Coven Magazine Issue 5

Page 1

Š 2013 Vans, Inc.

Photo: Nathan Gallager All rights reserverd. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form without permission from the publisher. The opinions of authors do not neccesarily represent those of the publisher

If there’s one unifying theme in Issue 5, it’s struggle. For along with our usual dose of inspiration, the stirring stories that resonate within these pages all focus on tales of women striving to achieve, whether it’s the graduates toughing it out in the professional world, the rookie surfer desperate to make her mark or the incredible Shannon Galpin, fighting to create a better life for women in Afghanistan. Ok, so maybe the burger roulette doesn’t fit into our theme so neatly, but anyway…. Here at Coven, as a small, independent publication we’ve fought hard to bring you this magazine but we’ve powered on through and done it for the same reason as the ladies we’ve profiled. For no matter the hardships, the times of doubt, the truly exasperating moments, we believe it’s worth it. And we hope you do too! - Juliet

EDITOR/PUBLISHER/DESIGNER Juliet Elliott PICTURES WORDS Dave Noakes, Nathan Gallager, Fredrik Clement, Juliet Elliott, Hannah Bailey, Dave Noakes, Joel Benjamin, Oliver Harvey, Isabel Greenberg, Squash Falconer, Alice Beese Maria Falbo, Sam Dunn, Kim Woozy, Branden COVER Aroyan, Selim Korycki, Chad Riley, Kate Isabel Greenberg Czuczman, Julie Gough

Cover: Rebecca Kaye This page: Mirja Geh Photos: Dave Noakes

16 Show And Tell Energy Bars Tried And Tested 18 Well Burger Me Copson Street Plays Lucky Chip Roulette 24 Isabel Greenberg Cramming Words In Speech Bubbles 30 Elissa Steamer Quizzing Skate Royalty 34 In Pursuit Of Understanding A Two Year Voyage In Search Of Answers 40 Shannon Galpin Revolutionary By Nature 48 Lakey Peterson The Surfer Tearing Up The Rule Book 54 Nora Vasconcellos You Might As Well Do What You Love 58 Controlled Failure Battles Worth Fighting? 60 Velodrome Worship A Pilgrimage To The Track 64 Sam Dunn Why Bother With A Levels? 68 Multiplied Layers Of Meaning Jewellery Designer Ali Forbes 70 Nocturnal Pursuits Workout Wear That Packs A Punch

Published Quarterly by Coven Press. For enquiries, please contact


Paisley Power We’re suckers for a Liberty print and now this paisley pattern from the archives has popped up on our favourite sneakers, we simply can’t resist any longer. Vans ‘Authentic.’ £55

hats off Historically inspired but bang up to date, we’re obsessed with Coal Headwear’s ribbon trimmed ‘Anne.’ £129.99

OBJECTS OF Coven’s handpicked favourites


Roll On Sister Fresh from Penny Skateboard’s holiday collection, this Aztec print board is our grab and go mode of transport when we’re city-breaking. Sling it in a bag, and you’re good to go. £109

make a splash Finally, a functional swimsuit that we want to wear! Perfect for lounging poolside, even better for blasting a few lengths. ‘Galaxy’ Swimsuit by Sweaty Betty. £99

Don’t buy it, dye it! Tie Dye High Five launches The Store; an online stash of creative kits that will help you get DIY dyeing in no time. Each pack comes with two colours of dye, two squishy bottles, elastic bands, gloves, instructions for your chosen technique, stickers and an awesome exclusive Tie Dye High Five canvas bag on which to get creative. £18

Elegant and understated, the beautiful Brooks ‘Picadilly’ knapsack allows us to arrive by bike with style and panache. The perfect size for a laptop and a novel, the Picadilly’s clean lines and slimline shape have a timeless appeal. £249

Inspired by textiles gathered on our Editor’s travels, the Coven x Milltag cycle kit features a brightly patterned motif and a hand drawn logo. Bib Shorts and Jersey £70 each.


MISCELLANEOUS ADVENTURES Born from a fascination with the natural world, adventures in mountains and forests and objects with magical properties, Miscellaneous Adventures is a craft project founded by illustrator and maker, Andrew Groves. Home to periodic collections of hand crafted items ideal for outdoor adventures, camping excursions and quests, each item is created using traditional techniques and simple hand tools, making every product unique.

Miscellaneous Adventures also run woodland woodcarving workshops set in the Sussex woodland. These day-long workshops aredesigned to teach participants how to carve a wooden spoon using an axe, carving knife and crook knife, and providing a chance to enjoy an inspiring woodland setting whilst picking up a few handy skills to assist on future adventures.

WILD GUIDE Following on from the success of Wild Swimming, Wild Guide is a gem of book detailing the best natural adventures to be found in the South West.


A treaure trove of magical spots and a beautiful book to dip in to, the guide delivers inspiration in bucket loads, celebtraing the natural beauty of this stunning area of the UK.


Over 500 locations are profiled, from the best secret beaches and wild swimming locations, to sunset hillforts, sacred stones and amazing woodlands. Packed with beautiful photos of forgotten coves and majestic forests, the book is perfect for planning the ideal

weekend – each chapter details a different part of the South West and is broken down into places to camp, swim, canoe, walk or enjoy a picnic. Adventure is everywhere, so get out, unplug, go off-grid! And go on foot or by bike - not only will you save on your carbon footprint, many of the activities outlined are totally free so you’ll save money too. We’re working our way through the whole book, area by area.

Together with business partner, Ryan Perks, Jessica Piper founded Man Up Girl whilst at university in Kingston as she was ‘sick of just wearing boy’s clothes all the time.’


Hot on the heels her well received graduate offering just last year, Man Up Girl’s new collection merges the grit of the South Coast with a Spanish joie de vivre, a nod to Jessica’s upbringing in Grenada. Nimbly treading the line between street wear and fashion, the new range features skate-wear reimagined for a 21st century female, with hand drawn, hand screened prints a main stay of the collection and many multi purpose, multi functional pieces designed to be worn year round. “I’m sick of the idea that every six months you’re meant to buy something new,” explains Jessica. “The weather just isn’t like that in the UK and I don’t believe that you should have to commit to one season, you should be able to get something that will see you through all year round.” Designed to withstand the rigours of an active lifestyle, the t-shirts, dresses and outerwear are bold, fun and functional. “I was pretty tired of just wearing men’s clothes all the time,” says Jessica of the motivation behing the line. “I wanted something different, something more balance and refined but still functional and practical. I wanted to make something for myself and my friends to wear.”

ROXY OUTDOOR FITNESS Combining fashion, performance and a heritage of boardsports, Roxy Outdoor Fitness’ new range of eye catching, mix and match clothing is inspired by an active, outdoor lifestyle.

From paddle boarding, to running, hiking, climbing and yoga, water repellent fabrics, soft flatlock seams and four way stretch materials feel as good on the skin as they look. Flattering cuts, glorious colours and a Pinterest account full of inspiring pictures and Roxy Outdoor Fitness ambassadors make us want to get outside, get moving and get adventurous.


H ow f a r i s t o o f a r ? W h a t ’s i m p o r t a n t i n l i f e ? A d v e n t u r e r S QU A S H FA L C O N E R s u m mi t s E v e r e s t i n t h e qu e s t f o r a n s w e r s .

What would it feel like if you thought you weren’t coming back, if you weren’t sure you could make it and that this time you’d pushed it too far? We can try and imagine how that would feel but it wasn’t until I was in that very situation, thinking those very thoughts that I found my answers. Two years ago I climbed Mount Everest. I took my paraglider with me and planned to become the first woman in the world to fly from the top of the world’s highest mountain. Sadly, bad weather put paid to that idea and instead my focus shifted to simply reaching the summit. Getting to the top of a mountain is only half way there. Whenever I climb I’m pushing myself to the limit so it is vital that I constantly ask myself - can I get back down from here? It’s not easy to know where your parameters are when you’re pushing yourself harder than you have before and you have no benchmark, no real comparison. The weather forecast had been good but as we pushed through the night towards the summit the clouds rolled in, the wind picked up and the visibility became extremely poor. Many climbers had already started to descend and I kept asking myself, ‘can I make it back down from here’? The answer was still ‘yes’ and so I continued but after a little longer, the weather deteriorated further and I began to think that it was time to head down. I called out to Jangbu, my friend and climbing Sherpa. I signalled that I wanted to turn back but he shouted ‘No!

It’s just 30 metres to the summit’. Standing on the top of the world was incredible at the time but it is more wonderful now that I’m safely back down and writing about it! We spent a very short time on the summit, there was no view and we knew we had to get moving as time would soon be against us if we didn’t. Within a couple of hours we came across a guy who was clearly in trouble and barely conscious. His Sherpa’s shouted to us that we should continue down the mountain and that a rescue team were on their way up. There was little I could do but it went against every natural instinct in me carry on and leave him there...I wanted to help in some way. With another climber we tried to administer a shot of Dex (a steroid that sometimes can help someone in real trouble) but it was impossible. As I carried on down towards the camp I was cold, freezing cold. I was stumbling and exhausted and I honestly I wasn’t sure if I could make it. It was then that my mind-set shifted…I had very few thoughts but I could hear my mum’s voice in my head telling me that I was strong and that I could carry on. I felt nothing but love, the love that I had for everyone who I wanted to get home to and also the love they had for me. When everything was stripped back and my mortality stared me in the face, that was all there was and in that instant I realised that for me, that was it; the most important thing in life is love. That was a pretty epic moment!




W YAT T A N D J A C K ’s u p c y c l e d b e a c h b a g s a n d t o t e s a r e i m b u e d w i t h t h e spirit of the British seaside. TEXT: JULIET ELLIOTT

Georgia Wyatt-Wilsmore is walking around her Isle Of White home clutching a laptop and attempting to angle the camera towards reams of lovingly restored deckchair fabric. On the other end of a dodgy Skype connection, I see roll after roll of pixelated stripes and stacks of folded fabric in seventies colourways as Georgia trots about giving me a virtual tour of her studio. Like many of today’s craftspeople, Georgia’s studio is also her home, and every aspect of it has been given over to her business of creating stylish, ethical bags made from reclaimed beach fabrics, much to the chagrin of her young son.

Georgia started Wyatt and Jack after helping out friend of her father – sent to the scrapyard with some old metal framed sunbeds, she couldn't bear to throw away the material and made herself a bag from it. From there, the business grew organically and Georgia began sourcing her material from multiple beaches around the UK, as well as city centre spaces such as London's Hyde Park. “We are the only people doing this - collecting material from beaches and parks and recycling it. Actually I don't think anyone else would want to do it because it's a right pain in the arse sometimes,” laughs Georgia.

“But people have such a great reaction to the material because it reminds them of happy times, it definitely feels worth the effort.” “My favourite bit is collecting the material from the people running deckchair rentals, they're such characters,” says Georgia as she darts about showing me samples.“It was a bit difficult at first, a lot of the people running things are in their seventies and don't have mobile phones and they couldn't really understand why I wanted this stuff. They were instantly suspicious! I used to go to great lengths to get the fabric but now I know them all and they're all happy to see me! Our seasons are so bad, we've been having terrible weather, and it's getting harder and harder for people to make money renting out deckchairs. Meeting those guys is the best bit of the job. I’ve made a couple of films about two of the characters I’ve met and I’m hoping to make more, one about every supplier.” Once she has sourced her fabric, a multitude of jolly colours that shout ‘British summer’ every bit as much as fish and chips, beach huts and the rain, each scrap is hand washed in her garden, before being cut to size by Georgia and her aunt. “It all has to be done here, in the house, we have to wash it and cut it all ourselves, because we know exactly which bit of fabric we want to use, and if we outsourced it, it would get too complicated and too expensive,” says Georgia. “As you can imagine, when someone's been sitting in a deckchair for a while, it has a massive bum shape in it. It goes in two places, top and bottom and after that you can't use it, but in that middle stretch there's probably about a metre and a half that we can use. You have to know your material, to love it and work with it's quirks.” Once washed and cut, the bags are stitched together in Somerset – since the business has begun to take off, it's no longer viable for Georgia to sew every bag herself.

