Red Bulletin 0521_UK

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<strong>UK</strong> EDITION<br />

MAY 2021, £3.50<br />



Fresh<br />

focus<br />

Meet the B-Boys<br />

and B-Girls shaping<br />

a new era for<br />

British breaking<br />

Pictured: B-Boy Sunni is putting the<br />

<strong>UK</strong> scene back on the map<br />

Ghetts on<br />

success<br />

“NOW I KNOW<br />



Deep, dark &<br />

dangerous<br />






© Jean Nouvel, Gilbert Lézénès, Pierre Soria et Architecture-Studio / Adagp, Paris, 2021

Editor’s letter<br />


ZONE<br />



Pushing into unknown territory is rarely easy, as the subjects in<br />

this month’s issue of The <strong>Red</strong> <strong>Bulletin</strong> demonstrate. But it’s how<br />

each of them is managing to find true fulfilment.<br />

Cover star Sunni is one of many <strong>UK</strong> breakers (page 30) with a<br />

fresh take on what their scene can be. Together, they’re working<br />

to make it a more athletic, artistic and accepting place, which is,<br />

in turn, inspiring a whole new generation of dancers.<br />

We meet cave explorers Klaus Thymann and Alessandro<br />

Reato (page 42), who take us on a deep dive into their pitch-black<br />

underwater world as they become the first in modern history<br />

to enter a claustrophobically narrow waterway beneath the<br />

Mexican jungle, on a mission to unearth ancient artefacts.<br />

Then we follow the women of inaugural freeride event<br />

Formation (page 56), who braved the unforgiving red-rock terrain<br />

of Utah’s Zion National Park on two wheels to break new ground<br />

– literally and metaphorically – for the female biking community.<br />

And we sit down with Ghetts (page 66), who attributes his<br />

current chart success to looking at himself in a new light.<br />

Having shed his ego,<br />

stopped conforming<br />

to what he thought<br />

others wanted to hear,<br />

and brought honesty<br />

to his music, the <strong>UK</strong><br />

rapper is finally<br />

getting the recognition<br />

he has long deserved.<br />

We hope you enjoy<br />

the issue.<br />


In a career spanning almost<br />

20 years, the British music<br />

journalist has interviewed<br />

everyone from Nas to Nile<br />

Rodgers. “I’ve watched<br />

Ghetts’ evolution firsthand,”<br />

says Lavin, who met up with<br />

the grime star again for this<br />

issue. “Every time we speak,<br />

his energy is electric. His<br />

resilience and passion for<br />

what he does is empowering<br />

beyond words.” Page 66<br />


Already a veteran of shooting<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull Rampage, the US<br />

photographer was excited<br />

about shooting the first<br />

Formation. “I knew many of<br />

the riders [already], so it was<br />

great to see them challenge<br />

themselves in new ways,” says<br />

Gore, who has shot for the<br />

likes of National Geographic,<br />

Patagonia and Arc’teryx. “The<br />

way the women supported<br />

each other brought a unique<br />

vibe to the event.” Page 56<br />

Catching a break: AJ the Cypher Cat performs a headspin for<br />

photographer Gavin Bond at our cover feature shoot Page 30<br />




May 2021<br />

08 Gallery: dragon racing in the<br />

deserts of Saudi Arabia; anythingbut-plain<br />

sailing in the North<br />

Atlantic; winter wakeboarding<br />

in central Denmark<br />

15 Great escape: electronic-pop trio<br />

Flawes give everyday hassles the<br />

elbow with their dream playlist<br />

17 Global perspective: sick of staring<br />

at your neighbour’s fence? See the<br />

world instead with WindowSwap<br />

18 Work out: the camper van that<br />

thinks it’s an office – and has<br />

a sunroof with a difference<br />

20 Root cause: the photographer<br />

and activist fighting widespread<br />

deforestation in British Columbia<br />

22 Solar system: Sunflower House<br />

– the nature-inspired, carbonneutral<br />

home with petal power<br />


24 Tom Evans<br />

Motivational talk from the army<br />

man turned ultrarunner who is<br />

happy to suffer for his sport<br />

26 Hannah Reid<br />

The London Grammar singer on<br />

fame, confidence, and calling out<br />

inequality in the music industry<br />

28 Jill Wheatley<br />

The Canadian adventurer whose<br />

traumatic brain injury gave her<br />

even more mountains to climb<br />

30 Breaking<br />

Meet the B-Girls and B-Boys<br />

who are power-moving <strong>UK</strong><br />

breaking up the world rankings<br />

– next stop, Olympic glory<br />

42 Cave exploration<br />

In caverns deep beneath the<br />

Mexican jungle, two divers have<br />

uncovered a hidden history<br />

56 Formation<br />

The women-only event changing<br />

the landscape of MTB freeriding<br />

66 Ghetts<br />

Perseverance pays – just ask the<br />

grime veteran whose hard yards<br />

have finally come to fruition<br />

73 Para-alpinism: all the challenge<br />

of mountain climbing plus the<br />

exhilaration of paragliding<br />

78 The riding’s on the wall: Kriss Kyle<br />

gets creative in the Welsh woods<br />

80 Power trip: everything you need<br />

to know about e-biking – from<br />

what to ride to what to wear<br />

89 Pod bod: train like an astronaut<br />

92 Work mode: how to forge a<br />

successful career as a gamer<br />

93 Beat combo: the pocket synth<br />

with retro fighting-game style<br />

94 Essential dates for your calendar<br />

98 Rally royalty: ‘Mr Dakar’ in action<br />

56<br />

Carving their own trail:<br />

at MTB camp Formation<br />

in Virgin, Utah, female<br />

freeriders can push the<br />

boundaries of their sport<br />



Playing<br />

with fire<br />

Pareidolia is the name given to the<br />

imagined perception of patterns,<br />

objects or faces where they don’t<br />

actually exist. Here we see Anton<br />

Shibalov, Dmitrii Nikitin and Ivan<br />

Tatarinov tracing the gumline of a<br />

huge, slumbering dragon during this<br />

January’s Dakar Rally. Or could it just<br />

be the Russians tearing around Neom<br />

– the site of a controversial megacitybuilding<br />

project in Saudi Arabia –<br />

in their Team Kamaz Master truck?<br />

Whatever the truth of the matter,<br />

French photographer Éric Vargiolu<br />

was on hand to capture both beasts<br />

for posterity. Instagram: @eric_vargiolu





Heavy blow<br />

There’s nothing like a pleasant sail. And the<br />

Vendée Globe – the iconic solo, non-stop,<br />

round-the-world yacht race – is nothing like<br />

a pleasant sail. Last November saw the 33<br />

starters in the 2020/21 race battered by 90kph<br />

gusts off the coast of Portugal. The L’Occitane<br />

en Provence boat, skippered by Armel Tripon –<br />

and photographed here by fellow Frenchman<br />

Pierre Bouras – was among the most badly<br />

damaged, necessitating a 560km detour for<br />

repairs. “The sea was white; it was very brutal,”<br />

said Tripon afterwards. “But it’s a real gift to<br />

be able to live it and see this.” And to survive it,<br />

no doubt. Instagram: @pierrebouras<br />




Cold calling<br />

Dragging your sorry carcass outdoors to train<br />

on a dark, wet, icy winter’s morning is tough.<br />

And yet, despite long months of piercing cold<br />

and precious little sun or daylight, Denmark<br />

is among the world’s most active nations. This<br />

resilience is celebrated in the video We, The<br />

Danes. Among those featured is wakeboarder<br />

Robin Leroy Leonard, captured here on<br />

set by Copenhagen-based photographer Esben<br />

Zøllner Olesen as he glides across the Silkeborg<br />

lakes in central Denmark. To watch the film,<br />

head to redbull.com. esbenzollnerolesen.com<br />



WIIINGS.<br />


FLAWES<br />

Dream<br />

team<br />

The indie-pop trio’s new EP<br />

sees them caught in a<br />

Reverie. Here are four songs<br />

that transport them away<br />

British electronic-pop band Flawes<br />

– vocalist/keyboard player<br />

Josh ‘JC’ Carruthers, drummer<br />

Josh Hussey and guitarist Freddie<br />

Edwards – formed in 2015. Later<br />

the same year, their debut, Don’t<br />

Wait For Me, was named a BBC<br />

Music Introducing ‘Track of the<br />

Week’ and reached number eight<br />

on Spotify’s <strong>UK</strong> Viral 50 chart. By<br />

the time debut album Highlights<br />

dropped early last year, Flawes<br />

were ready for a tour, but a world<br />

in lockdown wasn’t, so they went<br />

back into the studio. “Writing [new<br />

EP] Reverie took us away from<br />

this reality and gave us a positive<br />

focus,” says JC. “Hopefully it<br />

provides the same escapism and<br />

positivity for the listener.” Here,<br />

they share four songs that help<br />

them escape daily life. Reverie<br />

is out now; redbullrecords.com<br />


Ásgeir<br />

Lupin Intrigue (2013)<br />

JC: “I stumbled across this<br />

track by the Icelandic singer/<br />

songwriter a few years ago<br />

and it’s my go-to for chilling<br />

out. I just stick it on my<br />

headphones at full blast and<br />

get lost in my thoughts. The<br />

arpeggiated synth, along with<br />

the beautiful piano part that<br />

escalates in the background,<br />

traps you from the start. By<br />

the time his vocal enters at 36<br />

seconds, you should be well<br />

on your way to a daydream.”<br />

The Beatles<br />

Sun King (1969)<br />

FE: “There’s something really<br />

hypnotic about this track on<br />

Abbey Road. The soft, layered<br />

vocals feel so soothing, almost<br />

like a lullaby. The band were<br />

experimenting a lot at this<br />

stage; the guitar has a sitar-like<br />

quality, and they sing in a crazy<br />

combination of Spanish, Italian<br />

and Portuguese towards the<br />

end. I listened to the album<br />

a lot when I was a kid, and this<br />

song would always take me to<br />

a different headspace.”<br />

City and Colour<br />

Day Old Hate (2005)<br />

JH: “This song connected with<br />

me the first time I heard it. I<br />

find [singer/songwriter] Dallas<br />

Green’s voice mesmerising –<br />

soft yet powerful. I’ve listened<br />

to it so much that it holds many<br />

memories – it’s quite emotional<br />

to listen to all the way through.<br />

As soon as I press play, I find<br />

myself in a daydream, looking<br />

back over the last 10 years at the<br />

good times and the bad. I even<br />

got a tattoo of the album cover<br />

on my back when I was 17.”<br />

Sigur Rós<br />

Starálfur (1999)<br />

JC: “I’m a melody-over-lyrics<br />

guy and [the Icelandic post-rock<br />

band’s vocalist] Jónsi delivers<br />

big-time on this song, One day<br />

I’ll translate the lyrics to see<br />

what I’ve been singing along to<br />

all these years. But that might<br />

spoil the fun, right? Perhaps the<br />

reason this is such a great song<br />

for daydreaming is just that:<br />

your mind doesn’t get caught<br />

up in the meaning of the lyrics,<br />

so you can just drift away on<br />

the melodies and harmonies.”<br />



• 65° HTA/75° STA, 425MM CHAINSTAYS<br />



Positive outlook:<br />

(clockwise from top left)<br />

Tellaro, Italy; Chamonix,<br />

France; Arizona, USA;<br />

Grytting, Norway; Fayoum,<br />

Egypt; Xishuangbanna,<br />

China; Norola, Finland;<br />

Fire Island, USA;<br />

Edinburgh, Scotland<br />



In April 2020, when most<br />

of the world had entered<br />

lockdown, husband-and-wife<br />

Vaishnav Balasubramaniam<br />

and Sonali Ranjit were stuck<br />

in their cosy but cramped<br />

Singapore flat, looking out of<br />

the same window every day.<br />

When they came across a<br />

photo on Instagram showing<br />

the beautiful view from a<br />

friend’s Barcelona home,<br />

the couple joked that they<br />

should find a way to swap<br />

windows. The two advertising<br />

executives asked their friend<br />

for a short video of his view,<br />

and WindowSwap was born.<br />

The online project<br />

presents window views from<br />

across the world, allowing<br />

users to flick through<br />

hundreds of different videos<br />

uploaded by others. From<br />

a small, chicken-filled back<br />

garden in Kettering to rainy<br />

side streets in Mumbai to a<br />

balmy sunset on a Hawaiian<br />

beach, a different scene is<br />

selected at random each time<br />

you click refresh. The website<br />

transports you out of your<br />

own space and gives you a<br />

glimpse of another way of life.<br />

“You see views of countries<br />

that you don’t get in travel<br />

magazines or generally in the<br />

media,” says Ranjit. “Looking<br />

through someone’s backyard<br />

or side streets makes a place<br />

come so much more alive.”<br />

WindowSwap may have<br />

been inspired by a desire<br />

to escape lockdown, but<br />

while designing the website<br />

the pair realised that it could<br />

serve as an escape from the<br />

online world, too. “We didn’t<br />

want to create those<br />

dopamine-induced feelings<br />

that TikTok gives, but rather<br />

a calm space,” explains<br />

Balasubramaniam. “We<br />

debated whether to create<br />

likes or a comment box to<br />

connect people, but in the end<br />

we decided to stick to a very<br />

simple experience.”<br />

The site instead serves as a<br />

meditation throughout the day,<br />

with no access to other users<br />

or distractions from the video<br />

itself. “It’s more like the early<br />

internet,” he adds. “You’re just<br />

there to have fun. No one’s<br />

judging you, no one feels bad,<br />

and you have nothing to prove.”<br />

Since the launch of<br />

WindowSwap, the couple have<br />


Zoom with a view<br />

What better way to allow your mind to wander than by staring<br />

out of a window? How about letting it roam across the globe<br />

certainly got their wish to see<br />

more of the world – they have<br />

now received more than 600<br />

videos from every corner of<br />

the globe. “One window that<br />

got my attention [in particular]<br />

shows the pyramids from<br />

someone’s house; a view you<br />

would never usually see,”<br />

says Balasubramaniam. “The<br />

pyramids are in the distance,<br />

but at the bottom of the<br />

screen you can see rows of<br />

houses and alleyways. It’s<br />

just amazing.”<br />

window-swap.com<br />


Mine’s a Vanhattan:<br />

quaff cocktails on<br />

the roof if you’re not<br />

driving – just don’t<br />

forget the handbrake<br />


Roadwork<br />

ahead<br />

Adventure in the front, office in the back<br />

– this kitted-out camper is all business<br />

Traditionally, if you wanted to<br />

travel the world and experience<br />

the freedom of life on the road,<br />

you’d have to save up and leave<br />

your job behind. But the events<br />

of the past year have almost<br />

certainly changed that for ever.<br />

With people working remotely<br />

and most meetings hosted<br />

online, jobs that were once tied<br />

to an office can now be done<br />

from anywhere in the world.<br />

In response to this, Japanese<br />

car manufacturer Nissan has<br />

designed a new type of camper<br />

that is part van-life, part office<br />

space, allowing you to combine<br />

the most radical lifestyle with<br />

a traditional nine-to-five job.<br />

Controlled by a mobile app,<br />

the camper’s retractable pod is<br />

a pop-up office on wheels. Not<br />

only does it fit a person, a desk,<br />

a full-size screen and an<br />

ergonomic chair (by esteemed<br />

US furniture maker Herman<br />

Miller), it also has a transparent<br />

floor to gaze through between<br />

emails and remind yourself<br />

that you’re on a mountain trail<br />

or beside a beach.<br />

When the daily grind is over,<br />

just hop outside, tap the app<br />

to fold away your office until<br />

morning, and head out for<br />

a surf or a hike; inside the<br />

camper’s glove box you’ll find<br />

a ‘UV antibacterial lamp’<br />

to disinfect your personal<br />

possessions on your return.<br />

Alternatively, climb up onto<br />

the rooftop deck, which has its<br />

own sunlounger and parasol,<br />

for après-travail drinks.<br />

According to research<br />

by tech solutions firm MBO<br />

Partners in 2018, 4.8 million<br />

American workers at the time<br />

described themselves as ‘digital<br />

nomads’, and the number is<br />

growing rapidly. “Many office<br />

workers are having a variety<br />

of issues working at home,”<br />

says Nissan of its invention.<br />

“[We want] to solve this by<br />

giving them more choice of<br />

where and how they work.”<br />

The Office Pod is only a<br />

concept at present – it was<br />

unveiled at this year’s virtual<br />

edition of the Tokyo Auto Salon<br />

car show – but it’s based on<br />

a modified version of Nissan’s<br />

popular NV350 Urvan caravan<br />

and is something the company<br />

is serious about. “Hopefully<br />

this is the start of a new era<br />

where we can design our own<br />

outdoor-based lifestyles,”<br />

says Nissan, “and where we<br />

can work from wherever<br />

makes us feel happiest.”<br />




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RIDERS: @ DCONTE123 / @J_DOGG28<br />



