Editor’s Letter | The Money Issue – April 2016
This month we're counting the cost
Last weekend I tried trail running for the first time. I’ll freely admit I was feeling slightly trepidatious about it as I set out into the Peak District with my sister and her boyfriend. He’s in the army. She’s a triathlete. I am neither of those things. And yet, nearly an hour and a half of fast running later, I finished feeling elated.
It wasn’t just getting out in the open air (although there’s no doubt that running across the Peaks beats pounding the pavements of London). It wasn’t even the endorphins (although I can confirm that the “runner’s high" is very real). No, it was the sense of achievement - that feeling of having pushed myself, tried something new and actually done it. It’s a sensation that anyone who’s into adventure sports will no doubt recognise.
"I was feeling trepidatious. He's in the army. She's a triathlete. I am neither of those things."
What also struck me as I stretched my aches our at the end was how cheap the whole thing was. As someone who’s into snowboarding and mountain biking, both of which require a fair bit of expensive kit, I’m used to the idea that getting your kicks costs money. But apart from some basic safety gear, we pretty much just had shorts, t-shirts and running shoes.
OK, so my sister did have rather a flash watch which connects to Strava (which is how I know we were running fast) but leaving that aside (because you don’t need a Strava watch) we could have kitted ourselves out for about £80 each.
It’s often said that adventure sports are expensive, and in many cases they are. By the time you’ve equipped yourself out for everything you need for a day’s skiing for example (skis, boots, bindings, poles, jacket and pants, goggles, gloves and all the rest of it) you’ll have burned through the best part of a grand. Cycling if anything is worse - a new mountain bike can easily cost upwards of £5,000. Top-end carbon fibre road bikes are worth more than small cars.
Yet adventure sports don’t always need to be that pricey. Just ask Associate Editor Lou Boyd, who got herself a perfectly functional surfboard (a Dick Brewer model no less, usually worth upwards of £800) for less than £35. It took a lucky eBay auction and a fair bit of fixing up, but what a bargain! Nina Zietman meanwhile enjoyed the cheapest (and some of the best) powder she’d ever ridden on a snowboard trip to Slovakia, a place where a liftpass is less than half the price of the Alps and a beer is less than a pound a pint.
This month’s Money Issue wasn’t just about trying to do things on the cheap though. Stuart Kenny investigated the changes in the the way we buy bikes, talking to both the founder of an innovative new app and the owner of a long-standing local bike shop. Sam Haddad travelled north of the Arctic Circle to look at how economic development is threatening one of the world’s last wildernesses. And Dan Milner explored an area of Argentina where economic development had long since moved on, following an abandoned railway line into the desert.
But if the issue was about money more broadly, the expense of taking part in adventure sports was a recurring theme. Because you can’t pretend that it isn’t sometimes a barrier to access.
No-one is more acutely aware of this than Michael “Eddie" Edwards, a.k.a Eddie the Eagle, who gave Sam Haddad a revealing interview this month (coinciding with the release of the excellent biopic of his life). A working class lad, Eddie found himself shunned by the “old boy’s club" that was the skiing establishment and struggled to get the funding he needed to keep competing. But if his story teaches us anything, it’s that if you’re determined enough, a lack of money won’t stop you.
This is something Shayleigh Kitto also appreciates. Like Eddie, she comes from an underprivileged background but having been introduced to the sport by the charity Snow Camp (which Sam Haddad profiled this month) she’s now determined to become a ski instructor.
“We all [thought] it’s a rich sport, not something people like us get to do," she told Sam. “At first that put me off, then I started skiing regularly at Hemel and it showed me a different side of things. How it’s not necessarily a rich sport. It’s easy to go skiing at Hemel."
Stories like these prove that while enjoying these activities might be easier with money, having pots of it is not essential. Because when it comes down to it, what makes adventure sports really enjoyable is the sensation I felt after that run. The mixture of exhilaration and achievement that we call “stoke". And you can’t buy that feeling.
Enjoy the adventure.
– Tristan, Editor-in-Chief