardeners plan to expand their<br />

reef relief work from a localized<br />

concern to a global mission.


achieve that, except becoming a marine<br />

biologist, and I didn’t want to do that, so<br />

I had to reinvent everything.” But Bernicot<br />

has always had a head for business. At<br />

the age of 11 he started his first company,<br />

selling stickers at school. <strong>The</strong> proceeds<br />

bought him his little aluminum boat.<br />

“I’ve always had the feeling that nothing<br />

is impossible. If you work hard and<br />

connect with the right people, you can<br />

achieve your dreams. And I’ve never<br />

worked so hard as this. Day and night.”<br />

Bernicot’s team has now grown from<br />

one to 20 full-time staff, who are paid<br />

a fair wage for their long hours, and all<br />

profits are reinvested into the company<br />

to fund the planting of coral, raising<br />

awareness worldwide, and innovation.<br />

Over the past four years, the group have<br />

planted more than 15,000 corals on the<br />

north side of Mo’orea. When they set off<br />

on a restoration mission, they start out<br />

by collecting pieces of coral scattered in<br />

the water. Destroyed chiefly by swells<br />

and human activity, these “fragments of<br />

opportunity”—as the team call them—<br />

are taken to a nursery, where they will<br />

regenerate, stabilize and grow in the best<br />

conditions possible over several months.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se provide cuttings that are then<br />

replanted on damaged or completely dead<br />

reefs. <strong>The</strong> coral is wedged in a small<br />

crevice where it can survive alone. Marine<br />

cement is dabbed around the coral to<br />

strengthen it and keep it in position.<br />

“We like to say it’s a second chance for<br />

damaged coral,” Teiho says. “Plus it’s<br />

bringing new life to a dead coral head.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> Coral Gardeners monitor the<br />

replanted coral closely and record their<br />

observations to build a more detailed<br />

picture of how the changing environment<br />

affects them. <strong>The</strong>re have already been<br />

breakthroughs. “People often ask, ‘OK,<br />

global warming is killing corals, so why<br />

are you planting them? <strong>The</strong>y’re going to<br />

die anyway,’ ” says Bernicot. “Well, the<br />

scientists here found something super<br />

exciting this past couple of years:<br />

species of coral they’ve called super<br />

corals. Super corals are genotypes of<br />

coral that [can tolerate] the rise in water<br />

temperature. During a bleaching event,<br />

some of these corals are not dying—<br />

they’re more resilient. Our nurseries are<br />

like little gardens underwater where the<br />

coral will adapt themselves. We monitor<br />

them and let them grow for 12 to 18<br />

months until they’re an ideal size. <strong>The</strong>n<br />

we’ll put them back onto a damaged reef<br />

in the hope that they’ll grow. If so, a<br />

Local hero: Titouan Bernicot spurned a potential<br />

career in business to save his island’s reef.<br />

couple of years later they could spawn. If<br />

we see this, it’s game on. <strong>The</strong>n they’ll be<br />

populating the reef around them.”<br />

However, Bernicot and his team<br />

know that replanting alone won’t<br />

be enough to stave off the<br />

potentially catastrophic effects of global<br />

warming. “We have a few little signs of<br />

hope,” says Bernicot, “but planting corals<br />

itself won’t save the reef, which is why<br />

we’re trying to also raise awareness.<br />

Basically, we need more people to give<br />

a shit about coral reefs. If we really want<br />

to help the reef, we need to create a<br />

worldwide movement of collaborative<br />

action at the same time as planting<br />

resilient corals.”<br />

To this end, the Coral Gardeners have<br />

already amassed a following of more than<br />

500,000 on social media and through<br />

their coral adoption program—their<br />

main revenue stream—whereby people<br />

pay to adopt a particular coral, for which<br />

“We want to reach<br />

a figure of a million<br />

super corals planted<br />

back onto reefs<br />

worldwide by 2025.”<br />

they’re sent a picture, GPS coordinates<br />

and regular updates. More than 21,000<br />

people have adopted so far, and that<br />

number is rising daily. <strong>The</strong>re’s also an<br />

innovation center headed by Drew Gray,<br />

a former director of engineering at Uber<br />

and the first hire made by Elon Musk<br />

when developing Tesla’s self-driving car.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Californian is using his tech acumen<br />

to improve restoration of the reef, better<br />

monitor human impact and bring<br />

adopters closer to their coral—soon<br />

they’ll be able to see it growing online.<br />

“We have big plans,” says Bernicot.<br />

“We want to reach a million super corals<br />

planted back onto reefs worldwide by<br />

2025. That will mean opening 30<br />

international branches in Indonesia, the<br />

Maldives, Seychelles, Philippines, Egypt,<br />

Australia, Hawaii . . . and more in the<br />

islands of Tahiti. We’ll need hundreds of<br />

people planting corals every day. What’s<br />

beautiful is the people planting coral in<br />

our team are local fisherman, freedivers<br />

and surfers, so they’re really comfortable<br />

in the water, and then they learn from<br />

the scientists. <strong>The</strong>y’re doing their ideal<br />

job, restoring the reef. It’s beautiful to<br />

watch as a coral gets bigger and there are<br />

fish and crabs in it—that’s why we started,<br />

and it’s what stimulates us to do more.<br />

Tomorrow we’re talking to 50 kids on<br />

our island. I want them to have the same<br />

feeling I had at 16; to fall in love with the<br />

corals and the ocean and want to help it.”<br />

And then there’s the awareness that<br />

is being spread by ambassadors such as<br />

Néry and other athletes and influencers<br />

who have been moved by the Coral<br />

Gardeners’ ambitions and appreciate<br />

the urgent need to highlight the issue.<br />

“Adopting a coral, especially for kids, is<br />

a very good way for them to understand<br />

how important it is to protect it,” says<br />

Néry. “Change has to happen locally<br />

first, and then, if many people act, it can<br />

grow into a huge wave. I see the Coral<br />

Gardeners as pioneers in this work. <strong>The</strong><br />

more of us who are concerned about<br />

this, the bigger the change can be. That’s<br />

why I’m helping.<br />

“I used to be a very optimistic person,<br />

then I had a phase where I was very<br />

pessimistic, and today I think that I have<br />

—that we all have—to give as much<br />

positive energy as possible. We each have<br />

our own way to make an impact, then<br />

we’re connecting, trying to combine our<br />

actions and skills for the same cause. It’s<br />

only together that we can create hope.”<br />

coralgardeners.org<br />



CHANGE<br />

Motorsports and<br />

eco-activism: two<br />

camps that rarely play<br />

together. But thanks to<br />

an unlikely alliance, here<br />

is the surprising story<br />

of a race—an actual<br />

race, with revolutionary<br />

vehicles—to save our<br />

planet from ecological<br />

destruction.<br />



<strong>The</strong> Extreme E teams come<br />

to grips with the Odyssey<br />

21 E-SUV for the first time<br />

on January 15 at MotorLand<br />

in Aragón, Spain.<br />


Ordinarily, race cars are heard<br />

long before they are seen. But<br />

not this one. It emerges silently<br />

from the fog like a manta ray<br />

gliding through the ocean, before<br />

melting back into the gloom<br />

with a faint mechanical sound.<br />

Spain’s MotorLand Aragón lies midway<br />

between Barcelona and Madrid. Pre-COVID,<br />

this racing complex drew massive MotoGP<br />

crowds. But today, in the final weeks of<br />

2020, it’s almost deserted, save for these<br />

mysterious vehicles drifting and bouncing<br />

around a makeshift dirt circuit. <strong>The</strong>y resemble<br />

overgrown radio-controlled buggies but sound<br />

unlike anything you’ve heard—quiet at low<br />

speed before accelerating into a Scalextricmeets-Star<br />

Wars-podracer whine. And yet,<br />

these electric-powered SUVs are built for a<br />

race that’s even more outlandish than they are.<br />

Extreme E is billed as “the race for<br />

the planet.” Its bold aim is to reinvent<br />

motorsports as an environmental force for<br />

good, highlighting the world’s ecological<br />

crisis with zero-emission SUVs racing<br />

wheel-to-wheel in far-flung locations<br />

messed up by mankind, from felled<br />

rainforests to beaches littered with ocean<br />

plastic. <strong>The</strong> series kicks off this <strong>April</strong> in<br />

the desert sands of Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia,<br />

followed in May by a beach race in Dakar,<br />

Senegal. In August, Kangerlussuaq in<br />

Denmark hosts an Arctic X-Prix, before<br />

Extreme E moves to Santarem, Brazil, in<br />

October, for a competition on soil where<br />

the Amazon once stood. <strong>The</strong> finale is at<br />

the melting glaciers of Tierra del Fuego,<br />

Argentina, in December.<br />

Carving around ecologically scarred<br />

sites in 4x4s might sound like a counterintuitive<br />

way to save the planet, but<br />

Extreme E’s bumper-sticker motto is:<br />

“We race without a trace.” “We drive on<br />

rocks and sand,” says its mastermind,<br />

Alejandro Agag. “Cars cannot break sand,<br />

cannot break rocks. <strong>The</strong>re’s no damage.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> series’ founder and CEO promises his<br />