Protecting<br />

our elders<br />

We take photos to capture cherished memories;<br />

activist and photographer TJ Watt is using the<br />

medium to save the planet’s ancient woodlands<br />

TJ Watt’s latest photo series is a<br />

story of two halves. In the first,<br />

the nature photographer stands<br />

beside the giant ancient cedars<br />

of the Caycuse Valley in southern<br />

Vancouver Island, Canada, on a<br />

clear blue-skied day. The second<br />

half tells a darker story. We see<br />

Watt posing against the same<br />

backdrop, but now the thousandyear-old<br />

trees have been cut<br />

down to their stumps.<br />

The Canadian began his<br />

Caycuse Before & After project<br />

with one aim: to draw attention<br />

to the deforestation of British<br />

Columbia’s oldest trees. “You<br />

can’t argue with what you’re<br />

seeing,” says Watt. “[This is]<br />

the destruction of one of the<br />

grandest ecosystems on Earth.”<br />

An environmental activist<br />

and self-proclaimed “big tree<br />

hunter”, Watt has been<br />

recording the activity of the<br />

logging industry in the Caycuse<br />

Valley for the past year, finding<br />

old-growth trees marked to be<br />

cut and capturing them before<br />

and after. “I had to measure<br />

how far away I was from each<br />

spot, record which lens I was<br />

using, and GPS where each tree<br />

was,” he says. “Then, when I<br />


The unkindest cut:<br />

Watt’s photo<br />

project perfectly<br />

illustrates the<br />

devastation of the<br />

old-growth forests<br />


came back months later, I had a<br />

GPS tracker showing where I’d<br />

hiked.” The project has captured<br />

worldwide attention. “The<br />

photos hit home because what<br />

you’re looking at is the loss of<br />

trees upwards of a thousand<br />

years old. When a forest like that<br />

is cut down, it’s gone for ever.”<br />

The harvesting of British<br />

Columbia’s ancient forests is an<br />

urgent environmental moment.<br />

Less than 10 per cent of<br />

Vancouver’s original old-growth<br />

woodland is currently protected,<br />

and an area of untouched forest<br />

equivalent to more than 10,000<br />

football fields is cut down each<br />

year. A co-founder of non-profit<br />

organisation Ancient Forest<br />

Alliance, Watt is not only<br />

documenting this devastation<br />

but successfully fighting against<br />

it. The alliance famously saved<br />

another forest, Avatar Grove,<br />

which was marked to be cut down<br />

in 2010. “That area has become<br />

an international old-growth<br />

destination, with hundreds of<br />

thousands of people visiting<br />

every year,” says Watt. “The<br />

community has shifted towards<br />

a green economy based on bigtree<br />

tourism. It shows that oldgrowth<br />

forests are worth more<br />

standing than they are on the<br />

back of a logging truck.”<br />

All hope is not lost for those<br />

forests that do remain. In the<br />

lead-up to last October’s local<br />

election, the BC government<br />

promised to implement a new<br />

era of protection for the most<br />

endangered old-growth trees.<br />

Now the election has been<br />

won, Watt is calling on everyone<br />

moved by his photo series to<br />

hold them accountable to their<br />

pledge. “I encourage everyone<br />

to write to and phone the<br />

politicians in BC, regardless<br />

of where you live. This is a<br />

global issue and these are<br />

some of the finest temperate<br />

rainforests left on our planet.<br />

Although we lost this forest,<br />

we may be able to save many<br />

others because of it.”<br />

ancientforestalliance.org;<br />

tjwatt.com<br />



Stemming<br />

the damage<br />

The world did a pretty good job of looking after<br />

itself before humans came along. Now, architects<br />

are taking lessons from Mother Earth<br />

4<br />

5<br />

1 3<br />

2<br />

7<br />

1. Photovoltaic (solar) cells positioned at optimal angles; 2. Rotating roof;<br />

3. Rainwater collection and reuse; 4. Wind power harnessed;<br />

5. Edible gardens; 6. Elevated to prevent flooding; 7. Energy storage<br />

6<br />

“Nothing is invented, for it is<br />

written in nature first,” said the<br />

great Catalan architect Antoni<br />

Gaudí, whose Modernisme<br />

buildings – most famously the<br />

Basílica de la Sagrada Família<br />

in Barcelona – sprout from<br />

the ground like bizarre, ornate<br />

vegetation. The natural world<br />

has long influenced building<br />

design, dating back at least as<br />

far as the Ancient Greeks; now,<br />

Sydney-based architect Koichi<br />

Takada has taken this one step<br />

further, creating a house that’s<br />

not only inspired by plants<br />

but acts and moves like one.<br />

Built in the fields of Umbria,<br />

Italy, Sunflower House mimics<br />

the behaviour of its namesake,<br />

turning its face towards the<br />

Sun to harness its rays. Rotating<br />

around a central ‘stem’, its solar<br />

panels produce up to 40 per cent<br />

more energy than the static<br />

equivalent. Unused energy is<br />

stored or fed to the power grid;<br />

all rainwater is collected, too.<br />

“It’s a house powered by the<br />

sun, collecting more power<br />

than you need,” says Takada<br />

of his creation, which was<br />

commissioned by Bloomberg<br />

Green, the US media group’s<br />

division focusing on climatechange<br />

news and solutions.<br />

“You don’t pay bills, and you<br />

can possibly sell your extra<br />

energy back to the city.”<br />

In addition to its solarenergy-harnessing<br />

capabilities,<br />

the design employs an ancient<br />

and eco-friendly natural airconditioning<br />

system invented<br />

by the Romans. The Sun heats<br />

a chimney, causing the air<br />

inside it to rise. This, in turn,<br />

draws air into cool clay pipes<br />

buried below ground, lowering<br />

it to the temperature of the<br />

surrounding soil.<br />

In December last year, the<br />

United Nations reiterated its<br />

mission to make the world<br />

entirely carbon-neutral by<br />

2050. Takada believes that<br />

Sunflower House could be<br />

the catalyst for a larger<br />

architectural movement that<br />

will help achieve this aim. “This<br />

is an opportunity to reverse<br />

climate change by designing<br />

greener buildings,” says<br />

Takada. “[The principle that]<br />

‘form follows nature’ draws<br />

on the lessons of the natural<br />

world, creating innovative<br />

designs that allow people to<br />

reconnect with nature and,<br />

ultimately, save our planet.”<br />

Takada’s task is not an easy<br />

one. The construction industry<br />

currently accounts for almost<br />

40 per cent of the world’s CO2<br />

emissions, a statistic that has<br />

risen steadily over the past few<br />

decades. But he believes that<br />

by studying natural solutions<br />

around us, we can reverse the<br />

damage already done. “In the<br />

past, houses were designed<br />

to be static, but Sunflower<br />

House is dynamic, placing an<br />

emphasis on performance,”<br />

says Takada. “Countries have<br />

committed to carbon neutrality<br />

by 2050. This gives us just<br />

30 years to restore what<br />

humankind has destroyed<br />

over the past 200.”<br />

koichitakada.com<br />



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Agreement Duration 37 Months<br />

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36 Monthly Repayments of £119.00<br />

