The Red Bulletin UK 12/20

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ROCK GOD How Nepalese climber NIMS PURJA smashed a century of mountaineering tradition





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Editor’s letter




The Swiss photographer may spend a lot of time shooting actors in LA, but thanks to his mountain-village upbringing he felt at home in the French Alps with our cover star, mountaineer Nims Purja. “Nims was really focused on the goal of the shoot,” he says. “Even in the studio without aircon, he kept on his Summit suit, built for the extreme cold, for two hours.” Page 32


“Lockdown and its aftermath has been tough for everyone,” says the Athens-based writer, who was pleased to be in London to catch DistDancing, a programme of outdoor performances by some of the world’s leading dancers. “It was great to link up with Chi and her team, who, despite all the restrictions, are doing everything they can to dance and entertain in a unique and inspiring way.” Page 48

Dual focus: photographer Sandro Baebler keeps Nims Purja in his sights during our shoot in the French Alps Page 32




“The best way to predict the future,” US computer scientist Alan Kay once said, “is to create it.” And in uncertain times this may be better advice than ever – no matter what your walk of life. It’s an idea our cover star Nims Purja (page 32) embraced when he set out to smash the record for summiting the world’s 14 highest peaks. His success has changed the face of mountaineering and stretched our understanding of what humans are capable of. We caught up with the Nepalese climber in the French Alps and discovered that even his downtime is high-octane. Innovating in the face of serious setbacks are the classical dancers (page 48) taking to the streets of London to perform. As theatres and performance venues have been shut down during the pandemic – with those able to open sporadically empty of audiences – these performers are taking matters into their own hands. Despite injury, police raids and plenty of uncertainty, they have created a series of distanced shows that are bringing their talents to unexpected places – and people. Plus, Birmingham-born rap star Stefflon Don (page 56) tells us why social media is killing creativity, and how we can fix it. And we hear about the thrills and spills that went into Europe’s most ambitious bike film (page 62), from the riders who star in it. We hope you enjoy the issue.


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CONTENTS December 2020

8 Gallery: vertiginous volleyball

in the islands of Norway; taking the tube in Tahiti; and riding rock faces in the Swiss Alps 14 Chop local: New York rapper

Benny The Butcher serves up some home-reared prime cuts 16 Rising inflation: up, up and

away in my beautiful balloon… to the edge of space 19 Rolling back the years: how

one skateboarding diehard is preserving its legacy in print


Inside line: the stories behind the stunts in freewheeling movie adventure The Old World

20 Flight of fantasy: experience

all the fun (ahem) of air travel without leaving terra firma 23 Urban growth: meet the

Vietnamese visionary sowing the seeds of change in architecture

24 Sophie Williams

The Black activist and writer on race, momentum, and why people are listening at last

26 Fantastic Negrito

Inspiring words from the Grammy-winning guitarist who has truly lived the blues

28 Jenny Schauerte

The downhill skateboarder who found the path to enlightenment in the mountains of Turkey

32 Nims Purja

Climbed a peak today? Catch up! This unstoppable ex-Gurkha has – and he’ll probably fit in another two before teatime


48 DistDancing

When lockdown hit, the world of dance didn’t rest its feet – instead, it stepped up its game

56 Stefflon Don

The Birmingham-born star on US attitudes to UK rap, and why she’d rather spit bars than sip tea

62 The Old World

Behind the scenes of a genuinely epic, globe-spanning bike movie


75 Hunting high and slow: the simple

pleasures of kayaking off the coast of the Scottish Highlands will reconnect you with nature 80 Cold looks: ski goggles that adapt to changing weather on the slopes 82 One-track mind: how to find mental

solutions for physical challenges 84 On the button: tracing the

evolution of gaming technology

87 Sharp eye: Razer’s Min-Liang Tan

– gaming innovator and cult hero

88 The revolutionary Yoga Shred:

old downward dog, new tricks 90 Sound purchase: our pick of the

best small speakers and wireless earbuds you can buy right now 92 Essential dates for your calendar 98 Board and dodging: skate highjinks in a giant’s labyrinth game 07



Peaky ballers

What sport instantly springs to mind on seeing this image? That’s right: beach volleyball. World Championship medal-winners Anders Mol and Christian Søren – that’s them playing a rally between the two peaks – decided there was no better spot for some pre-match training last month than Lofoten in their native Norway. The 150m-high granite pillar known as Svolværgeita (or ‘The Goat’) and the surrounding archipelago, which sits inside the Arctic Circle, provide a dramatic setting for this shot, taken by their countryman Petter Forshaug. But we can only imagine the scenes when they had to ask, “Please, mister, can we have our ball back?” 09



Blue steel When one of the world’s top surf photographers teams up with one of Tahiti’s most exciting young board riders, magic happens. It was at Russell Ord’s photography workshop in Teahupo’o last year that the Australian snapper took this jaw-dropping shot of local surfer Matahi Drollet riding the perfect tube. Drollet, now 23, was only eight when he first surfed Teahupo’o’s notoriously gnarly wave. Thank goodness they gave the kid a break… 11


Some kids have a muddy patch of grass or a yard at home to kick about in; for others, a trudge to the local park is necessary. Self-proclaimed “professional frozen water shredder” Nicolas Vuignier and his brother Anthony, on the other hand, had the luxury of Crans-Montana, a twintown ski resort in the Swiss Alps, on their doorstep. Here, we see the freeskier on home turf (or rather, rock) as an adult, caught on film by Geneva-based photographer Dom Daher. On Instagram, Nicolas modestly describes this extraordinary image as a “rainy wallride shoot”. Who knew defying gravity could become so mundane?


Sheer nerve



Flexing his chops The New York rapper and member of hip-hop collective Griselda shares four classic tracks from the Big Apple that shaped his career New York hip hop is enjoying a renaissance right now, and among those leading the charge is 35-yearold rapper Jeremie Pennick, better known as Benny the Butcher. Benny and his hip-hop collective Griselda – formed in Buffalo, NY, in 2012 – have taken up the mantle laid down by the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep in the ’90s, delivering their own take on the hardcore East Coast sound. In 2017, Eminem signed Griselda to his Shady Records imprint, and last year Benny inked a deal with Jay-Z’s management agency, Roc Nation. With more than 15 years in the game, payback has been a long time coming for Benny. Here, he pays homage to some of the tracks that helped get him there… Benny The Butcher’s new album Burden of Proof is out now on Griselda Records;

The Symphony (1988)

“My pops was one of the biggest hip-hop fans alive. He listened to everything, and I got to take it all in from the back seat of the car. That’s how I first heard The Symphony. Those keys Marley Marl took from Otis Redding were stupid, and the way Kool G Rap rhymed his syllables was crazy. A monumental record.” 14

The Notorious BIG Juicy (1994)

“Juicy was a huge moment for New York. It came out at a time when the West Coast had the game in a headlock, so we were happy to have a record like this. I remember being a kid and whenever it came on the radio everyone would just smile. It’s not just one of the biggest New York anthems ever, it’s one of the biggest hip-hop anthems, period.”

Nas feat Lauryn Hill

If I Ruled The World (Imagine That) (1996)

“Hearing Nas and Lauryn on a record together was special; there’s no way this would have been the same without them. It was so New York – the video was shot in Times Square – yet it had an undeniable universal appeal. It ended up being a blueprint for so many artists who wanted to recreate that same feeling for years to come.”

Puff Daddy & The Family It’s All About The Benjamins (1997)

“The first time I heard this, all I could think about was how crazy the beat was. Then this verse from Sheek [from guests The LOX] got me: ‘I’m strictly tryin’ to cop those colossalsized Picassos.’ I mean, c’mon. Puff is so good at putting people together; it’s like he’s coaching an All-Star team. It definitely influenced Griselda.” THE RED BULLETIN


Marley Marl feat Masta Ace, Craig G, Kool G Rap & Big Daddy Kane

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View from the top This company plans to float its passengers to the edge of our stratosphere using a space-age hot-air balloon


Sipping a cocktail aboard a spaceship while admiring the view of Earth might sound like something plucked from science fiction, but from next year it could become reality. Space Perspective is a spaceflight startup co-founded by married US couple Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum, who plan to send passengers into the stratosphere in style in Spaceship Neptune, a pressurised, eight-person cabin attached to a 198m-tall, hydrogen-filled balloon. Launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the capsule will travel to an altitude of up to 30km, where passengers will have a couple of hours to gaze down on their home planet through Neptune’s huge windows before descending back to Earth. Space tourism first came into being in 2001, when American entrepreneur Dennis





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

Tito bought a flight to the International Space Station for a reported $20 million (almost £16 million), and subsequently prices have kept such an experience exclusive to the super-rich. But Spaceship Neptune, while only taking you close to the edge of space, promises to be far cheaper. “Our prices will start off at $125,000 [£98,000], but should come down pretty quickly,” says MacCallum. The Space Perspective experience also feels more attainable in other ways. This is not an intense lesson in space travel – the capsule has a fully stocked bar on board, as well as “the toilet with the best view in the known universe,” says MacCallum. “[On Neptune] you can have a glass of champagne with your best friend and look out at the curvature of Earth. I think that will be a very moving experience. We also have Wi-Fi, so it will be the ultimate social media post.” Poynter and MacCallum have worked in space development for decades, and were part of the original crew that spent two years in the early ’90s sealed inside the closed ecological research facility Biosphere 2 in the Arizona desert, to better understand the challenges of intergalactic colonisation. “The more people who think about the world in the context of space and the solar system, the more we’ll see support for the space programme and science in general,” says MacCallum. “Organisations like Space For Humanity [a nonprofit aimed at democratising interstellar travel] are coming to us to send teachers, poets and artists, because they want to break down that barrier. Having those experiences and conversations is important because it makes you think about our Earth and how we’re all in it together.”


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Inside San Diego resident Kevin Marks’ home sits the world’s largest collection of skateboarding magazines. His enormous library spans multiple rooms, from floor to ceiling, with issues fastidiously filed by title, date and country of publication, ranging from the earliest independent zines all the way to last month’s Thrasher. It’s a passion project, certainly, but this collection is more than a mere hobby – Marks is on a mission to find and share with the world’s board-riders every skate magazine from history, to keep the scene’s print legacy alive. In 2020, skateboarding lives online. With millions of YouTube edits and dedicated social media channels, anyone looking to immerse themselves in skate culture need only turn to their phone. But back in the ’80s it was a different story. “My love of skate magazines originated from the fact that I grew up skateboarding in the middle of Kansas,” says Marks. “I felt very far away from the culture, but once I found [US publications] Thrasher and Transworld [SKATEboarding] and got subscriptions, they became my lifeline.” He moved his growing collection around the US for 30 years until 2015, when he decided to put it to good use by launching Look Back Library, a public archive allowing access to like-minded skate fans. “The primary mission was not have them sit in my home,” says Marks, who previously worked for a non-profit organisation promoting skating in Colorado, as well as singing and playing guitar in local punk and metal bands. “It was to build smaller collections and get them out to places where they can be read, like skate shops, indoor skateparks and skateboardrelated non-profits.” Look Back Library is no longer a singular collection but a sprawling community of libraries and exhibits all over THE RED BULLETIN


Flick through the past

Skate enthusiast Kevin Marks owns the world’s biggest archive of skateboarding magazines, and now he’s sharing it with all of us

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

the US. On his travels by van across the country, Marks has collected thousands of unloved and forgotten magazines from homes, as well as set up many exhibitions and repositories in skateparks and skate shops, both temporary and long-term. “I left San Diego in April 2019, thinking that I was going to build about four libraries, but I ended up creating about 30 in six months,” he says. “It has given me the chance to work on something I love, as well as the opportunity to meet and work with other skate nerds just like myself.” 19

Fasten your seatbelts Prepare for take-off in a new kind of flight simulator. There are no tricky landings to execute or enemies to shoot down, but your seat back might get kicked Everyone has their own relationship with flying. Some find it exciting, some relaxing; others consider the whole process terrifying. It’s an experience that has inspired the world of gaming for decades, with hundreds of titles – most recently, the 2020 iteration of the popular Microsoft Flight Simulator – putting the player in the cockpit to see how they perform under pressure. Of course, for most of us flying is experienced as a 20

passenger, not as a pilot. And that’s what games developer Hosni Auji (below) has replicated in Airplane Mode. In the New Yorker’s unique spin on the flying simulator, you control none of the action but instead play the passive role of an everyday passenger on a real-time long-haul flight. Airplane Mode places the player in an economy-class seat on a six-hour flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Reykjavík, Iceland, or a shorter two-and-a-half-hour hop to Halifax, Canada. No





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

two flights are the same, and the only certainty is that the mundanity of the gameplay will match the reality it’s mimicking. Babies might cry, turbulence may occur, and the Wi-Fi will most likely drop out; iPhones need to be charged, movies played and magazines read. In-flight food and wine are served, and the flight tracker on the screen in front of you shows how far you’ve flown. “What I found interesting early in the process is that everyone seemed to have a strong opinion about flying, more so than any other form of travel,” says Auji, originally from Beirut, Lebanon. “At some level, every part of flying is unnatural. As a species, our urge to fly broke through our evolutionary limitations. That we fly at all is crazy; that we fly while begrudgingly sipping wine on reclining chairs is patently absurd. By putting players in the position where they’re confronting flight – not how they’re used to seeing it in games but more how they see it in life – we hope to capture a bit of that absurdity.” At a time of restricted travel, it may have surprised us how much we crave not only the thrill of visiting destinations but also the process involved in getting there. Auji’s game questions why we yearn for what is a tedious and often torturous necessity. “Our intention is to give players a unique gaming experience, and the flights are meant to be nostalgic,” he says. So that players are truly immersed in the simulation, there’s no option to pause it and return later. “We decided the player would need to complete the flight in one sitting – the game doesn’t save your mid-flight progress. You will get those air miles once you land, though.”