team will leave these “front lines of the<br />

climate crisis” in better shape than they<br />

Left: Sébastien Loeb<br />

sizes up his Team<br />

X44 SUV for the first<br />

time in Aragón. Right:<br />

<strong>The</strong> ABT Cupra XE<br />

team car in action.<br />



“Cars cannot<br />

break sand,<br />

cannot break<br />

rocks. <strong>The</strong>re’s<br />

no damage.”<br />


found them, investing in environmental<br />

projects at each destination. And it aims<br />

to be totally carbon neutral by the end<br />

of <strong>2021</strong>. <strong>The</strong> concept is seen by sponsors<br />

and host countries as a win-win;<br />

governments have welcomed it with<br />

open arms. “It’s green, you promote their<br />

country for tourism, and it also gives a<br />

good image,” says Agag. “For a politician,<br />

it’s a no-brainer.”<br />

He’s speaking from experience: <strong>The</strong><br />

suave and savvy 50-year-old Spanish<br />

businessman enjoyed a promising career<br />

in politics before becoming a major<br />

player in motor racing. It’s an unlikely<br />

backstory for an environmental champion,<br />

but, as the founder of electric streetracing<br />

series Formula E, Agag has done<br />

plenty to wean motorsports off fossil<br />

fuels and into eco-rehab. This commitment<br />

to leaving no damage in its wake means<br />

Extreme E will have no ticket-buying<br />

spectators, but its impact will be felt.<br />

Media buzz was already growing when,<br />

in September, Formula One megastar<br />

Lewis Hamilton announced his own team<br />

and it went stratospheric.<br />

Make no mistake, Extreme E will be<br />

very big indeed.<br />

If you’re serious about making a splash<br />

as a green A-lister, you need your<br />

own boat. Jacques Cousteau had the<br />

Calypso. Greta Thunberg has her zerocarbon<br />

yacht. Conservation organizations<br />

Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd boast<br />

entire fleets. Agag has a 30-year-old<br />

former Royal Mail ship upcycled into<br />

a “floating paddock.” Cars aren’t<br />

airfreighted to races but transported<br />

inside the 6,767-ton RMS St. Helena.<br />

Agag scrolls through his phone to<br />

show <strong>The</strong> <strong>Red</strong> <strong>Bulletin</strong> a picture of the<br />

vessel after her multimillion-pound<br />

refurb, sporting a new black, white<br />

and green paint job. He’s particularly<br />

pleased with the slogan across the hull:<br />

When Lewis<br />

Hamilton<br />

announced<br />

his own team,<br />

the buzz went<br />

stratospheric.<br />

“Not electric … yet!” <strong>The</strong> engines have<br />

been converted to run on low-sulfur<br />

marine diesel, cleaner than the heavy<br />

diesel (basically crude oil) commonly used<br />

in shipping. RMS St. Helena can cruise on<br />

one engine to lower fuel consumption and<br />

emissions and, says Agag, will one day<br />

run on biofuel. Traveling by sea rather<br />

than air generates a third of the carbon<br />

emissions, but what happens as this ship<br />

sails is more amazing still.<br />

In steel shipping containers onboard<br />

are hydrogen fuel-cell generators—<br />

portable emission-free power sources<br />

that can charge the cars either at sea<br />

or at the race site. “Green hydrogen is<br />

produced by solar panels or wind,<br />

depending on location,” explains Agag.<br />

“We’ll prove you can power remote areas<br />

with clean energy.” He hopes this offgrid<br />

technology might one day supply<br />

emergency power to disaster zones.<br />

RMS St. Helena sleeps 110 in 62<br />

cabins, and her 20-meter swimming pool<br />

has been stripped out to make space for a<br />

science lab inspired by Cousteau’s Calypso.<br />

This is not just for show—Extreme E has<br />

also employed a committee of climate<br />

experts to provide education and research.<br />

Since her 18-month refit in Liverpool,<br />

the ship has been in strict quarantine.<br />

After virus outbreaks obliterated the<br />

cruise industry, Agag is not taking any<br />

chances—a stowaway microbe could<br />

scuttle the entire adventure.<br />

Organizing a global racing series of<br />

this magnitude was never going to be<br />

easy, but doing it during a pandemic was<br />

a huge undertaking—an ever-changing<br />

obstacle course of travel restrictions,<br />

border closures and COVID testing. “It’s<br />

been challenging,” admits Agag. “Like<br />

walking with a [200-pound] backpack.<br />

But soon the backpack will drop.”<br />

And yet, even as the world ground to<br />

a standstill, his big idea gained traction.<br />

Motorsports aristocracy wanted in.<br />

Alongside seven-time champion Lewis<br />

Hamilton, F1’s Nico Rosberg and Jenson<br />

Button also have their own teams, while<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull Racing’s engineering guru Adrian<br />

Newey leads another. From rallying, the<br />

roster includes two-time world champion<br />

Carlos Sainz and Sébastien Loeb, the<br />

sport’s most-successful-ever driver.<br />

“<strong>The</strong>y were waiting for this<br />

opportunity, hoping for off-road to<br />

become an actor in the climate action<br />

we need,” says Agag. That opportunity<br />

has finally arrived at MotorLand as they<br />

get to test their cars for the first time:<br />

“Today, we see an idea become reality.”<br />

All 10 teams have the same car: the<br />

Odyssey 21, built by French firm Spark<br />

Racing Technology and powered by dual<br />

Formula E motors. This is the teams’ first<br />

test at full power—400 kW (536 hp). “I’m<br />

happy with their reliability,” says Agag,<br />

smiling. “Normally with new technology<br />

and so many cars, a lot of things go wrong.<br />

But the only thing that has is the fog.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> morning sun is already burning<br />

that fog away, revealing cars being flung<br />

around by some of the most skilled<br />



drivers on the planet as drones hum<br />

around them like mosquitoes. <strong>The</strong>se will<br />

capture the action during the spectatorless<br />

races, streaming it live around the<br />

world. Away in the distance stands a lone<br />

figure. “Oh look, a nine-time world<br />

champion peeing,” deadpans Agag.<br />

Sébastien Loeb has done and won<br />

it all. After dominating the World Rally<br />

Championship for a decade, winning<br />

the Race of Champions three times and<br />

finishing second in the 24 Hours of<br />

Le Mans, the Frenchman retired in 2012<br />

but then went on to smash the Pikes<br />

Peak record in his first try, and come<br />

runner-up in the Dakar Rally. But driving<br />

for Lewis Hamilton’s X44 team will take<br />

him to places, such as Patagonia, where<br />

he’s never raced before. “It’s something<br />

completely new and I wanted to discover<br />

that from inside,” says rallying’s serial<br />

achiever. “If we want motorsports to<br />

continue in the long term, it’s good to<br />

take new directions. This is one.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> Ganassi Racing<br />

car goes through its<br />

paces. It’s since had a<br />

redesign to resemble<br />

Team Ganassi’s GMC<br />

Hummer supertruck.<br />


Extreme E’s CEO<br />

Alejandro Agag (left)<br />

takes a break at the<br />

Aragón test circuit to<br />

chat with race legend<br />

Sébastien Loeb.<br />

At 3,600 pounds, the Odyssey feels<br />

heavier than the highly developed,<br />

astonishingly quick WRC cars Loeb is<br />

used to. “It’s quite technical to drive,” he<br />

says. Usually reserved, rarely smiling,<br />

he’s nonetheless clearly thrilled. “We<br />

have to fight with the car sometimes. But<br />

that makes it exciting. I think in the<br />

desert it will be really fun.”<br />

From those who’ve left an indelible<br />

mark to those just beginning to make<br />

theirs, Extreme E’s drivers are diverse by<br />

design. <strong>The</strong> youngest is 22-year-old Brit<br />

Jamie Chadwick; the oldest, Spaniard<br />

Carlos Sainz, is 58. This is also the first<br />

motorsport to feature a 50/50 gender<br />

split. Male and female racers compete on<br />

equal terms, inspired by the mixeddoubles<br />

format in pro tennis. “I liked the<br />

format because the men and the women<br />

are equally decisive for victory,” Agag<br />

says. “So I thought we should play this<br />

championship as teams—one man and<br />

one woman doing two laps, one each.”<br />

One of the championship’s youngest<br />

drivers, 23-year-old Catie Munnings,<br />

describes Extreme E as “inspirational. It’s<br />

going to encourage girls to have a serious<br />

career in motorsports at the right age.<br />

And for young drivers, it’s the future.”<br />

Munnings got her career off to a<br />

flying start, winning the European Rally<br />

Championship Ladies Trophy in 2016 in<br />

her first season, the first British driver to<br />

claim a European title in almost 50 years.<br />

But, after a tough first year in Junior<br />

WRC in 2020, she’s joined the Andretti<br />

United Extreme E team with World<br />

Rallycross champion and fellow <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

