URBEX, cycling as urban exploration

New generations of riders are changing cities, MET tells us how

Reinventing urban exploration. Boundless spaces of the metropolis, abandoned industrial amphitheatres, unknown suburbs… That’s where the real beating heart of big cities is: in the working-class buildings of the Milan hinterland, in the London suburbs, in the farthest districts of the Eternal City. Buildings often seemingly anonymous, devoid of history, sons of a bizarre building plan stipulated to quickly solve the housing crisis. Emblematic, ghostly places that are able to attract an increasing number of visitors fascinated by the majesty of these concrete giants.

Exploring these neighborhoods means having to deal with the suffocating city congestion, to defeat it. That’s why you need a more practical and lighter means of transport, capable of zigzagging between cars: in other words, you need a bicycle. MET Helmets, one of the world’s most famous helmet manufacturers, has followed French DJ Matéo Montero on his urban explorations in a project called Urbex.

“My bike is the king,” Montero says proudly, a testament to the incredible efficiency of the two wheels in the urban jungle. For this former cyclist, the bike is much more than a means of transportation. It’s a bridge capable to bring different cultures and personalities together. It’s almost unconditional freedom of movement. It’s the only way to get out of the downtown traffic jam and reduce your environmental impact.

After having already collaborated with MET Helmets, Achille Mauri and Stefano Steno were contacted to realize the audiovisual project of URBEX MIPS. Their ability to capture the authenticity and essence of every corner of Rome is definitely out of the ordinary: thanks to a particularly effective and captivating storytelling, the project directed by Mauri is able to gather all the nuances of urban exploration in just three minutes.

The Terrazza del Pincio, some abandoned suburban buildings. Sampietrini, neglected asphalt or new spaces still under construction. The scenic nuances of urban exploration are potentially endless, just like the challenges or difficulties one may encounter during the journey. Between iconic monuments and abandoned buildings, a new generation of explorers is ready to conquer our cities.

Project by MET Helmets
IG @met_helmets

Pictures by Ulysse Daessle
IG @ulyssedaessle

Video:
Directed by @achillemauri.eu
Cinematography by @stefanosteno
Music by @_anddot
Sound Designer @tommaso.simonetta
Title Designer @samsala.studio
Starring @rawmance707
Voice @rawmance707

Text by Filippo Vianello


Andre Agassi and the stylistic revolution of tennis

The Las Vegas Kid who changed the aesthetics of the racket

When we think of tennis, one of the first words that comes to mind is probably Wimbledon: an uncompromising dress code policy, the manifesto of tennis elegance par excellence. How could Andre Agassi, a punk who lent himself to the racket, win a tournament so anchored in its traditions?

In Andre Agassi’s personal story, contradictions are something annoyingly ordinary. The dad’s order and discipline guided him to a success tainted with hatred and suffering. “Dad says if I hit 2,500 balls a day, I’ll hit 17,500 a week and almost a million in a year. He believes in math. Numbers, he says, don’t lie. A kid who hits a million balls will be unbeatable.”

If, for his father, mathematics and rigor are at the base of a high level professional life, we cannot say the same for Andre Agassi, who has made of these two elements a real obsession. The escape from his father and from the ‘dragon’, the special machine that he used for practicing every shot, seem to represent the first step towards the freedom he dreams of.

From Nevada to Florida, from the magical lights of Las Vegas to the boundless green of Bradenton. His arrival at Nick Bollettieri’s tennis academy, the hothouse of talents who have written the history of this sport, such as Jim Courier and the Williams sisters, was the first breath of fresh air after years of prison. Agassi is a free spirit, but he soon realizes that rules have a considerable weight even in this new context.

Andre starts to manifest his own discomfort. He starts to escape from a life that is imposed, and not chosen. The ban on wearing any kind of jewelry is the first rule Andre breaks. Shortly after his arrival at the academy, he starts wearing flashy earrings, rings and necklaces. Professors and coaches admonish him, even threatening expulsion. The opportunity to escape is real and the Las Vegas Kid is determined to take it.