As the booming commercial hub of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is a whirlwind of chaos. But in the eye of the storm sits a cluster of houses where humans, trees and birds coexist peacefully. People occupy the lower levels, but the roofs are giant plant pots, each with trees sprouting from a thick layer of soil. Chirping birds nest in their branches, quelling the noisy invasion of traffic and construction. House for Trees is an experimental project by Vo Trong Nghia (pictured below), the Vietnamese visionary whose commitment to the use of natural building materials has earned him the label ‘the bamboo architect’. Nghia, 44, wants to see greener and more liveable cities in his home country and beyond. House for Trees’ forest canopy provides natural shade from the tropical sun, while the soil absorbs water and reduces the risk of flooding. The houses were also cheap to build – each one cost around £120,000. “It’s about reintroducing nature into modern life,” says the devout Buddhist. Nghia harnesses mindfulness to keep his firm’s commitment to green architecture on track; his employees’ job descriptions include two hours of meditation each day. He also asks that his staff at VTN Architects observe the Five Precepts of Buddhism: no killing, no lying or gossiping, no stealing or cheating, no engagement in sexual misconduct, and no consumption of intoxicants. The practice of meditation coupled with a respect for the Five Precepts makes Nghia’s 20 or so architects “10 times more efficient,” he says. The small team undertakes an extraordinary number of increasingly ambitious projects. In 2016, on the outskirts of the old port town of Hoi An, VTN Architects designed the Atlas Hotel in simple brick, but with exteriors hung with greenery. THE RED BULLETIN

Putting down roots: House For Trees resembles five giant planters


Bloom town This Vietnamese architect is cultivating inner-city happiness with flourishing vegetation and a spiritual homegrown philosophy Three years later, in Da Nang – another of Vietnam’s fastdeveloping cities – it gave the entire 21-floor Chicland Hotel a façade of lush foliage. At its HQ in Ho Chi Minh City, the firm is now working on enormous green apartment blocks that will house thousands of people, and also office buildings designed to connect employees with

nature. “I want the whole city to look like a huge park,” he explains. But Nghia knows that for his architecture to be truly sustainable, his buildings must be timeless in their design and long-lasting in their structural integrity. “The most important thing,” he says, “is that all my buildings outlast me.” 23

Sophie Williams

Starting the conversation The author and activist has been talking about race for as long as she can remember. Now, she says, people are listening Words RUTH McLEOD


Sophie Williams is back at her flat in London after recording the audio version of her new book, Anti-Racist Ally. “As a child, I’d listen to an audiobook every night,” she says, “so it’s funny to find myself reading out the ‘written by Sophie Williams, read by Sophie Williams’ bit.” The situation is all the more surreal for Williams because at the start of 2020 the book wasn’t even part of her plans. In January, the former chief operating officer (COO) in advertising started an Instagram account to build a community for Millennial Black, her guide for Black women and business owners, out next April. On May 28, she posted a set of slides defining the difference between being non-racist and anti-racist, and offering advice for would-be allies. It blew up. “I saw the number [of likes] go up and up,” she says. “You can see on my Fitbit stats, there’s an evening where I’m going to bed, all chilled out, then I get a message: ‘Is this your post on Justin Bieber’s grid?’ My heart rate spikes!” Since then, Williams, 33, has gained more than 180,000 followers and, among many other things, run a poster campaign in London, set up an online merch store in aid of mental health charity Black Minds Matter, written for The Guardian about world change, and finished both books. But, as strange as this year has been for Williams, she was ready. “I’ve never been good at picking my battles. I’m someone who’s always had these conversations. The change now is that people want to listen.”


  : What was the strategy to get your message heard?  : Actually, the reason I felt able to start posting is because I didn’t think anyone was listening – I had only a couple of hundred followers. I really don’t know what changed that. I made my first post because the day after the murder of George Floyd I spent the day crying. Bad stuff kept happening to Black people, things that were literally costing people their lives. Then there was the conversation about COVID and how that was disproportionately affecting Black people, and it all felt like too much. And that led to Anti-Racist Ally… Yes, it became clear there are people who want to start their ally-ship journey, and I wanted them to have something physical to refer to. It’s a deliberately small book, 180 pages, as cheap as my publisher would allow. I want people to treat it as a shareable resource. It’s a beginners’ guide. Every other page has a graphic statement like, ‘Not being racist is not enough,’ along with advice. It’s broken down for people who want to be part of this but haven’t yet been able. Or for those who have started and want to keep up the momentum. How do we keep it up? What I’m seeing now, which is scary, is that people are already losing momentum in this conversation. It makes me so sad; it feels like the only thing that keeps people galvanised is a new video of a Black person being murdered. I don’t want any more videos, but I do want people to stay interested. I ask them to change oneoff actions into habits. So if anyone

is donating, I ask them if they can make it a standing order. You can make a template for people to write to their MP – that will help many others. You can form an accountability group: on my social, I ask what people have done that week. Being able to check in with others and have them check in with you is really valuable. Millennial Black addresses issues faced by Black women at work. Was personal experience an influence? Yes, I wrote it because I needed it. I was a Black COO in an ad agency and people didn’t know what to do with me. When third parties came in, they’d presume I was the person who’d be taking notes or making the coffee. [With this book] I wanted to first of all say [to Black women], “You’re not alone.” And I wanted to tell business leaders, “This is the business benefit of including this group of people.” I’ve found that the most effective approach. What I didn’t want the book to do was tell Black women they need to change themselves to succeed. I ended up speaking to many amazing people, like [model and transgender activist] Munroe Bergdorf, [author and influencer] Candice Brathwaite and [Star Wars actress] Naomi Ackie – inspirational Black women from different industries and backgrounds, with different experiences. Can you see change happening? We’re in a civil rights movement, and people ask, “How will we know when we’ve won?” There are no quick wins. I’m having the same conversations my mum did, and her mum before that. These are multigenerational struggles. But hopefully, together, we can make iterative changes over time. I just ask that people read about race, understand race, and understand white people are not raceless people. Letting something happen and not speaking out is an action, too. I hope that change happens – and I want to be part of it. Williams’ book Anti-Racist Ally is out now, published by HarperCollins. Instagram: @officialmillennialblack; @sophiewilliamsofficial


“Letting something happen and not speaking out is an action” THE RED BULLETIN


Fantastic Negrito

Taking an outside chance The Grammy-winning blues guitarist reveals how a hard-learnt education in hustling helped score him one of the most unlikely careers in music Words FLORIAN OBKIRCHER

Photography LYLE OWERKO

In 1996, Xavier Dphrepaulezz was bound for superstardom. After being taken under the wing of Prince’s former manager, the guitarist had just signed a million-dollar deal with major label Interscope – not bad for a young man who grew up in a house with 14 siblings, ran away at the age of 12, and got involved in petty crime during his teens on the streets of Oakland, California. But then life took another U-turn. His debut album was a flop. Then, in 1999, a near-fatal car accident put him in a coma and mangled his strumming hand; Interscope dropped him. When Dphrepaulezz picked up his guitar again several years later, he had a new mantra: don’t try to please anyone and don’t chase trends. He reinvented himself as delta blues guitarist Fantastic Negrito, playing raw protest songs, dressing outlandishly, and making statements others might find uncomfortable. This new direction has earned the 52-year-old the Grammy award for Contemporary Blues Album in 2017 and 2019, and praise from the likes of Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders.   : What’s your aim when you write a song?  : Basically, every song I write, I write for my kids. I ask myself, “What do I want to tell my kids?” The things I sing about are openness, equality, healing, accountability, a little bit of the middle finger. I think we need all of these things in our toolbox in order


to navigate through this construct of society. Most importantly, I want them to know: don’t let anybody tell you what you can or can’t do. Is that a rule you live by? I mean, look at me! I released my first Fantastic Negrito album at 46. People in the music industry, they’re bean counters. They didn’t get it at all. They’re like, “Wait a minute, you’re not a rapper, you’re not a pretty white girl singing pop.” I didn’t fit into any of these categories, and yet here we are. So I like to think that Fantastic Negrito is for all the people who’ve been told no; all the people who didn’t get picked for the team. So Fantastic Negrito is the patron saint of outsiders? Absolutely! Aged 12, I ran away from home and never saw my family again. I was living on the street. I was hustling for food, for water, trying to find an abandoned car to sleep in. I was hustling to that mentality of surviving. I wasn’t hustling to rip people off – although I did do some of that – I was mostly trying to eat! When it came time to create Fantastic Negrito, I picked up the guitar and was like, “I know how to do this: you just don’t take no for an answer.” What makes a good hustler? It’s someone who gets things done; someone who turns bullshit into the good shit. When I was homeless, I faked my way into the University of California, Berkeley. I pretended to be a music student coming to practise. I sat there and just listened to what people were playing, to learn. The first thing I did after my accident was lease a grand piano so I could just

clunk with my hands. I don’t believe in giving up. I’m a lifelong hustler. How does a two-time Grammy winner hustle? I’m still on the outside of things. People still ask me, “Why don’t you do something easy, like this ’60s retro thing?” They’re basically asking me to make them feel comfortable. But listen, I don’t give a fuck about making people feel comfortable. Being an artist is about confronting society. Making people comfortable? That bores the shit out of me. I don’t care about selling records; what I care about is liberty as a human being. What does liberty mean to you? It’s about not giving a fuck. It’s the most powerful thing you can do. All my heroes made their best music when they didn’t give a fuck, when they didn’t try. I’m a firm believer in that. Because when you give a fuck you lend yourself to this repressed fantasy that people in power have of where we should fit. So that they feel comfortable. Why are we living in a society that’s openly medicated? I don’t drink or smoke – I don’t need that. Because I feel liberated, I don’t give a fuck. It’s a beautiful thing. How do you get there? Through failure and disappointment. I got there from watching my little brother killed at 14, seeing him on the ground with a hole in his head. I got there from seeing my 16-year-old cousin in a casket. I got there from losing my playing hand. But I also got there from walking the streets as a kid, trying to find a way. Finding out who I am, embracing who I am, then celebrating who I am and, most importantly, not making apologies to people for who I am. I don’t need anybody’s permission, because I feel amazing. And I want to pass that on to people who may not feel amazing. That’s what I want to pass on to my kids, your kids, your grandkids. I feel like that’s my mission. Fantastic Negrito’s third album Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? is out now;


“I don’t need anybody’s permission, because I feel amazing”



Jenny Schauerte

The road less travelled The German downhill skateboarder came to the UK to learn about adrenalin. She left with the key to inner happiness Words RUTH McLEOD

Photography TOMÁŠ TEGLÝ

When Jenny Schauerte began downhill skating six years ago, she says she found the key to inner happiness. The 32-year-old has since become one of the world’s best in the sport, which involves racing down steep roads on a longboard at speeds of up to 100kph, often – outside competition – while negotiating oncoming traffic. It has introduced Schauerte to lifelong friends and seen her travel extensively; she has also used her passion for sport, adrenalin and filmmaking as therapy in testing times. Her latest project, the fly-onthe-wall-style film Woolf Women, is the story of a skate pilgrimage to an ancient monastery in the Turkish mountains. A celebration of downhill skating, travel and sisterhood, it marks the German’s transition from lone wolf to head of her own pack.   : You started downhill skating in London, which isn’t exactly known for its mountains. How come?  : I’m from Bavaria in Germany, but I did my bachelor’s [degree] in graphic design in London. Then I was accepted by Central St Martins to study my master’s in communication design, and my thesis was about adrenalin and how it can influence our emotions. I started doing research, looking at sports that are really connected to adrenalin, and I found downhill skateboarding.

So you had never skated before? Why did you have such an interest in adrenalin? I had some experience. I was three years old when I first learnt how to ski, and then at the age of nine I learnt snowboarding, so actually I’m a snowboarder. But when I did the research and found downhill skateboarding, I thought, ‘Wow, it’s like snowboarding for summer.’ So I decided to look into it a bit deeper. I had to know how it feels. The first time I longboarded properly was in Crystal Palace Park [in southeast London]. What did you expect to discover about the effects of adrenalin? I wasn’t sure at the start. But experiencing it on my own body changed a lot. I knew how it was when I was snowboarding: you don’t think about anything but what you’re doing in that moment; you have to focus. But [downhill] skateboarding requires even more focus, because you do fall and crash a lot at the start. To have that singular focus and not think about anything else but what’s happening with your body right now in this moment was mind-blowing. It changed my whole perception of life in some ways. I was going through depression and I found [skating] could really take me out of it. A regular adrenalin rush is, in my eyes, the secret to inner happiness. Where has skating taken you? Everywhere! First, at an international race in Bavaria, some girls who weren’t participating took me to some backstreets to skate. They were like, “Wow, Jen, you’re


going super-fast.” In the beginning, I wasn’t able to properly brake; I was just going as fast as I could, then realising, “Shit, now I need to stop!” Skating with these girls was so empowering, and I knew I wanted to keep doing it. Then I signed myself up to a small event in Austria and I came fourth – in my first race! Little successes here and there push you to want more and go faster. I also got to know the community, and it was a big family. You feel part of something, and it’s wonderful – it really enlightened me. Since then, skating has taken me around the world. I’ve seen a lot of Asia, South America, all of Europe; I’ve been to the US, South Korea, China… I started properly skating in 2014, then in 2016 I came second in the world championships. I came third in 2017, and second again in 2018. Then last year I injured my knee and couldn’t race. Injury seems like a regular thing in downhill skating. How fast do you actually go? My fastest recorded speed was on a racetrack in Vermont [USA], and the police came with a speed gun to measure it for fun. I reached 62mph [100kph]. It’s crazy. If you crashed and you weren’t wearing leathers, it would shred you. So what was it that got you hooked on the sport? The adrenalin, of course. And when I compete, basically I want to have fun. For me, skating is about travelling with other skateboarders too, sharing that like-mindedness, talking about roads and mountains. You get a very different perception of the world. When I was in London I met a friend, Russ, from Lithuania. He was the first person to teach me to do a slide in the backstreets of Greenwich Park. Then we started travelling to Wales in my van. You develop not only a friendship but you have to trust the other person with your life. We have to spot for each other, for example. We have little systems. When there’s a road with traffic, we have one person at each corner, and the first one does the sign that you can go. If there’s a car coming, we cross our arms over THE RED BULLETIN

“Skating changed my whole perception of life” THE RED BULLETIN


Jenny Schauerte

Who are the Woolf Women? When I started racing around Europe, I suddenly met all of these amazing women. It was incredible that there were all these girls out there like me, who love to travel, skate, and are stoked about finding a nice road. We skated together and started bonding. I remember when I was a teenager I always dreamt of having a clique or a group who belonged to me somehow, but I was always alone until that point. Now, I’m part of a group who like to explore, who are open to new things, and who love nature and the environment. Other people just do a lot of talking, but when we have an idea we go for it. We like

“We’re fearless but also curious”

Speed freaks: the thrill of downhill skating is addictive

stepping out of our comfort zone and feeling the adrenalin. We’re fearless but also curious. I started filming everything with my GoPro because these girls are so cool. I posted a clip called ‘Woolf Women’ and people really liked it, so the five of us decided to make a film. And it came at an important time for you… Unfortunately I lost my father three years ago, which was a real shock, and I became [depressed] again. Skating with these women is like medicine. I knew it would sort me

Woolf Women: (from left) Jenny Schauerte, born in Boston, USA, but raised in Bavaria, Germany; Anna Pixner from Austria; Lisa Peters from the Netherlands; Jasmijn ‘Jas’ Hanegraef from Belgium; Alejandra Gutierrez from Colombia


out and help me process [the loss]. The trip is a bit of a pilgrimage to light a candle for my father on a beautiful mountain. And the girls are there to help me push through it. So it’s not just about crazy skating – we had a story to tell. At one point, all the girls were lying on the floor and we had this big map, wondering where we should go. We found Sumela, a beautiful monastery built into the [Pontic] mountains in Turkey, and I knew that was a place my father would have liked to visit. And no one had ever skated down from there. So I prepped my van, Bimbo, and set off on the 10,000km round trip to Turkey. Was making the film the medicine you needed? It was fucking wonderful. We tried and failed to fish, and we almost didn’t get from Bulgaria into Turkey as we didn’t have the right papers. Then, in Istanbul, we met the one and only downhill skateboarder in Turkey, who showed us a few great spots. When we finally saw the monastery, the view was worth all the effort to get there. On Google Maps’ satellite view, the road down from the monastery looked like a dirt path, but when we got there it was fresh tarmac! It felt like divine intervention. That was the real highlight – we skated all the way down from the monastery to the valley. What does a Woolf Woman do when she can’t travel? I was about to go and race and travel around the world this year, but obviously COVID stopped that. For me, it turned into a chance to create a base, somewhere I can come back to after living out of my van for two years. I moved to Innsbruck, Austria, as most of the Woolf Women live here, and outside my house you can go and climb a mountain. You can explore in the area you live in. That’s my advice: now is the chance to discover all the small adventures around you that you never imagined were there. Schauerte’s film, Woolf Women, premiered at this year’s Raindance Film Festival and will be released next spring; THE RED BULLETIN


our faces to say ‘stop’. Travelling and living together bonds you. That was where the ‘wolf-pack’ feeling began. There are not many of us [downhill skaters] and people just don’t know about the sport. So by making a film I wanted more people to be aware that we exist.