driver Timmy Hansen. “Women aren’t in<br />

the teams just for the media,” she says.<br />

“Everyone’s been picked on merit. All<br />

that money, that development, the hours<br />

—it’s pointless unless you’ve chosen<br />

someone because you think they’re fast.”<br />

Temperamentally, Munnings couldn’t<br />

be more different from the low-key Loeb.<br />

While the taciturn rally deity is unlikely<br />

to get his own talk show anytime soon,<br />

the chatty Munnings has already hosted<br />

her own children’s TV series: Catie’s<br />

Amazing Machines. While she’s clearly<br />

thrilled to be in such company, and<br />

confesses to having done double-takes<br />

while hanging out with some of her<br />

sport’s greatest names, the Brit isn’t fazed<br />

by the caliber of the competition: “We’re<br />

all just drivers learning a new car.” But<br />

then, this is a woman who won her first<br />

“If we want<br />

motorsports to<br />

continue long term,<br />

it’s good to take<br />

new directions.”<br />

international rally after surviving a<br />

massive crash, and took her Biology<br />

finals the day before qualifying.<br />

Today’s test is a data-logging exercise,<br />

but one pair seem to be having more fun<br />

than is necessary: the American team<br />

owned by NASCAR’s Chip Ganassi.<br />

Drivers Sara Price (a former dirt-bike<br />

champion) and off-road racer Kyle LeDuc<br />

are going all-out with big jumps and<br />

gravel-pinging tail slides. A camera crew<br />

is showered with grit as the car careens<br />

around a bend. <strong>The</strong>y’re finally ordered out<br />

of the way by an anxious marshal, who<br />

warns that the Ganassi car spun out of<br />

control earlier after “popping a tire off.”<br />

It takes up to two hours to charge<br />

Odyssey 21’s batteries for 20 minutes of<br />

testing. Range remains a perennial<br />

problem for electric cars, so races are<br />

short at just two 16-kilometer (10-mile)<br />

laps. On X Prix weekends, each team is<br />

allowed one full charge for the day’s two<br />

races. After a few spirited test laps, a<br />

plasticky electrical whiff emanates from<br />

the Ganassi car. <strong>The</strong>y all seem to do it, but<br />

it’s not a smell anyone would want coming<br />

from their fuse box at home. Most electric<br />

cars today are powered by lithium-ion<br />

batteries, which, on rare occasions, have<br />

caught fire, even exploded, in a reaction<br />

known as “thermal runaway.” But safety is<br />

a priority in any motorsport, and Extreme<br />

E has a team trained to extract drivers<br />

from electric vehicles. Agag insists the<br />



“Women aren’t<br />

in the teams just<br />

for the media.<br />

Everyone’s been<br />

picked on merit.”<br />

British driver<br />

Catie Munnings<br />

wraps up a test.