Oliver Harvery

“Up until about six months ago. I was making them myself – I was working 70 hour weeks and I was literally doing absolutely everything myself, I didn't have my aunty to help me at that point. I'd get up at five, make my son some breakfast, take him to school, come back, work all day, pick him up from school, hang out with him for a couple of hours then he'd go to bed and I'd basically work all night and have three hours sleep. But I did it because I love it, and I just know it's going to work.” Having the bags put together in Somerset has allowed Georgia to finesse her products in a way she couldn't at home. She explains, “I want people to buy the bags because they like them, not because they’re recycled; it's important to me that people get something really nice, that they love in more ways than one. I felt that in order to do that, I needed to have the nice little finishing touches that I was unable to do myself at home.” She shows me the first bag she ever made, chuckling at how poorly it's sewn but swearing her undying love for the charming creation. It's clear that Georgia's business is born of passion, for the products she produces, the people that make it possible and the customers carrying a small piece of seaside history. Actually selling the stuff seems a happy accident so far; “Im just not interested at all in self promotion which can make it a little tricky, it just doesn't do it for me. I'm trying to get better at that at the moment. but if it was up to me, I'd just hang out on my own on a little beach somewhere and not bother talking to anyone! But that's meant in the nicest possible way, because I do really like people, actually I love them!'


a bike, a board and a wave with Surf Sistas

words juliet elliott photos kate czuczman

It’s 5am, the light is trickling through the curtains and my furry alarm clock, Fenriz jumps on the bed for a cuddle and a purr, marching determined little circles and chirruping to get my attention. I don’t mind being woken; I haven’t slept much anyway thanks to the late night teenage revelers outside my window. Actually, that’s unfair; I haven’t really slept because I’m over excited about heading to Cornwall to switch a bike for a surfboard with Candice O’Donnell before heading out on the waves with Surf Sistas’ resident coaches Gwen Spurlock and Rachel Taylor. A couple of hours and a flask of coffee later and I’m standing in a Newquay carpark waiting for Candice to show up with what is soon to be my very own hand-shaped longboard. In return, Candice will be pedaling off on a Charge bicycle. Candice shows up, all smiles, long hair and remarkably skinny legs. I wonder when to break it to her that the bike I’ve brought for her is fixed gear rather than single speed, meaning she’ll need to keep pedaling rather than freewheel. I plunge straight in, ‘just don’t stop pedaling,’ I advise and unfazed, Candice cruises around the carpark whilst I examine the contours of my new board and wonder how I’ll get it in the Peugeot. In the watery sunlight of early dawn we explain the secrets of each other’s new toys, trading tips and reveling in the joy of explaining a whole new world, something so familiar to the previous owner a beguiling mystery to the new one. Surfboard sorted, I head over to meet Surf Sistas at South

Fistral. I’ve been instructed to look out for a large group of women congregating; I’m told these will be the campers on Surf Sista’s White To Green Improvers Course with whom I’ll be heading out under the tutelage of Gwen Spurlock and Rachel Taylor. Lurking by the steps with my new longboard I spot a group of likely looking ladies gathered around a campervan but immediately regress, becoming a kid in the playground and too shy to go over. Finally I can see that one of them is furiously trying to make eye contact so I head over before I’m mistakenly pegged as rude. The ladies are welcoming and enthusiastic, and our coaches keen to get us in the water and help us get the most out of our surfing, “I started coaching with Surf Sistas in the last year or so and to watch someone try really hard at achieving something and then cracking it is awesome.” says Gwen. I know exactly how it feels to learn new things or skills and it’s so gratifying when someone is super happy with the coaching.” Down in the ocean we paddle straight out back, corralled into a manageable sized area by our coaches, our uniform of striped Oakley rash vests making us easy to spot. It’s the fifth day of the camp and the other ladies have specific goals they’re looking to achieve in the final hours of their trip. I just want to try out my new board, though I’m hoping some tips will be useful; up until this point, I’ve learnt through trial and error so I’m keen to get some help. I paddle for my first wave, spring to my feet and I’m cruising with ease. I immediately fall in love with my new surfboard; it feels like a Rolls Royce compared to the other ones I’ve

ridden and I head straight out the back again, or at least I try to…. Spotting me dithering right in the impact zone, Rachel heads over and tells me the best route through the waves then standing further in, arms crossed over her chest, she watches me go for a few more waves, somewhat amused at how I managed to do so well on the first one I caught yet I’m now thrashing about like a whale. I’m also surprised at how I always start off surfing well before rapidly getting worse for no apparent reason and as I don’t have many friends who surf and I’ve not taken any lessons, I definitely waste a lot of energy and time trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Happily, Rachel and Gwen are able to spot any mistakes with ease, and constantly remind me of them so any corrections are really drilled into my head. After some minute adjustments of my legs make things a whole lot easier, I suggest to Gwen that it’s the simplest tips that make the biggest difference. “For sure; one of the biggest mistakes I see is probably people having their head down looking at their feet,” Gwen tells me in agreement. “Your head should be looking to where you want your body to follow, otherwise it is likely that you will become off balance and end up losing control of the board and your self, so keep your head up, simple!” Around the camper van later that afternoon, the ladies look through their footage from the week, assessing their achievements and exchanging phone numbers with new friends. It seems clear they’ve come on leaps and bounds thanks to a week being schooled by Surf Sista’s coaches. I ask Gwen, now a pro-surfer sponsored by Oakley, Skullcandy, and ON A Mission whether she’d used a coach to achieve her powerful style on a wave: “I was coached from the age of 12 onwards,” says Gwen. “When I started competing there was a group of us who did competitive surf coaching, so that included tactics, paddle speed and quickness with catching the right or best waves in an allocated time, so that it suited the competitive format. When I got a bit older it became more about psychology coaching and believing in myself that I could achieve the result I wanted.” Having witnessed first hand how important it is to have someone give your technique the once over before you develop bad habits, Gwen fills me in on what to look for in a coach: “The most important thing is finding out what type of coaching suits you,” says Gwen. “Once you have a good relationship with your coach the progression should follow as you will find yourself reacting well to the criticism. A coach that I have may not be suitable to someone else as my personality, and the way I deal with

criticism could be completely different to the way someone else would. So it is all relative to the person and how they react to coaching styles to the speed of their surfing development.” Sad to leave the generous environment of Surf Sistas and their coaches who certainly suited my personality, I reluctantly shuffle off to the car, wondering once more where the longboard’s going to go. My boyfriend ends up relegated to the back seat as I set off with the Takayama riding alongside me, a sweet scent of wax filling the air. As I drive through Newquay on my way back home, I spot Candice and she’s still pedaling, a smile on her face as navigates the rolling hills of the town. A couple of days later, a text message drops in my inbox whilst I’m on my way to surf at Bigbury. She’s hooked, loves her new toy and hasn’t stopped riding since she saw me. I gave lovingly at my new longboard and tell her I feel the same.

Show And Tell

ENERGY BARS If you train regularly or spend a lot of time on the move, energy bars are an extremely useful way of topping up your energy levels. Exercise uses the glycogen stored in our muscles and liver and as this only lasts around an hour or so, with a well timed snack you can train for longer or stay out having fun rather than heading back home, hungry and fatigued Be sure to save any dieting for when you’re not training or you won’t be able to workout effectively; though we can access our fat stores for energy, we still need sugar to do so, and running out will cause you to ‘bonk,’ or crash and burn. So why an energy bar, rather than some biscuits, a chocolate bar, or some other form of carbohydrate? Most energy bars provide portable, quality ingredients in an easily digestible form. They’re easy to eat on the move and won’t weigh heavily on the stomach, causing you to slow down. And if you’re training regularly and frequently refuel on the go, a bar composed of dried fruits, oats, seeds, nuts and brown rice syrup is infinitely better for you than a high sugar chocolate bar, laden with saturated fats and empty calories. As a rule of thumb, if you wish to use these products bar whilst working out, say, in the middle of a bike ride, you’ll require a bar with plenty of carbs to burn through. Natural ingredients provide a higher level of nutrition, important if you’ll be consuming these products on a regular basis. Maltodextrin, sucrose and fructose can be useful if it’s a quick boost that you’re after. High protein bars are generally best for recovering after exercise, and in between training sessions.

CLIF BAR £1.49


Delicious bars made with all natural ingredients such as oats, dried fruit and rice syrup, providing a good mix of wholegrains, protein and fibre. Clif bars come in a whole heap of flavours including peanut butter and white chocolate and macadamia and unlike, feel like a treat and are not dry or chalky. We really looked forward to eating these!

100 percent natural bars made with fairtrade ingredients where possible, these bars are crispy and chewy, thanks to the blend of rice crisps, oats, dried fruits and rice syrup. High in carbs and available in some top flavor combinations such as Apple Strudel and Summer Pudding, these bars are a great mid-training boost.



Another one made entirely from natural ingredients, Pulsin’s gluten free, vegan bars pack a lot of power into a small package and include antioxidants such as green tea extract. Though tasty, the bars are quite dense. The Maple And Peanut Protein bar is a good post training snack and the Bliss Bar, packed with dates, cashew butter, maca and raw cacao makes for a healthy treat.

Natural, organic with a well-balanced blend of carbs, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Flavour wise, these bars are slightly less sweet than some of their rivals which appeals to some. The oaty cinnamon tinged Raisin And Walnut bar was our favourite for nibbling on the go.

TREK PROTEIN BAR £1.09 A high protein, wholefood bar with no added sugar, Trek’s good value, wheat and dairy free bar works well as a post-ride snack or for longer endurance rides. Flavour wise, we naively expected it to taste like regular flapjack, but thanks to a lack of butter, golden syrup and the accompanying fats you’d expect from ingredients such as those, it tastes more like a oaty cereal bar.

SIS GO BAR £1.20 for the larger bar Available in two sizes, Science In Sport’s Go Bars are packed with fruit plus maltodextrin, oats, and rice, corn and soya derivitives. 40 grams of carbs in the regular size bars make this a good pre-workout snack, and the mini size is perfect to maintain your energy stores whilst training. Our favourite banana fudge flavour even tastes good after hours in your pocket.

HIGH FIVE BAR £1.20 A mixture of slow and fast release carbs, this oat and fruit based bar is good for nibbling on mid ride, the simple sugars giving you an instant boost and the oats and rice delivering a slower stream of energy to keep you going. A moist, slightly chewy texture available in four flavours.

NAK’D BAR £0.75 Coming in a 135 calories, these relatively small bars are great for shorter rides or as a treat. Made with just dates, cashews, raisins, and natural flavours Nak’d bars are soft and fruity without the grains that make up most of the other bars. Vegan and gluten free, these also make a good addition to your lunchbox.

JENNA Burger: Kevin Bacon We’re not sure how we feel about Kevin Bacon. Is he a flashdancing cheeseball creep? Anyway, this is ultimately a Lucky Chip OG cheeseburger with a juicy piece of Applewood smoked bacon slapped on it. We’re not mad at this version of Kevin. Clothing: Raised By Wolves T Shirt, Triwa Sunglasses, Vintage Cap & Jacket



RACHEL Lucky Chip Roulette: El Chappo There’s always an extravagant burger on the menu that you’re a bit scared to go for. Featuring a line-up of aged beef patty, smoked bacon, jalapenos, blue cheese (getting crazy now) and aioli (can’t even pronounce that); the El Chappo is definitely that burger. Ultimately these risks pay off, and with full marks El Chappo is crowned our Lucky Chip Roulette champion. Clothing: Vintage Vest, Models Own Trousers, Rayban Shades, Converse Shoes.

NICHOLE & CHARLIE: Lucky Chip Roulette: Hot Dog One for the swine lovers, the burger hot shot makes the foray into hot-dogville and succeeds. A pork dog falls asleep too early at the sleepover and gets squirted with a handsome amount of mustard and ketchup. If you look closely, the hot dog is actually bigger than Charlie Chihuahua. Psych. Clothing: Copson St T Shirt, Penfield Shorts, Converse Shoes, Stance Gal Socks.

MELUSINE Lucky Chip Roulette: Cheeseburger A Cheeseburger straight up‌because sometimes the simple things in life are enough. An aged beef patty sitting pretty between a brioche bun with slices of American cheese, pickles and generous squeezes of mustard and ketchup. Why does it feel like I’m talking dirty to you? Get me a husky voice and a telephone line. Clothing: Mellow Yellow Shoes, Stance Gal Socks, Burton Wode Shorts, Triwa Watch.