The Outdoors Beckons Elite Product Testing | Nims Purja, Osprey Ambassador | Chamonix, 2020

In 2012, NIMS PURJA climbed a mountain for the first time. Eight years later, he has changed the face of mountaineering. And he’s just getting started… Words TOM GUISE and MATT RAY Photography SANDRO BAEBLER

Higher purpose 32

Nims Purja on Mont Blanc, September 2020. The Nepalese climber holds the record for the fastest ascent of the world’s 14 highest mountains

In 2017, the Gurkhas undertook an expedition to summit Everest. For the elite brigade of NepaliIndian soldiers it was a pilgrimage of great significance – a celebration of 200 years of allegiance to the British Crown, and their second attempt at the world’s highest mountain after their 2015 mission was aborted when the fateful Gorkha Earthquake triggered an avalanche that wiped out base camp and stranded most of the climbers at Camp One. Now, this expedition was also in jeopardy. Unpredictable weather meant the official rope-fixing team had yet to fix a route to the summit that year. No one could ascend.

“I was like, wow,” says Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja – at the time a 35-year-old member of the Gurkha climbing unit. “Everyone thinks, as a Gurkha, you are not only the bravest of the brave, but that Everest is in your back garden. Our reputation was at risk. But secondly, when were we ever going to get another chance to climb Everest using British taxpayers’ money? I decided to lead the fixing team.” When word spread around camp about his plan, there was one reaction: “‘Does he have a clue what he’s doing?’ Nobody knew who I was,” recalls Purja. 34

“So I led 13 members of the expedition to summit – the first team to make it from the southern side that year. We came back down into Kathmandu and celebrated with a week of partying. “Then I climbed Everest again, then Lhotse and Makalu [the world’s fourth and fifth highest mountains], all in five days, with two days of partying in between.” These days, people know who Purja is. In 2019, he scaled all 14 ‘eightthousanders’ – the official designation for mountains that exceed 8,000m in height – in the fastest time he could. The

record stood at seven years, 10 months and six days; Purja planned to do it within seven months. He achieved it in six months and six days. It propelled the Special Forces soldier (the first Gurkha to ever be accepted into the UK Special Boat Service) into the mainstream spotlight. It also brought criticism from alpine purists, in particular for his use of supplemental oxygen. “I only do that on the final peak. I climb, setting a fixed line, everything without oxygen up to Camp Four,” he retorts. “People were saying, ‘Oh, Nims THE RED BULLETIN

Nims Purja

Nims Purja, the Gurkha


Pictured on his graduation day with the elite military unit at ITC Catterick in Yorkshire in 2002. “My dad was a Gurkha, my brothers were Gurkhas, and it’s such a life. People respect that in the Nepalese community.”

did Nepal mountains because he can use helicopters to the base camp.’ I said, ‘OK, fine,’ so I climbed all the Pakistan mountains without any helicopters, running from base camp to base camp – 23 days, buddy. All five 8,000m peaks. I have no problem with critics. If someone breaks my record I’ll be the first to shake their hand, but it’s easy to just say it. “Please write that when Nims said that, he said it with a smile, OK?” Purja’s words may read as defiant, but in person he gives off a different energy – a restless cockiness that draws people in, THE RED BULLETIN

rather than repels them. Sitting in a hotel room at the base of Mont Blanc, where he’s spent the summer vacationing, he’s all smiles. Muscular, as you’d expect, but diminutive at 170cm tall, the gentlemanexplorer moustache Purja sported during 2019’s ‘Project Possible’ missions has been shaved off to reveal a boyish face that belies his age. “I’m 38, but to be honest, I don’t really know how old I am,” he says (Wikipedia also has trouble, putting it at ‘36-37’). “I never celebrate my birthday, because age is just a mindset, a way of letting yourself think that you’re getting

old and having that as an excuse.” If this self-consciousness is surprising, it’s just one of many contradictions that penetrate the myth that is Nims Purja. For example, the stereotype that a Nepalese climber benefits from a life raised at high altitude. “I grew up in Chitwan, which is the flattest and warmest part of Nepal. It’s almost sea level. We were a really poor family in a small house with chickens next door. I didn’t even have flip-flops. That changed when my two brothers got into the Gurkhas.” Wanting a better life for their sibling, Purja’s brothers sent him 35

Nims Purja

Annapurna, April 2019

to boarding school, where, by his own estimation, he excelled. “I used to be top five; I could have been first, but I’d finish a two-hour exam in an hour so I could be first to leave the test room. But I didn’t want to be a doctor or an engineer, I had two options: one was to be the Robin Hood of Nepal, seeing off those rich people who don’t pay tax – you know, politicians and all that – and distributing that money to the poor.” He chose option two: the Gurkhas. “Getting in was tough. In my time, 32,000 young Nepalese applied and only 36

320 made it. I started training at 15, in a hostel. I’d wake up at 3am and run with weights strapped to my legs. I had no clue what that did, but I used to go back to bed at 5am and pretend I hadn’t left. I passed the selection on my second attempt.” Purja’s time in the armed forces – he joined the Gurkhas in 2002 and moved to their UK Infantry Training Centre in Catterick (he now lives in Hampshire), and the SBS in 2009 – is one he is deeply proud of, but for every detail he isn’t willing to reveal (“What I can say is I have been shot; I have been into the most

sensitive operations across the globe.”), he is candid about one aspect: “I had what others didn’t have – I could climb an 8,000m peak in two weeks. When I got leave I’d empty my savings and go climb.” Indeed, when Purja finished partying after his five-day tour of Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in 2017, he had to go straight back to work. “I was supposed to get a heli ride to a Special Forces mission, but the heli didn’t come because of the weather, so I ran all the way from base camp – six days’ worth of trekking in 18 hours, THE RED BULLETIN


More than 30 per cent of climbers who attempt to summit the world’s 10th highest mountain perish. Avalanche risk forced Purja’s team to ascend along a rarely-traversed route called the ‘Dutch Rib’ (pictured).

“It’s a thin line between being brave or stupid; living in that moment and getting yourself killed. I want to live in the moment for a long time�

Nims Purja

“I wanted to show the world what is humanly possible if you put your mind, heart and soul into it”

Purja speed-flying on Mont Blanc. The day before this photo was taken, he went into a sharp spiral. “When a force is so big, you just have to roll with that force”


“I love what I do to the bone. And I’m having so much fun that all the tiredness goes away. An 8,000m peak is where I come alive”

Purja on the summit ridge of Gasherbrum II, July 18, 2019 – the ninth mountain in his quest to summit all 14 eight-thousanders

Nims Purja



Four days before Purja set off on Project Possible, he attended the final sitting for a piece of body art across his back. It shows the 14 mountains he intended to climb – from the smallest (Shishapangma, 8,027m) at the base of his spine to the tallest (Everest, 8,848m) below his neck. But this is no ordinary tattoo – it contains the genetic code of his loved ones. Inked by London tattooist Valerie Vargas in four sittings, the process – patented in 2016 by former Navy SEAL Boyd

running through the night. At that point I realised: ‘I think I’ve got something.’” That something, even his fiercest critics would agree, is an incredible capacity for recovery. It usually takes weeks of living at a high-altitude base camp to acclimatise to the low-pressure air as your body compensates, increasing the haemoglobin levels (the protein that absorbs oxygen) in your red blood cells. Only then would you attempt an 8,000m+ summit, and you’d need weeks to recover. When Purja returned to Everest, Lhotse and Makalu for Project THE RED BULLETIN

Renner and business partner Patrick Duffy, and known as Everence – takes DNA (in Purja’s case, from the hair of his parents, brothers, sister and wife) and encases it in a medicalgrade polymer to create powder-sized beads that can be blended with tattoo ink. This ink was used to illustrate prayer flags marking out the route on his back. “I wanted to take my whole family on this spiritual journey,” says Purja. “But it was also a reminder that, if I was about to cross the fine line between brave and stupid, I must come home alive to look after my family, especially my mum and dad.”

Possible in 2019, he summited all three in 48 hours and 30 minutes. “My recovery time is really rapid,” he agrees. “It’s a mindset. I love what I do to the bone. And I’m having so much fun that all that tiredness goes away. And an 8,000m peak? That’s where I come alive. I don’t lose any of my strength. That is my playground.” Purja hadn’t even worn a pair of crampons before the age of 29, first summiting 6,119m-tall Lobuche East in Nepal in 2012 without any prior mountaineering experience. Two years

later, he scaled his first eight-thousander, Dhaulagiri, and discovered his natural ability to thrive at altitude. “I climbed that in 14 days without any acclimatisation, and I led 70 per cent of the route,” he says. But Purja isn’t immune to the effects of the ‘death zone’ – the name given to that space above 8000m – as he discovered on his first ascent of Everest in 2016. “I was in camp to carry all my equipment and oxygen. People were taking six weeks to get to that phase; I was doing it in five days,” he recalls. “As a mountain trooper in the SBS I knew 41

Everest, 2017 This shot was taken as Purja fixed lines to the summit as part of the Gurkha 200 expedition. “The weather was brutal,” he says. “It’s so painful that you think you’d rather die, but death isn’t the solution.”

I couldn’t go that fast, but my body was taking it OK. That’s when I had a pulmonary oedema [fluid on the lungs]. It’s like drowning. More than anything I was ashamed, because I had the knowledge to avoid that, but you don’t know where your limit is until you push it.” If that attitude seems reckless, Purja sees it differently. “It is reckless to many. Even in the Special Forces I was known for taking high risks, but risk is not one size fits all. If a BASE jumper does his stuff, I can’t do that. You live in the moment, but that doesn’t mean you don’t do a risk 42

assessment. It’s a thin line between being brave or stupid; living in that moment and getting yourself killed. I want to live in the moment for a long time.”


hen Nims Purja was 13, he decided to swim across one of the biggest rivers in Nepal. “I was just in my underwear. I wasn’t a good swimmer, but I was committed and got to the bank on the other side,” he recalls. “Then I was like, ‘Fuck, now I have to go back again.’” As he began his return swim, he started

thinking. “I remembered stories of people getting attacked by crocodiles. I was so tired – I came to that point where you have to give up, so I did. And I stood up. I found I was in knee-deep water. I thought, ‘Thank God.’” Purja is giving an example of his willingness to test his limits, but he’s aware it also shows his capacity to perhaps reach too far. In 2018, Purja was appointed head of extreme cold-weather warfare in the SBS. “My job was to learn new climbing techniques and teach that to my fellow operators,” he explains. “I said to my command, ‘Since my job is this and I have so much leave, I’d like 18 days off to climb the world’s five highest mountains. It’s good for the unit.’” His superiors were ecstatic, then they researched what he was planning. “They told me, ‘You cannot take the risk.’ I said, ‘Fine,’ and that’s when I decided to leave the job.” It wasn’t a decision he took lightly. “I was the bread earner for my family. Every month, I sent money directly from my pay cheque to my parents. My dad was half-paralysed, and my mum was living in a room in Kathmandu to be near the medical facility. For me to give up everything now was crazy. My brother called. He said, ‘No Gurkha’s ever made the SBS – you’re the first. You’re close to your pension – why sacrifice that?’ He was furious. He didn’t speak to me for two months.” Meanwhile, Purja’s plan, which had now become Project Possible, hit a wall. “A friend who was leading the financial side said, ‘I’m sorry, I couldn’t raise any funding after trying for seven months.’ I had only two months to raise £750K. It was hard, going to every sponsor, begging. I got £1,000 here, £5,000 there, but it wasn’t enough; no one believed in the vision. Some said, ‘If you’re a badass climber, why have we never heard about you?’ And I’d say, ‘Because I was in the Special Forces.’ One guy told me, ‘Maybe you didn’t get sponsorship because you’re not white.’ It hit me. I said, ‘You could be right.’ But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. In life there are harder problems, but you solve the problem. So I remortgaged the house, I got the biggest amount I could – 60 grand – and put 10K aside so, should something happen, it would pay the mortgage. I started the mission with five per cent of what I needed. I was driving down the M3 one day with tears coming from my eyes. I never cry, but I couldn’t stop. All I could THE RED BULLETIN


Nims Purja

2 6


1 5 3






12 13 11

FAST PACKING The kit that helped Nims succeed 1. One-litre Thermos flask: “I don’t carry any other water bottles, but I melt snow using the hot water in this, so I can make two litres with one and save weight.” 2. Black Diamond Cobra carbonfibre ice axes: “Very lightweight and technical. Used for lead climbing on technical slopes as well as self-arrest in a fall.” 3. Baseball hat: “Because you need to protect your head from the sun.” THE RED BULLETIN

4. Sunglasses (not pictured) 5. ThruDark bespoke Summit Suit: “Designed by my two friends from the Special Forces, this is the third generation of the Summit Suit I have been using. It can go as cold as -40°C.” 6. Beanie hat 7. Lightweight, waterproof 40m alpine rope 8. Pair of crampons

9. Duffel bag: “For all of my expedition gear.”

gloves: “Working gloves and big summit gloves.”

