Editor's Letter | The Back to School Issue - September 2017
This issue is all about learning, and re-discovery
Main image by Dan Medhurst
It’s been a long time - a very long time - since I last experienced the looming dread of a school summer holiday drawing to a close. But even if September no longer ushers in the end of freedom, it definitely still feels like something changes around this time of year.
The hedonism of the summer is over, the days are getting shorter, and it feels somehow appropriate to knuckle down and start doing things. Actually cracking on with the trail building project you’ve been talking about all summer perhaps. Or starting your training for that next long road ride in earnest. Maybe even trying something completely new.
“He's already been stabbed, shot and survived a brutal civil war."
After all, it's never too late to learn, just ask Besnik Sokolni, who we spoke to for this month’s Back to School Issue. He only started skiing six months ago, but is hoping to qualify for the Pyeongchang Olympics next February. You wouldn't bet against him making it either, he's already been stabbed, shot and survived a brutal civil war, having escaped from Kosovo to the US as a teenager.
This month’s Big Interview is with another man who’s taken on something new later in life. But not before achieving the (not inconsiderable) feat of becoming Britain’s most successful Olympian ever. Yep, Sir Chris Hoy - knight of the realm and bona fide cycling legend - has a new venture, and it’s the last thing you’d expect. But although he says that becoming a children’s author was something that “came out of leftfield," he’s really enjoying it - relishing the chance to teach and inspire kids.
Elsewhere in this month’s issue, Mpora did a bit of learning of our own - features editor Sam Haddad threw herself in the deep end on a wild swimming course in Devon. Stuart Kenny headed to Innsbruck with his bike and discovered that it’s got far more to offer than the skiing which made it famous. And I delved into the history of boardsports in California, talking to the likes of Stacey Peralta, one of the original Z-Boys, to find out how the Golden State basically created surf, skate and snowboard culture.
You might think that a career in adventure sports would make school a bit redundant. It’s not like knowing the kings and queens of England is going to help you much if you’re making a living in the mountains. And indeed this month’s featured photographer Frode Sandbech tells us he “skipped school" in favour of “hanging out and shooting in Australia for three months instead."
But although he might not have had much time for classroom learning, Frode studied harder than most, putting in countless hours with his camera and learning to shoot truly unique photos of his favourite subject, snowboarding.
If serious study and hard work has provided Frode Sandbech with a career, it’s even more important for Alex Honnold. For the climber, who recently scaled the 900-metre vertical face of El Capitan without ropes or safety equipment, learning a route properly is literally a matter of life and death. As he tells Will Renwick in this issue, his training for the climb was meticulous, becoming “a full time job".
“For the climber, who recently scaled the 900-metre vertical face of El Capitan without ropes or safety equipment, learning is a matter of life of death"
Risking your life on rock walls is obviously not for everyone. But whatever level you’re at, the sense of satisfaction you get from applying yourself to something, putting in the graft and improving, is the same. In the last month I’ve taken up road cycling (with the help of a bike borrowed from our friends at RCUK). I’m not particularly fast and I certainly won’t be challenging for Strava KOMs any time soon, but I’m loving the process of learning. It may be a long time since I last went to school, but apparently it’s not too late to teach an old dog some new tricks.
Here’s hoping this month’s stories inspire you to get stuck into something you’ll love.
Enjoy the adventure.
– Tristan, Editor-in-Chief