NAYAT Lucky Chip Roulette: Royale With Cheese If you don’t know where this burger gets its name then pick yourself up and go to the back of the Lucky Chip queue. An aged beef patty is stacked with Applewood smoked bacon and tomato with lashings of onion, ketchup, mustard and ‘special sauce’. Jules and Vincent would eat here. Clothing: Primitive Cap, Element Shirt, Super Shades. A COPSON STREET PRODUCTION


Graduating from the University of Brighton in 2010, illustrator and graphic novelist, Isabel Greenberg went on to win the Observer/Cape graphic short story prize in 2011 with her evocative tale of lovers repelled by polar magnetism. Her first book, the full length graphic novel, ‘The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth’ will be published by Jonathan Cape this October. Isabel Greenberg spoke to COVEN about the difficulties facing art graduates and early explorations of the mysterious world of graphic novels. Congratulations on having your first book published. How did that come about? Thanks! After I won the Jonathan Cape prize and it came out in the newspaper, I was approached by a book agent and he set everything up for me. I guess Cape were aware of my work because of the competition, so it’s possible that I would have been able to do it without my agent but he definitely sped the process up and did all the organising and negotiated the deal. It’s being published in America, Canada and Germany as well, and he arranged all that. So I had to write out things in German, which was a bit weird! Luckily I have a typeface of my handwriting but all of the title headings had to be hand written again so that was a bit time consuming. I can’t imagine how it’s going to look because all the German words are about four times as long as ours so I don’t know how they’re going to cram them all into speech bubbles. Can you describe the world of the book? The world in my book is like an version of our earth, except it’s an invented step in the evolutionary process that never really happened. So there’s all these different continents and countries and these gods who interfere and walk around and interact with humans and cause trouble, medalling and stuff. That’s kind of the premise.

Are you hoping the book will appeal to a broad cross section of people? I know that’s what is hoped for, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. I mean, when you think about comics that have crossed over, it tends to be things such as Maus, and I guess the reason they do is because they have a story that everybody wants to read. So I don’t know how ‘cross over’ my story will be. But I think it will appeal to people who like illustration as well as people who like comics. I hope it appeals to people who like novels as well because the writing is as important to me as the drawing, so I hope people appreciate that. But you just never know how it’s going to go. Did you come up with the narrative first or start sketching to begin with? I wrote out a lot of the story, but then I became impatient and wanted to start drawing so I drew about half the book before realising that I wasn’t sure how it was going to end, so I had to go back and write again. I shouldn’t really have done it like that, but it’s a learning curve! Next time I’ll write the whole thing out, then draw the whole thing, but I got really quite excited and wanted to start drawing! Do you write the dialogue in advance too? Is it like a script? I don’t know if the way I write is usual for comic book writers, I suspect probably not. I tend to write things out as a story in prose; I write it out like a short story, so there will be some dialogue in there but there will also be description. Then I’ll go through and I’ll highlight it how I imagine the story would flow through the panels, then I’ll pencil it into thumbnails before getting rid of some of the writing. For instance, if I’ve written, ‘it was a dark and stormy night,’ and then I’ve drawn a dark and stormy night, I can get rid of it, though sometimes I’ll keep it for added atmosphere. Next I’ll put the dialogue in, but then sometimes as I go through and redraw it and ink it, I’ll change it again! So the words are quite fluid really. Sometimes I’ll draw something and I’ll think ‘he doesn’t look like he’d be saying that,’ so I’ll change it. It’s quite an achievement to have your first novel published three years after your graduated. How were the intervening years? It’s been hard, nobody really gives you proper warning as to quite how hard it will be to work as an illustrator. I’ve only just got to the point that I can stop doing part time work - all through writing my book I was working as a part time nanny. So it’s only really in the last few months that I’ve even been able to consider only working as an illustrator. When I was writing the book, my nannying job meant that I had to pick up the kids from school at about 3.30 and then I finished at about 7pm. So I tried to get as much work done as possible between 9 and 2.30 and I had to be pretty strict about the hours I was working because if I didn’t get up and start work at 9, I wouldn’t get enough work.. When did you become interested in comics?

I used to write a lot of stories and draw a lot of pictures so I eventually realized that comics were a way to combine the two. But I always assumed they were just for boys and they were always about action heroes, as a lot of girls would assume. When I was about 15, I bought my first comic, a copy of ‘League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.’ I actually bought it because they were all wearing Victorian outfits on the front cover and I thought ‘ooh, it’s a costume drama,’ which of course, it’s not! I tried reading a some super hero comics after that and read a few but never really got that into it and then I read Persepolis and that’s when I realized that you can do anything with the medium. It seems to me that the perception of comics has changed dramatically, along with what’s on offer. Yeah, I used to go into Gosh opposite the British Museum when I was about 15 or 16, and I’d find it really intimidating, I’d rifle through comics and I’d never find anything quite like I wanted, or there would be pictures I liked but I didn’t like the story, or there would be stories I liked but I didn’t like the pictures. Now there’s just so much, every time I go into Gosh there’s something I want to buy. I think the popularity of illustration has really helped, illustrators have got into comics and I think it’s helped popularize it. Which artists are you into at the moment?

My favourite comic artists are David B, the French comic artist and Seth. There are so many comics I like at the moment, there’s this web comic, Bad Machinery which is brilliant. In terms of other artists, I like a lot of really old stuff like tapestries and medieval paintings and old maps. In terms of where my ideas come from, well I read a lot and my Mum and sister and both historians so if they find any interesting, weird stories, they tell them to me. Lots of the stories in my book came from them actually. I love myths and legends and stuff. So you’re never short of ideas? I found it harder to work at university, sometimes I’d be stuck for ways to use my ideas to fit the brief that we were given, I’ve definitely done better work since, I found that I wasn’t that good at following those general kind of briefs. What are you working on now your book is at the printers? I’m planning the sequel and I’m planning an exhibition for when the book comes out. I’m trying to work out where to have the exhibition as I’ve never had one before! Then I’m doing some other bits and bobs, some comic art festivals such as Thought Bubble in Leeds, and Comica.


Back in May I’d booked flights to Barcelona for the X Games, excited to check out the city of skate and the first-ever European stop of the games. Not only was it the first in Europe, it was also to be the first to feature women’s park on the schedule. There was no way I was going to miss this so close to home. I could see the opportunity to spectate, photograph and chat with skaters confirmed to be attending, such as Mimi Knoop, Alana Smith, Leiticia Buffoni and... Elissa Steamer? It surely couldn’t be, first-ever female pro skater, Steamer back to compete 2013 style? But it was true, she did appear in front of my eyes and drop into the park in Barcelona, shredding away next to modern day newbies and the new pros of the scene. After the comp I decided to take my chance and approach her for an interview. When would life ever present such an opportunity? It’s a surreal moment walking up to a legend such as Elissa, nervously muttering that it was amazing to meet her and although she couldn’t chat at the time she gave me her email address. Her real email address! I returned home with that safely stored in my pocket and on my mind... Flash-forward a month or so and I’m yet to call upon her. I‘ve never felt so nervous compiling questions for an interview than for this; it’s Elissa Steamer! I have a ton of things I want to ask her: some of them obvious, some of them hopefully insightful and different. Where to begin? As a skater, a girl and a human being, I decide to just ask her what I want to know.

WORDS Hannah Bailey ILLUSTRATIONS Julie Gough

Why did she start to skate? As a spectator, participator and enthusiast, what do I already know about Elissa? I know she is a girl, a skater, and that she got on a board aged 10 and has stayed on it ever since. She is one of the best things to happen to girls skateboarding, because to her it’s never been about being a girl; it was about being a skater. She shredded with the boys and learnt from the boys, because that’s who was skating. She didn’t have other girls to push her or to watch, but she inspired a generation of them. For her, getting on a board was simply a matter of time: “It was the 80s. Everyone was doing it. I guess I just felt comfortable on a skateboard. Since the age of 10 all I've done is eat, breathe and sleep skateboarding. The majority of my time was spent in parking lots or at ramps skating...” It wasn’t really the average path for a girl to take back then, skating all the hours you could find each day. It takes someone and something special to commit your time in that way. “Learning to skate was never easy,’’ explains Elissa. “Skateboarding is one of the hardest things in the world. I think it's passion that makes good skateboarders.” And that’s what has kept Elissa on a board ever since… Does she feel like an icon of girls skateboarding? Not just an icon for girls, but well respected by guys in the skate world too, Elissa’s career has nonetheless proven that being a woman in the industry is tricky. With or without a sponsor, she has managed to get on a board and stay on one but where were the rest of the ladies? “I never skated with any girls or really saw any girls skate. But I never felt like I was part of an oppressed group that needed advocacy,” says Elissa. “If someone is a real skate raw, skateboarding usually welcomes them with open arms.” So then how did she feel about being the first pro girl skater, that all-important label which has defined her from the early days? Well actually Elissa, won’t claim the title: “I think

Cara Beth was pro before I was. But I feel honoured.” What are her thoughts on the girl’S skate scene? The numbers of girl skaters is on the up and the scene is noticeably growing, so I had to know her thoughts, even though it’s the obvious route. “I don't think there is a girls skate scene.” says Elissa. “I think skateboarding is ‘as a whole,’ and the only time it's segregated is during a contest and we all know that contests really don't mean much.” But what did competition mean when she won the first ever girl skate contest at Slam Jam in 1998, the contest that propelled her to professional status? “It meant that I didn't have to sell skateboards to eat and pay rent that month.” Simple as that. How did she feel when she was thrust into the limelight? I must admit it’s not from Slam Jam that I know her, it's from parts in Toy Machine movies such as ‘Welcome to Hell’ and ‘Jump off a Building’. The only girl to be given a spot in those videos, her parts popped out amongst the guys blasted Elissa and woman’s skateboarding onto the radar: “I felt like I had arrived, like I was going to lead the women to liberation on the wheels of my skateboard,” says Elissa, with more than a hint of of sarcasm. But what was her favourite Toy Machine part? “Welcome to Hell, because it was my first one and I would have liked to have a better part in Jump off a Building but I didn't film enough stuff.” What was it like going on tour with Toy Machine? It must have been a priceless experience to go on the road with Toy Machine back in the 90’s. The skate brand started by Ed Templeton was Elissa’s first board sponsor and her team mates included Jamie Thomas and Chad Muska. “It was amazing, some of the best times of my life” says Elissa. “Just going to different places, skateboarding, smoking weed, meeting new people. Honestly, we got drunk and caused mayhem and jumped off bridges.” I can’t even imagine

the things that happened on that tour… Does she regret leaving Toy Machine for Bootleg? After ‘Jump off a Building’, Elissa left Toy Machine and joined Bootleg, the short-lived the board brand founded by Jay Strickland whose speedy demise left Elissa without a sponsor. “Do I regret it? That's a great question. Sometimes I think about it and at the time I really liked the Bootleg team a lot, not that I didn't like the Toy Machine team but Brian quit, Bam, Mike and Kerry quit, Chris Senn got kicked off. It just felt like Bootleg was the right option. I don't regret it, but I think about it sometimes.” Why didn’t we see a full part of hers in a Zero flick?

right now.” Elissa ponders. “Skating in my world is always at the top of the list.” What is a Gnarhunter? If you follow Elissa on Instagram, Twitter or through her blog, you’ll have come across a Gnarhunter. But what’s it all about? ‘Gnarhunters is my company to put my ideas into practice. It's conceptual. I think of a lot of stuff that is funny to me I think should be a reality. I also have a lot of friends on the same page and it can be a vehicle for them to make stuff happen too. It's not intended to be a board company but who know's what might happen in the future. Right now it consists of a few designs on t shirts and hoodies but I am working on new things all the time.”

Skating in my world is always at the top of the list

After Bootleg folded, Elissa was called up by Zero founder, Jamie Thomas, to skate with them. “Jamie is really particular about what makes it into his videos, and with good reason. I did have a lot of stuff but it wasn't all the highest quality tricks and/or filming,” explains Elissa. “He wanted me to have 10 things that really represented my ability instead of a full part with some mediocre and overdone maneuvers. It worked out perfect though because one of my best friends, Rob Hoovis, was making a video called Paradise at the same time and I got to put the stuff Jamie didn't use in that and had a part.” Did she have any set aims for her skate ‘career’?