10. Lightweight harness: “Plus all my climbing equipment: two ice screws and a rescue system that includes a Ropeman [mini-ascender used to climb up ropes], belay device [for controlling the tension of the rope attached to a climber below], sling and Prusik loop [a separate rope knotted to the main line that acts as a friction hook during abseiling].”

13. Base layers

11. Thick socks

14. Summit boots: “They’re black because when I asked the brand if they’d support me, they said no. So I removed their logo with a marker.” 15. Backpack: “I’m designing the Nims 120 with Osprey. It’ll be the ultimate daypack for mountaineers, made of very lightweight material, small and compact, but you can make it massive, because we need to carry the tent, oxygen, everything.”

12. Three different layers of


“If someone breaks my record, I’ll be the first to shake their hand”

Purja: “Someone said, ‘Do it next year, Nims.’ Imagine if I’d tried for this year? If you plan for the second option in life, you are already planning for failure”

Nims Purja

think was, ’Why am I doing this project?’ “It was so painful that I just wished an avalanche would come and kill me. But it’s not about me. I was doing it for a bigger reason.” When embarking on a mission of this scale, Purja says, you need a purpose. “If I wanted to just break a record, I would have said, ‘It’s nearly eight years; I’ll do it in seven.’ But I wasn’t trying to be the best; I wanted to show the world what is humanly possible if you put your mind, heart and soul into it. And I wanted to highlight the names of the Nepalese climbers. For the last 100 years we’ve been in the background, but high-altitude mountaineering – eightthousanders – that is our ground. I felt I needed to do something about this. That’s what gives me energy.” Purja is not of Sherpa ethnicity, but he identifies with the term as used to describe any Nepalese who work in the climbing community. His team consists wholly of Nepalese climbers, not as guides or rope-fixers, but as equals. “When people climb, they want to use a Sherpa because he knows the route, he can show you the way. I said, ‘You’re going to climb that mountain because this is an opportunity for you too. It’s equal glory.’ Then he’s also climbing a new peak and, next time, when he’s guiding, he can charge double.” Members of Purja’s team are now rising stars in their own right, like Mingma David Sherpa, who, at 31, is the youngest climber to summit all 14 8,000m peaks. “He’s my right-hand man; one of the strongest Sherpa I have ever seen,” says Purja, whose team has given him a new name: ‘Nimsdai’. Dai means ‘older brother’ in Nepali. It’s the name Purja now goes by, and how he presents it on his new book, Beyond Possible: One Soldier, Fourteen Peaks – Life In The Death Zone.


n April 23, 2019, the Project Possible team summited their first eight-thousander – Annapurna in Nepal, widely considered to be the world’s deadliest mountain. As they descended, Purja got news that another climber, Singaporean doctor Chin Wui Kin, had become separated from his team at 7,500m. Purja, Mingma David Sherpa and a third member of his crew, Gesman Tamang, aborted their mission to go back up and rescue him (Chin sadly died in hospital). Two


days later, on Kanchenjunga (the world’s third highest mountain), they deviated to rescue two more. The stories made world headlines, alongside a now infamous photo Purja took of climbers queuing to summit Everest. “As I ticked off the mountains,” he recalls, “people started donating to my GoFundMe.” More crucially, the sponsors started rolling in, too. They were finally believing in his vision. If Purja experienced any doubt in his vision, it was at K2, the world’s second highest mountain at 8,611m. “I checked the video of where people had given up, and while I don’t take the word of every Western climber, when the top Nepalese climber, who I respect, says, ‘That’s impossible,’ I think, ‘Fuck, can I make it?’ Other climbers were waiting, thinking I would fix lines for them, but I didn’t have to do this. It would have made more sense to climb nearby Broad Peak, then everybody could be safe, they could all go home. But what I remembered was the UK Special Forces selection – 200 soldiers from the Royal Marines, RAF, Army, Navy – all thinking they’re the best, but only four make it. If you listen to those 196 who failed it, you’re never going to try.” Purja decided to ascend K2 with two members of his team. “I said, ‘If we can’t

“I never celebrate my birthday. Age is just a mindset, a way of letting yourself think that you’re getting old”

make it, we’ll come back down, you two will have a rest, and I’m going to take you two up. And if we don’t make it, I’ll take you two – it’s going to be six rotations before I think about giving up.’ But with just one push it was done.” On July 24, 2019, Purja’s team summited K2, a mountain that still, however, remains unconquered in winter. “It’s because there’s a very short window,” explains Purja, when asked why that is. “But of course it’s possible, buddy. You just need the speed.”


hen Nims Purja – who has been awarded an MBE for his high-altitude mountaineering – takes a holiday at Mont Blanc, it really is just that. The highest mountain in the Alps, at 4,808m, is a cakewalk for him. Or rather a flight. He’s spent the summer learning how to speed fly – a revved-up version of paragliding, with a faster, lighter wing that can fit into a small backpack, used by extreme alpinists. “It lets you get down from a summit quickly, but with style, flying right next to the mountain,” he explains. Purja’s idea of fun is always full-on. He enjoys hard rock, particularly AC/DC (“I always played Thunderstruck on my headset in the Special Forces helicopter,” he reveals), and just before The Red Bulletin arrived, he’d broken his tail bone in a hard landing. “I rested for 24 hours, then was flying again,” he says, nonchalantly. “You’ve got to go with the energy. It’s like trying to jump off a moving train – if you don’t run, you’re going to fall.” If Purja seems blasé about his process, he’s deadly serious about his purpose, and has another to add to the list – raising awareness about climate change. “I never used to believe in it,” he says. “But I climbed Ama Dablam in 2014 and we had snow at Camp One to melt and cook food. I went back in 2018 and we had to carry gallons of water from base camp. I realised, ‘Oh my God, this shit is real.’ “We are all a part of it. I have this voice and my power of influencing people will grow even bigger. I believe we’ve got these two next decades to make this change.” “There’s a solution to every problem.” Purja’s book, Beyond Possible: One Soldier, Fourteen Peaks – Life In The Death Zone, is out on November 12;; Instagram: @nimsdai 45

With most public performance on an enforced hiatus, dancers are finding new platforms for their artistry – bringing their bold and beautiful moves to some unexpected places Words ALEX KING Photography THEO McINNES

Keeping in step

Crossing over: the English National Ballet’s Francesca Velicu takes it to the bridge; (left) Polish-born dancer Andre Kamienski, who heads his own contemporary arts company




Raising hoops: aerialist Annalisa Midolo wows the towpath crowd


Rewind a few days and the mood is more upbeat – despite the pouring rain outside – at a rehearsal for the weekend’s performance. In an elegant, woodenfloored yoga studio in London Bridge, Katsura leads the session as Francesca Velicu, 22, and Erik Woolhouse, 24, from the English National Ballet (ENB), and Bassett-Graham, 29, from Company Wayne McGregor, practise their routines. The moment is made even more special by the fact Katsura has been out of action since October due to a stress fracture to her left shin, which necessitated crutches. First, Velicu and Woolhouse, who are a couple, practise a breezy duet together. Then, for their solo pieces, Velicu floats THE RED BULLETIN


Chisato Katsura

dispersal efforts, the crowd begins chanting in unison: “Let them dance!” Inside, there’s an intense back-andforth between the dancers and police. Once it becomes clear that only the organisers would be arrested, not the performers, freelance aerialist Jackie Le decides to complete her routine as a protest. She begins her descent from rigging hoisted from the roof, hanging like a spider on a thread as the stand-off continues on the towpath. After eight consecutive weekends of free shows throughout the summer, this short-lived experimental attempt to find a way to dance and perform despite COVID restrictions has been brought to a close, for now. “At least we went out with a bang,” says Chisato Katsura, First Artist of The Royal Ballet, forcing an optimistic smile. “But it’s depressing, seeing this come to an end. It feels like losing a baby, when we had a whole month of shows planned. And it really doesn’t make sense: right now, there are hundreds of people in the parks, going out in Soho, or sitting on planes. Yet with all these gatherings happening we’re the only ones being shut down.”

“At a DistDancing show, you can tell people are still thirsty for live performance”

t’s an overcast Sunday afternoon in East London, and a small crowd has gathered on the towpath of the Regent’s Canal. On the other side of the water sits Hoxton Docks, a renovated warehouse complex turned events space, with a floating pontoon just outside its tall wooden cargo doors. To the left of the pontoon is a barge carrying a giant yellow inflatable balloon that looks like some sort of bizarre sea Zeppelin. To the right is a family of four model sharks emerging menacingly from the water. With just a few minutes to go until the clock strikes three, you can feel the energy rise in the assembled throng as they wait to discover what will emerge from behind the cargo doors. The crowd is here for DistDancing, a new series of free pop-up weekend performances created by dancers whose regular careers have been brought to a halt by COVID-19 restrictions that have shuttered theatres and venues in the UK and beyond. However, unbeknownst to those waiting patiently – and socially distanced – on the towpath, the police are already inside Hoxton Docks, and the plug is pulled on the sound system after just five seconds. What’s more, the organisers are told they’ll be arrested if they hit play again. Another van full of police officers marches onto the towpath and orders the crowd to leave, just as dancer Rebecca Bassett-Graham was going to begin her routine. As the police continue with their

The world’s a stage: Chisato Katsura, co-founder of DistDancing and First Artist of the Royal Ballet, is helping keep dance alive in lockdown



“I hope people become more appreciative of what dance brings to our culture” Jordan Bautista


across the floor, seemingly as light as a feather, and spins on one foot in a pirouette, every bit the classical ballerina, while Erik dances with a more muscular and modern energy, throwing out his arms and legs in wide, sweeping movements, like a warrior psyching himself up for battle. Bassett-Graham shows off her contemporary, almost glitchy solo, with her body contorting itself into expressive, abstract shapes, before all three join on the floor for what will be the show’s finale: dancing in synchronisation with one another. You can feel their sense of joy and excitement at being able to dance together again after months of lockdown. “I remember back in March, slowly everything was cancelled, minute by minute, hour by hour,” remembers Bassett-Graham, originally from New Zealand. “This isn’t just a job to us, it’s part of who we are as humans. After

more than a week off, you start itching for that physicality. The uncertainty of not knowing when I would be able to perform again, or when it would be possible to dance in a studio with other people again… all of these things really started weighing on me.” For dancers, whose very meaning in life is to move, the lockdown came as a particularly harsh blow. Not only were all their shows cancelled and their companies put on hiatus, but there was no way of knowing when they’d even be able to dance again, let alone in front of an audience. Often confined to small shared flats – especially those living in London – and dancing or training in bedrooms and kitchens, they did what they could to stay active and prevent their bodies from losing the intense physical conditioning for which they had worked most of their adult lives. “The whole dance community really pulled together,” Bassett-Graham says. “Everything went onto Zoom, and people began opening up their classes to whoever wanted to watch.” Across the industry, the barriers came down, membership of particular institutions no longer mattered, and professional dancers became one big family online, sharing tips, classes and workshops with each other and legions of amateur dancers, too. Woolhouse embraced the change in routine and the opening of his world to other forms of dance, music and movement. At 15, he relocated to the UK from Japan to train with the Royal Ballet School, and he has been in the ballet bubble of the ENB for the last five years, training and rehearsing for upwards of six hours each day. The ENB’s season usually starts with an autumn tour of five or six cities in the UK, then a five-week “intense marathon” of Nutcracker at London’s Coliseum, followed by original shows such as Creature by celebrated choreographer Akram Khan, which has had to be postponed due to COVID. It’s an intense schedule that often doesn’t leave much time or energy for anything outside ballet. So, during lockdown, Woolhouse has taken the opportunity to expand his repertoire and dance to other styles of music he enjoys, including jazz, hip hop and techno. In July, the ENB returned to training, albeit in much smaller groups of around eight to 10 dancers, all confined to their own personal boxes taped onto the floor, dancing for just THE RED BULLETIN


“After more than a week off from dancing, you start itching for that physicality” Rebecca Bassett-Graham


four hours a day, Monday to Saturday. It wasn’t only training and fitness but also performance that flourished – and continues to flourish – online. The ENB joined other companies in offering shows for free, with its popular Wednesday Watch Parties helping to open up ballet to a new audience. For Velicu, who originates from Romania and moved to the UK in 2016 after training at Moscow’s world-famous Bolshoi Ballet, these free online shows were particularly special as her mum could now watch all her performances from back home. “I really hope the intense interaction and engagement we’ve had on social

media continues,” Velicu says. “It’s been so great for bringing in new, younger audiences. For the first time, people from around the world can easily see the work produced in London. My mum is enjoying it so much, she’s watching an opera from the Met in New York or a ballet show from London every day.” Woolhouse believes the ruptures created by the pandemic were necessary for an industry with a tendency towards elitism. “Dance needs to be more approachable to the public,” he says. “Young people nowadays can’t afford an £80 ticket and a suit to go to the ballet. That grandness and tradition must be kept alive, but the industry will die without the next generation, so I think something with a more casual atmosphere is necessary [in order] to move forward. That’s what’s so great about DistDancing: you can just drop by with a coffee on the side of the canal, watch a performance and realise you really enjoyed it.” Dance companies around the world have taken an enormous hit. The ENB, for example, lost two thirds of its income and was forced to furlough more than 85 per cent of its staff through the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Having received an emergency grant from the Arts Council that helped it stay afloat, adapting to a world of online-only performances is crucial to the ENB’s survival, as staging shows for a reduced audience just isn’t financially viable for most larger companies. However, Katsura and her Italian-born colleague Valentino Zucchetti, a First Soloist at The Royal Ballet and co-founder of DistDancing, remain passionate about finding ways to bring live performances back – both for dancers’ and audiences’ benefit. “Online content is a cure for the moment,” says the Japanese dancer, “but it’s just not the same effect as in real life. Online, people click a button and get what they want; they get bored easily and there’s no opportunity for those chance encounters with the unknown. “As a performer, you feel the energy of the audience’s applause,” Katsura continues. “It’s hard to put into words how it feels to hear 2,000 people cheering for you. You can be in so much pain for two hours, but then you hear the applause and it just pushes you through to the end. I want to give performers the opportunity to feel that audience response again and keep doing what they love.” 53

Stepping out: Velicu has seen interest from a whole new audience thanks to the ENB’s free online content



“Dance needs to be more approachable. That’s what is great about DistDancing” Erik Woolhouse


ead east along the towpath from Hoxton Docks and you’ll find yourself at Here East, a creative complex that backs onto the River Lee Navigation and was built for the 2012 Olympics. Here, a corner room has been turned into a makeshift dance studio for Company Wayne McGregor’s RESET 2020 programme, which began in August and offers a free 10-week programme of ballet, contemporary and fitness training to both the company’s own dancers and freelancers who have fallen through the cracks support-wise. The three-and-ahalf-hour daily programme is a far cry from Bassett-Graham’s pre-COVID routine of being on tour for the majority of the year or rehearsing in London from 10am to 6pm. But getting back into the studio with other dancers – even if it is socially distanced – is still very welcome. One of the freelancers to benefit from RESET 2020 is Jordan Bautista (who uses the pronouns they/them), a 25-year-old dancer originally from