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Tom Evans<br />

Escaping the<br />

comfort zone<br />

The ultrarunner started his sporting career for a bet,<br />

and discovered a love of pushing his limits that has<br />

kept him moving ever since<br />

Words TOM WARD<br />

Photography BEN LUMLEY<br />

“My thought process can best be<br />

described as ‘minimal’,” laughs Tom<br />

Evans, describing his 2017 entry into<br />

the six-day, 251km Marathon des<br />

Sables, held annually in the Sahara<br />

Desert. As well as being possibly the<br />

toughest race on the planet, it also<br />

happened to be Evans’ first. “I knew<br />

it was the hardest race out there,<br />

and I thought there was no point in<br />

doing the easy ones,” he says. “I’d<br />

jump straight in at the deep end.”<br />

Though he lacked any formal<br />

training, Evans’ self-belief carried<br />

him to an unbelievable third place<br />

– the fastest time run by any<br />

European in the race’s history – and,<br />

naturally, skyrocketed him into the<br />

world of professional ultrarunning.<br />

“I was always sporty,” explains the<br />

29-year-old. “I represented England<br />

at rugby, hockey and athletics<br />

events while at school. Looking<br />

back, I wasn’t necessarily the best,<br />

but I always tried the hardest. After<br />

school, I realised I didn’t want to<br />

go to university, so at 18 I joined<br />

the army. I’d always felt I had<br />

something to prove, and in the<br />

army an easy way to do that was<br />

by keeping fit. The army is an<br />

endurance-based organisation,<br />

which suited me really well.”<br />

After the Marathon des Sables,<br />

Evans capped off a successful streak<br />

by winning the 101km CCC race at<br />

the 2018 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.<br />

The following year, he left the army<br />

to pursue running full-time, and he<br />

hasn’t looked back. Next on his<br />

schedule is <strong>Red</strong> Bull’s official charity<br />

partner event the Wings for Life<br />

World Run on May 9 – a unique<br />

race with no finish line, in which<br />

runners compete against a ‘catcher<br />

car’ until it overtakes them. This<br />

year’s participants will still compete<br />

at the same time, but – due to<br />

COVID-19 restrictions – they’ll run<br />

against a virtual car, via an app.<br />

It’ll be different from Evans’ past<br />

experiences at the annual event,<br />

but he’s a master of adaptability.<br />

Currently holed up in Loughborough<br />

with his fiancée, professional<br />

triathlete Sophie Coldwell, he’s<br />

keeping busy by switching snowy<br />

trails for road running and has even<br />

smashed the Three Peaks challenge<br />

on a treadmill. Here’s how Evans<br />

keeps pushing forward…<br />

the red bulletin: You came<br />

third in the Marathon des Sables<br />

after entering for a bet. How?<br />

tom evans: My friends did [the race]<br />

in 2016 and finished in the top 300.<br />

I thought I could do better, and over<br />

a few beers they bet me I couldn’t. I<br />

signed up the next morning. There’s<br />

a lot of crossover with the military,<br />

because you’re sleeping outside<br />

under the stars and pushing yourself<br />

to your limits every day. Through<br />

running the race, I discovered this<br />

ability to suffer for a very long time<br />

in the heat. Two years later, I left<br />

the army to become a full-time<br />

professional athlete.<br />

Ultrarunning is one of the most<br />

punishing sports. Is it all down<br />

to this natural ability?<br />

No, I train very hard and I get used<br />

to suffering. I know in any race<br />

there will come a point when I’ll<br />

want to stop. When I get there it’s<br />

like, ‘Right, I knew it was going<br />

to happen, so now’s the time to<br />

embrace it, but also know that the<br />

minute after you stop, it’s going<br />

to stop hurting.’ I think I can<br />

withstand a lot, but I want to know<br />

how long I can actually keep feeling<br />

uncomfortable for.<br />

Many people struggled to find<br />

focus during lockdown. What kept<br />

you motivated?<br />

It’s very easy to keep a habit once<br />

you have it, but it’s very difficult<br />

to start the habit in the first place.<br />

I think people go from never<br />

running at all to loving it. Then<br />

there’s the other side of that: as<br />

soon as you do stop something like<br />

running, it’s very difficult to start<br />

again. So, for me, it’s about keeping<br />

as much consistency as possible.<br />

I always set mid-term and long-term<br />

goals – I’m very goals-based. Having<br />

gone from boarding school to the<br />

military, I like knowing what I’m<br />

doing. Typically I drive to the Peak<br />

District or Snowdon or the Lake<br />

District, where there are phenomenal<br />

trails, but I wasn’t able to do that<br />

in lockdown. So I started running<br />

from my door instead. Road running<br />

suits me well, because it’s easier to<br />

collect data on your run. You don’t<br />

have to pigeonhole yourself into<br />

a certain distance or event. I run<br />

because I love running, and it’s a<br />

brilliant thing to be able to do.<br />

What’s your plan for the Wings<br />

for Life World Run?<br />

Because it’s a charity event, my goal<br />

is to raise as much awareness for<br />

spinal cord research as I possibly<br />

can by putting in a performance that<br />

people talk about. It’s going to be a<br />

long, uncomfortable run, which is<br />

my sweet spot. I think the best way<br />

people can physically prepare is to<br />

go on the website and play around<br />

with speeds; look at how far you<br />

can get [while] running at a certain<br />

pace. Because it’s on the app, you<br />

can challenge your friends virtually,<br />

which keeps the competition alive.<br />

Join this year’s Wings For Life World<br />

Run at wingsforlifeworldrun.com/en<br />


“I train very<br />

hard and<br />

I get used to<br />

suffering”<br />


Hannah Reid<br />

Speaking truth<br />

to power<br />

British trio London Grammar’s ethereal pop songs have<br />

been streamed more than a billion times, but it’s only<br />

now that their lead singer has truly found her voice<br />


Photography WILL REID<br />

was disappointing and made me feel<br />

like, “Wow, the world has not moved<br />

on in the way I thought it had.”<br />

Do you think the #MeToo<br />

movement has had a lasting effect<br />

on the music industry?<br />

It made people self-reflect in the<br />

same way that Black Lives Matter<br />

has. Even really good men I worked<br />

with would be like, “I just didn’t<br />

realise that women felt this way.”<br />

It’s been the biggest step forward.<br />

Hannah Reid, best known as the<br />

vocalist of indie-pop trio London<br />

Grammar, casually reveals a major<br />

lockdown achievement as she chats<br />

from her West London home. “One<br />

positive is that instead of going<br />

out on the road, we’ve carried our<br />

creative process on,” says the<br />

31-year-old singer, “so we’ve been<br />

writing loads and working on<br />

a fourth album.”<br />

This is surprising news given that<br />

the long-awaited third album by the<br />

band – Reid, alongside guitarist Dan<br />

Rothman and drummer/keyboard<br />

player Dominic Major – only gets its<br />

release this month. A collection of<br />

deftly woven, Balearic-flavoured<br />

pop tracks, Californian Soul tackles<br />

toxic misogyny, the death of the<br />

American Dream, and Reid’s own<br />

personal growth. It demonstrates<br />

a newfound confidence she says is<br />

down to age, experience, and the<br />

influence of a new generation of<br />

inspirational female artists.<br />

the red bulletin: You found<br />

fame at quite a young age. How<br />

has that affected you?<br />

hannah reid: We were signed<br />

when we were 21, and it’s definitely<br />

changed me as a person. The music<br />

industry is a very tough landscape.<br />

It’s completely male-dominated, and<br />

it was a little bit of a shock. Also,<br />

when you experience success you’re<br />

suddenly opened up to this world<br />

of other people’s opinions. You can<br />

lose your own sense of identity a bit.<br />

But I feel like on this third album<br />

I’ve managed to get that back. I’ve<br />

changed a lot as a person, and there<br />

was just a different energy in what<br />

I was writing, and in the music. It’s<br />

kind of upbeat for us, but the lyrics<br />

are quite dark in places and a bit<br />

more aggressive.<br />

Has confidence come with age?<br />

On the first record, I was actually<br />

really lost and very vulnerable, like<br />

a lot of young people are at that<br />

age. As you get older, the things that<br />

you experience change you, and,<br />

yeah, I found a different kind of<br />

confidence. Whereas on the second<br />

record maybe I was hiding behind<br />

a bit of a veil of poetry, [on this<br />

record] I was just like, “I’m going<br />

to say whatever I want to say.”<br />

Have you consciously taken<br />

on more of a leadership role<br />

in the band?<br />

In terms of dealing with the<br />

industry, yes. If people don’t respect<br />

me as a leader, they won’t respect<br />

me at all. Because I’ve had such<br />

difficulty sometimes being the only<br />

female in the room, I was like, “If<br />

you guys support me in that<br />

way, I don’t think people can take<br />

advantage of us.” It’s an industry<br />

where you do have to have quite<br />

strong boundaries and a thick skin.<br />

It’s a constant battle.<br />

You’ve mentioned that you see the<br />

new album as a feminist record…<br />

It’s definitely in the lyrics. I did have<br />

quite profound experiences being<br />

a woman in the music industry and<br />

then realising that when I came<br />

home from being on tour and spoke<br />

to my girlfriends about it, they were<br />

all having the same experiences. It<br />

Do you find inspiration in other<br />

female artists?<br />

I love any art that’s made by women<br />

and is about being empowered.<br />

The younger generation of female<br />

artists who are leading the way,<br />

like Arlo Parks and Billie Eilish –<br />

women who are quite a lot younger<br />

than me – have helped me. You can<br />

see it in them having control over<br />

their careers and saying everything<br />

they want to say.<br />

What was it that you wanted<br />

to say with this record that<br />

you couldn’t before?<br />

There are some songs where I’m<br />

speaking about those sexual politics<br />

or dynamics that go on between<br />

men and women, with men still<br />

holding that baton of power.<br />

There’s more personal stuff that’s<br />

just about me losing myself in that<br />

environment and regaining a sense<br />

of who I was. I think I just wanted<br />

to say “Fuck you”, really.<br />

Given your newfound<br />

confidence, would you ever<br />

be tempted to go solo?<br />

There’s just a magic between us<br />

three [in the band] that I really<br />

cherish. No matter how the music<br />

changes or evolves from record to<br />

record, we’ve also evolved so much<br />

as a trio. It’s so fascinating to be<br />

a part of that. I do have a wish to<br />

maybe write a really obscure,<br />

tragic country record that probably<br />

no one would listen to. But that’s<br />

a long way off.<br />

London Grammar’s album Californian<br />

Soil is out on April 16 on Ministry Of<br />

Sound; londongrammar.com<br />


“I’ve had<br />

difficulty being<br />

the only<br />

female in the<br />

room”<br />


Jill Wheatley<br />

Moving<br />

mountains<br />

When the Canadian suffered a severe traumatic brain<br />

injury in 2014, what spelt an end to life as she knew it<br />

also marked the start of a new adventure<br />


Photography VINAYAK JAYA MALLA<br />

Jill Wheatley doesn’t like the word<br />

‘accident’. Instead, she describes the<br />

moment her life was altered for ever<br />

as “when serendipity changed my<br />

trail”. It was 2014, and she was<br />

teaching sports science at a school<br />

just outside Munich when, during<br />

a lesson, she was hit on the head by<br />

a baseball. Her skull fractured, her<br />

brain suffered swelling and bleeding,<br />

and damage to her optic nerves left<br />

her with just 30-per-cent vision – her<br />

right eye would never open again.<br />

In an instant, Wheatley, still in her<br />

early thirties, was transformed from<br />

an independent “adventurous spirit”<br />

to the survivor of a traumatic brain<br />

injury (TBI), which also triggered<br />

a rare eating disorder that saw her<br />

weight plummet dangerously.<br />

It would be more than two years<br />

before Ontario-born Wheatley left<br />

hospital to find that her life – her job,<br />

home, and German residency – no<br />

longer existed. Before “serendipity”<br />

intervened, Wheatley had spent<br />

every minute outdoors, so, despite<br />

her injuries and with nothing more<br />

to lose, she set off to ice-climb, ski<br />

and mountain-run her way around<br />

the world’s most spectacular<br />

massifs, from the Eiger Ultra Trail<br />

in the Alps to Nepal’s Annapurna.<br />

She has documented her journey<br />

in a blog, Mountains of My Mind.<br />

Last November, after months of<br />

lockdown in Kathmandu, Wheatley<br />

was about to climb the iconic Ama<br />

Dablam when she learned that her<br />

father had unexpectedly passed<br />

away. “I honestly feel like my life<br />

experience prepared me for it, and I<br />

was more accepting of relinquishing<br />

control,” she says. “There was nothing<br />

I could do. There was a strange<br />

sensation my dad was with me, that<br />

he could see. It gave me strength.”<br />

She climbed on and made it to<br />

the summit…<br />

the red bulletin: What was it<br />

about mountains that called to you?<br />

jill wheatley: I’ve always been<br />

drawn to mountains and the<br />

outdoors. I felt like no matter what<br />

mountain, it couldn’t challenge me<br />

the way those 26 months in hospital<br />

did. Once, when I was really sick in<br />

Colorado, a doctor came to introduce<br />

himself. I was pulling my tubes out<br />

and doing everything a patient<br />

shouldn’t do. He said, “I understand<br />

you like mountains. These are your<br />

lifelines. If you’re on an expedition,<br />

you’re on a team. We are your team<br />

who’ll help get you to your Everest.”<br />

Two years ago, the first time I saw<br />

Everest, his words came back to me.<br />

No one climbs a mountain alone.<br />

How much of a challenge is travel<br />

on your global expeditions?<br />

In Canada and the US, there’s an<br />

assumption that every adult can<br />

drive. Why am I not running more in<br />

the Canadian Rockies? Because it’s<br />

really hard to access if you’re visually<br />

impaired. It’s not like in Switzerland<br />

where you can hop on a train and it<br />

takes you door to door. That was<br />

disheartening at first. However, I<br />

think the places I choose now reflect<br />

that. I learned that Chamonix, for<br />

example, is great because I can base<br />

myself somewhere, and if I’m there<br />

a month I can do 30 different trails.<br />

Other than your loss of vision,<br />

how does your TBI affect you?<br />

You can see the scars from my<br />

physical falls, but you don’t see the<br />

cognitive function. I have no depth<br />

perception, so I fall; I pour my water<br />

and miss the cup. Not every day,<br />

but often. Balance, coordination,<br />

concentration – all of those things<br />

needed training. Sometimes I need<br />

to remind myself that it is a lot. Still,<br />

in my mind I’m not being gracious to<br />

myself, I want no excuses. However,<br />

it doesn’t matter what pace I go.<br />

That’s not what’s important. I’m here<br />

when I wasn’t expected to survive,<br />

and look at what I’ve chosen to do.<br />

What now helps you deal with<br />

difficult moments?<br />

Impermanence. I was introduced to<br />

Vipassana, a type of meditation that<br />

starts with 10 days of silence. The<br />

root of it is basically that everything<br />

is constantly changing. I allowed<br />

myself to think deeper into that,<br />

shift my perspective, and recognise<br />

that actually I’m a very good example<br />

of impermanence. I don’t even like<br />

the word ‘recovery’, because to me<br />

that means going back to something,<br />

and I don’t want to go back to the<br />

person I was before. I feel like the<br />

lessons I’ve learned from my TBI are<br />

more than I ever would without it.<br />

The power of perspective is the most<br />

significant lesson; that shift from<br />

what I’ve lost to what I’ve gained.<br />

Adversity doesn’t look the same to<br />

everyone. It might not be a TBI or<br />

vision loss, but every human can<br />

connect to adversity, to vulnerability,<br />

to being open and authentic.<br />

How does it feel to have reached<br />

a summit?<br />

Honestly, I feel gratitude. I get<br />

goosebumps every time I talk about<br />

it. I look at a picture of me on a<br />

summit, and in the other half of my<br />

brain I’m lying in a hospital bed in<br />

Colorado hoping that I don’t wake<br />

up. I’m so thankful that these people<br />

didn’t give up on me. On top of<br />

a summit, it’s me standing there,<br />

but it’s so many other people who<br />

have got me there.<br />

mountainsofmymind.com<br />


“Adversity<br />

doesn’t look<br />

the same to<br />

everyone”<br />


MAKING<br />

MOVES<br />

Almost half a century<br />

after breaking<br />

burst onto the streets<br />

of the Bronx, meet<br />

the <strong>UK</strong> B-Boys and<br />

B-Girls helping<br />

reinvent, reinvigorate<br />

and reimagine their<br />

scene for a new era<br />

Words RUTH McLEOD and<br />


Photography GAVIN BOND

B-Girl Vanessa<br />

The 29-year-old Portuguese-born<br />

breaker won the 2019 <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

BC One Cypher <strong>UK</strong> final with<br />

a victory over Leeds’ RaWGina.<br />

As well as competing, she’s<br />

committed to teaching and<br />

promoting up-and-coming B-Girls<br />


Breaking<br />

The world of competitive<br />

breaking usually involves spot-lit, sweat-drenched<br />

battles in packed-out venues for hyped-up crowds.<br />

But on a Sunday evening in early March, thanks<br />

to lockdown, B-Girl Vanessa Marina is performing<br />

to the world via her mobile phone, in a small hired<br />

studio in Hackney Wick, east London.<br />

The Portuguese-born 29-year-old is competing<br />

live against Argentina-based B-Girl Carito for a<br />

place in the final in Texas, and, despite the unusually<br />

subdued backdrop, her energy is characteristically<br />

high. Vanessa’s feet shift rhythmically and instinctively<br />

as she moves fluidly between freezes, footwork and<br />

spins to a salsa-infused hip-hop soundtrack, seemingly<br />

propelled as much by her self-confidence as by her<br />

athletic ability, honed through hours of practice.<br />

“When we dance, it shows our personality,” she<br />

says. “It shows character. Someone shy can become<br />

their true self. Breaking is a language everyone<br />

around the world can understand, and a battle is<br />

a conversation. The person who goes first asks a<br />

question; the person who battles next gives the<br />

answer. No two movements will ever be the same.”<br />

It’s this marriage of artistic interpretation and<br />

gymnastic skill that makes breakdancing – or<br />

breaking, as it’s known in the scene – a unique<br />

proposition. Part art, part sport, breaking was<br />

conceived on the streets of New York in the 1970s,<br />

but has since spread around the world. More<br />

recently, its growing popularity has resulted in its<br />

– controversial for some – inclusion in the 2024<br />

Paris Olympics. An unlikely alliance of objectors<br />

has arisen following news of breaking’s Games<br />

debut, comprising both traditional sportspeople<br />

sceptical of its credentials, and old-school breaking<br />

purists afraid that mainstream exposure might<br />

dilute the culture. But, for a fresh generation of<br />

<strong>UK</strong> breakers keen to push the boundaries of their<br />

scene, it’s just the latest step in a journey that was<br />

already well underway. These B-Boys and B-Girls<br />

are athletes, artists, activists and adventurers,<br />

using their art form to express themselves to an<br />

ever-expanding audience.<br />

“It’s great to have new platforms and<br />

opportunities,” says Vanessa, who, at 18, moved<br />

from Lisbon to London to pursue a breaking career<br />

and has since helped to evolve the <strong>UK</strong> B-Girl scene.<br />

“The breaking scene is now thriving in London and<br />

across the <strong>UK</strong>. Scenes have to evolve; nothing stands<br />

still. As these new opportunities are born, we must<br />

embrace them and what they can do for the culture<br />

and our future. If we stand still, the scene will die”<br />

Though it was born in the Bronx, where breaking<br />

battles and cyphers – freestyle battles fought in<br />

the centre of a circle of B-Boys and B-Girls – were<br />

used for everything from self-expression to settling<br />

scores and unifying neighbourhoods, breaking<br />

has decades-old roots in the <strong>UK</strong>, too. Over the<br />

course of <strong>UK</strong> breaking history, London has been<br />

home to prestigious battles such as the <strong>UK</strong> B-Boy<br />

AJ the<br />

Cypher Cat<br />

Breaking is in the<br />

blood of this 19-yearold<br />

– his father and<br />

uncles were part of<br />

the scene back in<br />

the ’80s. AJ – real<br />

name Aijion Brown<br />

– reached last year’s<br />

BC One Cypher <strong>UK</strong><br />

semi-finals and now<br />

he has his eye on the<br />

chance to represent<br />

Team GB at the 2024<br />

Paris Olympics<br />


“As soon as I won<br />

my first battle,<br />

aged eight, I told<br />

my dad that one<br />

day I’d compete<br />

at BC One”<br />

AJ the Cypher Cat

Breaking<br />

B-Girl Nat<br />

Natasha Lee’s<br />

passion for breaking<br />

has taken her around<br />

the world, but her<br />

B-Girl career was<br />

almost cut short<br />

after she suffered<br />

a spinal injury.<br />

Thanks to sheer<br />

perseverance and<br />

dedicated training,<br />

however, the Hong<br />

Kong-born breaker<br />

has bounced back<br />

stronger than ever<br />

“I started breaking<br />

with a class at King’s<br />

College. “I thought,<br />

‘Why not push myself<br />

to do something I’ve<br />

never done before?’”<br />

B-Girl Nat<br />

Championships, which not only made newspaper<br />

headlines and sold out Brixton Academy numerous<br />

times but helped keep the national scene alive.<br />

Small breaking hubs have long existed across the<br />

country, from Swindon to Aberdeen, and current<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull BC One Cypher <strong>UK</strong> champions RaWGina<br />

and Kid Karam are from Leeds and Derby<br />

respectively. In an internet age when it’s as easy<br />

for a B-Girl from Taunton to throw up her hardest<br />

moves online for the world to see as for a B-Boy<br />

in rural Kazakhstan, top breakers are not only indemand<br />

internationally for battles, performances<br />

and judging panels, but have the chance to pass on<br />

their skills to a new generation hungry to learn.<br />

“The <strong>UK</strong> scene is still a bit chaotic; it’s going<br />

through a transitional phase right now,” says<br />

25-year-old Bristol B-Boy and contemporary artist<br />

Izaak Brandt. “But it’s the least divided it ever has<br />

been. Some of the older generations in the <strong>UK</strong> have<br />

a fixed idea of what breaking should be – that it<br />

should be raw and people shouldn’t get on, that it<br />

should be extremely exclusive – but I think younger<br />

generations feel a longing to connect and get on<br />

with other members of their generation. And,<br />

thanks to the internet, there’s been more dialogue<br />

between them, which has created more unity. We’re<br />

starting to see people coming together.”<br />

When dedicating yourself to a scene that<br />

demands practice time, often leads to injury<br />

and offers little financial reward, passion<br />

and resilience are key. Izaak got into B-Boying at<br />

the age of 11 after seeing Sunni Brummitt, also 11,<br />

perform at an event in Bristol. “I immediately<br />

wanted to get involved,” says Izaak. “Breaking lives<br />

within the realm of [both] sport and art. It’s a real<br />

intersection between both worlds and merges them<br />

perfectly, harmoniously. That appealed to me. Sunni<br />

has been one of my closest friends ever since.”<br />

Izaak and Sunni perfectly embody each end of<br />

the spectrum of possibilities within breaking: Izaak’s<br />

wild artistic experimentation at one end and the<br />

fierce athleticism of Sunni – famed for his impossiblelooking<br />

headspins and explosive creativity in battle<br />

– at the other. With multiple world championship<br />

performances to his name, a contract as a <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

BC One All Star, and a reputation as one of the best<br />

B-Boys the <strong>UK</strong> has produced, Sunni is a poster boy<br />

for British breaking and has helped to put it back on<br />

the world map. “I had very few [<strong>UK</strong> breakers] to look<br />

up to,” says Sunni, who began breaking alongside<br />

climbing and playing football as a child in south-west<br />

England. “So, when I did my come-up, anything going<br />

good for me was a bonus. We’ve got a big underdog<br />

situation in the <strong>UK</strong> that we’ve kind of adopted and<br />

accepted and embraced. I might have got us some<br />

recognition, but we still have a long way to go.”<br />

Breakers such as Sunni aren’t wary of their sport<br />

being professionalised in the push for progress on<br />

the global competitive stage. In common with many<br />

other elite breakers, the 26-year-old already trains<br />

like a top-tier gymnast – six hours per day, five days<br />

per week – and is quick to dismiss those reluctant to<br />

see breaking grow in mainstream popularity. “There<br />

are people who are 40 and used to be B-Boys and<br />

that’s what makes them cool and ‘hip hop’,” says<br />

Sunni, who’s in the process of moving back to Bristol<br />

after a stint living in Holland. “If they see B-Boys<br />

competing in tights on the telly, they’re not going to<br />

feel so cool. But that’s not the point of it; when they<br />

were those kids breaking on the street, if someone<br />

had said, ‘Do you want a dance studio, a nutritionist,<br />

a sports therapist?’, you know they’d all have said<br />

yeah. They were out there because of necessity, not<br />

a personal choice. People get that confused.”<br />

But in this uniquely artistic sport, where there’s<br />

no universal regulation or regimentation, what may<br />

need to change in the shift towards the mainstream<br />

is how battles are judged. Currently, breakers attempt<br />

to wow crowds and win over judges with their own<br />

unique style, whether that’s about power moves<br />

(explosive manoeuvres such as headspins, flips and<br />

gravity-defying athletics) or top rock – upright<br />

footwork that requires a mixture of coordination,<br />

flexibility, rhythm, and out-of-this-world musicality.<br />

Winners and losers are decided by a panel of judges<br />

who weigh up elements from tricks to character<br />

and creativity to decide who becomes the champion<br />

– and right now there’s no template for this.<br />

“This is why we’re right in the middle between an<br />

art form and a professional sport,” says Sunni, who<br />

before the pandemic would be battling, performing<br />

and judging in a different country every week, to the<br />

thunderous applause of fans in packed-out arenas.<br />

“It’s subjective. What you look for as a judge depends<br />

on the event and where you are. When I go to China,<br />

they teach breaking in dance schools where 500<br />

pupils might be taught by one tutor and do the exact<br />

same rounds, with the same vocabulary, so you have<br />

to judge that in a certain way. Then you go to France<br />

and the scene seems to be split into either full-onstyle<br />

character cats or the no personality tricks and<br />

power breakers [one who focuses on power moves].<br />

So it’s about being educated to know what to judge<br />

on, rather than having a standard set of criteria.”<br />

For most breakers, competitions represent the<br />

quickest route to recognition. Presently, the pinnacle<br />

of battle success in the global breaking scene is<br />


Izaak Brandt<br />

A multidisciplinary<br />

artist as well as a<br />

breaker, Izaak has<br />

given up battling and<br />

instead represents<br />

and promotes the<br />

sport through various<br />

creative mediums.<br />

The 25-year-old<br />

hopes increased<br />

exposure will help<br />

make the breaking<br />

scene more inclusive<br />

and open-minded

Break Breaking dance<br />

“It’s a fantastic time<br />

right now; I believe<br />

entering the<br />

mainstream will only<br />

enrich breaking”<br />

Izaak Brandt<br />


Breaking<br />

B-Boy Sunni<br />

The poster boy of<br />

British breaking,<br />

Sunni Brummitt<br />

moved from Malaysia<br />

to the <strong>UK</strong> as a child<br />

and began breaking at<br />

the age of 10, joining<br />

his first crew, Toy<br />

Soldiers, soon after.<br />

In 2019, 14 years and<br />

many battle victories<br />

later, he became the<br />

first <strong>UK</strong> breaker to<br />

make the <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

BC One All Stars team<br />

seminal international event <strong>Red</strong> Bull BC One,<br />

which began back in 2004. Annual national<br />

qualifiers feed through to the highly anticipated<br />

world final, which Sunni has reached three times<br />

and has been held everywhere from Tokyo and<br />

Mumbai to this year’s upcoming event in Gdansk,<br />

Poland. The final, which sees the best 16 B-Boys and<br />

B-Girls go head-to-head, is watched live or online by<br />

most of the world’s breaking population, helping to<br />

inspire the next generation of breakers to aim high.<br />

“If you’re going to train, you should train to win<br />

everything,” says 19-year-old Wolverhampton<br />

breaker Aijion Brown, aka AJ the Cypher Cat – a<br />

name inspired by his love of battling. “As soon as<br />

I won my first battle, aged eight, I told my dad that<br />

one day I’d compete at BC One.” AJ’s education<br />

came from his B-Boy father Pablo’s DVDs, and also<br />

from his dad’s cousins – both were keen breakers<br />

during the <strong>UK</strong>’s first wave, back in the 80s. As a way<br />

of paying his respects, AJ offers free breaking classes<br />

during the college/school summer holidays. “The<br />

breaking scene in Wolverhampton is literally me and<br />

a couple of others!” he laughs. “Though there’s more<br />

of a family vibe in the <strong>UK</strong>, it’s also competitive. I train<br />

even harder, because I’m in two generations; I’m in<br />

Sunni’s generation as the youngest, and there’s also a<br />

whole generation under me, trying to take me out.”<br />

In 2019, AJ was selected to compete at BC One<br />

for the first time as a wildcard and managed to reach<br />

the semi-finals. “Now I want multiple BC One titles,”<br />

he says. “I’ve always loved to battle. When I can beat<br />

Sunni, I’ll know I’m at the top in the <strong>UK</strong>. Then I can<br />

focus on reaching the worldwide level of breaking.”<br />

Though battling is the most visible side of the<br />

breaking scene, for most it’s the physical embodiment<br />

of something that runs deeper. “When I dance, I feel<br />

proud,” says Sunni. “My goal with my dance isn’t<br />

validation; it’s that I’m good enough so that it can be<br />

my ticket to whatever I want, whether that’s work,<br />

respect, or being able to really express myself<br />

properly. I get worried about B-Boys when they go<br />

on a winning streak but then lose and disappear.<br />

For me, [competitive] breaking is like playing chess:<br />

when I lose a game, I get pissed off, but it’s like,<br />

‘Let’s start another match.’ Battling ain’t that deep<br />

– it’s the nature of the game. If you can learn how<br />

to lose, you actually win so much more.”<br />

In contrast to his battle-ready childhood friend,<br />

artist Izaak is taking breaking in a different direction,<br />

pushing to change preconceptions about the scene<br />

in unexpected settings. “My decision not to pursue<br />

the battle direction was a lack of interest,” he says.<br />

“After being heavily involved in the battle scene for<br />

a few years, I realised my creative energy could be<br />

used more effectively in other areas. I’ve taken<br />

breaking into other mediums: drawing, conceptual<br />

performance, animation, publications, painting,<br />

fashion, choreography, and now sculpture. It’s an<br />

ongoing exploration for me. There need to be way<br />

more touchpoints for people to connect with breaking,<br />

and I believe that’s one of my jobs – to proliferate<br />

“Suffering losses is<br />

the nature of the game.<br />

If you can learn how<br />

to lose, you actually win<br />

so much more”<br />

B-Boy Sunni<br />

breaking into spaces people may have not seen it<br />

before, so that it’s not just battling that’s visible.<br />

It’s a fantastic time right now; I believe entering the<br />

mainstream will only enrich the culture. It’s important<br />

to have people of all genders, sexualities and walks<br />

of life in the discourse of breaking so it can be a<br />

more open-minded place. But it’s a long process.”<br />

One area that has been slow to change in<br />

breaking, both in the <strong>UK</strong> and worldwide, is<br />

gender equality. Women are still a distinct<br />

minority in what can be a hyper-masculine scene.<br />

“As a woman in breaking, you have to work twice<br />

as hard for half the recognition,” says Vanessa.<br />

“We are making progress, but, because it’s a maledominated<br />

scene, girls are doubtful they’ll be<br />

heard, so they don’t vocalise their opinions. That<br />

needs to change. I’ve experienced unfair situations<br />

like guys being given a good floor on the main<br />

stage while our B-Girl battle was on a rusty floor,<br />

or when we got paid less than the guys, or they<br />

didn’t want to pay us at all. I couldn’t be quiet –<br />

it caused a revolution in me.”<br />

Vanessa is now part of B-Girl Sessions, a womanonly<br />

group seeking to promote female breakers and<br />

give them a place to come together. She also hosts<br />

workout sessions for B-Girls around the world,<br />

who Vanessa says have often learned breaking from<br />

men rather than focusing on the specific abilities of<br />

their own bodies. “I’m trying to give the girls more<br />

of a voice,” she says. “The women in this scene are<br />

here because they have something to say. I have<br />

something to say. B-Girls continue to be so strong<br />

in this scene, because it’s a marathon for us, not<br />

a sprint. But it is changing. BC One was the biggest<br />

platform to include girls four years ago, and I’ve<br />

seen the changes made since then. Suddenly, girls<br />

saw it was possible to reach this stage and be seen,<br />

be heard. And the call for gender parity at the 2024<br />

Olympics could have even bigger consequences.”<br />

London B-Girl Roxane Hackwood, aka Zana, who<br />

has been competing internationally since 2010, has<br />

witnessed firsthand the evolution of the B-Girl scene<br />

in the <strong>UK</strong>. “When I first started, B-Girls all dressed<br />

the same and pretty much moved the same,” she<br />

says, “whereas now you get girls who dance supergirly<br />

or are total powerheads etc. There’s so much<br />

scope within it. Initially, I hid my background in<br />

capoeira so it didn’t look like I was taking an easy<br />


“When I first started,<br />

B-Girls all dressed<br />

the same and pretty<br />

much moved the<br />

same. Now, there’s<br />

so much scope”<br />

B-Girl Zana<br />


Breaking<br />

route. And I’ve always preferred power moves, but<br />

I was influenced away from them by coaches and<br />

other breakers who told me they would take too<br />

long to master. Now, there’s so much inspiration to<br />

draw upon to help you find your own voice, so I can<br />

integrate capoeira into my dance, and the flavour<br />

of it is coming through. Power will come next. I’ve<br />

learned to double down on the things I like.”<br />

B-Girl Zana<br />

London breaker Roxane Hackwood has more<br />

than a decade of international competition<br />

experience. Her distinctive style, which<br />

incorporates elements of the Brazilian<br />

martial art capoeira, won her a place in the<br />

final eight at last year’s BC One Cypher <strong>UK</strong><br />

Classes such as those offered by Sunni, AJ<br />

and Vanessa are bringing new breakers into<br />

the fold who might otherwise have missed<br />

the opportunity. “Most breakers you meet started<br />

out in the scene, but I started with a class at King’s<br />

College of all places!” says London-based, Hong<br />

Kong-born Natasha Lee, aka B-Girl Nat. “I thought,<br />

‘Why not push myself to do something I’ve never<br />

done before?’” After getting hooked on breaking,<br />

the adventure-hungry 29-year-old travelled to<br />

Taiwan and linked up with B-Boys and B-Girls there,<br />

then journeyed on to Australia to do the same. But<br />

just as her skills were catching up with her passion,<br />

a devastating spinal injury almost stopped her in<br />

her tracks. Doctors told her to forget breaking and<br />

move on, but, after some recovery time, Nat<br />

redoubled her focus on training and came back to<br />

the <strong>UK</strong> stronger and with a newfound fire. Last year<br />

she made her <strong>UK</strong> cypher debut, and she’s now<br />

training with <strong>UK</strong> breaking pioneer and coach DJ<br />

Renegade, who has helped set up Breaking GB,<br />

an IOC-approved training collective, to support<br />

those who are determined to get to the Olympics.<br />

That the <strong>UK</strong> scene is at this point today is testament<br />

to these breakers’ ability to evolve.<br />

“It’s important to respect the founders and the<br />

work that’s come before us, because we’re building<br />

upon that,” says Zana. “But, with breaking, the<br />

idea should be that each new generation brings a<br />

different flavour to it. If that’s bringing new music,<br />

new styles, a new platform, we have to let it evolve.<br />

It has to happen in order for [up-and-coming<br />

breakers] to feel engaged and form an attachment<br />

to it – the new generation doesn’t have a connection<br />

to Kool Herc or Grandmaster Flash any more.”<br />

Back in Hackney Wick, Vanessa has completed<br />

the last of her three final rounds and watches her<br />

phone screen as she catches her breath, awaiting<br />

the judges’ decisions. All three vote in her favour.<br />

She beams at the camera. “It was totally different<br />

to battle online,” she says. “Also, I’d gone one year<br />

without battling while I just worked on my<br />

breaking, so it was a good comeback. Each round<br />

I won just made me more sure of my skills, and by<br />

the time I came to the final I knew there was no<br />

other option but to win! It’s thanks to the motto<br />

I had when not battling last year: ‘You have to be<br />

ready so you don’t have to get ready.’”<br />

Sounds like good advice for a scene on the verge<br />

of its big break.<br />

Watch the B-Girls and B-Boys in battle on the <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