He shows up at one tournament with ruby-colored nail polish, bright red Mohican hair and a flashy outfit. His father and Bollettieri are horrified, but at the same time they start to understand the origin of this behavior.

Agassi becomes the rebel tennis player par excellence. His outfits on the court are the scream of a young champion that wants to be different from everyone else: an iconic scream, like a rock star. Nike decided to dedicate an entire collection to the Las Vegas Kid. The Swoosh commercial features an unusual collaboration between tennis and rock, between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Andre Agassi. “Hit the ball as loud as you can” says Flea, the famous bass player of the LA band.

A jacket borrowed from athletics and Lycra shorts, the shoes, the Nike Air Challenge III halfway between tennis and basketball… All this is illuminated by colorful fluorescent flashes: yellow, green, pink. The American punk culture has colonized even the most noble sport, Agassi is at the head of a stylistic and sporting revolution.

During the most important tournaments of the circuit, such as during the US Open in 1988, Andre wears unique denim shorts. What was experienced as unconventional and unique, soon became a real fashion trend: the Nevada champion inspires an entire generation, breaking down the previous stylistic canons and expressive barriers.

The only tournament that don’t completely submit to Agassi’s rebellious creativity is Wimbledon, the cradle of British tennis and nobility. After sabotaging it for years because of the inflexible white dress code, Agassi decides to compete on the most famous green court of the world with his now famous blond mane, an oversized polo shirt and a pair of glasses with particular yellow lenses.

The person who embodies perfection and elegance with a racket in his hands is Pete Sampras, the Agassian anti-hero. A personality never over the top, a human-textbook of tennis technique with a great stylistic sobriety on the court.

The relationship between Sampras and Agassi is full of mutual hatred: a utopian friendship between a rock star and an icon of the noble art of tennis. It’s extremely difficult to get two such different characters to work together, to think that they could be the actors of a commercial that will mark the history of sports marketing is simply illogical and crazy. In full Nike style, where ‘Just Do It’ represents much more than a motto, Eric King decides to hire Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras to make a commercial called ‘Guerilla Tennis’. Thanks to the skilful direction of Spike Jonze, the two champions get out of a vehicle in the middle of downtown San Francisco and while Agassi starts to plant the net on the main street, Sampras thanks to his racket paralyzes the city traffic.

The two begin an intense and passionate match, gathering hundreds of spectators enchanted by the pressing rhythm of their balls. Even in their clothing and playing style, they represent two completely opposite worlds: Agassi’s creative and unconventional genius is in the striped polo shirt matched with pants in various shades of blue, as well as in his under the legs shots. Sampras, on the other hand, shows off all his elegance by hitting precise and powerful forehands with his white polo shirt.

Tennis, which has always been a sport to be followed in religious silence, was undergoing a small but significant revolution led by its brightest stars. The umpteenth attack on the excessive traditionalism of tennis.

Andre Agassi is not only an athlete. He is not just a champion. He is a manifesto of expressive and stylistic freedom with few equals in the history of sport. His courage and his outfits will continue to fascinate and inspire entire generations.

Text by Filippo Vianello


Basketball speaks Aussie: Nike Prahran Summer Jam

Mitch Fong’s shots take us inside the Australia’s most iconic basketball festival

The Nike Prahran Summer Jam brings together different cultures and personalities. Skaters, street artists and basketball players share the same urban space in a microcosm where meritocracy and respect are the only two rules.

Born in 2012 from the minds of Eamon Larman-Ripon and Daniel Ella, Prahran’s Summer Jam has quickly established itself as the Mecca of Australian streetball. Supported by Nike and House of Hoops by Foot Locker, the festival has attracted hundreds of players and street artists from around the globe over the years.