Gibraltar. After dancing with the Polish National Ballet in Warsaw, Bautista relocated to London, and it was while they were searching for work following surgery that the pandemic struck. Today, they’re confined to their own square opposite Bassett-Graham, which has been marked out on the floor with white tape so that they and the other dancers can train in a COVID-compliant way. Each square has its own barre, a plastic box for possessions, and a supply of disinfectant wipes. When the class is ready to start, the instructor reels off a list of positions so fast it sounds unintelligible to the untrained ear, like an alien language or the shipping forecast. But the masked inhabitants of all 18 white boxes move through their positions in perfect sync, throwing their bodies into the kicks, spins and curtsies of the physically demanding ballet routine. “I think one of the changes that will come out of this pandemic is that both dancers and audiences are going to be much more aware of how much it takes to come together and collaborate to create work,” Bautista says. “I hope people will become more appreciative and understand how much work goes into things, and how much dance contributes to our culture.”

n mid-September, following intense negotiations with the council and police, and considerable support from the public, the landlord of Hoxton Docks allowed DistDancing to return. “We’re still very much on alert, and there’s the possibility of another shutdown,” says Katsura. “We had to change our format and drop the strict scheduling to prevent a crowd gathering or police intervention.” Now, in late September, it’s time for the final show of the relaunched DistDancing. It’s grey and overcast again, but because of the lack of notification there’s no crowd outside Hoxton Docks. The Royal Ballet’s Giacomo Rovero walks onto the pontoon stage and starts his routine. Passers-by hear the music, stop to look, and by the end of his threeminute solo there are 20-30 people watching in awe. These aren’t the legion of fans DistDancing amassed through social media, but rather new people stopped in their tracks by a chance encounter with dance – just as Katsura and Zucchetti had originally intended. “Things will never go back to ‘normal’ as we know it; they’ll only move forward,” Katsura says. “When the theatres shut, we worried we’d lose our connection with audiences. But at a DistDancing show you can tell people are still thirsty for live performance. The connection is maybe even stronger. I think lockdown has made people realise how much they need arts and culture in their lives.” Fittingly, Katsura is DistDancing’s fifth and final performer. Due to her recent recovery, she performs a modified version of the Emeralds solo from choreographer George Balanchine’s ballet Jewels. She avoids going en pointe, but sweeps her arms gracefully in a port de bras as her flowing skirt billows around her, and finishes kneeling with her arms crossed, facing the audience on the towpath across the canal. The crowd has now grown to around 50 spectators, who applaud wildly as Katsura takes a bow before being joined on stage by the other performers. “We’re so grateful to be able to bring joy to people again,” Katsura says, relieved at the hitch-free performance. “The support we’ve had during the shutdown has been incredible. To see everyone come together to keep the arts alive is so heartwarming. It’s the strength and hope we need during these dark times.”;; waynemcgregor. com; Instagram: @_distdancing_ 55

“I make people want to rewrite their bars” The multicultural Birmingham-born artist has forged her own unique style of rap, which resonates from London to LA. Here, she talks about Drake’s wise words, the benefits of speaking Dutch, and why Instagram crushes creativity Words FLORIAN OBKIRCHER Photography SALIM ADAM 56

Red alert: Stefflon Don never looks less than 100 per cent – even, it would appear, when doing the dishes

Stefflon Don


hen British rapper Stefflon Don arrived on the scene in 2016, heads were turned. Her flow on the debut mixtape Real Ting was seamless, with lyrics that blended Jamaican patois, East London slang and US hip hop references. And, in contrast to the down-to-earth attitude of most UK rap, she presented herself as glamorous and brazen, a superstar in the making. In November that year, she was longlisted in the BBC’s newcomer poll Sound of 2017. Four months later, she signed a £1.2m deal with a major label, and in August 2017 her single Hurtin’ Me, with US rapper French Montana, reached number seven in the UK Singles Chart. Since then, the 28-year-old – real name Stephanie Allen – has won MOBO and NME Awards; worked with artists including Sean Paul, Nile Rodgers, Charli XCX, Skepta, Drake and Mariah Carey; and in 2018 became the first British artist ever to make legendary US hip hop magazine XXL’s annual Freshman List. Born in Birmingham to Jamaican parents, the rapper moved with her family to Rotterdam in the Netherlands when she was five, before settling back in the UK – in Hackney – at 14. As a result, Stefflon Don’s music is a blend of dancehall, grime, R&B and house, her rhymes incorporating influences from London, Jamaica, Holland and America. She says that growing up among different cultures opened her mind and broadened her music and, in that sense, is the secret to her success.   : You have an unmistakable East London snarl, but you also use Jamaican patois and US slang. You even rap in Dutch...  : That’s because of my diverse upbringing. I spent most of my 58

childhood in Rotterdam. People there speak American English, and I grew up in a Jamaican household. On top of that, I had White friends, Turkish friends, Moroccan friends. People are really accommodating there, so I’d learn a lot about their cultures, about their traditions, their food, their music. What were the musical influences you picked up there? So, Holland used to control Suriname [the South American country was under Dutch rule between 1667 and 1975] and the Surinamese culture has a heavy influence in Rotterdam – similar to the influence of Jamaican culture in London. The language they speak [in Suriname] is a mix of Spanish, French, Dutch and English. Growing up there, I used to listen to Surinamese songs all the time; we’d also use their slang words. I think it even left a mark on my pronunciation: I was in Spain the other day and some locals thought I was from there. I’m not even fluent in Spanish! Do you think being fluent in Dutch has had an impact on your rapping skills? Definitely. When I’m speaking Dutch, I talk really fast. Because of that, I’m quick on the tongue when I rap. That was a big advantage when I started out. You’re known for your eclectic musical style – on your new mixtape, Island 54, you even add Afrobeats to the mix. Wouldn’t music executives rather you stick to one thing so you don’t overwhelm your fanbase? Well, I feel like there are certain artists you can put on any track – whether it’s a Latin track or a slow jam or an alternative song – because their voice is like an instrument. They hold a certain

sound through their voice, and I feel like I’ve got that. On my next single, I’m actually speaking Yoruba [a language spoken mostly in West Africa]. I think the audience is going to be shocked – it’s totally different again. But, for me, this is something that I’ve always been experimenting with. As an artist, I just feel so free. Two years ago, you made history as the first UK artist to be named on XXL magazine’s Freshman List. Do you think your global perspective is the reason the US audience has embraced you more than other UK MCs? Definitely! I feel only now Americans are more accepting of the British accent on a rap track. Before that, it was like, “I love when you guys talk, but when someone’s rapping I can’t take you serious. I feel like you eat crumpets and drink tea all day.” Literally, that’s what they would say to me! But when they heard my songs, they’d always say, “OK, so you don’t really sound that British.” And again, that comes from growing up in Holland, where I used to speak American English. Rapping with a real British accent was actually a challenge for me in the beginning. That reminds me of something your brother, drill artist Dutchavelli, said in a recent interview about your family moving back to the UK from Rotterdam: “I had an accent and there THE RED BULLETIN

“Americans would say, ‘I love when you [Brits] talk, but when someone’s rapping I can’t take you serious. I feel like you eat crumpets and drink tea all day’”

“Thank God I was just born with confidence. When the [other] kids used to try me – and they would try me a lot – I always stood my ground”

Stefflon Don

were lots of words I didn’t know. It messed up school for me.” Can you relate to that? When I came back, I had the weirdest accent. I was torn between American English and Jamaican patois. I told people here that I was from Jamaica. They were like, “You’re not Jamaican. What kind of accent is this?” It was very difficult. How did you gain acceptance? Thank God I was just born with confidence. When the kids used to try me – and they would try me a lot – I always stood my ground. And I think anywhere in life, if someone tries you and you continue to stand your ground, they just have to respect you. After a while, they were so confused at how confident I was, and that’s what made them like me. How can others achieve that level of confidence? Any advice? Stay away from people who belittle you, whether it’s friends or family. Just don’t be around people who make you feel less confident. Or at least try not to ask them for advice if you know that they’re not going to have your corner. You have to realise that nobody has the answers to everything. Believe in yourself – that’s how you gain confidence. Someone who gave you advice early on in your career is Drake. He said, “Make sure that, whatever you do, your opponent is scared of you.” Is that something you still live by? Yes, 100 per cent. In anything you do, whether you’re a plumber or a carpenter or a gamer, you should always want to be the best. Else why do it? Coming up rapping, I was in so many situations where there was a beat playing and it was like, ‘OK, who’s going to rap on it?’ And I was always ready in those situations. I always made sure that I had many lyrics ready, so whoever was on the mic I would destroy them. Ruthless… Yeah, I’ve always had that mentality. I want to make people want to rewrite their bars. Because sometimes I used to feel that way. I’d hear certain females rap and I’d think, “Oh my God, what I’ve written is not as good. I need to go back and rewrite my shit.” That’s how I want


“In anything you do, you should always want to be the best. Else why do it?” people to feel when they hear me. Because that’s how you keep a healthy conversation, that’s how you push each other. If people aren’t challenging one another, if they just follow others, then we’re stuck. And that’s what has been happening for a while. No one is really trying to be the best. I see a lot of followers. I see a lot of people who think, “Oh, this works, this charted. Let me do something similar.” Why do you think that is? As an artist, the way you’re criticised today is different from when I first came up. Back then, there were no Instagram trolls. I wasn’t scared to fail by putting out videos that might not be what I want them to be – I just had to do it, because that’s all I could afford. I can’t imagine how it is for young artists today with so many eyes on them; so many eyes of people who don’t know what they are talking about, projecting their insecurities on others on social media. Platforms like Instagram are responsible for a lack of creativity in the new generation of artists. And even for established ones, it’s very hard to really say what they want to say, or express how they feel. Sounds like you’re talking from personal experience… I used to record my family on Snapchat a lot. I would always speak my mind on certain topics that got me in trouble a couple of times. [In 2018, she apologised for tweets from 2013 in which she said “dark-skinned” girls would change their skin colour if they could]. I got in trouble for stuff I didn’t mean in that way, and things were taken out of context. It made me feel like, “Do you even deserve to really know who I am if you going to take small parts and use them to make it seem

like I am this person that I’m not?” That is what the internet has become now. People are looking at your image and thinking, “What can I pick up [on] that’s wrong?” And the second thing is, “Let me see the comments,” to find what narrative is being pushed. You’re not supposed to be yourself. You’re not supposed to be a self-thinker. It’s all about playing it safe, about following others. And I really just want to break away from that. Is there a way to make the internet a place of positivity again? I actually had a couple of meetings with one of the heads of Instagram, and one thing I requested was to take the likes off the comments. What do you mean? There was a time when you could comment on posts, but you wouldn’t get likes on your comment. Now that people are more extreme and meaner in their comments because they want to stand out in order to get likes, it’s like a competition. As a result, you look at your post and realise that 3,000 people liked a really hateful comment about you. It feels awful! I don’t think people realise how detrimental Instagram is for us and the next generation. Everyone is tiptoeing around [the issue] and saying, “Oh yeah, it’s bad.” But people are so insecure because of this, people don’t create because of this, people don’t share new ideas because of this. It’s a very serious thing and I wish more people would speak up more about it and demand change. With that said, what’s your strategy for staying sane? I’m so blessed that I have my family. I bought a big house and my [11-yearold] son, most of my six siblings and my mom live with me. That’s the main reason why I’m OK. Also, I consider myself lucky that I didn’t come up in the social media age. I have a sense of reality. I know what it means to be original. I know what it means to not really give a fuck about what no one says. And no one can take that away from me. Stefflon Don’s new mixtape Island 54 is out now;


French BMXer Matthias Dandois in Paris, August 2019, performing a steamroller barspin trick for the featurelength film The Old World

Come together Seven countries, 15 riders, eight nationalities, eight disciplines, numerous wrecked drones, multiple injuries, one epic film. Inside Europe’s most ambitious bike movie Words TOM GUISE, STU KENNY and PIERRE-HENRI CAMY Photography JULIAN MITTELSTÄDT


It’s early morning in Strandafjellet, Norway. In winter here, you can ski from the mountain tops to the fjords below, but right now, in spring 2019, a blanket of cloud sits atop grassy cliffs. From it emerges a bike rider, Martin Söderström, a camera crew catching his every move. The 28-yearold is one of Sweden’s highest-profile freeriders, yet, astonishingly, this is his first feature-length film… “How is it possible that one of the most influential riders in the world has never had a big movie part?” German pro mountain biker Andi Tillmann had pondered in 2018. The answer: all the big ensemble action-sports flicks were made in North America. “They get to choose their regions and the riders,” says the 32-year-old who, together with his brothers Toni and Michi, has produced and starred in MTB movies that have been seen by millions, “so top-level European riders were never featured.” That was the catalyst for the biggest project the Tillmanns – and perhaps any European bike filmmakers – had ever undertaken. Two years later, The Old World is complete. It’s a journey from the fjords of Norway to the suburbs of Berlin and Paris to the sun-baked dust of La Poma in Spain, gathering together a roll call of Euro riders never before seen on film. The ride wasn’t without its bumps – injuries, technical malfunctions, a global pandemic – and the crew learnt a lesson as steep as their handdug courses. “In Europe we have a very narrow weather window, and each country comes with its own drone and filming restrictions,” says Tillmann, whose hair literally fell out due to stress. “I was blond when we started, now I’m bald,” he laughs. Here, Tillmann and some of the riders share a glimpse of what it took to make Europe’s first bike blockbuster… The Old World is out November 22. See it on Red Bull TV;

Director Andi Tillmann films Martin Söderström in Stranda, Norway. Left: Tillmann (centre) with brothers Toni (left) and Michi



The Old World

STRANDA, NORWAY Riders: Martin Söderström (pictured), Emil and Simon Johansson (all SWE) Discipline: Trail and slopestyle Tillman: It took a year to convince the Strandafjellet authorities to grant us access – none of the landscape could be damaged as it’s part of their slope system. The idea was to communicate that Scandinavian perfection of control, and our three riders are proponents of something called the ‘Swedish Style’. We developed a special rig: a backpack with an Arri Alexa movie camera on a gimbal, to be carried by a second rider – me – at high speed. Söderström: I’d never been to Stranda. It was surreal to see the sunrise with my best riding buddies, Emil and Simon, and have the course to ourselves. I was the first rider from Sweden to go professional, but a lot of incredibly talented athletes have come through since then. I guess some were inspired by my riding, and that’s become the ‘Swedish Style’. We ride a lot indoors during the winter, because of the weather. That’s why most Swedish riders have a technical background. We do a lot of barspins and tailwhips. I value my riding style more than the tricks I do. I’d rather do less complicated tricks and have them look great than not look in control. THE RED BULLETIN