BC One YouTube channel; youtube.com<br />


HIDDEN<br />

DEPTHS<br />

Exploring narrow,<br />

unmapped underwater<br />

caves deep in the<br />

Mexican jungle is<br />

fraught with danger.<br />

But, for two of the<br />

world’s most intrepid<br />

cave divers, what<br />

they discover in<br />

these unexplored<br />

passageways can be<br />

truly life-changing<br />


and RUTH McLEOD<br />


Thymann enters the water of the cave –<br />

coloured yellow near the surface by<br />

tannic acid from recent rainfall – with<br />

his camera, watching closely for any<br />

sign that the underwater housing is<br />

leaking. A video light illuminates the<br />

path ahead, along with a light on his<br />

helmet, which he calls his ‘third hand’<br />


Cave exploration<br />

Klaus Thymann is 300m inside an<br />

underwater cave in Mexico, 10m below<br />

dense jungle, navigating a constricted<br />

passageway that’s barely bigger than he<br />

is – around 60cm from floor to ceiling.<br />

The Danish-born photographer and cave<br />

diver is shooting what are likely to be<br />

prehistoric human bones, so he has had<br />

to adopt a plank position with his arms<br />

outstretched, using his lungs to control<br />

his level in the water; if any part of him<br />

touches any surface, he could destroy<br />

these artefacts by disturbing silt that<br />

could also leave him with zero visibility.<br />

Under this intense pressure, Thymann<br />

– who estimates he has spent several<br />

hundred hours in caves like these during<br />

his career – is the most stressed he’s ever<br />

been on a dive. But he knows that if he’s<br />

unable to stay calm, he’ll get through<br />

his supply of air too quickly and there’s<br />

a high chance he could drown.<br />

This is cave diving at its most extreme.<br />

Cave exploration is a better description,<br />

since most of the routes Thymann and his<br />

diving partner Alessandro Reato survey<br />

have not yet been mapped, making the<br />

pair the first humans in modern history<br />

to lay eyes on whatever awaits them<br />

around the next dark corner. “Your body<br />

screams panic in these situations,” says<br />

Thymann. “You are underwater, in<br />

darkness, in a confined space, so stress<br />

levels are high. But your survival depends<br />

on your being calm. You have to develop<br />

the skills to subdue that intuitive fear.”<br />

Squeezing expertly through spaces<br />

small enough to make most wince, these<br />

underwater explorers are willing to go<br />

where most can’t or won’t, carrying with<br />

them all the equipment they need to<br />

avert disaster if something goes wrong<br />

– and things often do. “It’s not really a<br />

question of if, but when, something will<br />

go wrong, meaning you just have to be<br />

prepared for it,” says Thymann. “There<br />

is no dive buddy. I frequently squeeze<br />

through gaps so small I have to tilt my<br />

head sideways, and in that position<br />

another diver can’t get to you.<br />

“When it comes to kit, we have at<br />

least two of almost everything. Two is<br />

one, one is none, as we say. Packing and<br />

preparation are done with military<br />

precision, as even a little thing can be<br />

what saves the day. I don’t like risks. I work<br />

methodically and don’t deviate from my<br />

protocol – that’s how I justify doing this.<br />

I plan, I prepare, and then of course I’ve<br />

had extensive professional training and<br />

Top left: you can’t see it from the<br />

air, but beneath the dense jungle<br />

there’s access to the underwater<br />

caves. Above: they may be filled<br />

with air, but the dive tanks weigh<br />

more than 10kg each, meaning<br />

they’re ferried to site one by one<br />


Locating the cave<br />

“We start out with our porter<br />

Jesus walking in front of the 4x4,<br />

chopping at vegetation with his<br />

machete, but at some point the<br />

road and jungle merge, so we get<br />

out and walk. Alex’s Italian arms<br />

get excited as he talks, disturbing a<br />

hornets’ nest. We run, but still get<br />

stung. We’re heading for the GPS<br />

coordinates that mark the position<br />

of a cenote – our access point<br />

to the underwater river system.<br />

We find cenotes from our Mayan<br />

contacts; from seeing on a map<br />

where the water should go; from<br />

diving and seeing light above; and<br />

from others who have told Alex<br />

they’ve found a hole in the jungle.”<br />


Time travel<br />

“I’ve been cave diving for<br />

less than 10 years, but I’ve<br />

dived all my life. I remember<br />

freediving as a kid, going down<br />

with a net to catch octopus<br />

in the Mediterranean. I like the<br />

challenge of cave diving;<br />

I like doing things that are<br />

complicated and haven’t been<br />

done before. Once I enter<br />

the rabbit hole, I just want to<br />

go further into it. Diving<br />

the underwater rivers feels<br />

like entering a time capsule;<br />

time doesn’t exist, as there<br />

are no outside factors to<br />

disturb you – no daylight, no<br />

noise, just the sound of your<br />

breathing. As we swim through<br />

the water, we enter an<br />

ancient time, experiencing<br />

what no one has for hundreds<br />

and thousands of years.<br />

However, diving is also very<br />

much about time – you have<br />

to keep track of it to survive<br />

and know your limitations.”<br />


Cave exploration<br />

“Exploration<br />

cave-diving isn’t<br />

for everyone<br />

– it takes<br />

claustrophobia<br />

to a new level”<br />

have built up experience. It helps that my<br />

personality is uber-rational, so I generally<br />

solve issues well under pressure – be that<br />

on a mountain, inside a glacier, deep<br />

underwater, or on the edge of a volcano.”<br />

During a varied career as a journalist,<br />

photographer and explorer, London-based<br />

Thymann, 46, has trekked new routes to<br />

explore the glaciers of Uganda and Congo;<br />

was the first person to scuba-dive the<br />

world’s clearest lake, New Zealand’s Blue<br />

Lake; and has led expeditions to mountains<br />

on six continents, all with the aim of<br />

furthering knowledge and awareness of the<br />

climate crisis. And this mission, he says,<br />

is similarly important: “It’s an expedition<br />

with a purpose, and that’s what I find<br />

interesting. I need that purpose. All of the<br />

peaks have been summited, so now you<br />

get things being done in multiples – the<br />

Three Peaks Challenge or whatever – an<br />

artificial goal in order to set a new record.<br />

I have a lot of respect for people who are<br />

able to do it, but there is no benefit to the<br />

world in the 100th person standing on top<br />

of a mountain. I’m trying to come back<br />

with something that benefits science and<br />

helps us make informed choices about<br />

how we behave on this planet.”<br />

It was in Mexico – Reato’s current home<br />

– that Thymann first met the Italian cave<br />

diver and former army cartographer,<br />

through friends, in 2016. The pair soon<br />

realised they shared a love of mapping<br />

and heading off the beaten track; Reato<br />

had explored more than 70km of the<br />

country’s caves. “I have a similar appetite<br />

to Alex in terms of going places where<br />

others don’t,” says Thymann. “Even most<br />

people who enjoy cave diving won’t crawl<br />

down a piece of rope into a hole in the<br />

jungle they can barely squeeze through<br />

after walking for miles through dense<br />

jungle. But we like the parts that are still<br />

really wild, and to get to that frontier you<br />

must engage with nature differently.<br />

Exploration cave-diving certainly isn’t for<br />

everyone – our sort of cave diving takes<br />

claustrophobia to a new level. With Alex,<br />

I feel that I’ve found a partner in crime.”<br />

So, when Reato contacted Thymann<br />

last year to tell him about his discovery<br />

of this ancient skeleton, the Dane was<br />

all in. “In this case, if it wasn’t the bones<br />

and the fascinating insights into the past<br />

they might give us, it could be for an<br />

environmental purpose, like trying to<br />

map underground rivers to help protect<br />

them,” says Thymann. “The caves here in<br />

Mexico are unique; they’re the world’s<br />

largest underground system and we need<br />

to preserve them – for the habitat, for<br />

the reef, for what it provides, and just<br />

because it’s a huge archaeological site.”<br />

Using calculations based on historic<br />

water levels, they know the bones could<br />

Above left: Thymann – providing<br />

the only light in the pitch-black<br />

cave – follows the navigational line.<br />

The scenery changes constantly:<br />

“Two kicks of your fins and you’re<br />

somewhere that looks totally<br />

different.” Right: Reato readies his<br />

mask for diving<br />


Cave exploration<br />

Thymann squeezes through a<br />

tight gap, disturbing silt that<br />

affects visibility. In spaces<br />

this small, he has to crawl.<br />

Opposite: Reato leads the<br />

dive deep into the cave. “The<br />

only thing we leave behind is<br />

bubbles,” says Thymann

Lining the route<br />

“Exploration of the<br />

underwater caves on the<br />

Yucatán only began in the<br />

1980s. Back then, mostly<br />

American cave-divers would<br />

use single-engine aircraft<br />

to fly over the jungle, trying<br />

to spot cenotes from the<br />

air, and would throw<br />

something down to mark the<br />

spot. Then they’d walk<br />

through the jungle to find the<br />

marker. Nowadays we have<br />

drones and GPS, but no<br />

technology has been created<br />

that can overcome the<br />

complexity of mapping<br />

underwater. The main<br />

method of navigation is still<br />

the same: a continuous<br />

line of nylon string from the<br />

open water all the way to<br />

wherever we’re going in the<br />

cave. When caves are<br />

explored, the line is left<br />

underwater with arrows<br />

pointing towards the exit at<br />

any intersection. Every<br />

cave diver knows how to<br />

navigate in total blindness<br />

by holding onto the line<br />

and feeling the arrows.”<br />


Cave exploration<br />

“There’s a sense<br />

of awe about the<br />

find… it makes<br />

you humble”<br />

be more than 9,000 years old, which<br />

would make them some of the oldest ever<br />

discovered in the country. And the race<br />

was on to document the find and collect<br />

a sample for analysis, guaranteeing the<br />

bones official protection from looters<br />

who plunder sites such as these.<br />

“We knew we had to keep the exact<br />

location of the bones to ourselves,” says<br />

Thymann. “What has happened in the<br />

past is there’s been an archaeological<br />

find, but then you can’t surround it in<br />

barbed wire, and when people have come<br />

back it’s gone. To me, it’s such a weird<br />

thing. I don’t understand it. Even though<br />

it’s probably a very small minority doing<br />

the looting, they pose a disproportionately<br />

big risk. It happens all over the world;<br />

there’s a black market for artefacts. So we<br />

knew we had to be careful – and quick.”<br />

Thymann doesn’t drink at all for at<br />

least a week before a dive. He exercises<br />

every day and sticks to a healthy diet –<br />

extra pounds do nothing for your ability<br />

to inch through cramped spaces. “For<br />

weeks, I prepared from my base in Europe.<br />

For an expedition, I bring more than<br />

100 items. I keep things in working order,<br />

but I still test it all before heading out.<br />

Alex sent me a sketch of the area with<br />

the bones and we discussed approaches.<br />

We have defined roles: Alex leads the<br />

exploration, and I document it and<br />

create the material the archaeologists<br />

and scientists need.”<br />

When Thymann arrived in Tulum to<br />

meet Reato and head into the jungle, he<br />

was – as always – prepared for anything.<br />

But, no matter how many times he<br />

ventures into the depths of the Yucatán<br />

underwater caves, it never becomes<br />

routine. “Before heading into the cave,<br />

I felt a mixture of extreme excitement<br />

but also disbelief,” Thymann says. “I was<br />

thinking, ‘These are prehistoric human<br />

bones and this is insanely special.’ There<br />

is awe around it. It makes you humble<br />

in a way. You’re just looking at a tiny<br />

piece of a very big puzzle. And that’s<br />

a very healthy way of looking at things<br />

sometimes. It reminds you that your<br />

little life is not so significant.”<br />

klausthymann.com; filoarrianadive.com<br />

Kit list<br />

Preparation is key,<br />

and a mission of this<br />

kind requires 44kg<br />

of vital equipment<br />

1. Two independent<br />

tanks with a regulator<br />

and pressure<br />

gauge attached<br />

2. Fins. Thymann<br />

uses normal fins,<br />

which are slightly<br />

longer and heavier<br />

than cave fins and<br />

help counterbalance<br />

the weight of his<br />

camera<br />

3. Wetsuit. He has<br />

a 5mm suit, hood,<br />

3mm vest, and boots<br />

4. Secondary dive<br />

light (first back-up),<br />

which is attached<br />

to his helmet with<br />

a bungee cord<br />

5. Helmet, which<br />

is customised<br />

to hold lights<br />

6. BCD (buoyancy<br />

control device) with<br />

two bladders – the<br />

second is a back-up<br />

7. Primary light,<br />

attached to a<br />

battery with a cable<br />

8. Video lights<br />

9. Line markers,<br />

used for navigation.<br />

Thymann’s are<br />

bespoke, circular<br />

‘cookie’-shaped<br />

markers, so on wellused<br />

lines he can<br />

feel which are his<br />

10. Third light<br />

(second back-up)<br />

11. Dive pouch,<br />

which holds tools<br />

and spare parts, reels<br />

and a spare mask<br />

for deeper dives<br />

12. Camera housing<br />

with dome and<br />

handle<br />

13. Underwater<br />

flashes<br />

14. Dive mask<br />

15. Bottom timer,<br />

which displays depth<br />

and time (back-up<br />

to dive computer)<br />

16. Housing for<br />

a small compact<br />

camera (mainly<br />

back-up)<br />

17. Surface marker,<br />

which can be inflated<br />

at the surface entry<br />

point with a line<br />

attached or, once<br />

submerged, float<br />

camera housing to<br />

the surface quickly<br />

in case of an issue<br />

18. Primary reel<br />

19. Dive computer<br />

20. Wrist slate, used<br />

for navigation<br />

21. Bigger slate and<br />

pencil (with wrist<br />

strap), used for<br />

advanced notes<br />


5<br />

6 7<br />

4<br />

8<br />

2<br />

3<br />

9<br />

12<br />

13<br />

10 11<br />

17<br />

14<br />

15<br />

16<br />

1<br />

18<br />

19<br />

20<br />

21<br />

Fully equipped<br />

“When cave diving, everything’s<br />

complicated. Communication<br />

underwater is complicated,<br />

because you can’t talk, so you<br />

use sign language. But then, a lot<br />

of time in caves you can’t see,<br />

either, so you communicate with<br />

light signals. Then, if we’re doing<br />

something that involves a fairly<br />

complex task, we use a slate that<br />

we can write on with a pencil.<br />

Cave diving in itself is taxing; the<br />

basics you have to monitor are<br />

time, depth, gas consumption,<br />

and navigation. Then adding<br />

something else complex,<br />

like doing photogrammetry<br />

[surveying and mapping] or<br />

photography underwater, is<br />

extremely difficult. I have<br />

to know where every piece of<br />

kit is, by feel, so I can reach<br />

it in zero visibility if I need to,<br />

and know how to instantly<br />

unclip and untangle it. For<br />

instance, my pencil has a<br />

bungee cord that sits around<br />

my wrist like a bracelet. If I’m<br />

writing, that’s a tool I might<br />

need for the recalculation of<br />

gases, and for navigation too,<br />

so that pencil is insanely<br />

important. But then I do have<br />

a spare pencil in my pouch.<br />

And I carry a knife to sharpen<br />

it underwater if I need to.”<br />


Slow and steady<br />

“Having swum hundreds of<br />

metres into the cave, I’m in<br />

an appendix part of the cave,<br />

hovering above prehistoric<br />

bones. The space is so tight<br />

there’s less than an elbow’s<br />

length between the dome on<br />

my underwater-camera<br />

housing and skull parts<br />

including loose teeth that<br />

lie beneath the fine-grained<br />

silt. Any wrong move will<br />

disturb this archaeological<br />

site and cause damage. It’ll<br />

also cause a silt cloud to rise,<br />

creating zero visibility, which<br />

is a really bad scenario.<br />

There’s so little room I can’t<br />

even swim, so I’m planking,<br />

stretching out my body, arms<br />

and legs. I’m being positioned<br />

by Alex, who’s holding me by<br />

the ankles and manoeuvring<br />

me around. To navigate, I<br />

signal using my hands – index<br />

finger forward and Alex slowly<br />

pushes me forward. As I try<br />

to remain zen in this cavediving<br />

yoga position, Alex<br />

hits the top of my leg. We’ve<br />

rehearsed this and I know<br />

what to do. I release a tiny<br />

bit of air from my lungs<br />

and descend about 5cm,<br />

just enough to avoid a lowhanging<br />

part of the cave roof.<br />

Every small movement here<br />

is a feat in itself. We move<br />

a few centimetres at a time,<br />

across an imaginary grid,<br />

to document everything.<br />

I check my pressure gauges<br />

constantly to ensure I’m not<br />

using too much air and that<br />

I can still get out of here. The<br />

whole operation takes 70<br />

minutes. I shoot about 500<br />

images of the area where the<br />

skull is, which will be put into<br />

a photogrammetry model so<br />

scientists can navigate the<br />

cave on a computer screen.”