With Odyssey 21’s<br />

plant-fiber shell<br />

lifted, its tubular<br />

frame is revealed.<br />

“We’re not<br />

in this for<br />

commercial<br />

gain—we<br />

believe in it.”<br />

Odyssey 21’s batteries, made by the British<br />

company Williams Advanced Engineering,<br />

are extremely safe, explaining that Spark’s<br />

own test driver rolled his car earlier and<br />

experienced “no problem at all.”<br />

Lithium ion presents another concern.<br />

Mining for “white gold,” as lithium is<br />

known, has a devastating impact on<br />

ecosystems around the world. Agag is<br />

fully aware of the issue but takes a<br />

pragmatic view that climate change is<br />

the more pressing threat. “<strong>The</strong> most<br />

urgent thing is not pollution caused by<br />

minerals, it’s CO 2<br />

in the atmosphere,”<br />

he says. “We have to make a choice,<br />

and that is to try to cut the CO 2<br />

in the<br />

atmosphere and the toxic particles<br />

coming from cars. For that, batteries<br />

are the solution. Are they perfect? No.<br />

Are they better than a diesel car in the<br />

city? Definitely.”<br />

Adrian Newey has been converted to<br />

the cause. His cars have won more than<br />

150 Grands Prix and secured four<br />

consecutive F1 drivers’ and constructors’<br />

championships for <strong>Red</strong> Bull Racing<br />

between 2010 and 2013. <strong>The</strong> 62-year-old<br />

engineer and designer (left) has stood at<br />

the pinnacle of racing since the 1980s,<br />

when F1 teams ran, in his words, “on a<br />

diet of cigarettes, coffee and beige<br />

polyester.” Fossil fuels have been the<br />

lifeblood of his exceptional career. Now,<br />

as “lead visionary” of the Veloce Racing<br />

team, Newey has been presented with<br />

a new challenge. “[Extreme E] is an<br />

interesting concept to combine<br />

technology with conservation,” he says.<br />

“We know we’re damaging the planet.<br />

Everybody is grappling with how we<br />

reverse that process.”<br />

For Newey, climate change is a<br />

complex engineering problem, but he’s<br />

skeptical about battery technology as<br />

a long-term solution: “It’s not quite the<br />

panacea that governments make it out to<br />

be.” He believes the automotive industry<br />

has been “press-ganged” into embracing<br />

it. “But it will grow and mature, just as<br />

the combustion engine did,” adds<br />

Newey. “And other sources will creep in<br />

—hydrogen being the most obvious.”<br />

He’s a big advocate of hydrogen and<br />

would like to see it fueling Extreme E<br />

as soon as season three: “Hopefully, by<br />

then, the boat will be converted to<br />

hydrogen and become very sustainable.”<br />

Newey was introduced to Extreme E<br />

by his racing-driver son Harrison, who<br />

helps run Formula E champion Jean-Éric<br />

Vergne’s Veloce team and its esports<br />

sister company. “A huge number of<br />

people watch gamers competing and<br />

audience figures are massive,” says<br />

Newey Sr. “Hopefully, Extreme E will<br />

appeal to the same demographic.”<br />

Agag, a gamer himself, definitely had<br />

Gen Z’s digital natives in mind when<br />

brainstorming both Formula E and his<br />

new venture; he even lifted a few tricks<br />

from video games. Take “Hyperdrive,”<br />

where the Extreme E team that performs<br />

the longest jump on the first jump of<br />

each race gets a speed boost to deploy at<br />

will. “That’s from Mario Kart,” he admits.<br />

“Alejandro has shown tremendous<br />

vision,” says Newey. “I wouldn’t be<br />

involved if I didn’t think it had something<br />

to offer. We’re not in it for commercial<br />

gain—we believe in it.”<br />

But how did a career politician<br />

metamorphose into a planet-saving<br />

motorsports visionary? Intelligent,<br />

charismatic and ambitious, by the age<br />

of 25 Agag was a rising star in Spain’s<br />

center-right People’s Party and had<br />

been appointed as political aide to Prime<br />

Minister José María Aznar. He was<br />

elected an MEP three years later and<br />

married the PM’s daughter Ana Aznar<br />

—after reportedly proposing in her<br />

father’s offices—in 2002. <strong>The</strong> nuptials<br />

were attended by Spain’s king and queen<br />

as well as its celebrated crooner Julio<br />

Iglesias, Rupert Murdoch and members<br />

of the world’s political elite. Tony Blair<br />

and Silvio Berlusconi were witnesses.<br />

Though strongly tipped as a future party<br />

mover-and-shaker, Agag had, by then,<br />

already quit politics. He never returned.<br />

Decamping to London, armed with his<br />

book of stellar contacts, he moved into<br />

motorsports, thriving in the notorious<br />



For Agag, the<br />

climate fight should<br />

be “above politics.”<br />

Everyone has a role<br />

to play.<br />

shark pool of F1 and forging a reputation<br />

as a formidable dealmaker. In 2002,<br />

alongside Flavio Briatore (then managing<br />

director of Renault), Agag snapped up<br />

Spanish TV rights for F1; in 2007, as part<br />

of a consortium with Briatore, F1 chief<br />

executive Bernie Ecclestone and steel<br />

magnate Lakshmi Mittal, he acquired<br />

EFL Championship soccer team Queens<br />

Park Rangers; and the following year<br />

he bought an FGP2 racing team. “Being<br />

a politician never leaves you completely.<br />

It helps you create agreements and<br />

places where people can meet,” says the<br />

man with the golden SIM card.<br />

<strong>The</strong> next chapter was Formula E,<br />

which he started with FIA president<br />

Jean Todt in 2014, partly in response to<br />

motorsports’ growing image problem.<br />

In the 2019 Formula E documentary<br />

And We Go Green, Agag is seen reclining<br />

on a sofa, puffing on a fat cigar as he<br />

recalls, “I tried to convince a company to<br />

become a sponsor for Formula One. And<br />

in every email they said, ‘We cannot be<br />

involved, because it’s polluting.’ I thought,<br />

‘We have a problem.’ ”<br />

As Greta Thunberg’s generation<br />

approaches the age that Agag was<br />

when he entered politics, the<br />

environment continues to climb the<br />

world’s political agenda. For Agag, the<br />

climate fight should now be “above<br />

politics.” From Extinction Rebellion to<br />

ExxonMobil, everyone has a role to play.<br />

Sports, he believes, can be an agent of<br />

change. “Out of the 25 most-watched<br />

TV programs in history, 24 have been<br />

sporting events,” he says. “It has the<br />

possibility to spread the message in<br />

a much wider way.”<br />

Imaginative, driven, seriously wealthy<br />

—he dug into his own, evidently very<br />

deep, pockets to fund Extreme E—and<br />

not so much well connected as plugged<br />

directly into the international power<br />

grid, Agag is clearly a man who can<br />

sense which way the wind is blowing.<br />

And right now, it’s blowing very much<br />

in his favor.<br />

Ripping across the sand in an<br />

elderly open-top Land Rover,<br />

Extreme E’s sporting manager,<br />

Guy Nicholls, shouts directions<br />

to his driver over a roaring sea wind:<br />

“Turn right at the porpoise.” To the<br />

vehicle’s left is the Atlantic Ocean;<br />

on the beach to the right a badly<br />

decomposed dolphin carcass. <strong>The</strong><br />

sorry cetacean’s final resting place is<br />

an ugly tide mark of plastic detritus<br />

that stretches into the hazy distance.<br />

“It’s tough to see this,” says Nicholls<br />

as the driver steers inland.<br />

Senegal’s coastline—more than 430<br />

miles long, including estuaries—is<br />

drowning in plastic waste. <strong>The</strong> whole of<br />

Africa is choking on the stuff. It clogs<br />

roads, pollutes soil and contaminates<br />

animal feed. Rain washes it into<br />

waterways and eventually the sea, where<br />

it’s ingested by marine life or spat back<br />

onshore by the tide. According to an<br />

industry report in 2019, almost 360<br />

million tons of plastic were produced the<br />

previous year—more than the combined<br />

weight of every human on Earth at the last<br />

estimate. Plastic can take up to 1,000 years<br />

to biodegrade, and it doesn’t only harm<br />

dolphins; it breaks down into tiny shreds<br />

that can affect human development,<br />

reproduction and health. A 2019 study by<br />

the University of Newcastle, Australia,<br />

found that the average adult consumes the<br />

equivalent of a credit card every week, and<br />

microplastic particles have been found in<br />

the placentas of unborn babies.<br />

Nicholls and his team are at Senegal’s<br />

Lac Rose beach for their first site survey.<br />

In May, they will be followed by the<br />

whole traveling circus. <strong>The</strong> Ocean X-Prix<br />

will transform this sprawling sand pit<br />

into a buzzing techno-village. Container<br />

trucks will shuttle race cars, service<br />

vehicles and equipment from RMS St.<br />

Helena, docked at the capital, Dakar, an<br />

hour’s drive away. And 70 air shelters—<br />

those giant inflatable tents used by relief<br />

organizations and murder investigation<br />

teams—will house the race command<br />

center, driver change area and garages.<br />

As sporting manager, Nicholls’ first job<br />

is to sketch a circuit onto this “huge<br />

canvas” that’s practical, televisually<br />

appealing, exciting and safe. Mapped out<br />

by pairs of flags—“rather like downhill<br />

skiing”—each five-minute lap will send<br />

drivers out along the beach, returning<br />

on bumpier, jumpier inland terrain. “It<br />

allows them to go one route or another,”<br />

explains Nicholls, who will return in a few<br />

weeks with racing driver Timo Scheider<br />

and a fast dune buggy to fine-tune the<br />

course. “It’s up to them—the shortest<br />

distance between two points is not always<br />

the quickest.”<br />

At Lac Rose, Senegal, a<br />

volunteer collects plastic<br />

waste to make an “ecobrick,”<br />

which can then be used in<br />

building construction.<br />


Shipping plastic<br />

waste to Africa<br />

is cheaper than<br />

recycling it. Out of<br />

sight, out of mind.<br />

Below: <strong>The</strong> Team<br />

Andretti United race<br />

car. Opposite page:<br />

Senegalese fisherman<br />

Abdou Karim Sall<br />

surveys the mangrove<br />

swamps in his<br />

pirogue.<br />

Behind the dunes lies Lac Rose, or<br />

the Pink Lake. Today its salty water<br />

is rusty gray, but pigmented algae<br />

sometimes turns the lagoon a shocking<br />

cotton-candy hue. For many years it<br />

marked the finish line of another<br />

famous—or, more accurately, infamous—<br />

off-road race. If Extreme E promises<br />

a greener future for motorsports, the<br />

bad old days of the Paris-Dakar Rally<br />

embodied its grubby excesses. <strong>The</strong><br />

spectacle of wealthy westerners speeding<br />

through impoverished African countries,<br />

leaving dust, destruction and deaths in<br />

their wake, did little for the sport’s<br />

environmental reputation. But it<br />

brought visitors and international<br />

attention. Since the Paris-Dakar left<br />

Africa in 2009, the local community<br />

has felt its loss.<br />

“It was one of the biggest events<br />

showcasing Senegal, but when it left<br />

people didn’t reinvent the destination,”<br />

says Senegalese eco-entrepreneur<br />

Stephan Senghor. Pink Lake is no longer<br />

a tourist hot spot, and the neighboring<br />

village of Niaga faces “a cocktail of<br />

challenges—people are living with the<br />

bare minimum here.”<br />

Niaga’s dusty main street is alive with<br />

activity and color, its shops and stalls<br />

trading everything from truck parts to<br />

traditional dresses, but plastic trash is<br />

everywhere; scruffy goats and bony<br />

cows graze on it as they wander the<br />

roadside. Africa leads the world in its<br />

ban on plastic—last year, Senegal<br />

prohibited all water sachets and plastic<br />

cups—so why is it still so ubiquitous?<br />

One reason is that the continent remains<br />

among the developed world’s favorite<br />

dumping grounds. Shipping plastic<br />

waste to Africa is cheaper than recycling<br />

it. Out of sight, out of mind.<br />

Senghor has devoted much of his adult<br />

life to cleaning up his homeland. After<br />

studying and working in Canada, he came<br />

back with an idea to turn plastic waste<br />

into building materials. His fix is simple,<br />

ingenious and low-tech: filling soft-drink<br />

bottles with compacted plastic waste.<br />

Cemented into walls, these “ecobricks”<br />

make strong, long-lasting structures.<br />

Now, with Extreme E’s support,<br />

Senghor’s organization is helping Niaga<br />

reinvent itself as a sustainable community<br />