Freeride MTBer Vincent Tupin (top) films the ‘summer segment’ with fellow rider Robin Delale in Rhône-Alpes

BERLIN, GERMANY Riders: Bruno Hoffmann (pictured above), Mo Nussbaumer (both GER) Discipline: BMX street

CHÂTEL, FRANCE Rider: Vincent Tupin (FRA) Discipline: Snow freeride, downhill MTB Tillmann: Originally, this was a winter-only segment filmed at Châtel snowpark with a cameraman following Vinny’s freeride manoeuvres over slopes and jumps. Tupin: First [in March 2019] it went well. Then I planted my front wheel in deep snow, flipped and dislocated my shoulder. Eventually we decided to come back in better conditions the following winter. Tillmann: [But February 2020] turned out to be the shittiest winter of all time. The temperature stayed so high that even the descent into the valley was closed. Tupin: Plus COVID-19 began closing the resorts. So we shot on the slopes near my home [in Maxilly-sur-Léman], with a final section at the end of summer – in the dirt. 66

Tillmann: We wanted to show street riding, so sought out toplevel BMXers, which was tough because we’re a mountain-bike crew and their mindset is quite different; they have their own filmers. We shot solely with a handheld camera, to capture how they use the restrictions of the city to express themselves. Hoffmann: Street riding is often illegal, so usually there’s only one filmer and you have to hit and run. But for this we had permission for pretty much every spot. That eased some of the pressure, but the scale of the production added more – we couldn’t just ride around randomly. For me, BMX street is more accessible than mountain biking – you don’t need an expensive bike or special trails. When you ride a BMX, you see a city differently. You look at stairs, rails, ledges. Everything is a spot. You never stop looking. THE RED BULLETIN

The Old World

BMX street pro Bruno Hoffman in August 2019: “I love coming to Berlin, especially in the summer”

“When you ride a BMX, you see a city differently. Everything is a spot. You never stop looking”

The Old World

“It’s difficult to scout spots for Chris – he rides the stuff nobody else wants to”

MTB trials rider Chris Akrigg in the Scottish Highlands, September 2019: “Each morning, the schedule would change due to the weather”

SCOTLAND, UK Rider: Chris Akrigg (GBR) Discipline: MTB trials Tillmann: Chris is known for his humour and a crazy-yetdedicated riding style. It’s difficult to scout spots for him – he rides the stuff nobody else wants to, and still makes it flow. We scouted the Highlands and the islands, but it was all for nothing: as we flew in, bad weather meant that we couldn’t shoot at any of them. So we had to work on the fly instead, finding locations and shooting on the spot. Akrigg: The Scottish landscape is so vast, but I don’t need huge slopes, I dial it down into bits. When I reach a location, my mind starts racing. Sometimes I just need five minutes to think about how it could work. It can be hard to convey the technicality of the more intricate stuff on video. Halfway into the shoot, I jammed a radio antenna into my ribs, clipped a pedal and went head over heels. When I landed, I folded myself in half. I had a radio, and it sounds funny but it was down my pants and got stuck between my thigh and ribcage. I don’t know what it did in there, but it wasn’t good. I managed two or three more days of riding, but it got to the point where it was distracting me so much that I just couldn’t ride. I ended up taking copious amounts of painkillers.

Downhill MTB pro Rachel Atherton films around Cadair Idris, Wales

WALES, UK Rider: Rachel Atherton (GBR) Discipline: Downhill MTB

“When filming something like this, you want to be on top of your game” THE RED BULLETIN

Tillmann: The theme of this segment was ‘dedication’, but that took on a whole new meaning. Our original idea was to film only with drones, but at our first session on Cadair Idris [mountain in Snowdonia] the wind and rain made that less than ideal. Then the drone crashed at the first shot, so I ran down the whole mountain to get the spare, only to find it had a software problem. Then, before our next filming session, Rachel tore her Achilles… Atherton: I can remember it like it was yesterday [the injury occurred in July 2019]. It’s a process you go through, almost like grief. You feel angry and upset, then just devastated. Getting injured mid-season [in the UCI Downhill MTB World Cup], you go from winning races to almost nothing. It takes a lot to change your mindset and focus on the long road ahead. It was nine months before I even picked up a bike

again. When filming something like this, you want to be on top of your game. I was nervous, because I didn’t know if I was going to be fast or look good, so I put it off to the last minute. But I think it was the right choice, because I did feel I was riding well when it came to filming again. The first half was all mountain stuff – outback riding and big mountains, all about freedom. The second half was on tracks near my home in Wales. Having a big injury halfway through filming changed the plan a bit, but hopefully the hard work and the dedication to return comes across. To be back up to speed and feeling like a racer again – that’s what I’m looking forward to the most. When you don’t race for so long, it takes away who you are. [Racing] is in my blood. Being back on the track makes you feel like everything makes sense again. [Just weeks after this interview, Atherton announced that regrettably, as a result of her ongoing rehab, she wouldn’t be racing again this year.] 69

PARIS, FRANCE Rider: Matthias Dandois (FRA) Discipline: BMX flatland

Tillmann: In Paris, Matthias delivered his smooth interpretation of BMX flatland. Finding a new perspective on the city was hard, as he has filmed so

much here. We developed a fresh way of filming his riding style with a gimbal on a Segway and a 600mm super telephoto lens to capture the technicality of his tricks. We shot a lot in the outskirts, and the production car got broken into. All our laptops and hard drives were stolen. Fortunately, all the footage was backed up. Dandois: Getting clearance to film in a city like Paris takes months, but having a big, professional crew made things easier. For 20 years, I was kicked off almost every spot I rode on, and now – paf! – authorisations. In Barbès [in northern Paris], we were accompanied by police to ensure our safety, but nothing happened. When you film in working-class neighbourhoods, colourful characters always show up, like the drunk guy who gives you riding tips [laughs].

The Old World

August 2019: Matthias Dandois performs a onehand MC circle in a bustling Gare du Nord, Paris


The Old World

LA POMA, SPAIN Riders: Nico Scholze (GER, pictured left), Dawid Godziek (POL), Diego Caverzasi (ITA), Bienve Aguado Alba (ESP) Discipline: Dirt jumps Tillmann: Dirt jumping has a strong community vibe at this bikepark [30 minutes outside Barcelona], almost akin to surfing. We shot with a big cable cam and a crane. Diego arrived with an injured thumb, then, on the third day of shooting, Nico slammed hard and broke part of his back. Fortunately, it wasn’t serious. Scholze: It was a routine trick – a 360 tailwhip on the biggest jump – but I came up short and went straight over the bars. I was only just saying to Andi beforehand, “It’s going to be a good day.” I wanted to show it’s possible to do freestyle motocross tricks on a mountain bike – there’s a similar rotation and airtime. I watched guys with FMX bikes on a shoot once, and I knew I could do the same tricks.

Polish dirt jumper Dawid Godziek initiates a one-foot tabletop at La Poma bikepark


“I wanted to show the world it’s possible to do freestyle motocross tricks on a mountain bike” THE RED BULLETIN

Vink pulls off a ‘flaming’ manual: “Andi told us to bring an extra helmet because they might set us on fire. It was still a bit of a surprise”

KUDOWA, POLAND Riders: Nico Vink (BEL, pictured right), Szymon Godziek (POL) Discipline: Big air Tillmann: This was the opposite of Norway – that was about control, but this is about the edge of control. We filmed big air and high-speed riding with a crane, a $100,000 [£77K] camera backpack and a Super 8. The insane course will blow people’s minds – and we set the guys on fire. A stuntman usually doubles for the actor, but obviously they couldn’t ride the course. The stunt team only agreed to it after seeing the athletes wouldn’t panic when set alight. THE RED BULLETIN

Vink: I’d ridden through fire, but I’d never actually been on fire. We had underlayers that were covered in a protective gel, then fuel was added to the top layer – that’s what was set on fire. The sections we were riding weren’t super-long, and there were two extinguishers at the bottom, but if you crashed partway you were burning. We had to do it a couple of times. Sometimes they didn’t add enough fuel, and once there was too much. It got a little hot, but I never got cooked. When you’re riding, it’s all about being on the limit of control – you’re close to the edge, but getting away with it. That’s the line any athlete in extreme sports is riding all the time. It’s our life. 73


Maxx-D Mk13

Diablo Mk12

4000 Lumens Handlebar mounted Reflex Technology

1800 Lumens Helmet mounted TAP Technology






Enhance, equip, and experience your best life


Summer Isles, northern Scotland 75


“The pleasure of a sea kayak is you’re in the water rather than on it, which provides a connection with wildlife that’s hard to achieve in another boat” Will Copestake, adventurer and guide


drive – partially fuelled by social media – in the travel industry at the moment to ‘experience’ as much as possible in a short amount of time. It’s a quick way to see a lot of great things, and fits in with the busy lives many of us lead. But fast travel has huge limitations, too. Few who do it allow the time to truly experience the communities, landscapes and wonders they fly past en route to the next attraction. Travel, after all, is about the journey as much as the destination. During the lockdowns earlier this year, it was inspiring to see so many of our neighbours discover the local gems that have been seldom explored. Encouraged by necessity to explore nearer to home, many have learnt more about their backyard and their own personal interests in these short months than in decades of living here. Personally, I’ve never been at risk of taking the stunning scenery of the Summer Isles for granted, as I regularly get to see the expressions of amazement on my guests’ faces.



t’s six in the morning and, on the horizon, the sun is creeping over a panorama of jagged mountains, adding a shimmer to the sea. I’m awake before my guests who, as the dawn light brings heat to their tents, are just starting to stir in their sleeping bags. It’s a typical summer morning in the Scottish Summer Isles – calm with a gentle breeze that smells of the sea, the slow rhythmic rumble of the surf rolling against cliffs nearby, seals singing melodically from the rocks. Since 2013, I’ve pursued adventures around the world, both personal and through leading others – from a yearlong journey kayaking, cycling and climbing through Scotland to a 1,000km expedition kayaking through deepest Patagonia. But it’s the Summer Isles I call home. As an outdoor activity provider running our company Kayak Summer Isles, it’s my job and pleasure to encourage venturing off the beaten track and pausing there. We deliver the confidence and skills to enjoy what’s around us while visiting remote places and reconnecting with the natural world. My day is mostly spent teaching then leading along natural archways, caves, cliffs and wild sandy beaches amid this stunning landscape. At my side, my mocha pot gurgles on a stove as I prepare my morning ‘guide coffee’. I was first introduced to it by a tutor at university, who explained that the idea wasn’t the brew itself but allowing yourself a small slice of time before the day begins. Time to think, to plan, to gain a sense of calm and place. It’s a practice that goes hand in hand with the rising concept of ‘slow tourism’, the counterpart to ‘tick-list’ landmark bagging. Drinking a coffee quickly fills the need, but when you pause to enjoy it, it becomes so much more. There is a

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


How to get there The Summer Isles – an archipelago of around 20 islands, rocks and skerries (islets) – lie off the northwest coast of the Scottish Highlands. They can be reached by boat from Achiltibuie harbour, which is just under two-and-a-half hours by car from Inverness.

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

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

It’s the last day of our multi-day adventure, and before setting off we discuss how to pack a kayak: loading the boat equally with the weight centred around the hull, packing multiple small bags rather than a single large one, and keeping metal objects away from the in-deck compass. We finish by packing the remaining spaces with litter collected from the foreshore – an endless stream of ocean plastic brought in by the waves. It sparks a discussion on the human impact on such wild areas, how we ultimately leave our footprint wherever we travel. Already we’ve ensured to remove all trace of our tents and have packed our bagged waste, yet still a few footprints remain behind. As 77

VENTURE Travel REAR HATCH Food supplies, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, tent poles and pegs, cooking set (pot, cutlery, bowl and mug)

The formula: well stocked but also perfectly distributed


DECK HATCH Medical kit, hypothermia pack, bothy bag, emergency repair kit, Thermos with hot sugary drink, tarp, quick stove and gas


a company we won’t use this site again for a few months, to allow regeneration between our uses. A wave breaks over my bow as I push my kayak from the shore with a whisper of seaweed beneath my hull. The crisp water catches my hand as I dip my paddle for the first stroke of a new day ahead. ‘Psht’ – a seal breaks the surface behind me as it escorts us from camp. The pleasure of a sea kayak is you’re in the water rather than on it, which provides a connection with wildlife that’s hard to achieve in another boat. Through connection comes care, and through care, ultimately, comes a sense of stewardship to preserve the environments we enjoy. When working in Patagonia over my winter seasons, I admired the Chilean approach to managing sustainable adventure tourism, which, just like the north of Scotland, grew exponentially faster than the infrastructure to care for it. Flow, friction, rhythm: slow the flow, reduce the friction, plan for the rhythms. Encouraging visitors on a day’s kayaking or hiking adventure siphons numbers to a wider area, slowing the flow from the main roadside. Where busier tick-list attractions exist, frictions are managed by facilities and infrastructure. Understanding the rhythms of summer booms and winter quiet allows the chance to adjust and restore. Seabirds take flight from the nearby cliffs with a clatter of wings, bringing a smell of fresh guano that stings my 78

Midweight Heavyweight

FRONT HATCH Food supplies, clothing and spare layers, boots, tents (but not poles – no metal items allowed under deck compass)

Midweight Heavyweight


nose. I don’t smell much better after a few nights away from the luxuries of home, but with that minor sacrifice comes a restoration of energy, rolled into the soul as the swell rolls life into the ocean. The kinship with our surroundings and between us as paddlers grows on the water. When we return home refreshed by genuine escapism, we will have a new story to tell with the next morning coffee.

Will Copestake is an adventurer, photographer and guide who leads outdoor pursuits and expeditions in Scotland, Patagonia, and around the world. Follow his adventures at and learn how to travel with him at


Change of pace Embrace slow travel EXPLORE LOCH BROOM AND THE SUMMER ISLES The nearby towns of Ullapool and Achiltibuie make a great jump-off point for some of Britain’s wildest places, a UNESCO GeoPark, and a thriving hub of traditional arts and music. ADVENTURE IN THE CAIRNGORMS The Cairngorms are a good year-round centre for adventure, with skiing in the winter and more trails than you could complete in any holiday. Activities cater to beginners and experts alike, from mountain pursuits to watersports. GET COASTAL IN CORNWALL With stunning coastlines and beaches with hundreds of coastal trails to explore, there’s something in Cornwall for every interest. Base yourself in one of the many communities and explore the vibrant culture, arts and music, as well as walks and swims along the way. KAYAK TYNDALL LAKE IN PATAGONIA Without doubt one of the wildest trips you can do by kayak anywhere on Earth. This is real wilderness that takes effort and intent to reach, with whole icebergs and glaciers to yourself as a reward. You won’t see anyone other than the guide for the majority of this trip.