Cave exploration<br />

Bubbles created by the divers<br />

accumulate and merge at the roof<br />

of the cave. Here, it’s essential<br />

they don’t come into contact with<br />

the porous cast rock that<br />

surrounds them; even a small<br />

impact will cause damage<br />


Cave exploration<br />

Reato lays down a<br />

fresh navigational line<br />

from his exploration<br />

reel in this unexplored<br />

cave and ties it off to<br />

a stalagmite<br />

Off the chart<br />

“Mapping is a big part of what<br />

I do. Whether it’s mapping<br />

glaciers or new trekking routes<br />

in Uganda, I try to map out new<br />

terrain, both in a conceptual<br />

and very straightforwardly<br />

practical manner, and these<br />

underground river systems<br />

are one of the only places on<br />

the planet that haven’t been<br />

mapped. That makes it very<br />

exciting. There are many risks –<br />

the equipment can fail, the cave<br />

can collapse, you can have a<br />

heart attack underwater, or get<br />

lost in a cloud of silt – but the<br />

reality is that most deaths while<br />

cave diving happen due to<br />

navigational errors. Cave diving<br />

follows a tried-and-tested<br />

method of having a string to<br />

follow out, but the caves are<br />

not simple one-lane roads –<br />

they’re more like distorted<br />

spider webs. One wrong turn<br />

can lead you further away<br />

from the open water, and at<br />

some point you run out of air.”

Thymann uses UV<br />

light to assess damage<br />

to the bones. Below:<br />

close to an intact<br />

jawbone lies a molar<br />

with good potential<br />

for DNA extraction<br />

Body of evidence<br />

“There are a lot of indications<br />

that this is a prehistoric<br />

skeleton. For now, that’s<br />

based on the historic water<br />

levels and the current water<br />

depth. By combining the two<br />

measurements, you can see<br />

what’s realistic. The depth of<br />

the site is 10m, which means<br />

that the last time the caves<br />

were dry in this area was<br />

between 8,000 and 10,000<br />

thousand years ago. And it’s<br />

totally unreasonable to think<br />

somebody could have died<br />

and floated into these caves<br />

against the current. So it<br />

makes these bones potentially<br />

some of the oldest human<br />

remains to be found in Mexico.<br />

But that will depend on the<br />

exact date. The water-level<br />

calculations indicate the<br />

youngest the bones should<br />

be, but of course there’s<br />

nothing to say these bones<br />

couldn’t have been here for<br />

a significant period before<br />

the water level rose. For now,<br />

having completed this<br />

part of the mission, we head<br />

out and surface. It’s a<br />

success, and we have all the<br />

material we need to file<br />

permits with the Mexican<br />

authorities that allow us to<br />

take a sample for analysis.<br />

The DNA can reveal<br />

fascinating insights into our<br />

ancestors, and underline the<br />

huge archaeological value<br />

of these river systems.”<br />


TAKING<br />

THE LEAP<br />

How the women of<br />


transformed freeride<br />

mountain biking for ever<br />

Words JEN SEE<br />


Rocks off: Hannah<br />

Bergemann drops<br />

into the top of<br />

her line at the firstever<br />

Formation in<br />

October 2019<br />


Formation<br />

Trailblazers: Micayla Gatto (right) takes a break to compare notes with Vaea Verbeeck<br />

The sun had just begun to rise near Virgin,<br />

Utah, when American rider Hannah<br />

Bergemann began to climb. Shouldering<br />

her 16kg downhill bike, Bergemann<br />

walked steadily up a narrow desert<br />

ridgeline. When she reached the top, she<br />

looked down the line that she and her<br />

dig crew had patiently carved out of the<br />

red desert sand, peeling back layers of<br />

prehistoric stone. If Bergemann felt any<br />

nerves, she didn’t show them.<br />

She began to ride. With precision,<br />

Bergemann followed the narrow track<br />

unwinding along the canyon wall as the<br />

landscape blurred beneath her wheels.<br />

She hit her first jump, flying over the<br />

gap. The ground dropped into wide-open<br />

air beneath her. Then came a series of<br />

ledges, a staircase made for giants,<br />

formed out of rock layers, none of them<br />

laid straight. A steep chute sent her<br />

hurtling downwards until, at last,<br />

Bergemann arrived at a final jump. She<br />

soared over the gap cleanly, her bike’s<br />

suspension compressing under the force<br />

of the landing.<br />

Bergemann had come to Virgin for<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull Formation, a freeride camp for<br />

women. The groundbreaking October<br />

2019 event brought together six of the<br />

world’s best freeride mountain bikers and<br />

gave them the opportunity to ride in the<br />

storied Utah terrain, made famous by<br />

the almost exclusively male bike event<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull Rampage, a notoriously testing<br />

invitation-only contest that’s now one of<br />

the biggest on the global calendar.<br />

After five days in the desert, no longer<br />

could anyone say that women lacked<br />

the skills to ride Utah’s intense and<br />

unforgiving terrain. These riders had<br />

transformed the landscape of women’s<br />



After three dig days,<br />

the women had<br />

created three very<br />

different lines<br />

In the swing: Vero Sandler digs her line<br />

in the desert sun of Virgin, Utah

Track star: Sandler shows<br />

her classic style as she<br />

charges down the mountain

Formation<br />

mountain biking; they had created the<br />

foundations for women’s freeride to fly.<br />

“It gave me confidence to start from<br />

a blank slate on the mountain and make<br />

it into something rideable that pushed my<br />

limits,” says Bergemann. “There hasn’t<br />

been a lot of space for women to pursue<br />

freeride – I feel like this is the start.”<br />

Formation’s roots go back to 2017,<br />

when Rebecca Rusch travelled to<br />

Rampage as a guest. A decorated<br />

endurance mountain biker, Rusch had<br />

never seen the iconic event in person.<br />

She stood in awe of the riding skills on<br />

display, but couldn’t help wondering<br />

why no women were competing. She<br />

began to ask questions. “I was the pot<br />

stirrer,” she says.<br />

Rusch learned that Rampage had<br />

never specifically excluded women, but<br />

This was the riders’<br />

first chance<br />

to collaborate to<br />

push the boundaries<br />

of their sport<br />

none had ever qualified. “I felt like I had<br />

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

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

myself,” she says. “I had no skin in the<br />

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

With that push, the conversation about<br />

where women fit into the Rampage<br />

picture began in earnest. “There were<br />

some hard conversations,” Rusch recalls.<br />

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

female gravity riders and Rampage<br />

veterans gathered around a table to<br />

discuss the idea of a women’s event in<br />

Virgin. Should women be added to<br />

Rampage? Should there be a separate<br />

event? No one knew exactly what equality<br />

and inclusion for women looked like in<br />

the context of Rampage.<br />

“I think people just could not picture<br />

what it would look like for a woman to<br />

ride [Rampage],” recalls Katie Holden,<br />

a now-retired American downhill pro<br />

who was at the table that night. “It’s just<br />

this dude environment. It’s hardcore<br />

and it’s gnarly.”<br />

Holden had her own history with<br />

Rampage. Like many female riders,<br />

Holden had started her career as a racer,<br />

but it had never felt like the right fit.<br />

When the offer to partner with women’s<br />

cycling brand Liv came along in 2013, she<br />

jumped at the chance to do something<br />

new. She became a brand ambassador<br />

and built a portfolio of travel, filming,<br />

clinic events, and freeriding. Holden’s<br />

new role also opened the way to chase<br />

her dream of qualifying for Rampage.<br />

“There wasn’t a path to Rampage for<br />

women, because it had never been done<br />

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

a lot of time out there and be a sponge<br />

and learn as much as I possibly could.”<br />

After spending several years digging<br />

at Rampage and riding the terrain in<br />

Virgin, Holden put all her chips on the<br />

table. Together with a videographer<br />

and photographer, Holden went to the<br />

desert to make a movie she hoped would<br />

score her an invite to Rampage. “I put<br />

everything into it,” she says. Her attempt<br />

ended quickly, though, when she crashed<br />

and tore her calf muscle. Two years of<br />

injuries followed, while the level of riding<br />

at Rampage rose exponentially. “It was<br />

really emotional,” she says. “I realised<br />

that dream wasn’t going to come true.”<br />

Even as Rusch began asking questions,<br />

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

wanted to be the girl who made Rampage,”<br />

she says. At the same time, she had begun<br />


Route-one cycling: British World Cup rider Tahnée Seagrave takes the path of least resistance<br />


Formation<br />

“A lot of people<br />

didn’t believe<br />

in Formation<br />

until Formation<br />

came to be”<br />

Katie Holden<br />

to come to terms with what had gone<br />

wrong for her. In retrospect, she could see<br />

that although she came close to reaching<br />

the heights required to compete at<br />

Rampage, she didn’t have the perfect<br />

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

approach had isolated her in crucial ways.<br />

So, when the chance came to design<br />

a women’s event in Virgin, Holden was all<br />

in. Here was a way to put her experience<br />

to work and build a space for women to<br />

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

because I don’t really believe in failure,<br />

but my experience was a stepping-stone<br />

for Formation,” she says. On a drive to her<br />

mother’s house on Whidbey Island from<br />

her home in Bellingham, Washington,<br />

Holden pulled over to sketch the outlines<br />

of a women’s freeride camp. By the time<br />

she arrived, she knew: Formation was on.<br />

When New Zealander Vinny<br />

Armstrong stepped off the<br />

plane in Las Vegas, she’d never<br />

seen the desert. “It feels like<br />

a different planet,” she says. Known for<br />

her stylish airs, at the time Armstrong<br />

stood at a crossroads in her career.<br />

“I was really tossing up whether I was<br />

going to keep trying to be a World Cup<br />

racer or do a freeride career,” she says.<br />

The six riders invited to Formation<br />

came from diverse corners of the<br />

mountain biking world, but most shared<br />

a background in World Cup downhill<br />

racing. As Holden considered riders, she<br />

felt the experience of learning World Cup<br />

tracks and dealing with the pressures of<br />

racing would help them navigate the<br />

steep challenges posed by riding in Virgin.<br />

Holden also felt the need to prove that<br />

women could handle riding the area’s<br />

unforgiving terrain. She wanted to set<br />

them up for success. “A lot of people<br />

didn’t believe in Formation before<br />

Formation came to be,” she says. “So I felt<br />

like we had to make it perfect in order for<br />

people to jump on the train.”<br />

The sandstone walls of the canyons<br />

around Virgin are marked with tracks and<br />

jump lines that riders have built over<br />

time. During its 12-year history, Rampage<br />

has used several sites in the area, and the<br />

remnants of many features remain. “It<br />

was exciting just to see all that in front of<br />

my eyes,” says Veronique Sandler, a New<br />

Zealand-born rider now based in south<br />

Wales, who focuses on filming. She<br />

recognised a number of the jumps from<br />

seeing them in Instagram clips posted by<br />

Utah-based riders such as Jaxson Riddle<br />

and Ethan Nell.<br />

British World Cup racer Tahnée<br />

Seagrave and Canadian riders Micayla<br />

Gatto and Vaea Verbeeck completed the<br />

group of six, and, on the first day, the<br />

women headed to one of the original<br />

Rampage sites to acclimatise to the<br />

terrain. “Just getting used to the exposure,<br />

there are times when your brain goes,<br />

‘No, that’s not even something I’m going<br />

to try,’” says Verbeeck, who won the<br />

overall title at the Crankworx series in<br />

2019. Riding in the desert, some of them<br />

for the first time, the group tested the<br />

traction and braking points as they began<br />

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

a bit to get used to it, because you still<br />

get heaps of grip, even while sliding and<br />

drifting everywhere,” says Armstrong.<br />

“It’s just so sick.”<br />

The first day also let the women<br />

reconnect. All six riders knew one another<br />

from past events, but typically they spent<br />

their time competing against each other.<br />

From the start, Holden envisioned<br />

Formation as a collaborative effort to<br />

raise the level of the sport. The women<br />

embraced the concept. “We were legit<br />

standing next to each other, discussing<br />

everything together, brainstorming<br />

together, trying to make it work together<br />

– for each other,” says Verbeeck.<br />

The next day, the women and their<br />

crews headed to the 2015 Rampage site<br />

and began digging the lines they planned<br />

to ride. An often under-appreciated<br />

element of Rampage is the skill required<br />

to dig tracks and features into the walls<br />

of the canyons. “One of the hardest parts<br />

is seeing raw terrain and being able to<br />

visualise how to turn it into something<br />

you want to ride,” says Bergemann.<br />

Both Bergemann and Sandler spend<br />

hours digging at home, but working in<br />

the desert was different. “I do a lot of<br />

digging, but it’s so different out there,”<br />

says Sandler. “[New Zealand rider]<br />

Casey Brown was injured, unfortunately,<br />

but she’s done digging at Rampage<br />

before and she had tons of tips for us.”<br />

Joining the six riders – and underlining<br />

the fact that the desire to push women’s<br />

freeride transcends not only bike<br />

specialisms but sports – came supporters<br />

including freeride fans Michelle Parker,<br />

a big-mountain skier, and Puerto Rican<br />

motocross racer Tarah Gieger.<br />

After three dig days, the women<br />

had created three very different lines.<br />

Bergemann and Gatto went big with<br />

exposed, high-consequence features.<br />

Bergemann and her dig team built a long,<br />

steep track with multiple drops and gap<br />

jumps. With help from Rusch, Parker and<br />

Gieger, Gatto sculpted a fast chute down<br />

the narrow spine of a ridgeline. Her line<br />

included two blind step downs.<br />



Dream team: the athletes, dig crews, organisers and mentors whose combined efforts made Formation a reality celebrate the breakthrough event<br />

Across the canyon face, Sandler,<br />

Verbeeck, Armstrong and Seagrave<br />

collaborated on a flowing track they<br />

dubbed the ‘party line’. These riders<br />

sought space to show their style and<br />

throw a few tricks into the mix. “At first,<br />

it was like, ‘This looks crazy!’” says<br />

Verbeeck. “But by the time we rode it<br />

we didn’t know how easy it would feel.”<br />

Their line included a series of drops,<br />

an arcing berm (a narrow raised shelf),<br />

and a jump line at the end.<br />

“Every line showed each rider’s<br />

personality, and that’s what I really<br />

love about freeride,” says Brown, who<br />

competed in Proving Grounds, a Rampage<br />

qualifying event, in 2019 and attended<br />

Formation in a supporting role, due to<br />

a broken collarbone. “It’s an art form<br />

rather than just a race.”<br />

As the first of two riding days began,<br />

Bergemann set an early standard. Her line<br />

was done; she was ready. “I was super<br />

stoked and eager to get on my bike after<br />

several days of digging and thinking<br />

about riding,” she says. As the other<br />

women prepped in the parking lot,<br />

Bergemann soared over the gap of her<br />

final jump. Seeing Bergemann ride,<br />

California native Parker, who was present<br />

to mentor the riders, recalls thinking,<br />

“Oh, it’s so on now.”<br />

For Holden, the moment felt like<br />

validation. “It gives me chills just thinking<br />

“I was frickin’<br />

blown away by the<br />

talent and the skill<br />

of these women”<br />

Rebecca Rusch<br />


In five days,<br />

the women had<br />

transformed<br />

the landscape<br />

of women’s<br />

mountain biking<br />

Gatto blaster: the Canadian dug a<br />

challenging line at Formation with a<br />

fast chute down the narrow spine of<br />

a ridgeline, and two blind step downs

Formation<br />


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

day and there was so much tension. All<br />

of a sudden, we all saw Hannah grease<br />

the gnarliest line. It really set the tone<br />

for the whole thing.”<br />

But learning to ride the steep terrain<br />

had its challenges. Like her peers at<br />

Formation, Gatto had raced World Cup<br />

downhill. In 2014, a severe concussion<br />

put her racing career on hold, and she<br />

redirected her energy to filming,<br />

bikepacking and hitting big jumps in her<br />

spare time. “I was just feeling like I want<br />

to ride big chutes and big ridgelines,”<br />

she says. “It was always this pipe dream<br />

to go and see Rampage and ride out<br />

there.” Formation offered a chance to<br />

chase that dream.<br />

Gatto built a vertigo-inspiring line<br />

with steep drop-offs on either side. It<br />

included a heavy double drop. Making<br />

the first drop meant sending her bike<br />

flying off the edge of the cliff line. As she<br />

committed to the drop, Gatto could not<br />

see the landing, which sat far below her<br />

with its edges falling away into a steep<br />

canyon. If she missed her narrow landing<br />

patch, she would plummet into the<br />

canyon below. “It’s just so scary, that fear<br />

of crashing, because if you crash, you’re<br />

done,” Gatto says. She ended up skipping<br />

the first big drop.<br />

Across the canyon face, Armstrong<br />

wrestled with a similar dilemma. As she<br />

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

line, all she could see was sky. “I couldn’t<br />

see the landing until my front wheel was<br />

nearly in the air,” she says. After almost<br />

missing the landing spot on her first run,<br />

Armstrong began setting out small rocks<br />

to guide her, like the lights on a runaway.<br />

Each evening at Formation, the riders<br />

and support crew gathered for a series of<br />

round-table discussions. One night, they<br />

talked about fear. “I learned a lot about<br />

how the other girls deal with fear and the<br />

processes they go through,” says Sandler.<br />

The sessions proved intense. As she has<br />

thought about future editions of the<br />

event, Holden has wondered how she<br />

might preserve this knowledge sharing<br />

while giving the riders more downtime.<br />

The insights into managing fear have<br />

had lasting value. “All these emotions we<br />

feel [when] pushing boundaries, we’re<br />

all doing similar things,” says Gatto, who<br />

found inspiration in Parker. When she<br />

prepares to ski a big line in Alaska, Parker<br />

channels the confident voice in her head.<br />

“I named my confident person Chad,”<br />

says Gatto. “Every time I went to try<br />

something, I could hear the girls yelling,<br />

‘Go Chad!’” Since Formation, Gatto has<br />

continued to hone the mental side of<br />

her game. She wants to ensure that next<br />

time she’s ready to hit every big drop.<br />

All six riders knew<br />

each other, but<br />

they typically just<br />

competed against<br />

each other<br />

One vision: 2019 Crankworx winner Verbeeck (right) hailed the team spirit at Formation<br />

