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Athletes & Explorers

Dec 05, 2018

What Does Fear Mean to RJ Ripper, the 2018 Adventurer of the Year?

Globally known and admired for his prowess as a mountain biker, Rajesh Magar shares his approach to managing fear and evolving.

WRITTEN BY

Jahnvi Pananchikal

Rajesh Magar, “RJ Ripper” or just “RJ” to his friends, is a name that not only the people of his native Nepal know well, but also the adventure sports community around the world. This was solidified when Rajesh recently became the 2018 Nat Geo Adventurer of the Year. Rajesh is a star mountain biker from Nepal, who built his own bike from scratch, before pushing it to the limits and attracting the globe’s attention.

“One should have fear. It’s a good thing,”

In Joey Schusler documentary entitled RJ Ripper, Mandil Pradhan of H+I Adventures referred to Rajesh as “A kid from Nepal is taking on the world.” That world has grown to not only admire his ability, but for also making the most of the opportunities available to him given the humble context. If you need to give yourself an introduction to Rajesh, RJ Ripper is a powerful and hugely inspiring film that tells his story. It can be found below.

More than anything else, RJ’s attitude has been such an important factor in his success as a mountain biker. The commitment he has demonstrated has been well covered, however The Outdoor Journal wanted to talk about something else. We reached out to him about the role of fear in his story, what kept him going back for more, and how he could push himself so hard, on a bike that he had built himself from scrap metal.

THE EARLY DAYS

RJ’s talent is not confined to the saddle, he’s also a self taught bike builder. Photo: Joey Schusler

In Rajesh’s life, limits have always been evident. From the outside, breaking those limits often required a disregard for fear. However, according to RJ, that is not the case. Throughout his life, fear has always been there, he’s just taken it in his stride. “One should have fear. It’s a good thing.”

When Rajesh’s mother brought home a bicycle, he didn’t know how to ride it. Grateful to receive one, he simply taught himself how to ride. “When I started to try and ride, I would take the bicycle on the main road everyday. I would try, and try again, to stay on my wheels, but fall again, and again. At the time, I wasn’t great at turning, so I fell many times. Of course, there was also an additional risk of cars that could hit me. Therefore, I instead went off road to try and learn how to ride the bicycle,” Rajesh recalls.

With friends, Rajesh would ride around Kathmandu and compete with them. At times they noticed other cyclists performing stunts on the street, so Magar and his friends would visit cyber cafes to pick up tips from online videos. When he wasn’t riding, Rajesh would regularly sit and observe mechanics working at a local cycle shop to figure out how he might customize bicycles for himself. That’s what being a self-starter is all about.

“I thought, ‘If they can do it, we can do it too. Let’s try.’ I learnt how to make a cycle, how to fix a puncture, how to change tyres, and how to install brakes. I then started trying that on my own cycle, by removing and adding parts. When I did that, the cycle started looking smaller, so I’d do things to make it bigger,” RJ explained.

TACKLING FEAR AND INSPIRING OTHERS

Mountain biking in Nepal means spending your time in some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. Photo: Joey Schusler

Rajesh wasn’t looking for fame, fame found him. Joey Schusler, an experienced mountain biker and documentary filmmaker, met Rajesh while visiting Kathmandu. The two immediately hit it off during a tour with Mandil Pradhan’s H+I Adventures, and this relationship inspired Schusler to film a documentary aboutRajesh Magar’s story.

When asked about RJ, Schusler immediately jumps to fear, and his admiration for the way in which he faces it. “Magar has his head on pretty straight, and is very aware of his skill-set when riding. He knows the level he is at, and understands that it takes time to slowly progress and move past his fears to each new level. He never seemed too scared when we were riding and filming together.”

“Fear plays a big part in mountain biking. It is what keeps us in check, so we don’t try to progress too fast.”

RJ progressed slowly but very effectively, continually building confidence. When RJ started to compete, the goal was winning, and speed was necessary to win. However, this was a skill that required much patience and repetition to master. Much of his training was pursued alone, repeating routes and timing himself again, and again to improve his speed. Each time he would tinker with his approach by keeping a check on his balance. “I would take it section by section, and once I was comfortable on the tracks, I’d tackle speed. Where I wouldn’t be comfortable, I would go slow and try a few times until gaining speed and then it would work.”