Total ice-olation: when kayaking in Patagonia, you’ll have entire glaciers and icebergs to yourself

EXPLORE REYKJAVÍK The Icelandic capital offers a fantastic base to find an adventure that fits you, be it snowboarding the mountains, soaking in a mud bath, or learning to guerrilla-knit a jumper for a tree (yep, that’s a thing). A short hop from the UK, the city is a true unsung hub for adventure. THE RED BULLETIN


Kayak loading

POD HATCH Pencil and waterproof notepad, compass, head torch, night paddle kit, spare knife and flares, chocolate bars


From top: SWEET PROTECTION Interstellar RIG Reflect goggles have a toric lens (more asymmetric than a standard lens) for less edge distortion and greater impact resistance,


Flight Path XL Factory by OAKLEY allow you to switch between seven lens types for maximum visibility in all snow conditions. Quick-changing Ridgelock tech seals the lens as it snaps into place,

ZEAL OPTICS Pando goggles use Observation Deck tech inspired by air traffic control towers – the bottom of the lens tilts towards your face to increase vertical peripheral vision,

RVX OTG by DRAGON ALLIANCE have a 100-per-cent UV-protected lens that can be popped out and locked into place with levers. OTG means ‘over the glass’, so specs can be worn, too, THE RED BULLETIN


VENTURE Equipment


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

From top: POC Cornea Solar Switch goggles don’t feature swappable lenses; instead, the glass automatically adapts to the light for you. Faster than previous light-reactive technology, the THE RED BULLETIN

award-winning liquid-crystal lens changes its tint near instantly to suit every condition, from midday glare to serious cloud cover, and the whole process is powered by solar energy,

RED BULL SPECT Magnetron goggles come with two lenses: contrastenhancing (shown fitted) for bad weather, and mirrored (below) for fair, each with moisture canals to prevent fogging,

Enigma Elements Water by KOO sport a silver mirror Zeiss toric lens for high glare protection, easily swappable with the included Sonar lens (pictured) for better visibility on an overcast day,


VENTURE How to...


Find your new path Five trailblazing tips from Radcliffe to help fire up your mental approach Try many different types of sport to find what you love: “People say to me, ‘I really have to go to the gym soon.’ Why? The only way to get into fitness long-term is to find an activity you love. I discovered that I’m made for endurance sports. I just never knew that before.” Just get outdoors: “A great way to do this is by making your commute an adventure. Start cycling in, or walk part of the way into work. Find ways to spend more of each day outdoors.”

Live courageously In her teens, Sophie Radcliffe hated sports. But then the adventurer changed her mindset and made fitness an unbreakable habit

challenge, creates adversity and forces us to find out who we are. All the things I wanted to feel in life – confidence, motivation, feeling energised – have come from facing challenges in the outdoors.” As a friend of Radcliffe told her the night she quit her job, “A ship in a harbour is safe, but that’s not what the ship was built for. Go sailing.”

Radcliffe poses with her team during the Ragnar White Cliffs Relay in 2017

Shift your perception: “What I tell people is: simply set yourself a challenge, which can be big or small. It can range from going for a run to the power of lifting weights. Discover the other world of outdoor and adventure sports. Do a boot camp in a London park, or burpees while watching the sunrise.” Commit yourself to the fact that it’s a journey: “I love pushing myself physically and mentally. I love being in the pain cave, because it’s there that I find out the most interesting things about myself; things that help me learn and grow into the person and athlete I’d love to become.” THE RED BULLETIN



You can follow Radcliffe’s personal journey on Instagram: @challengesophie. And check out TrailBlazers at 82

Help others along the way: “Throughout my journey, people much more experienced than me took me under their wing. Those people helped me so much. The idea of mentoring and giving back is crucial.”


ophie Radcliffe has twice completed Ironman, cycled from London to Paris in 24 hours nine times, crossed the US from coast to coast by bike, and set a world first by climbing the highest peaks in eight Alpine countries and cycling between each of them – the equivalent of scaling Everest five times in 32 days. And yet she wasn’t always so sporty. In fact, at school she was the last person who wanted to put on sports kit. “When I was younger, I was very unfit and never a natural athlete,” admits the 35-yearold Brit. “I had a different body to other girls and felt uncomfortable about it.” The problem, Radcliffe came to realise, was never to do with her body – it was in her head. And it’s an issue she discovered is common among young women: “The rate of drop-out for girls in sport is huge when they hit 13 or 14. Body image, eating disorders, mental health [issues] and suicide are all rising.” So, in 2013, Radcliffe quit her job at a tech start-up and became an endurance athlete and motivational speaker. Today, she runs TrailBlazers, a not-for-profit youth initiative that equips teenage girls with the confidence and skills to live active lives to the best of their abilities. “I want to show them that it doesn’t have to be about sport itself – it’s about how you feel about yourself.” The key, Radcliffe says, is simply starting somewhere. “Making yourself physically strong has a knock-on effect on your mind and the rest of your life, but you have to start any sport from a place of passion and curiosity, thinking, ‘I’m going to find what it is I love.’ Challenging yourself and doing things that are difficult and scary, like a physical



BEYOND THE ORDINARY The next issue is out on Tuesday 8 December with London Evening Standard. Also available across the UK at airports, universities, and selected supermarkets and retail stores. Read more at LITTLE SHAO / RED BULL CONTENT POOL


Evolution of play In 1972, the world's first commercial games console, the Magnavox Odyssey, was released. Its controller – a box with three rotating knobs – was a revolution in digital input. Games controllers have come a long way since then. With the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S being released this month, three gaming experts look at how controllers have changed the way we play...


“The first PlayStation controller is an icon in its own right,” says Tailby. “The triangle, circle, X and square buttons have remained in every iteration.”


Released with the PlayStation 2. “Two analogue sticks made 3D games easier to navigate, and rumble [vibration] made the action more impactful.”


“With the PS3 [in 2006], Sony faltered with a wireless pad that swapped vibration for motion controls, but fast returned with this rumbling DualShock.”


Larger grips, a touch sensitive pad, and a button to share your gaming moments with friends. “Absolutely Sony’s best controller at the time.”



"PlayStation 5's controller is the series’ biggest design departure yet,” says Tailby, “and it delivers more nuanced vibrations through haptic feedback.”


“I‘ve grown up with the PlayStation’s DualShock controller,” says Stephen Tailby, associate editor for PS gaming website Push Square ( “The ergonomic hand grips, which gave the device a unique silhouette, have influenced controller design ever since.” However, Tailby believes that the DualSense controller, which debuts with the PlayStation 5, will transform that gaming experience. “The haptic feedback and adaptive L2 and R2 triggers [on the top], which make it easier or harder to press down depending on what’s happening in-game, should enhance immersion in tactile ways. But the fundamentals remain intact – the DNA of Sony’s very first controller exists in all its successors.” PlayStation 5 is out on Nov 12, 84



XBOX, 2001

The ‘bulky’ original Xbox controller. “It led to a more compact design hitting the market soon after,” says Gilbert. “But fans are very nostalgic for it.”

XBOX 360, 2005

“The design was modernised, with additional shoulder buttons and a headset and add-ons port, and it was significantly more comfortable to use.”

XBOX ONE, 2013

Gilbert describes the evolution here as “quality-of-life adjustments. So popular was the Xbox 360 controller, there was no need for radical changes”.


“Improved ergonomics, reduced input latency, a new D-pad design – the controller is compatible with Xbox One, Windows 10 PCs, even Android devices.”

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

for Xbox gaming website Pure Xbox ( “It was bulky and oversized, but it laid the foundations for what we've come to expect today in its button layout, analogue stick placement and trigger design.” For the new controller, Microsoft has taken a markedly different approach to size, scaling it to the hand size of an eightyear-old after finding that worked equally as well in smaller and larger hands. “It’s an evolution rather than a revolution. The popularity of each iteration is a testament to how well the company has refined its controller over the past 20 years.” Xbox Series X/S is out now,






The first gaming mouse. “Prior to this, mice had a sensitivity of less than 500 dots per inch; this had 1,000dpi.” In 2000, a 2,000dpi version was released.

RAZER NAGA CHROMA , 2014 Pushing that optical sensitivity up to 8,200dpi, with multiple buttons that players could map to in-game actions.

Eschewing the ball-on-tabletop mechanics, this was Razer’s second optical-sensor mouse. “It was more precise and reliable,” says Jennings.


Razer's first mouse to top 16,000dpi in optical sensitivity allowed players to adjust the force of their finger clicks.


Wireless mice can suffer from latency, but this switches frequencies on the fly for a fast connection.





It’s difficult to remember a time when games were played using an office mouse with a ball inside, but that was the state of play before the Boomslang launched in 1999. “It was born out of necessity,” says games journalist Mike Jennings (, who has written for Tech Radar, Wired, Custom PC, and more. “As PC games became more complex, more buttons and greater precision were needed.” Since then, gaming mice have diversified for specific genres. “The Naga’s extra buttons were ideal for MMOs [massively multiplayer online games]; the Mamba’s improved sensitivity for twitchy, fast-paced shooters. The demands of gamers have driven innovation – these mice excel where office mice won’t.”


Bad ideas are poorly executed good ideas

The game changer

“We were the first to go with the whole matte-black theme that has become the colour for gamers. Then we added LEDs, starting with single colours and then RGB lighting. Designing with light is incredibly difficult: if you use too little, it’s pointless; too much and it’s garish. I’m in meetings about how many millimetres of light we’re going to put into the stairway of our new building – it’s four storeys high, and we’re doing multiple models just to get the perfect amount of light.



How one video gamer’s need to skill-up changed the way we play Min-Liang Tan is currently playing Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, the cutesy multiplayer battle royale game that has taken the world by storm. And the 43-year-old Singaporean has an edge over his opponents: all the gear – including the PC – that he’s playing on was designed by him and built by his gaming company, Razer. The business earned him a place on the top 40 list of the most powerful people in video games in 2012, and five years later, at 40, he became Singapore’s youngest self-made billionaire. And yet the former lawyer's success in the industry was merely born out of the simple desire to be a better player. “When you miss a shot, you never think, ‘It’s my skill,’” Tan laughs. “I just wanted a better mouse, so we built one.” That was in 1999, and the result was the Boomslang, the world’s first dedicated gaming mouse. Today, Razer applies that same mindset to building gaming laptops, headsets, smartphones and more, and the brand – and Tan – have generated something akin to a personality cult. “We get thousands of photos of people with Razer logo tattoos,” he says. “Somebody even tattooed my face on himself,” Last year, a fan even named their son Razer after the company. For Tan, though, this is less about corporate success and more about community. “I’ve never thought of myself as a CEO,” he says. “I’ve always been a gamer.” And Tan applies that ethos to everything he does: “It’s about finding that competitive advantage to help you win.” THE RED BULLETIN

Great solutions are always in demand

Min-Liang Tan: gamer, billionaire businessman and zombie (as seen in the 2015 gaming spinoff film Dead Rising: Watchtower)

I’ve learnt to trust my instincts

“With the Boomslang, we didn’t set out to make a huge amount of money. It was more like, ‘This is something I need, and I’m sure there are others who’d want it, too.’ When we redesigned the gaming laptop to be super-thin, we got a lot of hate. Everybody said, ‘This isn’t what gamers want – they want something thick and powerful.’ But we brought in thermal engineers and made it thin and powerful. Now it’s the industry standard.”

we’ve had requests from the financial industry saying, ‘Our traders are using Razer mice and keypads to do fast actuations. Would you make office stuff?’ But we’re not going mainstream – we’re more interested in the mainstream coming to us.”

If it works for gamers, it’s for everyone “It’s cool to see non-gamers using our products. We’ve got medical professionals getting them for their precision, and I’ve seen a space programme using our mousepads on TV. People don’t do competitive Excel spreadsheets, but

Class of 2020: the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro, a state-ofthe-art wireless gaming headset

“Recently, I slipped a disk. Then I got a whole bunch of gamers saying, ‘I’ve got the same problem from playing too many games.’ I summoned my head of engineering and said, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’ And he goes, ‘You should be asking an orthopaedic surgeon.’ But I said, ‘You guys are going to design something, because I’m sure other people will want the solution. Let’s come up with something good and maybe it’ll ship hundreds of millions of dollars of product.’”

Sometimes I need to keep my mouth shut

“One gamer really wanted a Razer toaster. I said, ‘Get to a million likes and maybe I’ll make it.’ I check in on him from time to time. Then somebody said, ‘I’ll get a Razer toaster tattoo,’ and I made the mistake of saying, ‘Get 10 people to do it and I’ll make one.’ I think today they may have 15 people with that tattoo. I promised to make it, but I didn’t say when. We’ve had some early prototypes, but it’s not up to par yet, So I’m still working on it. It’s got to be the ultimate toaster.” 87


Shredding tradition Sadie Nardini discovered yoga to get back on her feet. Now she’s reinvented the practice to work for everyone Sadie Nardini’s fitness journey started with an accident. When she was 13, a man cannonballed into a swimming pool and landed on her head, leaving Nardini partially paralysed. “The doctors said I would probably never walk again,” she explains. “They stabilised me and sent me home.” While Nardini was stuck inside, day in, day out, her mother introduced her to gentle yoga poses, hoping they would help her body to heal. And they did – two years later, she was able to stand again. Soon, she felt ready to rebuild her muscles. Then Nardini discovered power yoga. “All I knew about yoga at this point was that you lie around and breathe,” she remembers. “When I realised

that there was yoga that could confront and strengthen me, I found my calling.” In her mid-twenties, Nardini began instructing around the world and gained a global following as a rock-star yogini (female master yoga practitioner), promoting an

innovative approach to traditional yoga. “I’d play David Bowie in my classes – my message would be all about fun empowerment,” the 49-year-old Californiabased instructor says today. “That wasn’t being done at all back then.”

Nardini had the idea for her most recent workout while running through the airport in Paris to catch a plane. “What I’d been doing for 20 years was endurance-based slow strength, but I was terribly out of cardiovascular shape,” she says, “so I went to a few HIIT [high-intensity interval training] classes. It was fun, but as an anatomy-and-joint expert I was horrified. Many of the moves were too hard on the joints; people were hurting themselves.” So she developed the Yoga Shred, a cardio workout that takes the flowing movements of vinyasa yoga as a starting point – improving core strength through a sequences of poses – and burns fat through high-intensity cardio exercises, always with a focus on protecting your joints. “It makes yoga people superherostrong and gives cross-train people more range of motion and flexibility,” Nardini says. “It’s a nice way to get all the benefits of both practices in only 20 minutes per day.”