For women’s freeride, Formation was just<br />

a beginning. “I’m super excited to go back,<br />

because we know we can definitely trust<br />

the terrain more and go a bit harder,”<br />

says Verbeeck. Both Parker and Rusch are<br />

eager to repeat their roles as diggers and<br />

mentors, too, while Holden is already<br />

jotting ideas in her notebooks as she<br />

drives around Bellingham.<br />

“I was frickin’ blown away by the talent<br />

and the skill of these women,” says Rusch.<br />

“Seeing it up close was really inspiring for<br />

me. I want to go back so much.”<br />

The riders all say they’re ready for<br />

more chances to lift their freeride<br />

progression. Brown, for example, values<br />

the pressure that competitive events put<br />

on her to hit new features, but she’d love<br />

to see more events that share Formation’s<br />

non-competitive nature. “I think a lot of<br />

women [give up] the sport because they<br />

feel that the only places to participate at a<br />

higher level are contests and not everyone<br />

is made for that,” says Brown. She’s<br />

hoping to see more space for women at<br />

freeride events such as the Fest Series.<br />

Already Formation has changed the<br />

career trajectories of some of the women.<br />

“Even in the past year, the industry has<br />

invested in women in a way they haven’t<br />

before,” says Holden. Shortly after,<br />

Formation, Bergemann and Sandler<br />

received invitations to travel to India with<br />

action-sports filmmakers Teton Gravity<br />

Research and ride in their high-profile<br />

project Accomplice. Bergemann now has<br />

sponsorship support from <strong>Red</strong> Bull and<br />

Transition Bikes to chase her freeride<br />

dream. Armstrong says new doors have<br />

swung open for her, too, and she’s shifted<br />

her focus from racing to freeride.<br />

After the COVID gap year, planning is<br />

underway for Formation 2021 to happen<br />

later this year. Though she may tinker<br />

with the details, Holden expects the event<br />

to look similar to the 2019 edition, with<br />

a mix of digging, riding, and round-table<br />

discussions. She remains committed to<br />

keeping Formation non-competitive.<br />

Holden has found a deep satisfaction<br />

in bringing her own experience with<br />

Rampage full circle and showing the<br />

world just what women riders can do.<br />

“I just have this full-body high from<br />

knowing that women can ride there,<br />

and that people believe and know<br />

women can ride there now,” says Holden.<br />

“To see a collective of women look good<br />

out there – once people could see that,<br />

it just changed everything.”<br />

redbull.com<br />


TIME TO<br />

SHINE<br />

East London rapper<br />

GHETTS has been<br />

putting in the work<br />

for almost two<br />

decades, and now<br />

finally it’s paying<br />

off. Here, he talks<br />

about fighting<br />

conformity, the<br />

power of self-belief,<br />

and how ditching<br />

his ego was the key<br />

to success<br />

Words WILL LAVIN<br />

Photography ADAMA JALLOH

Future’s bright: Ghetts’<br />

moving third album,<br />

Conflict of Interest, is<br />

an early contender for<br />

‘Best of 2021’ lists<br />


Ghetts<br />

Playing the long game isn’t for everyone. But, for Ghetts,<br />

patience and determination have been key components of<br />

a career built to last. Our first taste of the British rapper’s<br />

raw, whip-smart wordplay and magnetic charm came in 2005,<br />

when – under the name Ghetto – he guested on the track<br />

Typical Me by Kano, a fellow member of east London collective<br />

NASTY Crew. That 42-second introduction signalled the<br />

arrival of a grime heavyweight in the making – even if it was<br />

to be a slow and steady ascent to prominence.<br />

Born in Plaistow, east London, Ghetts – real name Justin<br />

Clarke – began taking his career as a rapper seriously soon<br />

after being released from prison for a series of minor car-crime<br />

offences in 2003. His debut mixtape, 2000 & Life, was released<br />

at the tail end of 2005, followed two years later by his second,<br />

the acclaimed Ghetto Gospel. Packed with big ideas and diverse<br />

subject matter, conceptually the mixtape was ahead of its time<br />

in the grime world and highlighted the depth and range of the<br />

then 22-year-old artist. Known as the MC’s MC, for years Ghetts<br />

stood by and watched as a number of his grime contemporaries<br />

broke into the mainstream and were lauded as the leaders of<br />

the new and exciting cultural uprising he was helping to create.<br />

But finally the agile wordsmith is enjoying his own moment<br />

in the sun. Ghetts has been nominated for awards – including<br />

a place on the Best Contemporary Song shortlist at the Ivor<br />

Novellos for Black Rose, a rousing celebration of the strength<br />

and beauty of Black men and women – and has worked with<br />

artists such as Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and Emeli Sandé; he can<br />

also count the likes of Drake and Kanye West as fans. Then,<br />

earlier this year, he scored a first <strong>UK</strong> top five hit with his<br />

critically acclaimed third album, Conflict of Interest.<br />

Although this path has been longer for Ghetts than for<br />

others, he says that the journey has taught him lessons on<br />

what true success means. According to the now 36-year-old,<br />

humbling himself and choosing to be thankful has contributed<br />

to him making the best music of his entire career and, in turn,<br />

is the reason why he’s now earning the acclaim he so<br />

desperately hungered for.<br />

the red bulletin: Compared with<br />

many other artists, your success<br />

has been a long time coming…<br />

ghetts: It really has. And it’s been a bit<br />

overwhelming, if I’m honest. For a long<br />

time, I felt like my back was against the<br />

wall when it came to making music and<br />

putting it out, like I had to constantly<br />

prove so many people wrong. Whereas<br />

recently it’s been the opposite; I’m now<br />

at a place where I’m having to prove<br />

people right – but that’s not a bad thing.<br />

Why do you think people are<br />

connecting with you more now than<br />

they did before?<br />

I think my songwriting is the best it’s<br />

ever been. I’m at a point where I feel<br />

like I’m becoming more of a wellrounded<br />

artist. As a lyricist, you can<br />

sometimes go overboard and just rap<br />

a bunch of bars, but you’ve got to know<br />

when to put your foot on the brake<br />

and when to take it off. That was<br />

something I had to teach myself. I don’t<br />

think I would be having the success<br />

I am now if I hadn’t got rid of my ego.<br />

Was that hard to do?<br />

At times, yeah. But there’s no room for<br />

ego when you’re trying to be great. I can<br />

definitely say I find it easier to do within<br />

music than in real life. When you’re<br />

having an argument with your partner<br />

and you swear you’re in the right, it’s<br />

harder to say, “You know what, babe?<br />

I’m in the wrong.” But it shouldn’t be<br />

that way. Removing your ego from both<br />

work settings and reality settings is really<br />

important – at least for me.<br />

What made you want to get rid of it?<br />

I started to see things that I don’t like<br />

about other people creeping into myself.<br />

There was a time when I was super<br />


“I don’t think I’d be having the success I am<br />

now if I hadn’t got rid of my ego. There’s no room<br />

for ego when you’re trying to be great”<br />


Dropping knowledge:<br />

Ghetts’ redemptive life<br />

and career experiences<br />

make him a powerful<br />

role model for kids<br />

growing up today<br />

“I’d tell my<br />

younger self you<br />

gotta be grateful<br />

for every step<br />

you take”

Ghetts<br />

ungrateful. I couldn’t see all the<br />

opportunities and blessings I had. I was<br />

looking at everyone else’s life and<br />

couldn’t see what was going on in my<br />

own. I was always thinking that what<br />

I had wasn’t enough.<br />

When you were released from prison<br />

in 2003, having served time as a<br />

juvenile, what was it that prevented<br />

you from going back?<br />

It was the support I had from my<br />

family while I was in there; it acts as<br />

a deterrent. Some of the worst things<br />

we do in our lives happen because we<br />

feel like no one cares. It’s an<br />

overwhelming feeling. A lot of people<br />

commit suicide because they feel like<br />

nobody gives a shit. So when you feel<br />

like somebody cares, it can act as a<br />

deterrent and it can really help you<br />

through some of the hardest times in<br />

your life. That’s why in the video for<br />

Proud Family [released as a single last<br />

December] I included the scene when<br />

young Justin leaves prison and is<br />

greeted by his mum. There’s a lot of<br />

layered thinking in it.<br />

On that same track, you rap: “I’ve<br />

been who I see all these youngers<br />

becoming.” Knowing what you know<br />

now, what advice would you give<br />

your younger self?<br />

I’d point out the opportunities. I’d tell<br />

myself you gotta be grateful for every<br />

step you take, whether big or small.<br />

Every bit of progression is amazing and<br />

should be celebrated. I’d tell myself to<br />

be thankful and to look at how far<br />

I’ve come. I want [today’s young people]<br />

to know that although I might not have<br />

ever been in as deep as them, I still<br />

understand what it is they’re going<br />

through. I know to them I sound like<br />

the OG who’s lecturing them about<br />

staying on the straight and narrow, but<br />

I’ve seen enough to know that 99.9 per<br />

cent of the time the street life only ends<br />

one of two ways: death or jail.<br />

Would you say your days in prison<br />

were some of your darkest?<br />

They weren’t great, but they weren’t my<br />

darkest. My darkest days were when<br />

“We’re all<br />

humans, and on<br />

a day-to-day<br />

basis most of us<br />

are conflicted”<br />

I made [2008 mixtape] Freedom of<br />

Speech. I really wasn’t in a good place<br />

when I put that project together.<br />

In what way?<br />

It was around that same time I was<br />

struggling to see my blessings and it was<br />

beginning to bleed into my music. If you<br />

listen to Ghetto Gospel, which came out<br />

[the year] before, I stepped out of my<br />

comfort zone and created something<br />

with a lot of depth in it. But the feedback<br />

I was getting at the time wasn’t what I<br />

wanted to hear. So I decided to conform<br />

to the underground with Freedom of<br />

Speech. I felt like people would<br />

understand that better.<br />

That’s unusual. It’s not often you<br />

hear about artists conforming to<br />

the underground…<br />

Way more people conform to an<br />

underground sound than they do a<br />

mainstream one, trust me. It’s because<br />

they’re scared to be who they really<br />

are outside of what they’re perceived to<br />

be, especially if it’s working for them.<br />

It can’t have been easy putting the<br />

demands of the listener ahead of<br />

your own creative needs…<br />

It wasn’t. It made me feel really<br />

conflicted, and that’s what eventually<br />

led to the title of my [latest] album,<br />

Conflict of Interest. I got halfway through<br />

making it and realised I was a very<br />

conflicted human being. I had a real<br />

self-aware moment where I decided<br />

I couldn’t risk not including all the<br />

qualities that make me who I am. I<br />

wasn’t going to present just one side of<br />

myself. We’re all humans, and on a dayto-day<br />

basis most of us are conflicted.<br />

I just so happen to be capturing some<br />

of these moments on record, so it’s my<br />

job to make the public understand it,<br />

even if sometimes it sounds like we’re<br />

contradicting ourselves.<br />

Have there been times where you’ve<br />

felt pressure to conform to the<br />

mainstream, too, as you’ve watched<br />

your peers experience huge success?<br />

Yeah, I used to have that feeling all the<br />

time. These days, everyone’s screaming<br />

culture, culture, culture. But I remember<br />

very clearly a time when it was less about<br />

culture and more about looking for that<br />

hit, something made specifically to be<br />

played on radio or at a festival. One of<br />

my old managers used to say stuff like<br />

that to me. Like, “We need to get in the<br />

studio with this person or that person.”<br />

But I never went through with it. I didn’t<br />

feel like I needed to.<br />

Where did you get that self-belief?<br />

Every step I take seems impossible to the<br />

people around me, but because I’ve made<br />

so many of them already I know the next<br />

step’s a real possibility. I prayed for the<br />

person I am today. I was in a prison cell,<br />

telling the inmates that the person I am<br />

now was who I was gonna be. Very few<br />

people believed me. I was telling the<br />

governor that I’d never be coming back<br />

to jail, but he hears that every day. It<br />

doesn’t mean anything to him – they’re<br />

just words. So I look at every step like that<br />

very first one. Everything is possible to me.<br />

Have you had to make sacrifices to<br />

get where you are now? If so, what has<br />

been the biggest?<br />

My time. I never have enough of it to do<br />

other things. I spoke to someone recently<br />

who I hadn’t seen in a while and I was<br />

really apologetic about it. He was like,<br />

“Nah, it’s fine. I understand that you’ve<br />

been busy.” I thought to myself, “That’s<br />

not really an excuse, because tomorrow’s<br />

never promised.” Time is moving so<br />

fast, and because I’m so focused on one<br />

area I keep sacrificing it. I’m always<br />

questioning whether or not my career<br />

is important enough for me to continue<br />

sacrificing my time.<br />

And is it?<br />

That’s hard to answer. I know what I<br />

want in life. I know what I want for my<br />

kids, and what I’ve got to do to achieve<br />

it. But at the same time it’s breaking<br />

bonds that could be made stronger. It’s<br />

a tricky one, but I’m gonna continue to<br />

work on it and work on myself.<br />

Ghetts will be touring the <strong>UK</strong> this<br />

November. For tickets, go to ghetts.co.uk<br />



Enhance, equip, and experience your best life<br />



Mont Blanc,<br />

France-Italy border<br />



Travel<br />

“The route down<br />

would normally be<br />

arduous and risky,<br />

crossing glaciers and<br />

rock walls, but I’m not<br />

making the descent<br />

on foot – I’m flying it”<br />

Calum Muskett, climber<br />

and mountain guide<br />

Snow crunches underfoot as<br />

I make the final few steps<br />

along the narrow snow ridge<br />

leading to the summit of<br />

Mont Blanc, the highest peak<br />

in western Europe. Cloud shrouds the<br />

French side of the mountain as a chill<br />

breeze freezes my eyelashes. It’s 7am<br />

on September 1, 2019, and the region’s<br />

regular summer paragliding ban has just<br />

been lifted. A wave of nausea hits me<br />

as I unpack my bag – I feel physically<br />

beaten by the effort to reach the summit.<br />

More than 3,500m below me lies the<br />

Chamonix Valley. From here, the route<br />

down Mont Blanc would normally be<br />

long, arduous and risky, crossing glaciers<br />

and rock walls, but I won’t be making the<br />

descent on foot – I’m going to fly it.<br />

I’ve been climbing mountains ever<br />

since 2006, when I served an<br />

apprenticeship on the crags and cliffs<br />

of my native North Wales. These days,<br />

as a professional climber and mountain<br />

guide, I follow the seasons, dividing<br />

my time between the mountains of<br />

Snowdonia and the Giffre Valley in the<br />

French Alps. Two years ago, I learned<br />

to paraglide, which opened up new<br />

horizons for me. An ascent of Mont Blanc<br />

would normally take three days and<br />

involve two cable cars and a train ride;<br />

now I can leave Chamonix in the early<br />

hours, climb the mountain, and be back<br />

down for a second breakfast.<br />

There’s something liberating about<br />

flying – there’s that release of pressure<br />

from committing a launch where you<br />

have to get everything just right, feet<br />

dangling improbably over the abyss as<br />

you cheat evolution and soar with the<br />

birds. After 10 minutes of untangling<br />

frost-covered lines and laying out my<br />

canopy, I’m away, swooping down to<br />

Rock steady: on the crux pitch of Incroyable<br />

Italy in the cool morning air, thankful<br />

that I don’t have to walk any further,<br />

and ready for my morning cappuccino<br />

pick-me-up in the café that sits next<br />

to the landing field.<br />

Para-alpinism, as it is known in<br />

France, is becoming an increasingly<br />

popular pastime. As the name<br />

suggests, this is a combination of<br />

paragliding and alpine mountaineering,<br />

and the European Alps – with their<br />

limited flight restrictions and excellent<br />

infrastructure – are particularly well<br />

geared towards the pursuit. The<br />

concept isn’t new – pioneers such<br />

as the Frenchman Jean-Marc Boivin<br />

were launching off many of the<br />

world’s highest summits some four<br />



Travel<br />

Where<br />

to go<br />

Location:<br />

Chamonix Valley<br />

Nearest airport:<br />

Geneva<br />

Transport:<br />

Six cable car<br />

systems<br />

Altitude:<br />

More than<br />

4,000m, with<br />

11 main summits<br />

in the Mont<br />

Blanc massif<br />

Seasonal info:<br />

The massif is<br />

restricted in July<br />

and August<br />

France<br />

Italy<br />


Peak time: Muskett ascends a snow ridge to reach the Eccles bivouac hut in the early morning<br />

Super fly guy: the Welshman commits to launch his paraglider at 4,000m<br />

decades ago. This early era of the<br />

sport culminated in Boivin’s successful<br />

flight off Everest in 1988; since then,<br />

the technology of – and interest in –<br />

paragliding has shifted towards crosscountry<br />

flying, where the performance<br />

of wings has been orientated towards<br />

improving the glide ratio and lift of<br />

canopies. The current cross-country<br />

world record stands at a straight<br />

distance of 564km, set by three Brazilian<br />

pilots in 2016, while the highest flight<br />

ever recorded was established that same<br />

year by Frenchman Antoine Girard, who<br />

soared above Broad Peak in Pakistan<br />

at an astonishing 8,157m.<br />

The early pioneers of para-alpinism<br />

would shoulder huge packs weighing in<br />

excess of 12kg (that’s without factoring<br />

in any of the mountaineering equipment<br />

required), making climb-and-fly missions<br />

impractical, to say the least. Recent<br />

improvements in technology have<br />

provided new canopy types consisting<br />

of just a single ‘mono-skin’ layer rather<br />

than the conventional double layering<br />

system with air cells. These new wings<br />

weigh as little as 1kg, pack into a midsized<br />

stuff sack, and have an ultra-light<br />

sit-harness. This step-change in<br />

technology has given the sport a new<br />

lease of life. But fast and light paraalpinism<br />

is just one strand of the sport;<br />

the real appeal for me is what you can<br />

achieve when you introduce technical<br />

climbing, where conventional descents<br />

by abseiling and down-climbing can be<br />

both lengthy and dangerous.<br />

It’s September 2020 and, together<br />

with my friends Paul and Jake, I’m back<br />



Travel<br />

Soar point: (above) Muskett flies above the heavily crevassed Glacier du Brouillard;<br />