or “EcoZone”—a living lab showcasing<br />

environmental initiatives while improving<br />

lives. Working with schools, Senghor<br />

incentivizes children by gamifying litter<br />

picking. Every ecobrick made can be<br />

redeemed for money for community<br />

schemes. If successful at the Pink Lake,<br />

the project will expand, perhaps into<br />



“<strong>The</strong> mangrove<br />

is good for the<br />

community and<br />

for the Earth.”<br />

other African countries. “This is the first<br />

time they have a race where a project<br />

comes with it,” he says. “It’s about how we<br />

can be side by side, doing stuff together.<br />

Everything is possible if we want it to be.”<br />

Abdou Karim Sall was “born<br />

a fisherman” in Senegal’s Saloum<br />

Delta, a four-hour drive from<br />

Dakar. A physically imposing<br />

man with a piratey past, the 55-year-old<br />

once kidnapped a Chinese sea captain.<br />

For decades, foreign commercial fishing<br />

vessels have looted West African waters.<br />

Each one can sweep 250 tons of fish into<br />

its nets daily—50 times what a local boat<br />

catches in a year. So Sall boarded one of<br />

these mega-trawlers and abducted the<br />

captain. He was jailed the next day, but<br />

a mob of angry fishermen persuaded<br />

police to let him go. <strong>The</strong> episode made<br />

national headlines, forcing the<br />

government to negotiate a solution.<br />

“To solve problems, you have to create<br />

other problems,” Sall says, matter-offactly.<br />

That was 30 years ago. Today, he<br />

insists, his swashbuckling days are over:<br />

“Sometimes it’s necessary to do bad<br />

things. But I was younger; I wouldn’t do<br />

it again.” However, he’s still banned from<br />

China. “<strong>The</strong>y will never give me a visa,”<br />

he laughs, looking distinctly unconcerned.<br />

Sall grew up in Joal, a fishing port<br />

responsible for more than a quarter of<br />

Senegal’s entire annual catch. From the<br />

town’s plastic-strewn beach, he launches<br />

a long wooden boat called a pirogue.<br />

According to one origin story, this<br />

traditional Senegalese fishing vessel<br />

gave the country its name (“sunu gaal”<br />

means “our pirogue” in the West African<br />

language Wolof). Its shallow draft is<br />

perfect for navigating the estuarine<br />

backwaters where the mangroves grow.<br />

It’s hard to overstate the importance of<br />

the mangrove ecosystem to both fishing<br />

and the environment. <strong>The</strong> mangrove is<br />

the only tree that can grow in salt water.<br />

Its tangled roots are a habitat for crabs<br />

and shellfish, and a vital nursery for<br />

young fish. Mangrove forests create a<br />

buffer zone, protecting the land from the<br />

sea while sucking up 10 times as much<br />

carbon dioxide as the rainforests. “<strong>The</strong><br />

mangrove is good for the community<br />

and for the Earth,” says Octavio Fleury,<br />

scientific director of Oceanium, the nonprofit<br />

reforesting Senegal’s swamps with<br />

help from Extreme E.<br />

When a decade-long drought raised<br />

salt levels in the 1970s, large swaths of<br />

West Africa’s mangroves died. Senegal<br />

alone lost more than 100 million, replaced<br />

by lifeless salt flats, empty apart from the<br />

tire tracks of smugglers driving across<br />

the delta at low tide from neighboring<br />

Gambia. “It was terrible,” says the<br />

Frenchman. “A little change like salinity<br />

and all the mangroves can disappear.”<br />

Oceanium pays schoolchildren to<br />

collect “propagules”—the mangrove<br />

tree’s spearlike buds—and plant them in<br />

neat rows across the delta mud at low<br />

tide. “<strong>The</strong> idea is to make restoration<br />

easy,” explains Fleury, “but we need<br />

the population to be involved, to<br />

understand the importance of a<br />

healthy environment.” Led by Senegal’s<br />

environment minister, Haidar el Ali,<br />

Oceanium enlisted 150,000 people from<br />

500 villages, planting 173,000 acres<br />

across Senegal. Last year, for the<br />

Extreme E project, they planted another<br />

156 acres—roughly 120,000 trees.<br />

While growing up, Sall saw the<br />

mangrove forests disappear, but he knew<br />

little about their importance. When asked<br />

if he’d help plant a million, he replied,<br />

“What’s the point?” A decade on, his<br />

commitment to the cause is total. Thanks<br />

to Sall, more than 500,000 new mangrove<br />

trees are growing in the Saloum Delta.<br />

<strong>The</strong> kids call him Mister Propagule.<br />

But Mister Propagule was not<br />

always Mister Popular. When Sall<br />

established the waters around Joal as a<br />

government-backed Marine Protected<br />

Area in 2004, local fishermen hated him.<br />

“I was everyone’s enemy,” he says. But<br />

now, as president of the Fishermen’s<br />

Association of Joal and the Committee<br />

of Marine Reserves in West Africa, he’s a<br />

formidable champion of both the fishing<br />

industry and the environment. “To<br />

manage local communities here, you<br />

need two sides to your character,” he<br />

says. “One that is a fighter, and the<br />

other with the knowledge to help<br />

them understand.”<br />

Sall benefits from Oceanium’s<br />

finances and resources, but his local<br />

influence is invaluable. “And his<br />

mystical support,” says Fleury with a<br />

smile, as the bow of Sall’s pirogue noses<br />

through overhanging branches. Senegal<br />

is predominantly a Muslim country, but<br />

the supernatural poetry of voodoo and<br />

gris-gris, spirits and sacrifices remains<br />

very much alive. Deep in the mangroves<br />

are sacred sites. Sall believes the forest<br />

genies who live there have always<br />

protected his home. Now is his time to<br />

return the favor.<br />

If Extreme E is an attempt to<br />

“greenwash” motorsports, it is an<br />

extraordinarily elaborate and expensive<br />

one. And does it really matter? As its<br />

founder will tell you, politics is the art of<br />

the possible. It’s quite possible that<br />

Extreme E will make a real difference in<br />

the fight against climate change. After<br />

all, how many sports can claim to get<br />

motorsports magnates, climate scientists<br />

and mystical eco-pirates all working<br />

together to save the planet?<br />

extreme-e.com<br />


guide<br />

Get it. Do it. See it.<br />


URBAN<br />


To put it mildly, traveling to find<br />

genuine adventure in the past<br />

year has been understandably<br />

tough. <strong>The</strong>se close-to-home<br />

adventures from six big cities are<br />

wild without being irresponsible.<br />

Words DAVID HOWARD<br />

Now’s the time to<br />

cross the Grand<br />

Canyon off your<br />

bucket list.<br />


Do it<br />

G U I D E<br />

Hang gliding in<br />

northwestern<br />

Georgia is a fun way<br />

to raise your game.<br />

New York City:<br />

Off-road immersion<br />

<strong>The</strong> idea of plunging a fourwheel-drive<br />

monster down<br />

rutted trails and barely-there<br />

roads into the wilderness<br />

holds a certain timeless<br />

allure. But if you don’t know<br />

a butt-scratcher (a trail<br />

obstacle that scrapes a truck’s<br />

rear end) from a brake fade<br />

(what you really don’t want<br />

to happen heading straight<br />

down a mountain), you might<br />

want to bone up before<br />

heading into the great<br />

unknown. And even people<br />

with some experience<br />

behind the wheel of a 4x4<br />

will find something useful<br />

in the weekend-long<br />

Overland Fundamentals<br />

course run by Northeast<br />

Off-Road Adventures.<br />

driving-centric classes, like<br />

wilderness survival, first aid<br />

and something called antikidnapping<br />

and hostage<br />

survival. No prior experience<br />

needed. From $700;<br />

nyoffroaddriving.com<br />

Atlanta:<br />

Hang gliding 101<br />

Think of a weekend at hanggliding<br />

school as a socially<br />

distanced way to get all<br />

doped up on adrenaline. It’s<br />

a sport with a high learning<br />

curve, but Lookout Mountain<br />

Flight Park delivers the goods<br />

during an action-packed twoday<br />

tutorial (we won’t call it a<br />

crash course). Sign up for the<br />

weekend package and you’ll<br />

spend daytime hours in<br />

Ground School, learning the<br />

fundamentals of winged<br />

Offered monthly on select<br />

weekends in the Catskills, the<br />

course includes outdoor chalk<br />

talk, workshops and behindthe-wheel<br />

instruction in the<br />

outfitter’s park, which<br />

features an obstacle course.<br />

This last part of the<br />

curriculum—referred to as<br />

“woodland driving skills”—is<br />

the fun part. But you’ll also<br />

learn basic maintenance, trip<br />

planning and how to recover<br />

a vehicle from various sticky<br />

situations. Socially distanced<br />

primitive camping and<br />

vehicle rentals are available.<br />

If you get hooked, you can<br />

next sign up for an immersive<br />

course on overland travel,<br />

which involves a vehicle<br />

equipped for multi-night<br />

expeditions (usually a tent on<br />

the roof). <strong>The</strong>re are also nonflight,<br />

and on the bunny hills,<br />

working your way skyward<br />

on training flights. In the<br />

evenings you’ll join the<br />

teachers on instructional<br />

tandem flights, when the<br />

opportunity to defy the laws<br />

of physics crystallizes in<br />

dramatic fashion. <strong>The</strong> goal,<br />

if you’re game, is to get good<br />

enough to go thermalhunting—soaring<br />

up to cloud<br />

bases as many as 10,000 feet<br />

above the surface of the<br />

Earth. Located 30 miles from<br />

Chattanooga, the 41-year-old<br />

flight park is centrally located<br />

between Atlanta, Knoxville,<br />

Nashville and Birmingham.<br />

<strong>The</strong> park is outfitted with<br />

COVID-friendly cabins and<br />

a campground where it’s easy<br />

to pitch a tent far from<br />

others. $399; flylookout.com<br />



Urban Escapes<br />

Los Angeles:<br />

Climbing in J-Tree<br />

<strong>The</strong> story goes that Joshua<br />

trees got their names from the<br />

18th-century Mormons—who,<br />

on their westward journey,<br />

found themselves in the<br />

Mojave Desert. <strong>The</strong> pioneers,<br />

possibly hallucinating by then,<br />

saw the gnarled limbs as<br />

reaching out in supplication,<br />

guiding them toward the<br />

promised land. Climbers feel a<br />

fervor for the granite that dots<br />

expanses in the national park.<br />

Joshua Tree is all about lowercase-d<br />

democratic climbing—<br />

meaning there’s something<br />

for everyone, from sport and<br />

trad climbs of almost every<br />

difficulty to legendary<br />

bouldering options. If you’re<br />

looking for an entry-level<br />

experience, the outfitter Cliff<br />

Hanger can get you oriented<br />

and safely on the rock. A fullday<br />

session spans nine hours<br />

and is customized to whatever<br />

kind of climbing you seek.<br />

Shoes, harnesses and helmets<br />

(and a gourmet lunch) are<br />

provided. To ensure pandemic<br />

safety, Cliff Hanger keeps trips<br />

small and never mixes groups,<br />

while keeping everything<br />

distanced and sanitized. $395<br />

per person or $500 for two;<br />

cliffhangerguides.com<br />

Miami:<br />

Float the Everglades<br />

Summer is no time to be out<br />

in the open sun in Everglades<br />

National Park. But in<br />

springtime, meandering<br />

among the crocodiles and<br />

dolphins in a kayak or canoe<br />

makes for an idyllic day trip or<br />

overnight escape. Temps hover<br />

in the mid 80s and drop into<br />

the comfortable 60s at night<br />

throughout March and <strong>April</strong>.<br />

<strong>The</strong> optimal choice is the<br />

Hell’s Bay Trail, a 13.5-mile<br />

odyssey through a magical but<br />

disorienting mangrove estuary<br />

and a collection of diminutive<br />

bays. You’ll follow 160 PVCpipe<br />

trail markers to keep<br />

your bow pointed in the right<br />

direction amidst a maze of<br />

islands and creeks with<br />

wishbone intersections. Just<br />

leave plenty of time to snap<br />

photos of crocs, blacktop<br />

sharks and roosting pelicans.<br />

Overnight, crash in one of<br />

the park’s chickees, essentially<br />

a dock on stilts with a roof.<br />

Stow a cooler of beer, some<br />

food and a tent and crash at<br />

one of the two sites on the<br />

trail. Each site has two<br />

chickees (outfitted with<br />

portable restrooms) that hold<br />

parties of up to six. (Reserve a<br />

spot at reservation.gov.) You<br />

Otherworldly climbing abounds in Joshua Tree—less than three hours from Los Angeles.<br />