Nardini’s Yoga Shred can be studied at home through She’s offering five weeks of fitness classes for free with the code FFCFREEMO

The Yoga Shred burpee in six steps “The burpee is a classic HIIT move, but it can be hard on the joints,” says Nardini. “Modify it with yoga alignment”






1 Stand halfway up your mat with your feet hipwidth apart. Place your hands on two yoga blocks (better for the wrists and shoulders) or the mat. 2 Step back into an extended plank with your knees bent, feet still wide apart. Lift your abs so that the curve of your lower back is no longer dropping towards the floor, which can hurt it.


3 Step halfway up the mat with your feet still hip-width apart. This will position them beneath your hips for less knee strain and a more powerful centre of gravity. 4 Lift with your abs until you are in Chair Pose (standing like a chair). Pull your knees and hips back to protect the knees.

5 Press down your heels to firm your glutes, and stand quickly with ‘Fists of Fire’ (bend elbows and quickly sweep your fists down beside your hips) 6 Alternatively, jump out of Chair Pose with Fists of Fire into your hips. If you hop, land with your hips and knees pulled back to prevent pressure on your knees. THE RED BULLETIN





Baby boomers 90

Today’s Bluetooth wireless speakers prove that good sound is no longer exclusive to a wooden box plugged into a vacuum-bulb amplifier. Left to right, from top: JBL Xtreme 3 with 15 hours of

battery life,; ANKER Soundcore Rave Mega party speaker,; URBANEARS Rålis with 20 hours of wireless play,; SACKIT BOOMit high-power portable designer

speaker,; ULTIMATE EARS Boom 3 with an IP67 water- and dustproof rating,; NAIM Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation,; BANG & OLUFSEN Beosound 1, THE RED BULLETIN


Small speakers, large sound, maximum mobility Looking for some audiophile advice on the ideal speaker size and form factor, and where best to position it for optimal sound? The answers are: small, anything that looks cool, and anywhere you can take it.


Inner bass Wireless earbuds with big headphone features

The ear is home to the tiniest bones in the human body, and now it can house the smallest full-spec speaker systems, too. Miniature audio tech has made big advances, bringing us wireless in-ear ’buds with active and THE RED BULLETIN

passive noise-cancelling, touch controls, water resistance, batterycharging cases, and sound quality to match over-ear ’phones. Left to right, from top: X BY KYGO Xellence,; RHA TrueConnect 2,; CAMBRIDGE AUDIO Melomania 1,; BANG & OLUFSEN Beoplay E8 3rd Gen,; PANASONIC RZ-S500W,; SENNHEISER Momentum True

Wireless 2,; TECHNICS Truly Wireless EAHAZ70W,; SKULLCANDY Indy Evo,; JBL Reflect Flow,; JAYBIRD Vista,


VENTURE Calendar


November onwards

PLONK GOLF London’s popular crazy golf experience brings its bonkers putting courses to Peckham – with social distancing, of course, and drinks pinged your way from the bar. Peckham Levels, London;

10 November onwards ONE DAY, 4061M & 4478M The numbers in the title of this film are the heights of Gran Paradiso and the Matterhorn – two peaks in the Italian Alps that ultrarunner Fernanda Maciel summited in one day (August 20 this year), the former earning the 40-year-old Brazilian a new female Fastest Known Time (FKT). Her achievement is made all the more profound by the knowledge that her flatmate lost their life on the Matterhorn only a year earlier, and Maciel suffered frozen eyes while attempting the climb two years prior to that. Just a day after her ascent, 25 climbers were trapped in a landslide on its slopes. This is an inspiring, exhilarating movie about overcoming physical limits and personal demons.


November onwards PUSHING PROGRESSION: RED BULL STREET STYLE The freestyle football scene has exploded over the last decade, rising from performance art to pro sport and culminating in the Red Bull Street Style World Final (to be held on Nov 14). Mixing acrobatics, dance and dazzling ball control, Street Style is a form of self-expression for its practitioners. This film examines the evolution of the scene from street to internet to stadium, to discover what it takes to be the best. 92


November onwards

HYPERREALITY VR BAR Looking to escape from 2020? This cyberpunkthemed gaming dry bar serves up both the techno future and the retro past with three arenas of VR-connected play and a classic computer games lounge, all with COVID precautions strictly in place. London;


VENTURE Calendar

10 10

November onwards

BACKYARD CINEMA It’s been a tough year for cinema, but here you can catch Xmas films like Die Hard and Elf, armed with a boozy hot chocolate from the heated bar. Capital Studios, London;


to 19 November

OCEAN FILM FESTIVAL This world tour of the year’s most incredible nautical-themed films – including documentaries on a 6,000km row across the Atlantic, and subzero surfing – goes virtual for 2020. Passes also grant access to filmmaker and oceanographer Q&As, and behind-thescenes materials.


November onwards CHARLI XCX INTERVIEW For Charli XCX – like the rest of the world – 2020 has not gone as planned. Having had to postpone projects due to the pandemic, the British pop star decided to record a lockdown album, How I’m Feeling Now, which she announced on Zoom in April and released to critical acclaim a month later. But before social distancing came into force, she filmed this interview with US music journalist Will L Cooper in front of a live audience at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. A Conversation with Charli XCX is a candid and insightful discussion of the musician’s work and career.


November onwards WELLCOME COLLECTION This free museum dedicated to the study of human experience reopened in October with exhibits examining how that perspective has changed. US visual artist Kerry Tribe’s work Standardized Patient looks at doctor/patient dynamics, while London-based Sop’s sound project The Den explores enforced isolation. London;   93

Powder play: fresh snow is in plentiful supply on Schmittenhöhe in Zell am SeeKaprun


Majestic mountains, breathtaking views, perfect pistes: Zell am See-Kaprun is a snow lover’s dream


o you ever just close your eyes and imagine escaping your day-to-day surroundings? After the year that we’ve all endured, more people than ever will be doing just that, daydreaming about whisking themselves off to far-flung locations. With its awe-inspiring mountains, expansive lakes, powdery snow and perfect vistas, the Austrian ski resort of Zell am See-Kaprun is certainly a dream destination. Around an hour and 20 minutes by car from Salzburg Airport, and about twice that from Munich, the picturesque town of Zell perches

on the edge of the beautiful Lake Zell, with the snow-covered majesty of the 1,965m-high Schmittenhöhe mountain reflected in its serene waters. Get your hands on the multiresort Ski Alpin Card (available at and other outlets) and you’ll have access to the slopes of the Schmittenhöhe as well as two neighbouring ski areas, making it your pass to a huge snow-covered playground with 408km of the very best pistes in Austria. Zell am See-Kaprun is a snow-sure resort, largely thanks to the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier above Kaprun,

which is open for skiing from early October to the middle of July. The Kitzsteinhorn is the dominant mountain in Zell am See-Kaprun. It’s also the only glacial ski resort in Salzburg, but it’s super accessible. A new hyper-modern cable car from Maiskogel to Kitzsteinhorn provides ski-in, ski-out access to the glacier right from Kaprun town centre. The Gipfelwelt 3000 Top of Salzburg panorama platform, which is situated 3,209 above sea level, looks out across the pristine wilderness of the Hohe Tauern National Park; to the south, you can see the 3,798m-tall Großglockner – the highest mountain in Austria – while to the west is the glaciated peak of the Großvenediger. Its name translates to English as ‘Great Venetian’, believed by some to be a reference to the Venetian merchants who once travelled along this route. The range of skiing on offer in Zell am See-Kaprun is so vast that, whatever your preferred style, you’ll have no problem finding it. The terrain is ideal for beginners and intermediates, with the runs in Zell primarily blues and reds. Schmittenhöhe is great for intermediate cruising, and the long red run to the zellamseeXpress cable-car station is particularly fun to weave down. There are also a handful of black runs that are especially good to ride in the morning, and the 1km-long Black Mamba on the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier is so-named because it winds from the Kristallbahn valley station to Langwiedboden like the eponymous snake. It’s also by far the steepest piste on the glacier, with a gradient of 63 per cent – and once you’re on it, there’s no way of getting off except by riding it out, so be sure to go in with confidence! If off-piste is more your thing, there are marked freeride routes and information points on Kitzsteinhorn, and as well as the huge panoramas on the Schmittenhöhe you’ll find the tremendous Trass ride – a 4km route dropping 1,100m


RESORT FACTS Nearest airports: Salzburg Airport (76km), Munich (206km), Innsbruck (148km) Number of lifts: 28 (49 including Maiskogel and Kitzsteinhorn)


Total piste distance: 77km (138km including Maiskogel and Kitzsteinhorn; 408km with Ski Alpin Card) Elevation: 760-2,000m Highest mountain: Kitzsteinhorn (3,203m) Cross-country tracks: 107km

zellamsee-kaprun. com/en

Piste mode: experience the thrill of freeriding on the Kitzsteinhorn

in altitude and bringing you back to Zell am See. If you’re around for long enough, the Ski Alpin Card also opens up the Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn, with an additional 270km of pistes, a short bus ride away. And there’s a natural snow piste from Saalbach down to the zellamseeXpress, which will bring you to the Schmittenhöhe ski area.

Magical: the view at night from Mitterberg

Back in Zell, the architecture may be traditional – the area has been continuously populated since at least Roman times – but this is

a town that certainly isn’t stuck in the past. Zell’s weekly winter programme makes it easy to join in on winter yoga classes, torchlit walks under starry skies, and guided snowshoe hikes. And, if you get lucky, Lake Zell might even freeze over, giving you the cue to pull on a pair of skates and weave and wind your way across the frozen water against a heavenly backdrop. Now that’s definitely the stuff that dreams are made of.




The Red Bulletin is published in six countries. This is the cover of our US edition for December, featuring basketball star and social justice advocate Renee Montgomery… For more stories beyond the ordinary, go to:

The Red Bulletin UK. ABC certified distribution 153,505 (Jan-Dec 2019)


Editor-in-Chief Alexander Müller-Macheck Deputy Editor-in-Chief Andreas Rottenschlager Creative Director Erik Turek Art Directors Kasimir Reimann (deputy CD), Miles English, Tara Thompson Head of Photo Eva Kerschbaum Deputy Head of Photo Marion Batty Photo Director Rudi Übelhör Production Editor Marion Lukas-Wildmann Managing Editor Ulrich Corazza Copy Chief Andreas Wollinger Design Marion Bernert-Thomann, Martina de CarvalhoHutter, Kevin Goll, Carita Najewitz Photo Editors Susie Forman, Ellen Haas, Tahira Mirza General Manager & Publisher Andreas Kornhofer Managing Director Stefan Ebner Head of Media Sales & Partnerships Lukas Scharmbacher Publishing Management Sara Varming (manager), Ivona Glibusic, Bernhard Schmied, Melissa Stutz B2B Marketing & Communication Katrin Sigl (manager), Alexandra Ita, Teresa Kronreif, Stefan Portenkirchner Head of Creative Markus Kietreiber Co-Publishing Susanne Degn-Pfleger & Elisabeth Staber (manager), Mathias Blaha, Raffael Fritz, Thomas Hammerschmied, Valentina Pierer, Mariella Reithoffer, Verena Schörkhuber, Sara Wonka, Julia Bianca Zmek, Edith Zöchling-Marchart Commercial Design Peter Knehtl (manager), Simone Fischer, Alexandra Hundsdorfer, Martina Maier, Julia Schinzel, Florian Solly Advertising Placement Manuela Brandstätter, Monika Spitaler Head of Production Veronika Felder Production Friedrich Indich, Walter O. Sádaba, Sabine Wessig Repro Clemens Ragotzky (manager), Claudia Heis, Nenad Isailovi c,̀ Sandra Maiko Krutz, Josef Mühlbacher MIT Michael Thaler, Christoph Kocsisek Operations Melanie Grasserbauer, Alexander Peham, Yvonne Tremmel Assistant to General Management Patricia Höreth Subscriptions and Distribution Peter Schiffer (manager), Nicole Glaser (distribution), Yoldaş Yarar (subscriptions) Global Editorial Office Heinrich-Collin-Straße 1, A-1140 Vienna Tel: +43 1 90221 28800, Fax: +43 1 90221 28809 Red Bull Media House GmbH Oberst-Lepperdinger-Straße 11-15, A-5071 Wals bei Salzburg, FN 297115i, Landesgericht Salzburg, ATU63611700 Directors Dietrich Mateschitz, Dietmar Otti, Christopher Reindl, Marcus Weber

THE RED BULLETIN United Kingdom, ISSN 2308-5894 Editor Ruth McLeod Associate Editor Tom Guise Culture Editor Florian Obkircher Chief Sub-Editor Davydd Chong Publishing Manager Ollie Stretton Advertising Sales Mark Bishop, Fabienne Peters, Printed by Quad/Graphics Europe Sp. z o.o., Pułtuska 120, 07-200 Wyszków, Poland UK Office Seven Dials Warehouse, 42-56 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LA Tel: +44 (0) 20 3117 2000 Subscribe Enquiries or orders to: subs@uk. Back issues available to purchase at: Basic subscription rate is £20.00 per year. International rates are available. The Red Bulletin is published 10 times a year. Please allow a maximum of four weeks for delivery of the first issue Customer Service +44 (0)1227 277248,

THE RED BULLETIN Austria, ISSN 1995-8838 Editor Christian Eberle-Abasolo Proofreaders Hans Fleißner (manager), Petra Hannert, Monika Hasleder, Billy Kirnbauer-Walek Publishing Management Bernhard Schmied Sales Management The Red Bulletin Alfred Vrej Minassian (manager), Thomas Hutterer, Stefanie Krallinger

THE RED BULLETIN France, ISSN 2225-4722 Editor Pierre-Henri Camy Country Coordinator Christine Vitel Country Project Management Youri Cviklinski Contributors, Translators and Proofreaders Étienne Bonamy, Frédéric & Susanne Fortas, Suzanne Kříženecký, Claire Schieffer, Jean-Pascal Vachon, Gwendolyn de Vries

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The next issue of THE RED BULLETIN is out on December 8




Ready to roll For his latest video, German skater Vladik Scholz (pictured) and his board buddies Madars Apse, Gustavo Ribeiro and Jost Arens were shrunk to the size of woodlice and placed inside one of those labyrinth games that involve manoeuvring a ball around a maze. Or was it the set that was made bigger? Whatever, the results are spectacular. Watch the video at

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150 years of engineering progress. Check it out at .



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