Starting down a path so young, it would be difficult to have aims in place from the start, especially with something like skating. “After being sponsored and getting to travel and skate all the time in wicked places, it's all pretty much bonuses.” says Elissa. It’s a humble response from someone who has achieved so much. But like all skaters who have given their life to the concrete, for Elissa, skating comes first in all circumstances. Where would skate be without Elissa Steamer and vice versa? “I don't know where my place in the skate world is

What’s the best thing skating has given her?

Skating is pure passion; it enhances life and provides unique opportunities, from the culture and the people to the actual skating. “It's given me a lot.” says Elissa “All I ever wanted to be was a pro skater. I knew that there weren't girl pros so really it seemed like I was just dreaming, as if to be a Major League baseball pitcher or something like that. But that's the beauty of skateboarding, there's no rules here and that dream really did come true.” How does she feel about life right now? Her skate career is far from over, but she’s done enough to sit back and reflect. I’d like to know how it feels, after having done so much. “Every decision I've made led me to where I am so I can't really complain’ says Elissa. But there must have been moments when she thought about giving it all up to conform to society; get an office job and live a ‘normal’ life? “No….”

IN PURSUIT OF UNDERSTANDING SUrfer and adventurer Alice BeesE HITS THE ROAD ON A TWO YEAR ODYSSEY OF DISCOVERY On the 19th May 2012 my husband Ross and I got married in St Davids Cathedral, in Pembrokeshire on the rugged coast of West Wales. St Davids is where I spent my whole life; my family were near by, I had a fantastic job working at TYF - a leading outdoor adventure centre owned by my parents, an awesome group of friends, rented a wicked house minutes from the beach, had a couple of chickens in the back yard, cycled to work and to be perfectly honest, life was sweet. On top of that we were busy Regional Representatives for one of the UK’s most effective environmental charities; Surfers Against Sewage and were writing for Britain’s most popular surf magazine Wavelength. But something was missing. The wedding came and went and a new chapter was starting in our lives. It was around that time we started to seriously ask ourselves what do we want to do next? Should we just carry on doing what we were doing, everything was pretty comfortable after all? Where did we see ourselves in ten years time? We were thirsty for knowledge, real life experiences and I knew better than anyone that I needed to get out of my home town and spread my wings for a few years to explore, learn and grow. Ross and I are both very much aware of the current impact that climate change is having on the environment, both locally and globally. Take any of these facts and you would be a fool to think that nothing was wrong; Arctic ice is melting at unprecedented levels, coral reefs are being bleached because of a chemical imbalance in the world’s oceans, flooding, wildfires and tropical storms are destroying entire cities, the climate is warming, sea levels are rising, we will see the end of commercial fishing in 2048, the end of oil is projected to be in 14,785 days, the list goes on. The planet we live on is sick, despite that, we are continuing to have a huge impact on it, through our mostly greedy, careless nature, consuming resources at a completely unsustainable rate. In the UK we are living as though we have three planets worth of resources to live on, in the US it is five, yet we know we only have one.


As you can imagine, we had a few pretty crazy months in the run up to our departure; selling all our stuff, moving out, putting a few special things like wedding presents, childhood teddies, school love letters and surfboards into storage, finishing work and training/handing everything over to our replacements, saying goodbye to the chickens, friends and family. Then on our one year wedding anniversary, the 19th May 2013, we embarked on the next chapter of our lives, ‘In Pursuit of Outstanding’.


we will see the end of commercial fishing in 2048, the end of oil is projected to be in 14,785 days We know there are companies, organisations and individuals around the world working on conserving wild places and natural resources by changing behaviour, educating the masses, campaigning and much more, but we don’t know if there is enough being done, and whether it is being done fast enough. We decided we would go on a pursuit to find the outstanding people who are really making a positive impact, working radically, quickly and effectively, finding out what they are doing by interviewing some, working for others, doing internships and spending time learning from the leaders. We will share their stories on our blog and take this learning back home to Wales where we can mimic the best practices from around the world and inspire others to do the same. We also hope on our journey to have a clearer idea about what to do with the rest of our working lives - whether that is to take over TYF, start our own business, work for another great company or something else entirely. Do we settle at home on the rugged coast of Wales, move to Ireland, Devon or California?

We landed in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. We’re travelling by bike, with two panniers and a small dry bag for our tent, sleeping bags, thermarest, cooking stuff and a few personal belongings; Finisterre generously gave us some incredible merino outfits and snuggly jackets and Canon provided a sweet waterproof digital camera called the Olympus Tough. We will soon be picking up surfboards and a trailer for our bikes to ride the waves further south. Our first visit was to a small 9km long island south east of Vancouver Island, called Thetis Island. We were there as part of World Wide Organic Opportunities in Farming (WWOOF), and what better way to start a trip than get our hands dirty, get a bit of a sweat on weeding, transplanting and harvesting veg in return for three delicious farm fresh meals and a home to stay in? The beautiful Bond family own Jollity Farm where we stayed and they pour their heart and soul into running a successful Community Supported Agriculture scheme (CSA), where they grow, nurture and harvest food for the community of Thetis Island (pop 350, of which 30 families are signed up to the scheme). Each Saturday the members collect their box of awesome, seasonal, organic produce and in the week we helped with whatever needed doing around the farm. In the afternoons we took off to explore, cycle

above the pine trees, watch the sunset over the snow capped mountains in the distance, and enjoy large communal meals at the house with the family and the other two volunteers. WWOOFing is a great way to travel; we have learnt about how you can sustainably feed a community, more on biodynamic farming and permaculture, the importance of taking the time to cook fresh food from scratch for friends and family, that hard work pays off, shortcuts don’t work and the nitty gritty stuff of living on a farm.

THE BIG QUESTIONS We are now one month into the trip. During our time in Vancouver city we met with MEC (Mountain Equipment Cooperative) a large Canadian outdoor apparel and accessories retailer. We knew they had an interesting business model as it was a cooperative, so the folks who shop there are not only customers but also shareholders in the company. They are on a mission to get people outdoors and protect wild places,

and so have been initiating hearty campaigns. It was an interesting conversation, and we are certainly pleased to hear about the good work they are doing. However, as with all retail establishments including our own, TYF, the big question we posed to MEC is ‘how can you promote selling brand new outdoor accessories for every occasion; fashionable active clothing and footwear that comes and goes with the seasons, and camping gadgets that you never even knew you needed to, in their own words ‘gear junkies’ when you know that we do not have enough natural resources on the planet to support this way of living?’ It is a deep but serious question and one we are still waiting to hear the answer too. Now we are in Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island to satisfy our burning desire to surf again. We surf regularly at home, sometimes daily if there is swell, and whilst we have no regrets of going to Thetis, we did miss the surf like nothing else. It is strange because we were surrounded by ocean, but it was like a millpond with not a ripple insight, apart from the occa


IN PURSUIT OF UNDERSTANDING --Follow Alice and Ross on they journey of discovery.

THE DO LECTURES --From the simple to the extravagent, be inspired by big ideas and talks from people who are changing the world.

WWOOF --Worldwide opportunities in organic farming connect sustainable farmers with willing volunteers in a help exchange of education, culture, and sweat to help create wholesome food & organic products.

WARM SHOWERS --Find a free bed and a warm shower through this hospitality exchange for touring cyclists.


sional passing boat. Whilst in Tofino we will find out more about what the Long Beach Resort and the Eco Lodge are doing in terms of low impact accommodation, and meet with the mayor to discuss the community projects and vision for Tofino as a forward thinking west coast town. We’ll be meeting some interesting companies in Portland, volunteering at Campovida, helping out at Do Lectures USA - an event where speakers from around the world come to share their story to inspire the attendees to go Do something, ‘ideas + energy = change’, then the talks are uploaded for the world to watch for free on their website Then we are swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco, just for fun, before heading down to San Clemente for an internship with the Surfrider Foundation where we will take our learning from our positions as active campaigners for Surfers Against Sewage in the UK to help them with their own ocean conservation projects and strengthen the already positive relationship between these two fantastic charities. After that who knows where we will go, the journey is fluid, with lots of time to diverse, stay, go, and explore along the way. Follow our journey on our blog.


SHANNON GALPIN One idle afternoon a couple of months back I came across the trailer for a stirring documentary on the newly founded, ground-breaking Afghan National Women’s Cycling Team. Fascinated by the courageous female cyclists, all smiles and headscarves blowing in the wind, I delved deeper to learn more about the squad as well as the director of the movie Sarah Menzies and Shannon Galpin, a key supporter of the team. Following a trail of fascinating articles and TED talks, my interest in Shannon grew; this American mother seemed to be a one woman machine for change, a truly inspiring female, and not only that, she was a mountain biker and the first woman to ride across Afghanistan. I simply had to find out more about her.


As I first suspected, Shannon Galpin turned out to be no ordinary woman - founder of not-for-profit organisation, Mountain 2 Mountain and National Geographic’s adventurer of the year, Shannon has braved turbulent periods in a warzone to speak out for women’s rights and fight to improve conditions in what is often named the worst place to be female in the world, Afghanistan. A former sports trainer, before setting up Mountain 2 Mountain, Shannon travelled the world working in Europe and the Middle East and had just moved back to the States to raise her daughter when she heard that her sister had been brutally raped on a college campus. Survivor of a violent rape herself, Shannon felt conflicted by her outrage that something like this could happen so close to home, when around the world it’s happening second by second, minute by minute to women on every continent. Shannon immediately resolved that if she was to bring her daughter up in this world she needed to get off her soapbox and stop ranting about the injustices she saw around her. In short, she needed to ‘enter the fight.’

and upper class versus lower class, just listening to tales of life in Afghanistan.” Looking for a broad understanding of the world she’d be inhabiting, Shannon spoke to female members or parliament, women who had run for president and women who were in jail under the pretense of adultery, when they were actually victims of rape, an all too common occurrence in Afghanistan. The aim was to uncover what could be done to spark a change. “What emerged was what I had suspected which is the case in many countries around the world, but especially in conflict zones and places like Afghanistan. It’s that education really is the key to change,” Shannon explains. “The women who had families that supported their education typically delayed them getting married, typically encouraged them to use their education and those women were more engaged in society, whether living in rural or urban communities.”

My goal was to work in the worst place in the world to be a woman and that’s Afghanistan

“My goal was to work in the worst place in the world to be a woman and that’s Afghanistan, it’s repeatedly named the worst country to be female,” Shannon explains, the noise of London’s buses nearly drowning out our conversation. “For some reason that’s very indefinable, I felt comfortable with that being my first step, I felt very comfortable with idea of going to Afghanistan.”

Once she’d decided where she wanted to go, Shannon spent much of 2007 fundraising and dealing with the logistical side of such a mission, before heading out in 2008 for her first recce. “The first trip I went with no agenda to start a programme. Afghanistan is such an enigma to Westerners, we get such a narrow view of it in the media and I wanted to immerse myself in it, to learn, to get to know Afghanistan as a woman. It was almost like a ‘listening tour;’ from 8 until 6 every single day, I met with women and men and school girls in various areas of the country, looking at urban versus rural communities

After four weeks spent immersed in Afghan culture, the next step was to look at what she could do to assist, to establish how she could help modify the perception of women. Being a Westerner enabled Shannon to speak to the men and open up a dialogue about change.

“While my focus in going to Afghanistan was women and girls, men really play into that, because they hold the key, they decide what a woman is allowed to do,” explains Shannon. “In most places in Afghanistan, women don’t have a voice, they can’t speak for themselves, but as a foreign woman I am able to be their proxy. Foreign women in Afghanistan are essentially a hybrid gender, we’re honorary men, we’re treated as equals by men by being obviously foreign and that’s what allowed me to be a woman advocating for women.” Over the next few years, Shannon travelled back and forth to Afghanistan setting up projects to foster women’s health and education with reading programmes for the daughters of women in prison and midwife training to combat infant mortality.