(below) approaching the landing field in the Val Veny, Italy<br />

on Mont Blanc. We’re attempting a<br />

second ascent of the mountain’s hardest<br />

rock climb – a route known as Incroyable,<br />

on the Pilier Rouge du Brouillard, an<br />

imposing granite monolith that starts at<br />

4,000m. The sun is out and the weather<br />

is baking hot. Snow melting on the<br />

slopes above and below us expose a<br />

vertiginous red rock face, which we<br />

manoeuvre up using our fingertips. After<br />

a successful day’s climbing, we make it<br />

to the tiny tin shack of the Eccles refuge<br />

and a viable take-off on a hanging<br />

section of glacier near the hut.<br />

The position is awe-inspiring, and the<br />

ever-steepening convex snow slope is<br />

perfect for a take-off – or it would be if<br />

the entire slope wasn’t still frozen. Paul<br />

and Jake are standing on a hacked-out<br />

snow ledge 30m to my side. It will be<br />

Paul’s first flight under the command of<br />

Jake on an ultra-light single-skin tandem<br />

wing. What a place for a first flight.<br />

“Para-alpinism<br />

is becoming an<br />

increasingly<br />

popular pastime”<br />

Wearing crampons to give myself<br />

purchase on the snow, I make my<br />

committing run to launch the glider.<br />

The light fabric quickly and easily rises<br />

above my head, and as the leading edge<br />

touches the sun a warm valley breeze<br />

inflates the canopy and gently lifts me<br />

off my feet. Looking back, I see Jake and<br />

Paul safely take off with whoops of joy<br />

as they settle beneath their wing.<br />

It’s shared experiences like these<br />

that make para-alpinism such an<br />

incredible sport. The descent was once<br />

the boring part of the day, but now it’s<br />

something to look forward to. As we<br />

touch down in the valley, conveniently<br />

close to that café, it’s time to plan our<br />

next adventure.<br />

Calum Muskett is a professional climber,<br />

mountain guide, and ambassador for<br />

Rab, Scarpa and Petzl. He provides<br />

bespoke mountaineering and ski courses<br />

at muskettmountaineering.co.uk<br />




Canyon’s Torque:ON<br />

takes the eMTB to the<br />

next level. Below:<br />

changing its lightweight<br />

battery is a breeze<br />


T<br />

he electric mountain bike<br />

has opened up a world of<br />

possibilities for riders who<br />

want to push themselves<br />

and their machine to the<br />

limit. However, the constantly<br />

evolving technology has come<br />

with caveats – battery life has<br />

been the biggest drawback,<br />

restricting range and time spent<br />

on the trails – while designs have<br />

generally stuck to the safer end<br />

of the spectrum. Until now, that is.<br />

Canyon is a pioneer of eMTB<br />

design, and the Torque:ON is the<br />

latest in its extensive off-road<br />

range to get the ‘ON’ treatment.<br />

Based on the big mountain model<br />

of the same name, the result is a<br />

gravity-hungry rig that will gobble<br />

up the hardest bike-park lines or<br />

backcountry trails, run after run.<br />

Powering the Torque:ON is<br />

Shimano’s latest EP8 motor. The<br />

unit’s 500 peak watts and 85Nm<br />

of torque act as your own personal<br />

uplift. Press the toptube-integrated<br />

:ON button, select a support<br />

mode (Eco, Trail or Boost) on the<br />

handlebar-mounted switch and<br />

get ready for 25kph of fun.<br />

Gone are the days of slapping<br />

a battery where there’s room, and<br />

Canyon has designed the entire<br />

frame’s geometry around a<br />

lightweight 504Wh downtubeintegrated<br />

pack. Its positioning<br />

keeps the centre of gravity low<br />

and adds stability over rocky or<br />

root-strewn sections of trail. If<br />

you do manage to burn through<br />

its 100km range in one session,<br />

swapping it for another is a cinch.<br />

Plus, with a discounted second<br />

battery on offer with every<br />

purchase, having back-up in your<br />

daypack just got more affordable.<br />

Of course, all this power means<br />

little if the package it’s housed in<br />

isn’t up to scratch. Fortunately,<br />

Canyon knows a thing or two<br />

about constructing bombproof<br />

bikes. The frame is made from<br />

a super-durable alloy that can<br />

withstand huge drops and rough<br />

landings, while features such as<br />

oversized bearings and integrated<br />

chainring protection mean that<br />

your investment will ride like<br />

new, season after season.<br />

Finished with 180mm of front<br />

suspension, 175mm of fade-free<br />

rear suspension, and playful<br />

27.5in wheels, this freeridefriendly<br />

eMTB is as happy in<br />

the air as it is blasting its way<br />

down tight, technical tracks.<br />

eMTB just got extreme.<br />

For more info on the Torque:ON<br />

range, head to canyon.com<br />

NOW WE’RE<br />


How Canyon’s latest range puts<br />

the extreme in eMTB

“I<br />

was 13 the first time<br />

I did a wall ride,” says<br />

Kriss Kyle. “I was<br />

scared – you’re going<br />

so fast you hope your tyres grip,<br />

or it’ll hurt. But it gripped,<br />

whipped me round and spat me<br />

out. I’m still chasing that feeling.”<br />

The trick has become one of his<br />

signature moves, as seen in the<br />

film Kriss Kyle’s Kaleidoscope<br />

(2015). In his new movie, Out of<br />

Season, the 29-year-old BMX<br />

ace enters the Welsh woodlands<br />

to perform the manoeuvre on a<br />

far heavier vehicle – a mountain<br />

bike. “This has been four years<br />

in the making,” he says. “I’ve<br />

always wanted to build a curved<br />

wall ride in the woods.” Here’s<br />

how Kyle, ramp builder George<br />

Eccleston and the film’s director<br />

Matty Lambert achieved this…<br />

The vision<br />

“I’m always thinking, ‘What’s<br />

next?’” says Kyle. “I thought<br />

I’d like to do a 270° [wall ride],<br />

where I’m going into the wall<br />

then sweeping under it on the<br />

way out without hitting my<br />

head. As long as I can picture it<br />

in my head, I know I can do it.”<br />

The plan<br />

“Kriss often just has a rough<br />

idea in his head and we try to<br />

find a spot that works,” says<br />

Eccleston. “We picked a point<br />

amid these three trees to get<br />

the lateral side-to-side stiffness.<br />

We needed trees on a slope that<br />

allowed [the wall] to be 1.5m<br />

off the ground at the entry<br />

point, but 2m on the other side<br />

so he could exit beneath it.”<br />

The build<br />

“The shape was pre-cut in the<br />

workshop, then assembled on<br />

site in two days,” says Eccleston.<br />

“We used plywood rings made<br />

from birch – it’s flexible yet<br />

durable, so we use it on indoor<br />

skate builds – and larch slats<br />

to provide strength and grip.”<br />

The test<br />

“I was nervous as I wouldn’t get<br />

to go on it before it was built,”<br />

says Kyle, “so it was a case of<br />

stepping into the unknown.”<br />

Eccleston says they were<br />


How to...<br />

CREATE<br />

Land a wall ride<br />

Bike supremo Kriss Kyle reveals the art of creating this incredible move<br />

270°<br />

Degrees of perfection<br />

“The upper circle is 4.2m in diameter, but the lower<br />

circle is only 4m as it has a backward lean of 5°,”<br />

says Eccleston. “That means if it’s wet on the shoot<br />

Kriss can hit the wall slower with more control and grip.<br />

If it was vertical, he’d slide straight down it.”<br />

Gripping stuff: BMX<br />

ace Kriss Kyle does<br />

the rounds on his wall<br />

in the Welsh woods<br />

prepared to make alterations<br />

on set: “On the first few goes,<br />

we had to watch for wobbles<br />

when Kriss hit it at a certain<br />

point. Where that happened,<br />

we added extra timber braces.”<br />

The moment<br />

“We had two angles to film: one<br />

from behind, showing Kriss<br />

going into the wall ride, then<br />

a drone moving down from the<br />

tree canopy,” says Lambert.<br />

“You want to see him from<br />

a riding perspective – to see<br />

how hard it is – but it should<br />

also look beautiful. It’s quite<br />

awkward entering the curved<br />

wall, and the viewer can see<br />

how thin the gap is. As he hits<br />

the wall, he kind of disappears.”<br />

Watch Out of Season from<br />

April 15 at redbull.com<br />




Equipment<br />

Charge ahead<br />

Gone are the days of electric mountain bikes being labelled<br />

as cheating, lazy, or even dull. With professional riders<br />

such as Matt Jones and Tahnée Seagrave already jumping<br />

on board, it’s time to join the e-revolution...<br />

MARIN’s slogan, etched<br />

into the rims, is ‘Made for<br />

fun’. Thanks to the motor,<br />

it’s enjoyable going uphill,<br />

but with a full suspension<br />

this bike is clearly built for<br />

maximum pleasure<br />

on a fast descent.<br />

The trail tamer: Marin Alpine Trail E2<br />

Mountain biking was born in the hills of Marin County, California, in the late 1970s and early ’80s.<br />

Among its innovators was Marin Bikes, which, for 35 years, has put its prototypes through their paces<br />

on those original tough and gnarly trails. So, when the company claims the Alpine Trail E2 is its “most<br />

capable eMTB to date”, that’s no small boast. Based on the non-electric Alpine Trail model, the E2<br />

adds extra zip to a much-loved all-mountain platform with a 250W Shimano STEPS EP8 motor, which<br />

flattens steep climbs at the flick of a button. A removable protective plate over the frame-integrated<br />

battery adds peace of mind should you end up in the rough stuff. marinbikes.com<br />



Equipment<br />

TIM KENT<br />

Rider #1: The modest mountain man<br />

Not everyone wants to look like a circus tent on two wheels.<br />

This is off-road gear for the unassuming rider who wants to<br />

stay low-key while trusting that his kit can deliver<br />

Left to right, from top: LEATT MTB 2.0 water-resistant and windproof<br />

jacket with magnetic hood system for fixing to a helmet, leatt.com;<br />

MET HELMETS Bluegrass Rogue Core MIPS helmet, met-helmets.com;<br />

DAKINE Sentinel bike gloves, dakine.com; GUSSET S2 pedals, made<br />

from precision-engineered 6061 alloy, gussetcomponents.com;<br />

ARCADE BELTS Midnighter adventure belt, arcadebelts.com; STANCE<br />

Athletic Crew Staple socks, stance.com, GIRO Roust Long-sleeve<br />

MTB jersey, giro.co.uk; LEATT 2.0 Flat shoes, leatt.com; TSG Trailz<br />

shorts, ridetsg.com; OSPREY Savu 2 two-litre biking lumbar pack,<br />

ospreyeurope.com; ENDURA Singletrack Lite Knee Pads II,<br />

endurasport.com; EXPOSURE LIGHTS Flex eMTB light with an output<br />

of up to 3,300 lumens, and <strong>Red</strong>Eye-E light, exposurelights.com<br />



Equipment<br />

Rider #2: The woodland warrior<br />

For the female trail rider wanting to blend into the backcountry<br />

but still stand out for her skills, here’s a full set of kit that’s all<br />

about function and less about frills<br />

Left to right, from top: SPECIALIZED Ambush Comp helmet with ANGI<br />

crash sensor, specialized.com; ENDURA Hummvee Lite Icon gloves,<br />

endurasport.com; LEZYNE Tool Insert Kit multitool, ride.lezyne.com;<br />

ADIDAS Five Ten Freerider Primeblue 2021 MTB shoes, adidas.co.uk;<br />

SIXSIXONE Radia goggles, sixsixone.com; DMR BIKES Pedal spanner,<br />

dmrbikes.com; SPECIALIZED Techno MTB Tall socks, specialized.com;<br />

CHROME Storm Salute Commute jacket, chromeindustries.com;<br />

SIXSIXONE DBO elbow pads, sixsixone.com; DAKINE Drafter 14L Bike<br />

Hydration backpack, dakine.com; SPECIALIZED Andorra Air Longsleeve<br />

jersey, specialized.com; SCOTT SPORTS Trail Contessa Sign<br />

Women’s shorts with padding, scott-sports.com; DMR BIKES V11<br />

pedals, dmrbikes.com; SIXSIXONE DBO knee pads, sixsixone.com<br />



Equipment<br />

The slender steed:<br />

Specialized S-Works<br />

Turbo Levo SL<br />

One common – and misinformed –<br />

belief about eMTBs is that they’re<br />

on the chunky side. Your honour,<br />

the defence submits the Turbo<br />

Levo SL… Despite packing a motor<br />

and battery into its trim physique,<br />

it weighs just 17.35kg – lighter<br />

than some of the portlier<br />

pedal-powered mountain bikes.<br />

The US manufacturer’s focus<br />

was on creating an e-bike that<br />

handles exactly like a regular one<br />

rather than a bulky, battery-assisted<br />

stereotype. It achieves this by<br />

combining a ridiculously<br />

light-yet-strong carbon-fibre frame<br />

with some of the slickest<br />

components, engineering a<br />

responsive and reactive ride that<br />

will have you forgetting it’s carrying<br />

a motor at all. It might not be<br />

the most powerful e-ride around,<br />

but that’s also not what it’s all<br />

about. This bike will make you feel<br />

like you’re having a good day – that<br />

feeling that comes when the<br />

climbs are a breeze and you have the<br />

energy to do an extra lap of your<br />

regular loop – every time you saddle<br />

up. specialized.com<br />

To get the most out of<br />

this eMTB, download<br />

SPECIALIZED’s Mission<br />

Control smartphone app,<br />

which allows you to tune<br />

the power levels, log rides<br />

with Strava, and keep an<br />

eye on how much battery<br />

life is left. Better still,<br />

input the distance you’ll<br />

be covering and the app<br />

will adjust your power<br />

usage throughout your<br />

journey to ensure you<br />

have enough juice in the<br />

battery to get home.<br />

TIM KENT<br />

The Turbo Levo SL is lighter than some of<br />

the portlier pedal-powered mountain bikes<br />



Equipment<br />

The downhill demon:<br />

Canyon Torque:ON<br />

An electric mountain bike is a serious investment,<br />

so, understandably, the thought of throwing it –<br />

and you – down a cliff face could prompt you to<br />

search for tamer trails. The Torque:ON eliminates<br />

these concerns courtesy of a bombproof build.<br />

This bike has passed the same strength and<br />

impact tests as Canyon’s UCI Downhill World<br />

Cup-winning rigs – the first of the German bike<br />

brand’s eMTBs to do so – meaning it will pick<br />

itself up and dust itself down, hit after hit, even<br />

if you struggle to. But being built like a tank<br />

doesn’t mean it has to handle like one. The<br />

Torque:ON has been designed with agility at its<br />

core. Canyon has managed this by integrating<br />

a smaller, switchable battery, saving weight<br />

without sacrificing any of the fun. Whether you’re<br />

tearing down technical descents, stomping juicy<br />

jump lines, or even when flying through the air,<br />

it feels amazingly weighted. canyon.com<br />

The Torque:ON has<br />

passed the same<br />

rigorous tests<br />

as Canyon’s UCI<br />

Downhill World<br />

Cup-winning rigs<br />

Boasting 85Nm of power,<br />

the Torque:ON is aptly<br />

named, but just as much<br />

attention has gone into<br />

making it a joy to handle.<br />

The lighter 504Wh battery<br />

improves its centre of<br />

gravity, and smaller 27.5in<br />

wheels make it more<br />

reactive on those tight<br />

trails. Deep front and rear<br />

suspension gives plenty of<br />

traction, and its gravityfocused<br />

frame geometry<br />

has been designed with<br />

fast descents in mind.<br />



Equipment<br />

TIM KENT<br />

Rider #3: The technicolour trail-rider<br />

For the female rider who isn’t shy about showing off, don’t<br />

be afraid to dial up the brightness. And if you’re dialling up<br />

the difficulty too, go for the full-face helmet option<br />

Left to right, from top: CINELLI Slime socks, designed by Ana Benaroya,<br />

cinelli.it; POC Kortal Race MIPS helmet, pocsports.com; ENDURA<br />

MT500 Thermal Long-sleeve Jersey II top, endurasport.com;<br />

SIXSIXONE Raji gloves, sixsixone.com; 100% Trajecta full-face helmet<br />

and Accuri2 moto/MTB goggles, 100percent.com; N<strong>UK</strong>EPROOF Neutron<br />

EVO (Electron EVO) flat pedals, nukeproof.com; MONS ROYALE Stratos<br />

Shift bra and <strong>Red</strong>wood Enduro VT high V-neck tee, monsroyale.com;<br />

SCOTT SPORTS Soldier 2 elbow guards, scott-sports.com; LEZYNE<br />

Pocket Drive HV compact high-volume bike hand pump, ride.lezyne.<br />

com; N<strong>UK</strong>EPROOF Nirvana shorts, nukeproof.com; LEATT 3.0 Flat<br />

shoes, leatt.com; ARCADE BELTS Ranger adventure belt, arcadebelts.<br />

com; SCOTT SPORTS Grenade EVO Zip knee guards, scott-sports.com<br />



Equipment<br />

Rider #4: The firestarter<br />

Go bright or go home. A fiery colour scheme for the advanced<br />

male rider cruising bike parks or the toughest alpine trails<br />

Left to right, from top: ENDURA MT500 Full-face helmet, endurasport.<br />

com; DAKINE Agent O/O Bike knee pads, dakine.com; MONS ROYALE<br />

Tarn Freeride Long-sleeve Wind Jersey top, monsroyale.com; HT<br />

COMPONENTS PA03A pedals, ht-components.com; POC Kortal Race<br />

MIPS helmet, pocsports.com; GIRO HRC+ Merino wool cycling<br />

socks, giro.com; BELL Descender MTB goggles, bellbikehelmets.<br />

co.uk; ZÉFAL Z Hydro XC hydration backpack, zefal.com; LEATT<br />

MTB 3.0 shorts, leatt.com; DRAGON Ridge X sunglasses,<br />

dragonalliance.com; LEZYNE Micro Floor Drive Digital HVG<br />

portable pump and Tubeless tyre repair kit, ride.lezyne.com;<br />

ARCADE BELTS Ranger adventure belt, arcadebelts.co.uk;<br />

ENDURA Hummvee Lite Icon gloves, endurasport.com; RIDE<br />

CONCEPTS Men’s Powerline shoes, rideconcepts.com<br />



Equipment<br />

The souped-up steal:<br />

GT Force GT-E Current<br />

Founded in 1979, GT Bicycles cut its teeth in the pioneering days<br />

of BMX, but the brand has come a long way since the era of<br />

mullet haircuts, foam crossbar pads and mag wheels, and its<br />

current mountain-bike range is renowned for balancing<br />

top-of-the-line tech with pocket-friendly prices. The GT-E Current<br />

is the “performance-enhancing” version of its all-mountain,<br />

full-suspension Force rides, with the race-ready aluminium frame<br />

ever-so-slightly beefed up to seamlessly incorporate the<br />

battery and Shimano STEPS motor. Strategically mixing high-end<br />

components – made by the likes of SunTour and X-Fusion –<br />

with own-branded parts means you get a ride that doesn’t cost<br />

the earth, but can grow with you and your newfound passion<br />

for pinning pumptracks and shredding singletrack. This is<br />

a no-nonsense introduction to the world of e-mountain biking.<br />

gtbicycles.com<br />

EFI – or ‘electronic fun<br />

injection’ – is the<br />

technical term that<br />

GT has coined for this<br />

electric-powered addition<br />

to its full-suspension line<br />

of mountain bikes. As<br />

Belgian downhill enduro<br />

pro, GT ambassador and<br />

<strong>Red</strong> Bull athlete Martin<br />

Maes likes to refer to it,<br />

this bike’s 29in wheels,<br />

150mm of suspension<br />

travel and aggressive race<br />

geometry make it a very<br />

personal chair lift.<br />

TIM KENT<br />

The GT-E Current doesn’t cost<br />

the earth, but can grow with your<br />

passion for pumptracks<br />


Energetic by nature. Your Energy Bikes.<br />



Fitness<br />

Before becoming the<br />

leading expert on<br />

astronaut health and<br />

fitness at the German<br />

Aerospace Center in Cologne<br />

in 2009, Professor Jörn<br />

Rittweger conducted research<br />

into a seemingly unconnected<br />

subject. “Bed-rest studies,”<br />

says the scientist. “Subjects<br />

lay in bed for 60 days or<br />

longer and we’d test training,<br />

nutrition and electrical<br />

stimulation. It simulates a lot<br />

of what happens to astronauts<br />

in space, and ultimately it led<br />

to me getting this job.”<br />

Going into space is<br />

extremely hazardous to health.<br />

With no protective atmosphere<br />

or magnetic field, exposure to<br />

radiation is increased. “On the<br />

ISS, [radiation is] 300 times<br />

higher than on Earth. On the<br />

Moon, it’s 600 times higher.”<br />

But the biggest factor – one<br />

that relates most closely to<br />

the professor’s bed studies<br />

– is gravity, or the lack of it.<br />

“Gravity is perhaps the<br />

strongest environmental<br />

stimulus since the start of<br />

our evolutionary journey.<br />

Our bodies have developed<br />

mechanisms to ensure our<br />

brains receive enough blood<br />

when we’re upright.”<br />

In zero gravity, however, up<br />

and down don’t exist. “Within<br />

hours, astronauts discharge<br />

about a litre of urine to get rid<br />

of the blood they’re no longer<br />

storing in their legs,” Rittweger<br />

says. “Low gravity also knocks<br />

the ear’s balance system off,<br />

causing nausea. It takes days<br />

for the body to suppress this<br />

‘space adaptation syndrome’;<br />

astronauts learn to keep their<br />

head still and not turn quickly.”<br />

As the head of the centre’s<br />

muscle and bone metabolism<br />

department, Rittweger’s<br />

prime focus is clear. “Of the<br />

almost 500 muscles in our<br />

body, almost half support<br />

standing, walking or running,<br />

and muscles only grow and<br />

develop strength when they<br />

meet resistance,” he explains.<br />

With the lack of gravity on the<br />

ISS, astronauts aren’t pulled<br />

to the ground; there’s no<br />

HONE<br />

Striving for a celestial body<br />

How does an astronaut maintain an out-of-this-world physique? Here’s the rocket science…<br />