RJ does not disregard fear, as you might expect. In fact he pays a lot of attention to it. “If you just go for it, anything can happen. I made that mistake but I’m still alive, I’ve learnt from experience. Of course, there will always be moments when I think, “wow that was a close call! Thank God, I survived.’ This is always the way in adventure sports, there is always a risk, but good things can happen too,” RJ says, with a smile.

“The fastest mountain biker in Asia”. Photo: Joey Schusler

Only a few know how to actually handle fear that way.

Whilst shooting the documentary, Schusler was aware of RJ’s measured and intelligent approach. “He’s such a natural on the bike. You can tell that he is just at home and full of comfort when riding it. His focus is so good, and he’s so dedicated to his craft,” Schusler told The Outdoor Journal. “Fear plays a big part in mountain biking. It is what keeps us in check, so we don’t try to progress too fast,” he added.

Perhaps this is the thing that really sets RJ apart from the rest, the know-how to manage fear. RJ makes a conscious choice. The good thing is that it can be taught and it’s infectious, when others see this approach, they often adopt it for themselves. RJ is in a position to spark change within an entire community.

“Some would watch me and think, ‘wow that’s amazing, he did it.’ Some would be discouraging, but I wouldn’t pay attention. My purpose is to demonstrate that  you can do anything if you’re prepared to offer complete dedication. Once inspired, people can do great things and further inspire each other.”

LIFE AS THE ADVENTURER OF THE YEAR

RJ would repeat the same routes, again and again in an effort to increase his speed. Always paying attention to his balance and how it could be improved. Photo: Joey Schusler

All these years of learning how to handle fear in a productive way has added a huge amount of value to RJ’s life. The world now knows about his talent, and he feels humbled by that unexpected fame. More than anything else, RJ is happy to just be.

“As of now, everything is good. I’ve got work, friends, family, and everyone is happy. My family and friends are happy because of what I’ve become, and I’m just happy with that. I haven’t yet thought about anything else apart from this. I never expected any of this,” RJ says.

For five years now, since his meeting with Mandil Pradhan, RJ has been leading tours and is the head mechanics at H+I Adventures. It’s via this role that RJ met the founder of AT Cycles, who was inspired by his story and made the offer of brand ambassador.

Since RJ now represents Nepal, he is no longer mountain biking just for fun. It’s a huge responsibility that he takes very seriously, but we’re pretty sure that he’s still having fun too.

RJ is very proud of his Nepalese heritage. Photo: Joey Schusler

“People have different expectations. I often hear things like, “You will have to win, bro”, meanwhile others will still just say “Hey, go have fun!” he laughs. “More than anything else it’s a good feeling to know that I’ve done something for others, and perhaps made them see that they can do it too.”

RJ is grateful to all the people who supported him in his endeavour of mountain biking. Whether it was with their words or by offering the materials that he needed to pursue his passion. The future? RJ plans to cycle until the day his body stops allowing him to do so, but more than anything else, simply wishes to do something meaningful with his life. For the next five years, he plans on participating in racing championships, but that’s not a life-long goal.

“I want to race with the fastest mountain bikers in the world. I just want to see where I stand among the fastest riders. But as far as cycling goes, I’ll never leave that and keep it with me for as long as I have life inside of me,” he says.

RJ’s fear led to innovation, personal development, strength, and success. His inspiring story shows that the right attitude goes a long way, and we shouldn’t disregard fear.

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Events

Nov 21, 2019

World’s Greatest Action Shots: Red Bull Illume 2019 Winners Crowned

The Winners of the world’s greatest action and adventure sports imagery contest have been unveiled in the LUMEN Museum atop Plan de Corones in South Tyrol, Italy.

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WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

This article was provided to The Outdoor Journal via a press release.

Red Bull Illume winning shot © Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

The world’s greatest action and adventure photographers from every side of the world gathered at 2,275m / 7,464 ft. high in the LUMEN – Museum of Mountain Photography on November 20 to celebrate the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019. The Overall Winner, 11 Category Winners, and Top 60 finalist images were unveiled at the Winner Award Ceremony by the host Zoran Filicic.

The Outdoor Journal featured Ben Thouard’s surf photography from Polynesia in the Spring 2014 issue.