She also took the opportunity to ride her mountain bike, which turned out to be the catalyst for a lot of conversations about change, enabling Shannon herself to challenge the gender barrier. But it wasn’t as simple as just hopping on a bike; “Afghanistan is one of the only countries in the world where women are not allowed to ride bikes. It’s not illegal, it’s culturally unacceptable but I happened to be a mountain biker and it’s an incredibly beautiful country. I started talking to a friend of mine over there and my translators and my fixers and Afghans, and basically I raised the question of whether I as a foreign woman, whether the freedom and tolerance I’m given as a foreign woman, would extend far enough for me to get away with riding my bike.” “Since 2009 over the course of about ten trips, I’ve ridden my bike every trip in a different area of the country, in areas where I knew someone, or in areas that I knew were relatively safe. What was significant was that my bike opened up these very organic, natural conversations with Afghan men in rural communities and instead of being offended, almost every single encounter led to invitations for tea, or dinner. People were curious, it opened up the conversation of what I was doing

there as a foreign woman, and the work I was doing there with Mountain 2 Mountain,” reveals Shannon, adding, “I continue to do it as an icebreaker but also as a way to show the West how beautiful the country is, how these things are possible and that tourism in many parts of the country is actually something that Afghans would like to work towards.” Despite cycling being the last taboo for Afghan women, Shannon got away with it by merit of being foreign, but in five years of riding she never once saw a woman or girl ride a bike in Afghanistan. The idea of women cycling remained fascinating yet she was unable to see how it would ever be acceptable; the thought of women ever being able to cycle to school just seemed impossibly remote, however much she wished that wasn’t the case. “There are two majorly difficult things to overcome in Afghanistan – it’s culturally unacceptable for a woman to straddle a bike, much like in the late 1800 and early 1900’s when women who biked were labeled as promiscuous and immoral. There’s a huge stigma.” “But then you add in the element that to be a cyclist, you have to be on the roads, you have to travel, you

have to be very public and that’s another huge barrier, it’s not something that’s normal for women in Afghanistan. There are only a few roads that are safe enough and paved in order to do it as well. So the very public nature of cycling coupled with the fact that it’s literally the last taboo for women in Afghanistan make it that much more dangerous and controversial.”

Despite having many successful projects underway, it must sometimes be disheartening for Shannon. And whilst cycling the Panjshir Valley sounds idyllic, with so much apathy and injustice endemic in countries such as Afghanistan, does she ever feel like the situation is hopeless, do those dark moments creep in?

They don’t see themselves as breaking barriers or revolutionary, they just are, by the very nature of what they’re doing

“It’s frustrating, the bike is a vehicle for social justice and a tool to prevent gender bias. It prevents rape by offering safe transportation for women to and from school and work, it increases mobility and access to education - there are some girls who maybe couldn’t walk to school, but going by bike would shorten the distance, enabling them to do so. But you can’t get girls on bikes because it’s majorly offensive, even though we know from countries in South East Asia what good it can do.”

“There are definitely days where you look at what’s going on around the world and there are a lot of really heavy hitting, horrific abuses of women happening everywhere, worldwide. There are those days where you think ‘this is so overwhelming, where do you even start?’ But for me, that that’s not a good reason to not get involved. If nobody does anything, then nothings changes, so the idea is that you put your drops in the bucket and know that they’re drops, they’re very small, they may not even create much of a ripple at first, but you do that knowing that you can inspire oth-

ers to put their drops in and eventually that does create a huge wave of change.” When it came to cycling in Afghanistan, it took just one person to initiate a dramatic shift in what was possible for a women. The breakthrough moment, that drop in the bucket came courtesy of an enlightened coach in Kabul. “I’d only recently discovered that there was a men’s national cycling team – it’s a very new thing to see cycling as a sport rather than transports so I went to meet the team,” says Shannon. “When I met the coach I discovered that he’d set up a women’s team too! He’d realized that girls wanted to ride after his daughter had expressed an interest, so he’d recruited a women’s team. It was all down to him, it was remarkable. I immediately wanted to ride with them, to support them - these women are literally risking their lives, they’re on the forefront of a revolution that changes the perception of women, these girls are doing more than just participating in a sport, they’re actually changing the whole perception of what women can and can’t do in Afghanistan.”

“The idea we came up with was to come back home and rally to get them gear, because they were not yet on racing bikes, I mean, this is literally just the first seeds of this sport emerging. So we got bikes donated, helmets, clip in pedals, shoes, big mounds of clothing that we brought over for the men’s and the women’s teams and then a set of racing bikes donated by Liv/Giant. The aim was to better equip them and then look at spending a lot of time with them before working out the next step, such as how far they want to take it, and whether they want to go to the Olympics as they’re the national team.” Shannon returned to Kabul with a film crew to assist with documenting the story, spending hours with the young women and their families and finding out more about their motives. It turns out that for many of them, cycling is not about breaking barriers, it’s about enjoying a hobby, exploring opportunities, or simply getting fit. “The young women on the team, they’re mainly in their late teens, the oldest is only 22 and their formative years were in the post Taliban era. So these are girls in urban areas such as Kabul, with edu-

cation and families that want them educated too,” explains Shannon, after I express surprise. “They don’t see themselves as breaking barriers or revolutionary, they just are, by the very nature of what they’re doing! In some cases it was just that a friend who was on the team suggested it - most of these girls have only ridden for a year or so.” “The randomness of how women are found, it’s very organic, word of mouth. With some of them it sticks and they want to take it further, some of them have said that they want to raise the Afghan flag at the Asia games or the Olympics and show a different side of Afghanistan and show the world what Afghan women are capable of,” says Shannon. I’m heartened by the tale of these women taking so much in their stride and feel guilty of my own often blasé attitude towards riding. Surely these young women must face some terrible difficulties, how do they manage to deal with it head on? “They do realize that what they’re doing is risky and they do realize that they may be targeted but they’ve grown up in Afghanistan, they seem to think, ‘well women are targeted for going to school, why is this any different? They will encounter possible attacks and unsecure situations,” explains Shannon. “They do face difficulties; they can’t ride on their own, or even just with other members of the team, they have to ride with a family member or the coach. But hese women have very supportive families, they wouldn’t be cycling otherwise.” Things might be tough in Kabul, but Shannon has also faced problems herself at home in the US, the target of harsh criticism for working in Afghanistan when she has a young daughter to raise. I felt outraged by some of the negative comments leveled at a woman dedicated to improving conditions for repressed or abused women and victims of violence and over coffee, I delicately ask her how she feels about the comments. “It’s really infuriating, as I don’t see the same criticism of men who travel and have children, the question just isn’t asked and actually I find that really fascinating. In Britain, the US and Canada we look at ourselves as equal, there’s

not an inequality like we’re not going to be allowed to go to school, but actually it is there, it’s just a lot more subtle.” “There’s definitely a gender bias and the people who get what I’m doing, they stress that what they see me doing is setting an example for my daughter, that you have to enter the fight, you have to be an engaged member of society and you have to recognize that we’re all part of a global humanity. It means that geography doesn’t matter, it means that if tragedies are happening in the world and you have the passion and the ability to do something, that you do try.” I’m inspired by Shannon’s drive and certain that her daughter can only benefit from having a mother setting such a shining example. But who does Shannon herself look up to, who inspires her to keep fighting? “For me, I don’t have one person, I look at the people who dare to stand up and use their voice, people who are willing to put their life and their honor on the line, people who are willing to fight for what’s right. It’s the average everyday Afghan, or the average everyday Canadian, it’s individuals willing to put their voice out there and to amplify it for the bigger need, those are the people that I look up to,” says Shannon.

you have to enter the fight, you have to be an engaged member of society

“It’s too easy to go about your life and be in your own bubble and unless something really rocks that little bubble, most people aren’t willing to rock the boat. Most people aren’t willing to fight for something bigger than themselves, their family and their direct community and the people that do that, especially those in conflict zones, the people who often take great risk, these are people that keep my inspired and keep me going.”

GRACE & POWER C a l i f o r ni n a n s u r f e r , L A K E Y PETERSON marries a fierce will and a gentle soul.

Photo: Chad Riley

At the age of 14, LAKEY PETERSON floored the judges a f t e r c a s u a l l y t h r ow i n g d ow n the first aerial manouevre by a w o m a n i n a c o m p e t i t i o n . N ow 1 8 , h e r n e w f i l m Z e r o To 1 0 0 f o l l ow s h e r r o o k i e s e a s o n o n t h e A S P To u r l a s t y e a r , s h ow i n g h ow a w i n ni n g c o m b i n a t i o n of t alent, charisma and sheer hard work make this a woman t o w a t c h , h e r i ni mi t a b l e s t y l e a breath of fresh air in a sea of c o n v e n t i o n a l i t y.

Congratulations on the release of your film. How has your year been so far? Thanks! We’re touring a few film festivals with the film and it just came out on Netflix, so that’s exciting. Then I’ve been on the ASG World Tour so I’ve been really busy with surfing but the season is beginning to come to an end so I now have the opportunity to go on some fun surf trips. Then there’s the last two events on the tour in France and Portugal at the end of September and beginning of October. So yeah, just busy trying to live life and have fun! The film follows you through the ups as well as the downs of last year. How did you feel when didn’t get the results you wanted at some of the competitions and the whole thing was being caught on camera? There were ups and downs, but that’s really what creates the story, what makes it dramatic and unique, so it’s something we actually kind of needed. I knew the cameras were going to be around so I was prepared for it. It wasn’t unexpected but there were times, like after you lose when the last thing you want is a camera in your face. So there were times where I was like, ‘can you just put it down for a second?’ How did you feel going into the last contest, the US Open? You must have realized that a win there would make the film really amazing. Did that make it even harder to perform or did you just take it in your stride? Well I knew that winning an event would really put the icing on the cake, especially an event like the US Open, it’s like the Cinderella story, so I definitely wanted to make something happen, or do something special even if I didn’t win. But I tried not to

Photo: Branden Aroyan

,Picture: think about it too much, I just wanted to surf, so that’s what I did and it just worked out! The film showed your strength of character after multiple set backs. What do you think makes you so strong, is it simply the desire to win that motivates you? I’ve always been extremely competitive in everything I do, whether it’s a board game, or ping pong with friends, or surfing, I always really want to win and I’ll do anything I can to make that happen, well anything within my power such as working hard. So yeah, I think that’s just something that I have, that drive. I’ve always been like that. I hate losing! Do you think you were destined to be an athlete? Yeah, from a really young age I was really athletic and I played so many different sports, so I knew I was go-

ing to do something in sport but I wasn’t really sure what. When I was younger I was really into tennis and that’s what I wanted to do until I was 12 years old. I was a full on into tennis, so I’d probably be a tennis player if I wasn’t a surfer. You’re pretty well known for your aerial manoeuvres, which you’ve been doing since an early age. When did you decide you wanted to learn that kind of thing? I just like to have fun and I like to do things that are different and unique and I’ve never liked letting people say that you can’t do something. Girls have this reputation for not being able to do airs and guys can, and I don’t understand that, I don’t see why guys would be able to do it but we can’t. So when I was younger I just thought ‘well if they’re gonna do it, I’m gonna do it!’ I’ve just always had that mentality of not letting what the world thinks get in the way of what

I want to achieve and I think that’s why I was able to do them. And now more girls are doing them, it’s starting to be more common because they’ve seen other girls do them. It’s like a stepping-stone. Some female surfers have been criticised recently for using sex to sell themselves. You were quite a tomboy as a kid, but it seems that feminine image is an important part of the package for any female surfer. Are you conscious of a need to look good? I definitely grew out of being a tomboy as I grew into a women and I started liking guys! But yeah, it’s an interesting one. I feel like in the past, women in surfing were not particularly girly and I think in a way what’s happened in surfing recently is down to us surfer girls showing people that we’re not tomboys and we don’t have to be; we’re women and we celebrate that, and that’s a good thing! But I do think that all the girls on the Pro Tour are role models so it’s important to set a good example to the younger generation, so not be too sexy or too revealing. It’s about finding a balance. I like to be classy and elegant and womanly. Surfing is a pretty extreme sport, so at the moment the sexy side of things is a bit extreme, it’ll probably calm down a bit! You do quite a bit of philanthropic work with organizations such as Keep A Breast and The Student Conservation Association. Is it important to you to give something back?

