Editor's Letter | The Superhuman Issue - July 2016
This month we investigate what it means to be superhuman
I have a very vivid memory of the first time I saw someone ollie a skateboard. I must’ve been about four years old, walking down the street with my mum, when a kid (who looked massive to me, but can’t have been much older than 12 himself) busted one out in front of us. It’s no exaggeration to say my tiny mind was blown.
How had he made the board jump? It clearly wasn’t attached to his feet. Yet it had lifted clean off the ground underneath him. What sort of black magic was this? I thought, hurrying past almost fearfully. As far as I was concerned, the kid must have had superhuman powers.
"Their seemingly superhuman abilities aren’t just god-given powers from the planet Krypton..."
Fast forward three decades and I’m happy to say that my mind is still blown on a regular basis when watching adventure sports. While I now understand the physics of an ollie (and can even just about do one myself) there are certain things that still seem utterly incomprehensible. The skill and the reaction speeds needed to pilot a wingsuit safely, for example. The fitness and endurance levels needed to swim for 53 hours non-stop. Or the balls required to throw yourself into a frontflip over a 50 foot mega ramp in a wheelchair, like Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham, who deputy editor James Renhard interviewed this month.
Of course when you talk to the likes of wingsuiter Sam Hardy (star of the new film The Exit Point), endurance swimmer Martin Strel, or Wheelz, they scoff at the idea that they’re somehow superhuman. Rather they see their abilities as the inevitable result of their dedication and the steady progression which comes from it. “It’s like anything," Sam Hardy told Mpora, explaining how he moved from skydiving to BASE jumping to wingsuiting, “it’s natural stepping stones".
Similarly Rajesh Magar, the unlikely mountain biking star who Dan Milner met on his incredible odyssey in Nepal, would probably find it odd that he had been singled out as special - despite the fact that his lung capacity is off the chain and his riding ability far outstripped that of his more experienced European expedition mates. We might see all the obstacles stacked up against someone like Rajesh and conclude that he must be superhuman to overcome them, but he doesn’t view it like that, he’s just worked that much harder to get where he is.
The same is true of Tilly Tasker, who this month wrote an inspiring account of what it’s like to snowboard when you’re profoundly deaf. She finds people who assume her disability is a major disadvantage annoying, writing: “Just because I can’t hear doesn’t mean that I am not capable of tearing it up in the park, playing cat and mouse on the singletrack, and pushing my body and my mind to its constant limits".
You might think that hearing these people talk through their achievements would somehow lessen them. As if by explaining how they got there it might remove some of the magic. But if anything, the opposite is true. Reading about the likes of Rajesh, Sam Hardy or Wheelz makes you realise that their seemingly superhuman abilities aren’t just god-given powers from the planet Krypton. They’re the result of incredible hard work, passion and dedication - things we can all aspire to emulate. Knowing this only makes their stories all the more inspiring.
A case in point is Donald Whishaw, who also features in this month’s issue. Taking up a new sport at 73 is impressive. Learning a high impact sport like snowboarding - at an age when your balance isn’t what it was and your bones are more brittle - is a phenomenal achievement. Yet, as he explains in this interview, Donald doesn’t see himself as a particularly incredible guy. Just someone who’s out enjoying his life to the fullest.
Like that kid I saw doing an ollie at the age of 4, the people featured in this month’s issue might seem like superheroes at first glance. But in actual fact, they’re ordinary people like you and me. Ordinary people doing extraordinary, adventurous things. We hope their stories inspire you to go out and do the same.
Enjoy the adventure.
– Tristan, Editor-in-Chief
Keep your eyes peeled for our Olympic Issue, dropping soon