can look forward to shaking<br />

off sleep to the sounds of<br />

dolphins breaching for air.<br />

Rent boats from Flamingo<br />

Adventures, which will also<br />

deliver them to and from the<br />

put-in and takeout. Two-day<br />

rentals start at $92;<br />

flamingoeverglades.com<br />

Phoenix:<br />

Bag the Grand Canyon<br />

<strong>The</strong>re are weekend adventures,<br />

and then there are tell-yourgrandkids<br />

epics. As one of the<br />

world’s most iconic geographic<br />

features, the Grand Canyon<br />

plainly falls into the latter<br />

category. Fortunately, the<br />

national park has carefully<br />

thought-out pandemic<br />

strategies that have kept it<br />

open to hikers and campers,<br />

allowing for some astonishing<br />

beauty and mind-boggling<br />

perspective during this<br />

otherwise challenging time.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re are two approaches<br />

for experiencing the canyon in<br />

a quick turnaround time: One<br />

is to drive up to the canyon<br />

the night before, get an early<br />

start and do an epic dayhike.<br />

From the North Rim, the<br />

North Kaibab trail to Roaring<br />

Springs is a full-day, 9.4-mile<br />

excursion to an idyll 3,050<br />

feet below your starting point.<br />

At the springs, cross the creek<br />

and soak in one of the many<br />

pools of cold, glass-clear<br />

water. Or, for an overnight,<br />

head all the way to the<br />

Colorado River on the South<br />

Kaibab (7 miles) or Bright<br />

Angel (9.5 miles) trails to<br />

Bright Angel Campground,<br />

which is limited to half<br />

capacity during the pandemic<br />

(you’ll need a permit in<br />

advance). <strong>The</strong> park has made<br />

things easier for hikers by<br />

installing drinking-water<br />

filling stations in high-traffic<br />

areas, but you should still<br />

bring plenty of water as well as<br />

something to treat water from<br />

other sources, just in case.<br />

nps.gov/grca<br />

Chicago:<br />

Jump out of a plane<br />

What better way to celebrate<br />

being alive than by doing<br />

something that feels like a<br />

near-death experience—but<br />

is actually totally safe? Toast<br />

the arrival of spring—and the<br />

looming end-game of the<br />

pandemic—by plunging out<br />

of an aircraft via Skydive<br />

Midwest’s “Learn to Skydive”<br />

package. After a brief training<br />

class, you’ll pair up with an<br />

instructor, climb aboard a<br />

small plane and head for the<br />

heavens above Lake Michigan.<br />

First up is the mad adrenaline<br />

rush of free fall, where gravity<br />

asserts itself at speeds of up<br />

to 120 mph. Once the chute<br />

opens, just settle in with vistas<br />

of the suddenly nearbylooking<br />

skylines of Chicago<br />

and Milwaukee. For those<br />

who find this sort of thing<br />

addictive, Skydive Midwest<br />

offers classes in which you can<br />

become a licensed skydiver in<br />

as few as 25 jumps. <strong>The</strong><br />

outfitter, located in Sturtevant,<br />

Wisconsin, is 60 miles north of<br />

Chicago and 30 miles south of<br />

Milwaukee—and is accessible<br />

via public transit. Skydive<br />

Midwest has a set of carefully<br />

thought-out COVID policies.<br />

$239; skydivemidwest.com<br />


Do it<br />

G U I D E<br />




Freeride mountain bike prodigy<br />

Jaxson Riddle shares how he trains<br />

to send big lines.<br />

<strong>The</strong> first time Jaxson Riddle went out to Virgin,<br />

Utah, to ride the terrain made famous by <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

Rampage, he was 15 and took his BMX bike—the<br />

only bike he had. Riddle promptly sold it and<br />

bought his first downhill rig. In freeride mountain<br />

biking he had found his sport. Now 20, Riddle has<br />

turned the challenging Virgin terrain into his<br />

playground and dreams of one day competing at<br />

Rampage. A typical day for Riddle might include<br />

hitting jumps at the Snake Hollow Bike Park in<br />

Saint George, Utah, where he lives; building a<br />

new line in Virgin; mastering a high-consequence<br />

aerial maneuver; or maybe offering friendly<br />

advice to kids at the local skatepark. “I take a lot<br />

of inspiration from freestyle motocross,” says<br />

Riddle. “I just try to bring those tricks to<br />

mountain bikes.”<br />

“<strong>The</strong>re really isn’t a<br />

right or wrong way to<br />

do this sport,” Riddle<br />

says. “With freeride,<br />

you can be as creative<br />

as you want and build<br />

whatever you want.”<br />


Fitness<br />


“I don’t really have<br />

a set program.”<br />

“I have a lot of respect for people<br />

who have a routine and can stick to<br />

it, but for me it’s different every<br />

day. I try to ride every day, but<br />

I don’t have a set amount of time<br />

that I spend on the bike. Either I go<br />

out to Virgin or go to the skatepark.<br />

<strong>The</strong>n I go ride dirt bikes or go skate.<br />

I just got into skating, and it’s been<br />

awesome, because it keeps<br />

everything fresh. You expect to be<br />

good at something new, because<br />

you’re good at riding bikes, but it’s<br />

not how it works. <strong>The</strong>re’s always<br />

something you can learn.”<br />


“I do it in little<br />

steps.”<br />

“I’ll just watch a video, like a<br />

hundred times. <strong>The</strong>n I’ll visualize it<br />

when I’m out there. I do it in little<br />

steps. If it’s a Superman, I’ll do<br />

a no-footer. <strong>The</strong>n I inch my way<br />

to the Superman. I ride the jump<br />

a couple of times and envision<br />

myself doing the trick. I try to work<br />

it out in my head at the top of the<br />

run-in. <strong>The</strong>n I’ll go to the jump and<br />

try to do what I just visualized. If<br />

I keep trying, and I’m making the<br />

same mistake without progress, I’ll<br />

take a break until I can come back<br />

with a different mindset.”<br />



“<strong>The</strong>re’s a sick river spot<br />

in Virgin—it’s basically<br />

freezing, so it’s like cold<br />

therapy. I also get regular<br />

massages and do stretching<br />

as well. I don’t do yoga as<br />

much as I should. I need to<br />

get more consistent with it,<br />

because I need a lot of hip<br />

mobility to do tricks. I do<br />

foam rolling and I try to stay<br />

on top of stretching.”<br />

DIG DAYS<br />

“Digging is like strength<br />

training—and a rest day.”<br />


“I have to be as good<br />

at crashing as riding.”<br />


I go out to Virgin with an open mind<br />

and find features that draw from<br />

motocross and BMX. I try to<br />

imagine how to bring ideas from<br />

those sports to mountain bikes. It<br />

usually takes three or four days to<br />

build a new line, depending on if it<br />

rains or is super dry. We attack a<br />

line for three days in a row, from<br />

sunup to sundown. In the<br />

summertime, when it can hit 110<br />

degrees in the middle of the day,<br />

we go out there at 4 in the morning.<br />

That’s super draining.”<br />

“With repetition, you learn how to<br />

crash and what not to do. Learning<br />

how to push your bike away, so<br />

there’s no chance of it landing on<br />

you, is helpful. You don’t want that<br />

thing hitting you. I try to be<br />

calculated and not try things that<br />

I don’t know will work. I try to think<br />

of the things that could go wrong,<br />

so I’m ready. And then I’ll breathe<br />

three times, in and out, and just try<br />

it. Usually it works out. I try to have<br />

it pretty dialed. I’m not going from<br />

square one to square five.”<br />


G U I D E<br />

See it<br />

Calendar<br />

10<br />

<strong>April</strong><br />


Like this year’s Super Bowl, the premier event in pro wrestling is happening at Raymond James<br />