Photo: Branden Aroyan

Surfing is amazing and I love it, but it’s given me a platform to work with a lot of non-profits and I fully make the most of that. The Student Conservation Association work to preserve national forests, parks and oceans and they take kids in high school and college to these camps where they clean up and learn about the environment and for me that’s a really big one. My job is based around the environment, based around the ocean and sometimes the ocean is so dirty that you can’t even surf. Keep A Breast do great work and I just wanted to help raise awareness about checking yourself and living a healthy lifestyle. I learn so much myself when I work with these organisations; as I’m not going to school, I’m getting an education in another way, which is so important. What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned on your journey to where you are today? He biggest thing I’ve learned is to look at life in perspective. Like I was saying ‘I hate to lose’ and it can feel like the world is ending in those moments, but I think I’ve just learned to step back and look at life in perspective. You know, I’m healthy, I’m doing fine, I live an amazing life, and there’s more to life than just surfing!



hannah bailey heads to the x games in barcelona to meet nora vasconcellos. text by hannah bailey. photography by Mahfia

Nora Vasconcellos grew up on the dirt paved, uncurbed streets of Boston, Massachusetts and with the odds and the elements against her, it was pure passion that fuelled her determined to skate. A former surfer, she took what she learned from the waves and put it on the concrete and hasn’t looked back since. Last year Nora moved to California to skate every day and work for Welcome Skateboards, so her un-skateable dark times may be behind her, but what’s ahead? COVEN caught up with her on her first ever trip out of the US for the women’s park contest at the X Games, Barcelona to ask her about following her passion. Have you been to Europe a lot to skate? Actually this is my first time out of the US, so I was nervous and excited. I don’t know what to expect! It’s been a great trip so far. Wow! Then you must have been pleased that the X Games introduced women’s park, so you get a trip to Europe but also you get to compete... Exactly. I think a lot of girls would agree that women’s park is the future for girls skating. It’s where it is going.

The limited access to vert ramps makes it difficult to skate vert, so I think we were all worried that if vert got brought back (to the X Games) it would be hard to keep up. But park’s a great opportunity, there are so many girls that can skate the course, like amazingly, which makes it really cool. Is skating park your favourite? I definitely like a variety but I’d say the first thing I do is transitions. I really love it.

And you live in Massachusetts? I grew up South of Boston so my whole life I was there. But then last October I moved to Orange County, so I’m a southern Californian girl now. It’s nice because I feel like it’s where I belong, it’s where I am really comfortable. Did you move purely for skateboarding? Yeah, pretty much! When I was in middle school I got into surfing, competing a little bit but with limited travel and access to surf, I started skateboarding and it kind of took over! In high school it was something I always wanted to do but I didn’t have the time or the access to it. I couldn’t even go out and skate the sidewalks… there were no sidewalks - I had a dirt driveway, there was nowhere to skate! When I made the trip to California I realized that was where I wanted to be. The culture out there, everyone is skating or surfing. It’s part of the daily lifestyle! That’s amazing you stuck at skating, when you didn’t really have it on your doorstep… Honestly looking back at where I was as a skater in high school, I had a lot of support. People thought it was really cool. But it was a big chance to go to California to do something with it. If you follow what you want to do and your passion, something good will come out of it, no matter what. I’ve been fortunate! What was it that made you want to stick at it? All through high school I was in a dark place because it was all I wanted to do, it was where my passion was. I wanted to put all my energy in to it but I didn’t have an outlet for it. I wanted to be skating every day to improve myself and it was always in my mind, that I’d rather be there and doing that. When you get to the point where you’re not content or happy you have got to make a big change and I was either going to stay local, go to college or make that big change. So I have no regrets! It’s the risks in life that are worth taking. Being young and seeing the way things play out in this day and age, nothing is safe. There is no safe route. You might as well do what you love! Do you think your surfing helped your skating? I think the surfing gave me a little confidence at the beginning. I was 12 or 13 when I was getting into skateboarding and that’s an impressionable age. It gave me confidence, board feel and flow. That’s why I was so attracted to transition skating; the bowl or the vert. It’s a giant wave! The same way the guys approached it in the 70’s. The subculture crosses over. It definitely helps! What attracts you to the concrete over the water? I had to choose what to put my limited time into. Surf-

ing was becoming discouraging; I’d go to a contest or drive around looking for waves and find nothing and it could be the one day you could surf that week! So it got to a point where it was just hard and it started to lose the fun and that scared me. So I decided to go skate indoors; I knew that was always there. I also wanted to start competing, so I drifted over to skateboarding. Do you still surf now? I do surf a little bit. I’m a half hour from lower trestles now, and I don’t even surf that much. It’s funny, if I was looking at myself now as a 15-year-old girl I’d be kicking myself. What is wrong with you? Why aren’t you surfing every morning? Sometimes life gets to the point where you have different priorities. I’m settling in California. Once things have adjusted, it’s there when I need it. We had some big contests so I was putting time into skating, which pays off in the end. But I’m going to be surfing a lot more this summer! What else do you do in Cali? Right now I work for Welcome skateboards. They are one of the guys I ride for. I always knew If you follow what I wanted to work in the industry and I wanted to you want to do be doing art or marketand your passion, ing. I just got my dream job. It’s a family of guys, something good will which is really nice to come out of it, no have. It happened so quickly, which is a little matter what crazy to think about. But I am fortunate. I only work, 25 hours a week but I enjoy having that balance; working, skating. I want to start filming a bit, film a part or an edit, explore the spots around LA or OC. There is so much I haven’t seen yet! Where do you hope to take your skateboarding, do you have any ultimate aims? Right now I hope to have it continue to be a main focus every day. Whether I am working for a skateboard company or I’m out filming. At the same time I do want to continue to be the best I can be at it. Keep it fun and creative. That’s what is most important. There are people who say it’s my life, it’s all I do. You want to think that way, but you know it’s not that way, I have my friends and family and other things. But at the same time, it’s that big layer of life! I would never have gone anywhere if I hadn’t surfed or skated, I would not be the person I am today. I would be so lame.

CONTROLLED FA I L U R E H ARNE S S IN G T H E P O W ER O F FAIL U RE T O DELIVER S U CCE S S ? Te x t : J u l i e t E l l i o t t Illustration: Joel Benjamin I spend plenty of time failing. I’m sometimes the slowest, I might jump the lowest or I may be panting away at the back. Generally, it doesn’t bother me, I know I’m not useless; I might be racing against men or riding with pros who’ve been airing ten foot out of a quarter pipe since the age of three. I’ll ride with whoever’s heading out and if I want to race, I’ll race, why not? Coming last isn’t great, but not taking part is worse. But sometimes it does get to me; there are those bleak moments where I’m puffing and panting my way up a hill, chasing a gang of silky limbed, lycra clad men atop Carbon machines, and I just feel rubbish. ‘Why am I bothering,’ I ponder, ‘why do I put myself in situations where I know full well I’ll struggle?’

I’m kind of used to struggling. I ride mainly with men, and whilst I’m sure that many women could beat them in a race, the undeniably fact is that men are physically different to us ladies; they’re generally stronger and faster, hence the fact most competitive sports divvy us all up according to gender, offering separate mens’ and womens’ competitions. However, a lot of the more obscure events I’ve been involved with don’t have a separate women’s category so I often have to race the dudes and be beaten by many (though not all!) of them. So I’m used to struggling, but still, it can get to you. One glum evening, whilst riding home after being well and truly dropped just a short way into a ride, I was questioning the wisdom of participating in activities in which you’re simply doomed to fail, or to struggle a great deal. Is purposefully involving yourself in something that is just a little beyond your reach a wise move? Could it be destructive, potentially damaging the way you see yourself as a sportsperson and the way you’ll perform in the future? Or could these ‘controlled failures,’ situations I willingly and repeatedly put myself in actually be a beneficial motivational tool? The weekend before, I’d raced against an all female field and I’d been surprised by how good I felt, so maybe through enduring difficult moments, you feel even stronger when matched with people of your own ability; a great boost, and at just the time that you need it. I spoke to Sport Psychology Researcher, Laura Healy from

Psyched4Sport and the University Of Birmingham to explore my theory that short-term losses could help you succeed in the long run. Could we harness the power of losing or could it potentially be a somewhat more negative force, depending on how we contextualize it? “The outcome really depends on your perception of the activity in which you’re participating, and how you make sense of the experience,” says Laura. “So if you go into difficult situations regularly but you are able to put it into context, such as ‘well I’m racing against men, and they’re bound to be faster and maybe I’m doing alright just to be able to be with them,’ then that could be quite helpful, maybe helping your perception of competence and boosting your confidence.” Having struggled to keep up with stronger riders, I certainly haven’t felt empowered by riding with them, at least not at the time, however I have noticed a spike in my own perception of competence when I go back to riding with cyclists more matched to my own ability. Is it useful to seek out highly challenging situations in order to make the races in which you’d like to excel seem easier by comparison? “From a training perspective, it could be,” says Laura. “Most coaches advise you to train at a higher intensity and in harder situations than you might do when you compete, because when you compete you have a lot of other factors to think about. So if you train at a higher intensity, then that’s probably going to have a benefit when you go into those competitions. But as I said earlier, the benefits gained are largely down to how you appraise the situation. If you’re saying, ‘ok, I’m going to really push myself, I’m going to really stretch myself because I want to see how far I can go, then

it’s good for your motivation and perception of competence, but there need to be mechanisms in place so that if you don’t exceed your expectations or if you experience failure, you can deal with it in a positive way.” It sounds to me that the benefits of controlled failure depends entirely on you, on how you contextualize failure and how you choose to frame it in your own mind. “It’s largely down to mental toughness, or resilience,” agrees Laura. “It’s being able to cope with challenging situations and assess them in terms of your goals. For instance, it’s more helpful to think ‘ok, I didn’t win but I managed ten laps, rather than ‘well I’m rubbish because I didn’t manage 20 laps.’ For this reason, performance based goals rather than outcome based goals can be a better motivational tool as they’re less based on factors you can’t control such as other people’s performance and about comparing yourself to others.” “But it could also be that people’s motivation for achieving particular goals impacts how you move on after failure,’ she adds. “Motivation tends to be either autonomous or controlled. If it’s more autonomous, people are generally trying to achieve goals for their own reasons, because it’s personally important to them or because they enjoy it, whereas controlled, they’re doing because they would feel guilty if they didn’t, they’re expected to or they’re under pressure to do it. And what we tend to find is that people who are more autonomously motivated are actually more adaptive, so they tend to deal with situations more flexibly and will essentially exert more effort to get to where they want to be. Basically, if you enjoy something and it’s really important to you, even when you suffer failure, you simply move on.

Interview: Jenna Selby Photos: Julian Bleecker / Hello Skater Girl

‘There's something exciting and unique about watching Lizzie skate. Her skating has an unpredictableness to it; it comes across with a spontaneity that is also somehow full of intention. Fast, dangerous, delicate and refined all at the same time. Much like an exotic flower - the kind that would kill you if you were to eat it! When it comes to competing, Lizzie is always on. She seems to thrive in that competitive

C O V E N E di t o r J U L I E T E L L I O T T makes a pilgrimage to the velodrome.