Taking home the grand title of Overall Winner this year is Ben Thouard with his mind-bending underwater image of athlete Ace Buchan surfing in Teahupo’o, Tahiti, in French Polynesia. His winning image received an outstanding number of votes by the judging panel, which consisted of 50 outstanding photo editors and digital experts.

© zooom

Once the big announcements concluded all the award-winning photographers had the opportunity to see their images on display, illuminated on 2mx2m lightboxes at the opening of the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour 2019 outside of the LUMEN. All the way from the top of the mountain, the exhibition will travel down into the magical valley of Bruneck, South Tyrol, Italy. Parallel to that, the exhibition will be held at the unique architectural work of art – Hangar-7, Salzburg, Austria.

© zooom

The photos exhibited will be the Top 60 images, which will include the 11 Category Winners and the Overall Winner. The winners are:

Best of Instagram by SanDisk: Baptiste Fauchille, France, with a shot from a buddies trip with a business goal showing Alex Bibollet’s shadow in the bowl of Fillinges, France.

© Baptiste Fauchille / Red Bull Illume

Creative by Skylum: Denis Klero, Russia, for his visually striking image of Paul Alekhin to celebrate the change of season in Streetfire Club, Moscow, Russia.

© Denis Klero / Red Bull Illume

Emerging by Red Bull Photography: Jean-Baptiste Liautard, France, joins the big leagues with this mirrored shot of Jeremy Berthier at his trail in Bourgoin-Jallieu, France.

© Jean-Baptiste Liautard / Red Bull Illume

Energy & Overall Winner: Ben Thouard, France, shows the power of surfing with this underwater shot of Ace Buchan kicking out from the barrel through the wave in Teahupo’o, Tahiti, French Polynesia.

© Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

Innovation by Sony: Laurence Crossman-Emms, United Kingdom, takes the imagination by storm with this image of Katy Winton BMXing through a puddle at Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales, United Kingdom.

© Laurence Crossmann-Emms / Red Bull Illume

Lifestyle: Alexander Wick, Germany, for his tribute shot of Philipp Bankosegger, Chris Rudolph and Luke Lalor taking a nap by Salathé Wall, El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, USA.

© Alexander Wick / Red Bull Illume

Masterpiece by EyeEm: Lorenz Holder, Germany, for his shot of Senad Grosic flying in the magical Game of Thrones location, The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland.

Moving Image: Rupert Walker, Canada, for his precise shot featuring Brandon Semenuk and Ryan Howard riding down a custom-built slalom line in Paso Robles.

© Rupert Walker / Red Bull Illume

Playground: Lorenz Holder, Germany, with a shot of Vladic Scholz in the surrealOuse Valley Viaduct, South England.

© Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume

RAW: Noah Wetzel, USA, for his shot of Chris Bule riding under the Total Solar Eclipse in Teton Valley, Wyoming, USA.

© Noah Wetzel / Red Bull Illume

Wings: Philip Platzer, Austria, captures athlete Marco Fürst flying on an unthinkable hot air balloon swing in Fromberg, Austria.

© Philip Platzer / Red Bull Illume

That’s not all! This year’s partners SanDisk and Salewa each had their own trophy to give away. The first-ever recipient of the SankDisk Extreme trophy is Philip Platzer, Austria. The next trophy, presented by Salewa, was for Best Mountain Sports Image which was awarded to Kamil Sustiak, Australia.

Download all finalist images of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 here!

The category winners and the overall winner were not only awarded with massive trophies but also took home their share of incredible prizes including cameras from Sony, storage solution bundles from SanDisk and the complete Skylum Photo Editing suite including Luminar 4. In addition, COOPH, Salewa, Petzl and SUNNYBAG provided the winners with apparel and equipment every photographer needs.

All of these and more in one collectible hardcover book. The Limited Edition Red Bull Illume Photobook features 260 of the most unforgettable action and adventure sports image submitted to the Image Quest 2019. The Photobook is out now and there are only 4,000 copies available, each individually numbered and stamped, including a SanDisk Ultra SD Memory Card with the Moving Image Category videos and the full Luminar 4: Creative Photo Editor suite.

At the rate they were selling at the Winner Award Ceremony, we’d suggest you order your photobook on redbullillume.com/book today before they’re all sold out!

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