resistance, and muscle<br />

atrophy sets in.” The human<br />

body, he says, renews around<br />

one to two per cent of its<br />

muscle mass per day, but in<br />

space (or long periods of bed<br />

rest) it’s shed rather than<br />

gained. And the same happens<br />

to your bones: “Leg bones<br />

lose about one per cent of<br />

their mass per month.”<br />

The solution isn’t simply<br />

sending astronauts into orbit<br />

bulked up. “We channel<br />

calcium through our kidneys.<br />

If an astronaut increases bone<br />

mass before a trip, they’ll lose<br />

more [calcium], which can lead<br />

to kidney stones. You don’t<br />

want that to happen in space.”<br />

There’s also the effect on<br />

metabolism: astronauts have<br />

higher rates of adult-onset<br />

diabetes, meaning an increase<br />

in their blood sugar. Blood-fat<br />

levels increase, too, and there<br />

is a danger of atherosclerosis<br />

Above: Professor Jörn<br />

Rittweger of the German<br />

Aerospace Center; top:<br />

European Space Agency<br />

astronaut Samantha<br />

Cristoforetti in training<br />

“Nowadays,<br />

astronauts return<br />

to Earth in much<br />

better shape”<br />

[plaque build-up on artery<br />

walls that can cause blood<br />

clots, strokes or heart failure].”<br />

These changes may not<br />

cause immediate problems<br />

while the astronaut is in<br />

space, but they become a real<br />

issue once back on Earth.<br />

“There are doctors for that,”<br />

says Rittweger, “but it would<br />

make Mars missions tricky.<br />

They could last up to two-anda-half<br />

years, and medical care<br />

is hard to come by on Mars.”<br />

This is why Rittweger and<br />

his team have created a<br />

comprehensive workout that<br />

can be done in space.<br />

The right stuff<br />

“It’s not easy to recreate the<br />

important stimulus for our<br />

three largest muscle groups<br />

– the back extensors, glutes<br />

and leg muscles – which<br />

account for a third of our body<br />

mass,” says Rittweger. This<br />



Fitness<br />

has led much experimentation.<br />

“In the 1970s, the Russians<br />

relied on chest expanders;<br />

their elasticity generates<br />

resistance. Endurance sports<br />

were also popular that decade<br />

– that’s why we still see the<br />

exercise bike and treadmill on<br />

the space station. But cycling<br />

in space isn’t straightforward<br />

– there isn’t the force to keep<br />

you in the saddle, and it takes<br />

practice to control your upperbody<br />

inertia. Astronauts have<br />

to be locked to the pedals.<br />

It’s more for variety than<br />

muscle gain and will probably<br />

be culled soon.”<br />

Practicality isn’t the only<br />

downside to endurance<br />

training. “You also need<br />

shockproofing. It would be<br />

a disaster if the vibrations<br />

damaged the space station.<br />

You can’t just drill a lug into<br />

the ISS wall, attach a rubber<br />

band, and start practising<br />

jumps.” As such, spring-based<br />

or even robotic dampers are<br />

used. “But experts agree that<br />

we should now rely on<br />

resistance training instead.”<br />

These days, gym junkies on<br />

the ISS mainly use a system<br />

known as ARED (Advanced<br />

Resistive Exercise Device),<br />

which uses vacuum tubes and<br />

flywheel cables to simulate<br />

free-weight exercises such as<br />

squats and deadlifts. “Two<br />

hours a day, six days a week,<br />

as a rule,” says Rittweger.<br />

“In the past, fitness was the<br />

first thing to bite the dust if<br />

time was short. Russian and<br />

American doctors have<br />

gushed about how astronauts<br />

now return to Earth in much<br />

better shape.”<br />

Exercising in space is also<br />

crucial for mental wellbeing:<br />

“Physical exertion generates<br />

messenger substances in<br />

your muscles such as<br />

interleukin-6 or BDNF [brainderived<br />

neurotrophic factor].<br />

The former sets the energy<br />

“Using an exercise<br />

bike in space isn’t<br />

straightforward”<br />

To fitness and beyond<br />

Isolation and cabin fever are standard for an<br />

astronaut, but a recent problem for many of us<br />

on Earth. These three exercises from European<br />

Space Agency fitness expert Nora Petersen will<br />

help you stay fit when space is an issue…<br />

The rolling cucumber<br />

Target areas: core and body control<br />

Lie face down, legs and arms stretched out, with<br />

only your belly touching the floor. Roll onto your<br />

back, then onto your belly again, with your limbs<br />

outstretched. Adjust reps according to fitness.<br />

Squats with weights<br />

Target areas: legs and core/back<br />

Place a barbell on your shoulders and bend your<br />

knees, keeping your back straight, knees behind<br />

your heels, and maintaining body tension. Adjust<br />

the weight and reps to your fitness level.<br />

Rowing leant forward<br />

Target areas: back and shoulders<br />

Lift the dumbbell, keeping your back straight as<br />

if doing a dead lift. Raise it to your chest while in<br />

a forward-leaning position. Keep your elbows<br />

close to your body. As with the squats, adjust<br />

the weight and reps to your level of fitness.<br />

balance between the liver and<br />

fatty tissue, and we need the<br />

latter for the brain. Isolation<br />

and a lack of movement<br />

change its internal structures<br />

responsible for learning and<br />

behaviour. That can lead to<br />

listlessness, irritation, and<br />

lapses in concentration.<br />

Sport on the space station<br />

can reduce stress. Ernest<br />

Shackleton was aware of this.”<br />

Rittweger’s reference to<br />

the legendary Arctic explorer,<br />

much like his studies into<br />

bed rest, are highly pertinent<br />

to space travel. “Polar<br />

expeditions are some of the<br />

most challenging mankind<br />

has ever undertaken, and<br />

most have gone wrong,” he<br />

explains. “Shackleton brought<br />

back all of his expedition<br />

members alive. We know from<br />

his accounts that even in the<br />

harshest conditions they<br />

went out for an hour’s exercise<br />

each day. That’s probably<br />

what saved them.”<br />

One giant leap<br />

The professor’s team are<br />

always looking for ways of<br />

improving astronaut fitness,<br />

and the latest involves<br />

jumping. “It exercises the<br />

entire extensor and flexor<br />

chain in the back and legs.<br />

We attach the astronaut to a<br />

slide that allows freedom of<br />

movement but prevents them<br />

whacking against the wall. If<br />

all goes to plan, we’ll try it<br />

on parabolic flights here on<br />

Earth in about two years, and<br />

on the space station soon<br />

after.” Crucially, it needs to be<br />

enjoyable: “Imagine being on<br />

a flight to Mars and having to<br />

find the motivation to work<br />

out every morning.”<br />

But no matter how<br />

astronaut fitness systems<br />

evolve, there’s one side<br />

effect that is unlikely to be<br />

eradicated. “Sweat,” says<br />

Rittweger. “It’s more<br />

unpleasant than on Earth<br />

because it doesn’t roll down<br />

your body. And there’s no<br />

post-workout shower, either.<br />

You have to clean yourself<br />

with Wet Wipes.”<br />



10 ISSUES<br />

newsstand.co.uk/<br />

theredbulletin<br />

£20<br />


The next issue is out on Tuesday 11 May with London Evening Standard.<br />

Also available across the <strong>UK</strong> at airports, universities, and selected supermarkets and retail stores.<br />

Read more at theredbulletin.com<br />



Gaming<br />

PLAY<br />

Game<br />

your<br />

career<br />

Playing video games<br />

for a living isn’t something<br />

a careers advisor would<br />

recommend. For that<br />

advice, you need a proven<br />

esports superstar<br />

Right now, students across<br />

the world are studying for a<br />

big test, but not the kind you’d<br />

expect. <strong>Red</strong> Bull Campus<br />

Clutch is a global esports<br />

tournament for universityaged<br />

players competing in<br />

VALORANT, a tactical teambased<br />

first-person shooter.<br />

Before it had even launched<br />

last year, the first livestreamed<br />

playtest broke the<br />

record for the most hours<br />

of a single game watched in<br />

a day (34 million, with 1.7<br />

million concurrent spectators<br />

at one point). It has grown<br />

into one of the biggest<br />

esports, drawing star players<br />

from rival games such as<br />

Fortnite and Overwatch.<br />

Campus Clutch<br />

competitors might not be<br />

in the same league, but the<br />

winning teams from each<br />

country will play off in May’s<br />

world final for a prize of<br />

€20,000 and a state-of-theart<br />

gaming hub for their<br />

campus. It might also<br />

kickstart a lucrative career<br />

they hadn’t previously studied<br />

for – pro esports athlete.<br />

Jacob ‘pyth’ Mourujärvi<br />

(pictured, right) could teach<br />

them a thing or two. The<br />

27-year-old Swede, part<br />

of the elite G2 Esports team,<br />

is one of the world’s best<br />

VALORANT players, but nine<br />

years ago he was studying IT<br />

at school. “I had no career<br />

ideas, but I enjoyed working<br />

with computers,” he says.<br />

He was playing the newly<br />

released Counter-Strike: Global<br />

Offensive at the time when<br />

some fellow players asked him<br />

to join a team. “Now I work<br />

with computers every day.”<br />

Here are some valuable<br />

lessons pyth learned on his<br />

unorthodox career path…<br />

Focus your passion<br />

When he left education at 18,<br />

Mourujärvi was playing CS:GO<br />

for 15 hours a day. “Sleeping<br />

at 8am, waking at 5pm and<br />

“There are<br />

no shortcuts<br />

– you have<br />

to build your<br />

way up”<br />

Sharp shooters: VALORANT<br />

characters Phoenix (left) and Jett<br />

grinding again,” he recalls.<br />

“But when I knew there could<br />

be a career in it, I changed my<br />

routine and began thinking<br />

like a pro. I also stopped shittalking.<br />

I’ve been a nice guy<br />

for 14 years now.”<br />

Play to your strengths<br />

Pyth is a master of ‘clutch’ play<br />

– the ability to turn a game<br />

around in the final seconds –<br />

which he proved this February<br />

when G2 won the first <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

Home Grounds competition,<br />

and earlier in his career when<br />

he singlehandedly defeated<br />

rivals Ninjas in Pyjamas in a<br />

2014 four-against-one CS:GO<br />

match. Two years later, he<br />

was playing for them. “Prove<br />

yourself and people will see<br />

you,” he says. “But there are<br />

no shortcuts – you have to<br />

build your way up. And have<br />

fun or you’ll get nowhere.”<br />

Exit your comfort zone<br />

In 2015, pyth explored<br />

uncharted territory, helping<br />

to build new Canadian CS:GO<br />

team Luminosity Gaming.<br />

“I was teamless and wanted<br />

to prove myself,” he says.<br />

“I learned a lot. Before, I was<br />

just shooting and focused<br />

on good stats; I didn’t talk<br />

a lot. But I became a better<br />

team player, more open and<br />

honest.” This successful move<br />

inspired another one when<br />

he left CS:GO. “I was caught<br />

in a bad cycle with teams<br />

I didn’t believe in. I thought,<br />

‘I’m going to gamble at being<br />

one of VALORANT’s best<br />

players.’ It was a challenge<br />

and it was awesome.”<br />

Avoid toxicity<br />

“The people who hate on you<br />

are the loudest,” says pyth.<br />

“Playing CS:GO, I was abused<br />

on Twitter and got death<br />

threats mid-game. I practised<br />

some focusing exercises, but<br />

then forgot to do them.” He<br />

turned to training software to<br />

shut out stress – “I’d practise<br />

shooting ranges in [training<br />

program] AimLab, with music<br />

on to get good vibes” – but<br />

the answer lay in a change<br />

of scene. “VALORANT has<br />

one of the most supportive<br />

fanbases,” he says, adding<br />

that good workmates are also<br />

vital. “In G2, we’re friends in<br />

and out of the game.”<br />

Look ahead<br />

At 27, Mourujärvi is an esports<br />

veteran. But he’s confident<br />

that when his competitive<br />

time is up, his career won’t be.<br />

“I still want to work in esports,<br />

maybe as a coach. A lot of<br />

players just practise their aim<br />

every day, but they need to<br />

understand teamwork and<br />

strategy. You can’t just have<br />

the same players in the team.<br />

It’s like how [Premier League<br />

football team] Liverpool<br />

became better when they<br />

bought [defender] Virgil<br />

van Dijk. He’s not an official<br />

captain, but he brought<br />

leadership and confidence<br />

that fed into the team. That’s<br />

a good quality to have.”<br />

VALORANT is on Microsoft<br />

Windows; playvalorant.com.<br />

Check out the latest <strong>Red</strong> Bull<br />

Campus Clutch heats at<br />

redbull.com. Follow pyth at<br />

twitch.tv/pyth<br />




Gaming<br />

Cover your tracks:<br />

you can also buy<br />

a silicon skin<br />

(pictured far left)<br />

to protect your<br />

Pocket Operator<br />



Beat it up<br />

Don’t be fooled by the<br />

toy-like looks – this mini synth<br />

packs a Dragon Punch<br />

Modular synthesisers – electronic<br />

musical instruments that can be linked<br />

to sample, create and manipulate<br />

sounds – have been around since the<br />

1950s, when they were as big as a<br />

fridge. Street Fighter II, released in<br />

1991, was the first fighting video game<br />

to sport ‘combos’ – strings of combat<br />

moves. Teenage Engineering is a brain<br />

trust of Swedish engineers who make<br />

cool, retro-styled music gear, and this<br />

is their love letter to all of the above.<br />

Their Pocket Operator synths are a<br />

masterclass in stripped-down design:<br />

a circuit board with a flipstand, two<br />

AAA batteries, and a pair of 3.5mm<br />

jacks on the back. On the front is a grid<br />

of buttons, two knobs and a mic to<br />

create 16 sequences of 16 sounds to<br />

record a 256-step tune or perform an<br />

impressive live set. Each device has its<br />

own sound – rhythm, robot, office –<br />

represented by vintage Nintendo-style<br />

graphics on the LCD display. Connect<br />

them together and you have a digital<br />

orchestra. And now you can add SFII’s<br />

classic ‘Shoryuken’ samples to that<br />

knockout combo. teenage.engineering<br />



Calendar<br />

21<br />

April onwards<br />


As spectator events return, it’s set<br />

to be a glorious summer, and with<br />

the new normal comes new sports.<br />

Kicking off on July 21, this 100-ball<br />

pro cricket series serves up 68 men<br />

and women’s matches across a whole<br />

month, with the biggest names<br />

taking to the crease, including Ben<br />

Stokes (below) captaining Leeds’<br />

Northern Superchargers. Priority<br />

tickets went on sale on April 7, with<br />

general sales starting April 21.<br />

Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, London,<br />

Manchester, Nottingham and<br />

Southampton; thehundred.com<br />

31<br />

July<br />

RED BULL ILLUME 2021<br />

“If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff,”<br />

veteran Nat Geo lensman Jim Richardson once said. Wise words, as anyone who has<br />

contributed to global photography contest <strong>Red</strong> Bull Illume can attest. This biennial<br />

showcase attracts some of the most incredible action-sports and adventure moments<br />

captured on film (59,551 images were entered in 2019) then takes them on a world tour<br />

(pictured: the 2020 tour stop in Vancouver). Now, 2021’s Image Quest has begun. The<br />

submission deadline is July 31, with winners announced in November. redbullillume.com<br />

13<br />

April onwards<br />


When it comes to slopestyle MTB,<br />

Brett Rheeder is perhaps the<br />

greatest there is. The 28-year-old<br />

Canadian has four slopestyle world<br />

titles, an X-Games gold medal and<br />

seven Crankworx victories, but in<br />

2018 he faced one of his toughestever<br />

seasons, struggling with a longterm<br />

knee injury. Spectators often<br />

only see the performance on the<br />

day, but this film, following Rheeder<br />

through that tumultuous year, is a<br />

candid look at the pains an athlete<br />

endures for their craft. redbull.com<br />



Calendar<br />

13<br />

April onwards<br />



13<br />

April to late June<br />


If there’s one good thing to emerge<br />

from social distancing, it’s the<br />

revival of the drive-in cinema. But<br />

banish throwback images of Grease<br />

from your mind; The Luna Cinema<br />

delivers state-of-the-art outdoor<br />

screens, in-car digital sound and<br />

click-and-collect food-and-drink<br />

service. Among the films being<br />

shown are Wonder Woman 1984 –<br />

one of the first chances to see it on<br />

a big screen since its December<br />

release – Pixar’s Onward, Joker<br />

and, of course, Grease. Venues<br />

across the <strong>UK</strong>; thelunacinema.com<br />

Travis Rice dreams big. The 38-yearold<br />

snowboarder burst onto the<br />

competitive scene at the age of 18,<br />

with no sponsor, by dropping a<br />

gargantuan backside rodeo over a<br />

36m gap at a place called Mammoth<br />

Mountain. But his biggest dream was<br />

to launch the ultimate backcountry<br />

freestyle competition in his hometown.<br />

This February, Jackson Hole, Wyoming,<br />

saw 24 of the best snowboarders<br />

battle across 16 acres of mountain –<br />

and, of course, Mother Nature served<br />

up large, tipping 1.2m of deep powder<br />

on day two. Check out the weekend’s<br />

mightiest moments. redbull.com<br />



13<br />

April to late May<br />


TONGUE<br />

Pre-lockdown, you had escape<br />

rooms, immersive theatre, and<br />

murder mysteries. Now, the latest<br />

must-have group experience is<br />

the online sleuthing show: a blend<br />

of live performance, interactive<br />

role-play, team puzzle-solving<br />

and taut thriller, played through<br />

your computer. Having launched<br />

last October with an initial sell-out<br />

three-week run, the show has now<br />

extended bookings until at least<br />

late May. themermaidstongue.com<br />

13<br />

April onwards<br />


It’s helpful, though not essential, to understand Spanish to gain the most enjoyment<br />

from this contest – for a start, you’d already know that the name means ‘Battle of the<br />

Roosters’. The world’s biggest freestyle rap competition draws thousands of spectators<br />

from across Latin America to witness the crema de crema of Spanish-speaking MCs<br />

spitting rhymes. At least, it would most years. For 2020, an audience-free, greenscreen<br />

arena was built in the Dominican Republic, so contestants battle amid virtual<br />

deserts and mountains. The backdrops are fake, but the lyrics are real. redbull.com<br />



THE RED<br />



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skate photography of<br />

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lensman Jake Darwen<br />

For more stories<br />

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Commercial & Brand Partnerships<br />

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Stefan Bruetsch<br />

Advertising Sales<br />

Marcel Bannwart (D-CH),<br />

marcel.bannwart@redbull.com<br />

Christian Bürgi (W-CH),<br />

christian.buergi@redbull.com<br />

Goldbach Publishing<br />

Marco Nicoli,<br />

marco.nicoli@goldbach.com<br />


USA, ISSN 2308-586X<br />

Editor-in-Chief<br />

Peter Flax<br />

Deputy Editor<br />

Nora O’Donnell<br />

Copy Chief<br />

David Caplan<br />

Publishing Management<br />

Branden Peters<br />

Media Network Communications<br />

& Marketing Manager<br />

Brandon Peters<br />

Advertising Sales<br />

Todd Peters,<br />

todd.peters@redbull.com<br />

Dave Szych,<br />

dave.szych@redbull.com<br />

Tanya Foster,<br />

tanya.foster@redbull.com<br />




Gain insights to improve<br />

the way you work at<br />

www.wingfinder.com<br />


Action highlight<br />

Done and dusted<br />

After his 14th victory in the world’s most legendary rally raid, French driver Stéphane<br />

Peterhansel (pictured here during stage three this January) could officially change<br />

his name to ‘Mr Dakar’. But then, it’s probably not worth the passport hassle, what<br />

with all the international travel he has to do. Africa, South America, Saudi Arabia...<br />

the 55-year-old has conquered them all at Dakar. See him in action at redbull.com<br />

The next<br />

issue of<br />


is out on<br />

May 11<br />



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