I’ve been riding a fixed gear bike for a long time now. I’ve ridden road conversions, rare Japanese NJS track bikes, chunky fixed gear freestyle machines and multiple Charge Plug urban fixed gear cycles. I’ve weathered the fakenger tag, worked as a courier, raced crits and left the ‘hipster’ title unchallenged. But up until recently, I’d never ridden my track bike where it was originally designed to excel; a velodrome, and that’s never felt quite right. Sure, a fixed gear feels superb in the city, but the track is the track bike’s true home, or at the very least, it’s spiritual one. Normally when I decide I want to do something, I just kind of, well, go ahead and do it. Getting my first taste of a full size indoor velodrome proved to be slightly more tricky – there’s not a whole heap of information out there so my mission began with several hours research on the internet. Though it seems that many velodromes offer beginner’s courses, these seemed to be few and far between and even worse for an overeager and impatient lass like myself, all were fully booked for the next few months. Just when I’d resigned myself to the fact that track cycling was not going to make any kind of appearance in my life for the foreseeable future, I chanced upon a Facebook group detailing private taster sessions at Newport Velodrome. The next one was at the end of the month so I danced around the living room to celebrate, I was in! Fast-forward three weeks, and I’m standing over a red Pinarello, one of the velodrome’s sturdy, steel hire bikes. We’ve been assigned a coach, Brian, a calm, smiling, grey-haired gent who’s explaining about the different parts of the velodrome whilst we clip in, readying ourselves for our first go. The track itself looks alarmingly steep at each end, rising up to vertiginous heights and I feel a flurry of nerves in my belly. The gently sloping mid section looks fine, but why does the track appear more like a wall at each end, surely a bike can’t stick to that? Undeterred, I set off with the other members of our group, a mixed bag of lycra clad giants with hulking thighs and less intimidating looking blokes in trainers and wonky helmets. We circle the flat section of the velodrome warming up our legs before Brian directs us to move onto the ‘cote d’azur,’ the painted section linking the area inside the track to the golden hued slanted wooden boards and picking up the pace, we edge our way toward the black line running around the bottom of the slope. Several more laps and we’re thundering along in a loose pack, our legs propelling us steadily around 63

the flatter mid sections of the track and the steeper banks at each end. It’s exhilarating but I’m grasping the handlebars increasingly tightly, nervously eyeing up the intimidating ‘wall’ which seems to tower above me as I corner. As the pace quickens, I hang back from the group, trying to remain calm. Several more laps follow and I gently clasp and unclasp my fingers, aware that the tension running through my body will travel all the way into my bike and result in a jerky ride. Brian directs us to move up the track towards the next line, a ring of red circling the boards, and despite my nerves I follow Brian’s orders and pull up higher. Though only about a foot above the black line we’ve already ridden,a sense of panic sets in as I ride towards the first corner, wheels touching red. It just doesn’t seem right, it simply doesn’t make sense to me; each end of the track is so incredibly steep and I don’t understand how my tyres will hold, why I won’t slip down. Having ridden bowls and mastered wall rides on a BMX, it seems even more strange that I’m meant to remain upright as I circle the track rather than lean into the corners to get more traction. I’m riding as fast as I can so that I can get through the steeper end sections as quickly as possible, but I’m holding on so tightly that the slightest twitch could end pretty badly. I instinctively flex and unflex my fingers, breathe deeply and try and trust my bike will stay underneath me. Brain directs us all to move up again, further up the ominous wall to the blue line and I can no longer quell the panic. Instead I scream ‘no,’ then scream ‘no way in hell,’ and exit the track with jelly legs, disappointed and confused by my own body and mind. The group continues without me and I’m left sipping on my bidon, feeling bewildered. Five minutes later, everyone is back and Brian waves for me to come over. I sheepishly oblige and after a few kind words and repeated reassurances that my tyres will stick to the wall, I set off again, determined not to fail. I just can’t let this get the better of me; I’ll be saddened for weeks. Clipped in and more determined than ever, I begin to circle the lowest boards of the track, breathing calming, my mind minutely focused on the task at hand – right pedal down, left pedal down, right pedal down, left pedal down. Tuning my breathing into the rhythm of my pedal, my focus narrows; it’s just me, my bike, a line I must follow, everything else drops away as my gaze settles just a couple of metres in front.

Fa k e n g e r : A b i k e r i d ing poseur who dresses in messenger gear and rides a fixed gear but i s n o t a m e s s e n g e r. Fo u n d i n m o s t m a j o r ci t i e s , i e Po r t l a n d , S . F – U r b a n D i c t i o n a r y. com

Several laps later and I follow Brian’s instructions to move to the red, then the blue line, robotic in my actions, mesmerized by the blur of sandy hued boards flashing by, soothed by the repetitive rhythm of pedaling, breathing, pedaling, breathing. Riding solo with no distractions I circle the track again, again, again, again until finally the terror subsides and a blanket of calm descends. Back down in the centre of the track, I snap out of my trance, beaming with smiles, hyperactive with excitement. A few bites of cake and I’m back on the track, back in the group and ready to go. My nerves are still there; but I buried them deeply last time and that’s where they belong, out of harms way! The next two hours are a blistering whir of exhilaration as we work on drills, weaving in and out of each other, chasing the pack, trying timed flying laps. By the time we finish, exhausted and happy, I’m converted, addicted, high as a kite, I can’t stop smiling, laughing and jumping, it’s a childish joy that I can’t suppress. So seven years after I fell for the track bike, I’ve fallen for the track, and like my first, all consuming love affair with fixed gear back in London’s East End, this relationship looks sure to be passionate. Thank you Brian.


P r o di g i o u s l y t a l e n t e d i l l u s t r a t o r , S A M D U N N h a s b e e n w ow i n g a u di e n c e s with her intricate lines and popping colours since she first picked up a crayon at the age of two. D r aw i n g o n i n f l u e n c e s s u c h a s s k a t e w a r t , f i l m a n d mu s i c w h i l s t i n c o r p o r a t i n g e l e m e n t s o f n a t u r e a n d t h e g r o t e s qu e , t h e 2 1 y e a r o l d h a s b e e n w o r k i n g c o m m e r ci a l l y s i n c e t h e a g e o f 1 6 , w h e n s h e f a s t t r a c k e d h e r c a r e e r b y h e a di n g s t r a i g h t t o A r t C o l l e g e . S i n c e t h e n , S a m ’s w o r k e d w i t h c l i e n t s s u c h a s t h e Ti m e s L i t e r a r y S u p p l e m e n t , L u c o z a d e , t h e B r i t i s h H e a r t Fo u n d a t i o n a n d nu m e r o u s l a r g e s c a l e a d a g e n ci e s , a s w e l l a s p r o d u ci n g a r t w o r k f o r b a n d s i n c l u di n g A l k a l i n e Tr i o a n d V i o l e n t S o h o . COVEN caught up with Sam to chat bicycles, bands and cool parents.

You’ve been drawing since a young age, how did you first come to put pen to paper? I have a very small family and think that everyone’s passion for my interests got me to where I am today. My granddad was a brilliant painter, and my dad paints too so there were always a lot of art materials around the house and I was encouraged to use them. It’s just what I’ve always done. They sound like a cool bunch… Well yeah, my Grandad has his painting and played piano and the accordion too. Then my dad is a great artist and also loves cycling - he did the Coast-toCoast in a day, and plays guitar and bass in a band. My mam can draw, knit and crotchet! Most of my family have creative interests and I think I just picked it up what I do from all of them. Were you always good at drawing? When did you realize you had a natural talent? It was probably when I was at school, when I was about ten, people used to ask me to draw stuff for them quite a bit, they’d always be asking me to draw little dogs and things like that and I loved doing it. I was always drawing anyway and being an artist of some kind just seemed a natural choice.

I did little bits and pieces whilst I was at college, just posters and stuff, anything really, just to make a bit of extra money. I’d do stuff for really cheap back then, I guess the money was just a bonus. Now I don’t have a loan anymore I can’t do stuff for so little money, I need to pay my rent, and I also do a lot of advertising work which may not be in my own style – I’ll do whatever style is necessary if it pays my way! But moving forward, I’m trying to get less of that stuff, and more of the stuff I really like doing; working with people that interest me where I can explore my own style. Do you have an agent? No, no yet. I just get in touch with people myself, just emailing, making contacts and stuff. I’ve been working this way for a long time now, all through college and university. I can see the skate influence in your work, do you or did you skate or are you just interested in the visual side of things? I started skateboarding when I was about 13, I learnt to ollie and that was about it in 5 years! But I really loved the art; I was torn between skating the decks and putting them on my wall. But growing up skateboarding, I just kind of absorbed the influences; you can see it in my work for sure. I’ve always really liked skateboard art, the Santa Cruz stuff, the ‘screaming hand’ and all that and Mike Giant, people like that. But alongside that kind of thing, I also like people like Alan Forbes who did the early AFI covers - they really stuck with me as inspiration.

growing up skateboarding I just kind of absorbed the influences

After I finished school I went straight to Art College, I didn’t bother with A Levels, I studied design for two years at Middleborough College and then I did a degree at St. Martins. I graduated in 2011.

Whose idea was it to skip A Levels and head straight to Art College? I decided I was going to focus purely on art when I was about 14 or 15 so it seemed the best idea to truly go for it and go down that route, rather than waste a few years studying subjects I really didn’t care about and doing art once or twice a week alongside them. Art College also allowed me to focus specifically on Illustration and Graphic Design, rather than A level art, which would be more about experimentation and painting. You’ve began working commercially whilst at college at the age of 16, what kind of work were you doing then and how has it changed since you finished your degree?

A lot of your work incorporates natural elements; leaves, woodland creatures, feathers, flowers and autumnal colours. Is the outdoors something that’s always interested you as well? Yeah, a lot of my ideas are related to nature. I grew up in Hartlepool and we used to go to the Lake District every weekend, so I’d spend a lot of time outdoors, we had a little caravan and we’d go mountain biking and collect things. I think I was about 7 when I started going, up until 16, so I spent most weekends of my early life there. At that age I hated it, but that was because I’d grown up with it and longed for city life. Now I have that I appreciate going back and

realize that a lot of people haven’t experienced the views and atmosphere of a very rural area. We’ve seen the work you’ve down with bicycle bloggers, Fifth Floor. How did that come about? I’d been following the Fifth Floor blog and I just emailed them and they were up for me doing something. They ended up using my artwork on a tin camping mug, which is pretty cool, and they’ve just put out a poster. Do you ride fixed gear too? Well, I only got my fixed gear last year, but I’ve always ridden bikes. I guess my Dad has been the inspiration for that. He’s always been into cycling; he has about six bikes, racing and mountain bikes so I always used to ride with him growing up. He’s hates my fixed gear though, he likes traditional and classic bikes like his classic red Colnago. He finds fixed gear impractical because he usually rides hills, he also says I should grasp that bike technology has moved on and gears are a development not a hindrance! I saw you went down the Herne Hill velodrome to ride the track. How was that? It was pretty tough, if you’ve spent six years sitting at a desk and then you decide to be an athlete it’s hard. I liked it but I need to get fitter before I go again, get out on the bike more. I work in my bedroom every day so going for a ride is a great way to have a break if I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with what I’m drawing. Do you ever get a creative block, or do you always have whole load of ideas just waiting to be realised? Sometimes I just can’t create at all, or it won’t come out how I want it to be. Other times I find it easily and seem to just get an image of what I’d like to make and sketch it all out without problems, but it’s usually a struggle, or it wouldn’t be fun! Do you try and stick to a working schedule? It depends what I’m doing. Sometimes I work at agencies and do type and illustration across a variety of projects. My day then is like a regular office worker, 9 - 5 ish, then I’ll come home and work on my own stuff if I’m in the middle of a project. If I’m not working for someone else, I’m at home in my bedroom studio, in a tracksuit eating various things that have been dwelling in the cupboards far too long and spending my whole day drawing, about 12 hours, with the occasional bike ride to break it up.



T ext Juliet Elliott P hotography S e l i m K o r yc k i

Bike courier turned jewellery d e s i g n e r A l i Fo r b e s ’ mu l t i leaved pieces are designed to b e s t a c k e d b y t h e w e a r e r.

It’s summer and Coven are conducting interviews outdoors, keen to soak up every minute of sunshine and enjoy the gentle breeze softly blowing across the scorched earth of the park. Scattered about the grass are the usual assortment of hipsters, freelancers and drunks; sunburned, sweaty and muttering expletives whilst they fumble around for rollies. Ali Forbes comes pedalling into view, blonde hair, red lipstick and ripped black jeans a nod to her rock n’ roll meets bike courier aesthetic. A graduate of the Royal

“I lived in Alabama for a year when I was 17 which ended up inspiring a lot of my work; the aesthetic of southern, rock and roll, bull heads and biker style imagery, but after I graduated I won a big competition and wound up working as a designer for Swarovski in Innsbruck.” says Ali. “It was quite weird, it’s quite conservative over there, and if you’re wearing what you wear in London you get some right funny looks in the street. There are a lot of mullets too. I never thought I’d have a culture shock in Austria, but I was a bit like...used to London and Glasgow then I was suddenly shoved up in the middle of know where, not knowing any German, it was quite isolated.” Despite her shock at the hundreds of mullets on proud display, the experience allowed Ali to learn more about the inner workings of a big corporation, a useful experience after the nurturing university environment left her feeling a little ‘green.’ “I learnt so much, I think it’s really important to learn how to design in someone else’s hand writing, it makes you more versatile and working on something which is not necessarily your taste helps you develop your skills.” Ali’s designs ended up being sold in Swarovski’s flagship stores in London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong. But ultimately Ali was set upon launching her own label, so when her year at Swaroski came to an end, she politely demurred when offered a full time contract, despite having enjoyed her time with the brand. “Creatively, I got a lot of freedom, but part of my contract was that I was not meant to be doing my own work at the same time and that was tough. And it was hard not putting too much of myself into someone else’s designs, putting my ego aside and remembering I’m designing for a different target audience, rather than my own. Ultimately, I wanted to regain creative control over what I was doing. So now I do some freelance stuff for Swarovski sometimes but I am doing my own stuff too.”