Stadium in Tampa, Florida. So yes, there will be spectators, but the venue will be at limited<br />

capacity—with it likely that empty seats will be filled by cardboard cutouts. But after that, the WWE<br />

will not return to its regular touring schedule of ticketed events until at least the second half of<br />

<strong>2021</strong>. One noticeable absence from this year’s WrestleMania will be John Cena, who recently told<br />

reporters he couldn’t attend due to his commitment filming Peacemaker for HBO Max in Vancouver.<br />

Way to powerslam us right in the heart, Mr. Cena. wwe.com<br />

25<br />

<strong>April</strong><br />


AWARDS<br />

<strong>The</strong> smell of buttered<br />

popcorn, trailers, a<br />

laughing audience—<br />

remember those things?<br />

<strong>The</strong> theater industry has<br />

been hit hard this past<br />

year, but thank heavens<br />

for streaming services<br />

and innovative virtual<br />

film festivals to keep our<br />

eyeballs occupied. <strong>The</strong><br />

Academy Awards will<br />

look very different this<br />

year, with reports that<br />

Oscar-winning director<br />

Steven Soderbergh has<br />

been hired to reenvision<br />

the ceremony, which will<br />

air on ABC. oscars.org<br />

Happening now<br />

RED BULL<br />


Move over, National Geographic.<br />

Indoor kids, this new photo contest<br />

is your turn to shine. (And let’s face<br />

it, a lot of us are indoor kids right<br />

now.) Now through May 2, you can<br />

submit in-game photos from<br />

some of PlayStation’s most visually<br />

epic titles, including God of War,<br />

Demon’s Souls and more. Just<br />

upload them to Twitter using the<br />

hashtags #<strong>Red</strong>BullCapturePoint<br />

and #Contest for a chance to win<br />

some sweet cash prizes.<br />

redbull.com/capturepoint<br />

Available<br />

now<br />



Matt Jones has really<br />

embraced the WFH<br />

life. <strong>The</strong> 26-year-old<br />

mountain biker spent<br />

last summer turning<br />

his garden into an epic<br />

dirt track. Now, in this<br />

four-part series, he<br />

seeks the help of fellow<br />

pro bike legends Kriss<br />

Kyle, Gee Atherton and<br />

Kye Forte, in a quest to<br />

master three neverbefore-achieved<br />

tricks.<br />

redbull.com<br />



<strong>The</strong> 11th iteration<br />

of the Saucony<br />

Perigrine adds some<br />

sweet updates to a<br />

classic shoe.<br />

WILDLY<br />


As spring finally arrives, we round up the best new trail<br />

running gear so you can head for the hills in comfort and style.<br />


G U I D E<br />

SHOES<br />


Named for the winningest 100-mile runner on<br />

earth—Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer—the fourth<br />

iteration of this popular shoe delivers a stable,<br />

cushioned ride with good traction. It boasts<br />

Hoka’s trademark pillowy cushioning, 3Dprinted<br />

overlays for midfoot support and a wider<br />

toe box for increased comfort. An updated mesh<br />

upper improves breathability. Count on the<br />

Vibram outsole and 5 mm lugs for grippy ascents<br />

and confident descents. $145; hokaoneone.com<br />


<strong>The</strong> updates to Salomon’s classic trainer offer a<br />

cushier, more breathable and responsive ride for<br />

long-distance terrain. <strong>The</strong> retooled heel collar is<br />

more secure and adds padding in the heel for<br />

comfort. An anti-debris mesh upper provides<br />

ventilation, while the Optivibe foam absorbs<br />

impact and decreases muscle fatigue. And with<br />

decoupled rock plates to guard against sharp<br />

objects and a grippy outsole, it’s ideal for daily<br />

dirt and epic adventures. $120; salomon.com<br />


<strong>The</strong> just-launched Karacal is a zippy shoe with<br />

long-mile comfort and best-in-class grip. Built on<br />

a roomier last, the wider shoe increases comfort,<br />

as does the dua-density compressed EVA in the<br />

midsole and a cushioned tongue. While not the<br />

lightest trail option, a hardened EVA rock guard<br />

that runs the full length of the shoe and medial<br />

and lateral counters provide stability, while<br />

varied-length lugs let you barrel over rocky<br />

terrain and sloppy trails. $130; sportiva.com<br />



<strong>The</strong>se shoes offer a responsive ride for long<br />

distances. Comfort comes from a wide toe box<br />

and the sock-like, seamless Primeknit upper<br />

(made from upcycled ocean waste). <strong>The</strong> midsole<br />

contains Boost beads, a polymer that increases<br />

shock absorption without sacrificing energy<br />

return. <strong>The</strong> Continental rubber outsole has a<br />

grippy lug profile that’s optimal for routes with<br />

a road and trail mix. $180; adidas.com<br />


It’s hard to go wrong with the 11th iteration of this<br />

consistently popular trail shoe. Devoted fans love<br />

its claw-like grip (thanks to aggressive lugs and<br />

tacky rubber), just-right midsole cushioning and<br />

the 4 mm offset that yields an uninhibited, fast<br />

ride. This version adds a breathable, ultralight<br />

mesh layer that acts like a gaiter, keeping trail<br />

debris out. Runners in climates with sloppy<br />

conditions should consider the Peregrine 11 ST<br />

(soft terrain). $150; saucony.com<br />


Newly updated, Altra’s most popular trail shoe<br />

(now in its 10th year) offers a compelling mix<br />

of features: <strong>The</strong> zero-drop, wide toe box and a<br />

25 mm stack Lone Peak devotees love, paired<br />

with a revamped Altra Ego foam midsole that<br />

allows for max energy return and a responsive<br />

ride without an overly cushioned feel. <strong>The</strong><br />

MaxTrac outsole provides a reliably toothy grip,<br />

letting you feel grounded and protected, with<br />

the freedom to fly. $130; altrarunning.com<br />

<strong>The</strong> Two Primeblue has a sock-like, seamless<br />

upper that’s made from upcycled ocean waste.<br />




Iconic style has technical cred with a low-profile,<br />

moisture-wicking headband that keeps sweat<br />

out of your eyes and a dark underbill designed to<br />

help protect your eyes from sun reflecting off<br />

snow. <strong>The</strong> 100 percent polyester front panel is<br />

breathable and quick-drying and the mesh back<br />

allows for air circulation. Choose from modern<br />

mountain to retro-style graphics. Plus, Buff is<br />

donating 2 percent of sales to UNICEF projects<br />

combating COVID-19. $28; buffusa.com<br />


Performance meets sustainability in these<br />

lightweight shorts. Made from 91 percent<br />

recycled polyester and 9 percent spandex, they<br />

wick away moisture and breathe, thanks to<br />

quick-drying fabric and a relaxed fit. Both men’s<br />

and women’s models feature a lightweight liner<br />

and elastic-and-drawstring waist. Three zippered<br />

pockets offer ample space for phone and keys<br />

(men’s; women’s has one zipper pocket). A DWR<br />

finish fends off light rain. $65; patagonia.com<br />



Toe socks may seem gimmicky, but fabric<br />

between toes helps prevent hot spots and<br />

blisters. <strong>The</strong> toe sleeves keep your toes drier—<br />

and therefore less prone to blisters—and also<br />

splay your digits into a more anatomical<br />

position, providing better stability and comfort.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se socks include a snug double cuff that<br />

blocks out dirt and grit, and a mesh top for<br />

breathability. Woven with a blend of Coolmax,<br />

nylon and Lycra fibers, they prove to be both<br />

flexible and durable. $16; injinji.com<br />


This just-released piece offers women who run<br />

something new: a tank specifically designed to<br />

pair with a hydration pack. <strong>The</strong> wider cut in the<br />

shoulders and back (vs. racerback) provide chafe<br />

protection and moisture management in a<br />

stylish muscle tank. Made with a proprietary<br />

blend of polyester, tencel and spandex, the<br />

durable technical fabric is designed to withstand<br />

variable weather and high use, yet is also<br />

lightweight, soft and comfy. $48; oiselle.com<br />


This lightweight windbreaker is an ideal outer<br />

layer for spring’s changing mountain weather.<br />

<strong>The</strong> mix of merino wool and nylon provides solid<br />

wind protection and temperature regulation for<br />

warm and chilly days. An adjustable hood keeps<br />

wind out without blocking your view, and long<br />

cuffs offer hand protection. Pocket lovers be<br />

warned: <strong>The</strong>re’s only one zippered breast pouch.<br />

But the jacket stuffs into said pocket for easy<br />

carrying when not in use. $228; ortovox.com<br />


G U I D E<br />


<strong>The</strong> stylish ease<br />

of the Tracksmith<br />

Harrier belies a<br />

layer with technical<br />

credentials.<br />



<strong>The</strong> beauty of this top for the shoulder season—<br />

besides its clean, classic look—is the 89 percent<br />

merino wool. <strong>The</strong> soft wool fabric is a<br />

temperature regulator; it’ll keep you toasty on<br />

cool spring days and prevent overheating if<br />

things warm up. <strong>The</strong> merino-nylon blend guards<br />

against stink, so you can wear it to brunch postrun.<br />

New colors for spring include stonewash,<br />

melon and tamarind. $82; tracksmith.com<br />

Merino wool is a temperature<br />

regulator, keeping you comfortable<br />

when it’s cool and when it’s warm.<br />



<strong>The</strong> Petzl Iko Core<br />

is the headlamp<br />

reimagined.<br />


Petzl has managed to squeeze a ton of light out<br />

of a reimagined lightweight lamp body. <strong>The</strong> Iko<br />

Core weighs a mere 79 grams, and the thin strap<br />

is more like a crown, sitting low and snug (no<br />

bounce!) thanks to a tiny bungee in the back.<br />

Fewer contact points improve air circulation and<br />

reduce pressure points. Seven LEDs produce up<br />

to 500 lumens of light and the rechargeable<br />

battery lasts 2.5 to 100 hours, depending which<br />

of the three levels you use. $89.95; petzl.com<br />


G U I D E<br />



This watch delivers the must-haves without<br />

sticker shock. Count on accurate GPS, long<br />

battery life (25 hours), crack-resistant sapphire<br />

glass and a customizable trail-running mode<br />

with time, distance, elevation gain and loss,<br />

cadence and calories. If you upload a route,<br />

arrows provide direction—or head out without a<br />

plan and when you turn around it plots a route to<br />

the trailhead. Bonus: New updates include track<br />

and strength training modes. $300; coros.com<br />


Taiga began as a quest by two outdoorsmen for<br />

a durable adventure cooler that could keep food<br />

fresh and drinks cold for days. Now they’ve<br />

released the first sustainably built, highperformance,<br />

hard-sided cooler, made with<br />

hemp (rather than oil-based polymers) to<br />

reduce carbon emissions during manufacturing.<br />

<strong>The</strong> 27-quart Terra holds ice for up to 10 days—<br />

ideal for weeklong camp-and-runs. It’s bearsafe,<br />

too. $199; taigacoolers.com<br />


This vest may feel light and airy, but it’s a<br />

workhorse. It features 11L of gear capacity,<br />

including the main pouch and stretch pocket in<br />

the back and six pockets in the front for quick<br />

access to phone, fuel and shades. Poles attach<br />

easily, and you can add a 2-liter bladder to boost<br />

the 1-liter fluid capacity to 3. Mesh body paneling<br />

aids ventilation and adjustable straps allow for a<br />

custom, stable fit. Unisex and women’s versions.<br />

$150; camelbak.com<br />


Women eager to return to trail racing will<br />

welcome this new hydration vest. <strong>The</strong> no-fuss,<br />

minimalist pack hugs the body without<br />

restricting movement, thanks to stretchy,<br />

durable fabric and just-right cut. More elastic<br />

and space around the chest eliminates pressure<br />

points and sealed seams help prevent chafing. It<br />

features a whopping 10 pockets. Two 500 ml soft<br />

flasks fit securely up front. Also in a larger size<br />

and two men’s models. $160; salomon.com<br />



Runners wanting the energy-saving benefits of<br />

poles without excess weight will appreciate the<br />

lightest choice in BD’s collection. <strong>The</strong> carbonfiber<br />

shafts weigh in at a mere 5 ounces each (for<br />

110 cm). <strong>The</strong>y assemble quickly and break down<br />

into a packable 13 to 17 inches (depending on full<br />

length; seven sizes are available). If you want<br />

adjustability, opt for the Distance Carbon FLZ<br />

poles. $169.95; blackdiamondequipment.com<br />

<strong>The</strong> lightest running poles from Black Diamond<br />

are carbon fiber and weigh a mere 5 ounces.<br />


Peace of Mind<br />

<strong>The</strong>se innovative helmets—for biking and snow adventures—all have<br />

cool tech to keep your brain safer if things go south.<br />

Words PETER FLAX<br />


This update to the Prevail, long beloved by<br />

roadies for its comfort and performance, has<br />

upgraded ventilation and impressive safety<br />

features. <strong>The</strong> helmet can accept an ANGi crash<br />

sensor (sold separately) that will detect a crash<br />

and (when used with an iOS or Android app) text<br />

specified contacts with your location. <strong>The</strong><br />

minimalist MIPS SL system, exclusive to<br />

Specialized, integrates MIPS crash protection<br />

into the helmet padding. $250; specialized.com<br />

<strong>The</strong> Prevail II Vent’s<br />

add-on sensor can<br />

detect crashes and<br />

alert contacts in<br />

your phone.<br />


G U I D E<br />

BIKE<br />


Helmets for commuters tend to be heavier on<br />

style than safety-driven innovation—and just<br />

kind of heavy—but the Hudson includes the<br />

MIPS protection system as well as integrated<br />

LED lights, which are water resistant, <strong>US</strong>Brechargeable<br />

and can flash or pulse. <strong>The</strong><br />

Hudson also has 13 strategically placed vents,<br />

including two clever U-lock-compatible vents in<br />

the rear that make it easier to secure your lid<br />

when you’re not riding. $120; bernhelmets.com<br />

SNOW<br />


This striking half-shell mountain bike helmet<br />

features a tech called SPIN—Shearing Pad<br />

Inside, if you must know—that uses proprietary<br />

silicon-infused pads that absorb rotational<br />

impacts. <strong>The</strong> Tectal, which is shaped to cover<br />

your temples and the back of your head, also<br />

includes an integrated RECCO reflector that<br />

search-and-rescue teams can use if they’re<br />

looking for you in the wild. All this and a pretty<br />

cool goggle clip. $220; pocsports.com<br />


Using and elevating the MIPS System, the Trace<br />

contains Smith’s innovative Koroyd honeycomb<br />

lining, which improves how impacts are<br />

absorbed. <strong>The</strong> helmet—good for road or gravel<br />

riding or bikepacking—also has a proprietary<br />

antimicrobial lining with sweat-activated odor<br />

control. <strong>The</strong> VaporFit retention system allows<br />

you to micro-adjust the fit with a dial. <strong>The</strong> Koroyd<br />

system tends to run a bit hot, so 18 fixed vents<br />

help keep things cool. $250; smithoptics.com<br />


This helmet debuts Giro’s proprietary Spherical<br />

technology—which allows the inner and outer<br />

liners to rotate separately to redirect impact<br />

forces away from the brain and means the Grid<br />

can combine dense foam (for high-speed<br />

crashes) and less dense foam for slower<br />

tumbles. This protection is tucked in a helmet<br />

that’s got backcountry cred—it’s lightweight,<br />

well vented and comfy thanks to a Polartec liner.<br />

Available for women as the Envi. $280; giro.com<br />

RUROC RG1-DX<br />

This isn’t a helmet to fly under the radar in. But<br />

don’t let the postmodern storm trooper vibe fool<br />

you; the RG1 is full of tech to bolster safety and<br />

performance. Inside the surprisingly light ABS<br />

shell is an integrated Rheon gel liner—a liquid<br />

that hardens on impact—and a RECCO reflector<br />

for search-and-rescue ops. <strong>The</strong> helmet comes<br />

with an integrated Italian-made goggle unit with<br />

magnetic, anti-fog lenses so you can see as well<br />

as be seen. From $350; ruroc.com<br />


Two new helmets from Anon, including the highend<br />

Merak, are the first in the snow category to<br />

utilize WaveCel technology, a system that has a<br />

cell-like layer between the shell and lining that<br />

can flex, crumple or slide to minimize impacts.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Merak also has clever features like the<br />

Fidlock magnetic strap buckle, which can be<br />

easily used with one gloved hand, and niceties<br />

like a cozy Polartec liner and 19 vents, eight of<br />

which are adjustable. $320; burton.com<br />

Don’t let the postmodern storm trooper vibe fool you—<br />

the RG1 is full of safety and performance technology.<br />



THE RED<br />



<strong>The</strong> <strong>Red</strong> <strong>Bulletin</strong><br />

is published<br />

in six countries. <strong>The</strong><br />

cover of this month’s<br />

U.K. edition features the<br />

21-year-old British<br />

cyclist Tom Pidcock, a<br />

cyclocross revelation on<br />

the cusp of greatness.<br />

For more stories beyond<br />

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Dietmar Otti, Christopher Reindl, Marcus Weber<br />

THE RED BULLETIN <strong>US</strong>A, Vol 10<br />

Issue 6, ISSN 2308-586X<br />

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Action highlight<br />

Done and dusted<br />

After his 14th overall victory in the world’s most iconic rally raid, French driver Stéphane<br />

Peterhansel (pictured here in Saudi Arabia during stage three on January 5) could<br />

officially change his name to “Mr Dakar.” But it’s probably not worth the passport hassle,<br />

given all the global travel he has to do. Africa, South America, the Arabian Peninsula—the<br />

55-year-old has conquered them all at Dakar. See him in action at redbull.com.<br />

<strong>The</strong> next<br />

issue of<br />


is out on<br />

<strong>April</strong> 20.<br />



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