Academy of Art and St. Martins, the Glaswegian jewellery designer’s current range of interactive jewellery draws upon the same influences as well as her interest in mythical creatures of the forests; a relic of her time spent working for Swarovski in the Austrian Alps. 54

Ali’s time in the Alps allowed her to explore the Alpine love of folklore, nature and the outdoors, and the ‘own stuff’ she’s referring to is her fantastic new ‘Urban Folklore’ collection; stacks of multi coloured laser-cut leather adorned with steel embellishments that can be worn in a multitude of ways, depending on the desires of the customer.

“The complexity of the imagery and layering is definitely a bigger jump on from my university collection in terms of aesthetic, but it draws on the same idea that you can swop layers around and mix and match,” says Ali. Up next is a Deliverance meets Pans Labyrinth style shoot to showcase the new collection. “We are going to shoot it out in the woods; we’ll have a band of minstrel type characters playing all these weird musical instruments wearing my jewellery like armour. And I’ve also been making some full size wings they can wear which will be held on by lederhosen straps.”

“Some of my pieces can wind up being quite expensive and I kind of feel like it’s a shame if people can’t afford them,” muses Ali. “I l do like to look at ways to produce items at difference prices, maybe using different materials. So for Secret Garden party’s Secret Emporium I looked at creating a collection of masks from paper as well as leather, that can be customised and layered, much like the jewellery. People could just buy the components they liked or could afford, then play with it as they wanted.”

“I’ve been making some full size wings...which will be held on by lederhosen straps.”

Perhaps inspired by her career as a bike messengers and the earthy, non exploitative nature of the courier world, Ali is keen to bring her designs within reach of all level of consumer, and a range of Ts-shirts with the legendary House Of Pistards is just one of the ways that fans can own a piece of the Ali’s fertile imagination.

The future looks bright for Ali; she’s launching her new website and online shop and working on producing her leather pieces in layered metal.

“The response to my work has been really, really good,” says Ali, a grin spreading from corner to corner of her vermillion red lips. “I feel like I’ve done my time working heavy hours within a big company, I’ve put the effort in and now I’m freelance, I’m where I want to be and there is something exciting happening every week.”

Photography Nathan Gallagher Fashion Mireia Roelas

This page: Top Roxy, Shorts Roxy, Watch Roxy, Trainers Saucony. Opposite: Top Roxy, Trousers Oakley, Socks Adidas, Trainers Saucony, Watch Roxy.

This page: Top Oakley, Shorts Oakley, Leggings Falke, Trainers Saucony, Headphones Coloud, Watch Storm. Top Right: Jumper Patagonia, Base Layer Falke, Shorts Oakley, Socks Adidas, Trainers Asics, Watch Storm.

Jacket Patagonia Bra American Apparel Shorts Oakley

This page: Jacket Patagonia, Base Layer Falke, Leggings Patagonia, Socks Adidas, Trainers Saucony.

Above: Top Oakley

Shorts Oakley

Top Oakley Shorts Roxy Leggings Falke

phil america THE GIRLS OF DEAR BURMA When I arrived in Bangkok, I didn’t know how long I would stay or what was in store for me. Initially, I had a plan to travel to Burma through Karen State, slinking through the war-torn region without a passport to document and capture what little positive or beautiful moments I could find. It’s an area of the world most never see, as entrance is strictly forbidden and the closed border is aggressively manned. I knew that many Burmese leave the region to start a new and more hopeful life in Thailand, running from the longest ongoing civil war in the world. I watched people pursue ‘careers without permission’ to support their suffering families back home, as they worked illegally in their forbidden new land. Conceptually I wanted to see the country from the opposite side of things yet somehow feel their place in this world, so I embarked on my trip. I pursued it as my ‘vacation without permission’, titled as such because I went as a tourist but entered as an illegal. I crossed the border guided by the Karen National Liberation Army through a surreal and treacherous landscape. I met them through some Karen friends I made in Bangkok. I traveled with a convoy through the jungle for days and was required to wear a bulletproof best and carry a machine gun, ultimately arriving at a military base in close proximity to a village where I spend some time. I was touched by the locals—each of whom who had never seen a white person before—in a way that will forever stay with me. Their kindness juxtaposed by ferocious war and aggressive poverty soothed and inspired me as I traveled. When I returned to Bangkok, I felt changed by my experience. Though my plan was to endure the struggle of border-crossing and then return to Bangkok to pursue another project, I found myself wanting to engage with Burmese people who left violence only to be met with a different struggle to survive in a country where they are illegal, unwanted and generally mistreated. I met with my friend Myint Wai shortly after my return. He is an activist and head of the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma

(TACDB). Soon after, I was teaching a class to Burmese immigrants at DEAR Burma, a school for refugees. I learned very quickly that school is more than books and desks to people from Burma. They view it as the only place in the world to gain knowledge and confidence. Students come here on their own accord—many live without family around to pressure them to attend and nearly all of them work 6 or 7 days a week. The students of DEAR Burma are of all ages, most in their 20s, and arrive dedicated and ready to learn with a respect for their instructors greatly exceeded by the respect they have for their best friends and siblings. At the school, they offer language courses and computer classes, but I felt I could give them something more than instruction in Basic English. Myint Wai and I decided the best course would be a basic photography class, a subject nearly all of the 600 students per semester would never have access to in their difficult lives. My class consists of students from different ethnic minority groups –Shan, Karen, Mon and others—but all of them arrive united in matching uniforms and ready to learn. Many were too poor to afford a camera but, as I wanted everyone interested to be able to take the class, I said anyone with a camera-phone was also welcome. Since starting, the class has worked on many projects, all of which consist of general techniques such as composition and lighting as well as using digital slr cameras, reflectors and tri-pods. Last week I talked to my class about the magazine, showed them the website, and we decided to work together to make the special for this issue. We set out to take photos of ‘the girls of DEAR Burma’ where my assistants were my students, all of whom contributed in their own way. I dedicate this special to them with gratitude for their undying inspiration. With thanks to my assistants: Miss May Thingyan, Miss Thazin Myint, Miss Ohmmar Kyaw, Miss Aye Aye, Miss Mai, Mister Min Ko, Mister Ye Win Tun, Mister Yu Swan, Mister Sai Sai

“ Yo u r e mi n d m e t h a t there are still things pure and honest in the most unexpected places.�

hannah grant


Growing up I wanted to be a tap dancer, a graphic designer or work in the restaurant business but through a combination of luck, networking and meeting the right people at the right time, I wound up cooking for pro cycling team Saxo Tinkoff. Home is Copenhagen, Denmark but I’m away working about 150 days a year. When I get to spend the weekend at home, I like to have lunch and dinner with friends, visit flea markets, stroll about town having coffee, taking pictures, maybe take a Copenhagen canal boat tour. I like restaurants that focus on low carb food, fish, meat and veggies and there are quite a few in Copenhagen Restaurant Bror is brilliant. I also like being invited to other people’s houses for dinner but it rarely happens - no one wants to cook for my husband and me, as we’re both chefs! Generally I’m not a morning person, but I adapt when I’m on tour I get up about two hours before breakfast is

served, around 5.30 or 6am.

I’m constantly thinking ahead, planning, double checking everything and cooking so I try and keep a bit of a morning routine as there are so many other variables which will change – our location, the hotel, the type of stage the team are racing. One thing which remains constant is my fully equipped professional kitchen on wheels - it doesn’t matter where we are, in the mountains, by the sea, on a highway hotel – my kitchen stays the same so I know that everything I produce is of a very high quality. I love it and I would never be without it! The first thing I do in the morning is make bread and cook breakfast for the riders then whilst the riders are eating, I’ll pack down my kitchen truck, battening down the hatches like a boat going to sea. The truck often leaves before I do to drive to the next hotel then once the riders have finished eating, I’ll pack up all the dry goods, have a quick breakfast then we’ll drive in the team car to the next hotel as well. I’m never really hungry in the morning, but


H e a r t s a l a d w i t h c h i c k e n i n e l d e r f l ow e r v i n a i g r e t t e . A low carb, dairy and gluten free recipe for rest days. Ingredients: 1 whole cooked cold chicken 3 fresh plums 50g cranberry 50g hazelnut 2 heads heart lettuce For the elderflower vinaigrette: 50ml elderflower vinegar (or apple vinegar) 200ml cold-pressed olive oil, mild flavor 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard 1 tbsp. liquid honey Lime zest and juice

• • •

Whisk tougher the mustard, honey and vinegar with a dash of salt then pour in the oil little by little whilst whisking to emulsify the dressing. Add some lime zest and season to taste with lime juice and salt. Cut the chicken picked into bite-sized pieces, rinse the plums and stone them before cutting into thin wedges. Roast the hazelnuts at 170° for 6-7 minutes, cool and chop coarsely. Rinse and spin the salad leaves and assemble the salad.

I make my self eat so I don’t crash and burn, usually something like egg, avocado and dried ham, maybe a slice of gluten free seedbread and always coffee. About 300km later, we arrive at our next location. If there’s no food shopping to be done I might have a couple of hours to myself and I like to write, sleep or exercise a bit. I don’t get to work out as much as I’d like to but I make an effort to do something, maybe jump rope or do some cross fit exercises. If we’re somewhere beautiful I’ll go for a walk and soak up the atmosphere of the race or I’ll read – I enjoy books about cycling or nutrition. Every four days we go shopping and we shop big; it can take three hours to buy all our food but we need to be prepared as we might be going somewhere that you can’t buy supplies. Around 4pm we start cooking. I cook lots of vegetables, fish, meats, and cold-pressed oil vinaigrettes and sauces. I love to brine, cure and marinade things and slow cooking rocks. I never do pasta dishes at all. At 7.45 we take the food we’ve prepared to the riders’ hotel and lay out a buffet. Each rider has a different diet, and I know who eats what and why, but they have to control their own portions and select what to eat from the food I’ve prepared. Most of the food I cook is without gluten and dairy so everyone can eat everything. I like to vary the meals to include different styles of cooking – Japanese, Spanish, Danish, raw food, paleo. I make it easy to se what are protein, low carb, dense carb and fat, so individuals can combine foods to fit their specific needs. Diet can make a big difference to athletes; it can make or break them. When you avoid things that many people have small intolerances to such as gluten, dairy and nuts you can minimize mucus production, pollen allergies and

weight gain, and all these things added up mean that you can perform better - your body doesn’t have to fight any symptoms and can instead use all it’s energy on the road and to recover afterwards. In a big race, a fast recovery can get you a long way. On the whole, I think people should eat more fish, cold pressed oils and slow cooked meats – and last but not least, more lightly cooked green veggies - treat your veggies nice and they give you vitamins and minerals in return. My new book, The Grand Tour Cookbook is based on the 2012 The Tour de France with 4 or 5 recipes from each of the 21 days of racing. It’s designed to introduce you to performance cooking or how to eat your way to performing better. The recipes are categorized with symbols for gluten free, nut free and dairy free so it’s easy to know what you can eat on a special diet and we focus on protein, vegetables and cold pressed oils which all come together in a perfect, healthy combination. As well as recipes, you can read about the riders and how this food works for them. We also have snapshots from the tour and photographs of all the recipes (which I took myself!) and we hear from the team’s body therapist and the sports director. Once all the riders have left the table, my apprentice and I will wrap up the leftovers and make race food boxed for the riders for the next day, and then we’ll eat what’s left. If I’m working I’ll go to bed around eleven, as I have to get up early. I miss my own bed but I’m very good at sleeping, so most days I fall a sleep straight away and if the hotel bed and pillow is not too weird or uncomfortable, I sleep like a baby.