The Australian basketball culture is quickly expanding and is gaining more and more credibility thanks to the high attractiveness of its league, the NBL. For example Lamelo Ball, star of the Hornets, and RJ Hampton, a talented guard for the Orlando Magic, preferred to compete against the professionals of the top oceanic league before the NBA Draft.

The national movement churns out top level athletes every year: Andrew Bogut, Joe Ingles and Patty Mills have been true pioneers in bringing the basketball culture of the aussies overseas. Following in their footsteps we can now admire Josh Green, dynamic guard chosen by the Mavericks in 2020 and Joshua Giddey, the new wonder boy of the Oklahoma City Thunder who in his first year destroyed Luka Doncic’s record, becoming the youngest player ever to record a triple double.

More and more players are dreaming of hitting the floors of the biggest arenas in the U.S., and it’s no coincidence that the number of teams participating in a major showcase like the Summer Jam grows each year.

Now in its tenth year, the Nike Prahran Summer Jam has attracted thousands of spectators. Live music, food corners, a spectacular dunk contest and the new event in Perth… The numbers of Australia’s most iconic tournament are destined to grow exponentially for the next editions.

Although the event has a strong basketball focus, Larman-Ripon, in a recent interview for Pick and Roll wanted also to emphasize the importance of the cultural roots regarding his project: “This event is so much more than basketball and it always has been. It’s family, it’s community, it’s music, arts, food…it’s all built on culture”.

That’s why the tenth anniversary seems to be just the starting point for this all-around event.

Mitch Fong
IG @mitchfongphoto
mitchellfong.com

Text by Filippo Vianello


Scarlett Mew Jensen: it’s you against your potential

A journey into the 20-year-old Olympian diver

Paul Calver’s photographs and Andy Waterman’s collected words take us inside the aerial and aquatic universe of Team GB Olympic Diver Scarlett Mew Jensen.

Scarlett attended her first Olympics this year in Tokyo at the age of 19, in what was possibly the strangest Olympics in history, with no fans in arena, but with expectations and nerves as high as ever.

Scarlett talks about her life and her mindset inside an atypical visual context: the dry dive of the London’s Olympic aquatic centre in Stratford. Enjoy.

I started out doing gymnastics and dance. Lots of sport. Then talent ID coaches came into my primary school, trying to pick out people who they thought would be good for diving. I got invited to try out at Crystal Palace in south London, to test the water. I did all of the sets and all the workouts, and I had a talent for it, apparently.

I enjoyed diving right from the start. I was very young and it was jumping into a pool, which was so exciting. And I kind of got it. I’d done gymnastics before, and obviously diving is very similar, but it’s easier going into water. They said my way of diving was quite fluid but powerful at the same time, and I think that was something that was quite rare in a female athlete.

Diving has got something different about it – when you mention that you do diving, people perk up a little bit and they’re like, oh that’s quite cool. But yeah, I definitely had my ups and downs when I became a teenager: do I really want to be missing out when all the people I know are going to parties? You have to have that drive to push all that aside and say, no, actually I’m gonna go to training and I’m gonna work really, really hard and get to my dream, which is another level of excitement.

What does a perfect dive feel like? It’s indescribable. It does feel like you’re flying; I don’t really describe it as that, but it really does. When everything comes together, it feels so effortless and easy. I actually think I felt that amazing sensation when I was at the Olympics: none of my dives were perfectly executed, but as I left the board, I felt this massive amount of adrenaline and nerves, and the power that I felt was close to perfect. When it all comes together it’s just like your body is on autopilot. It doesn’t even feel like competition any more, it’s all slow motion.

When you think about what you’re doing in training and why you’re doing it, it’s actually muscle memory. It’s training the nervous system so all these different parts fire the way you want. My coach always used to say that your body will try to choose the easiest path, but when you’re trying to make a change, you have to go around the long way to break that chain. That’s what doing more reps, training every day and bringing the sport home with you is doing: it’s not just to make the dive a 10, it’s to make the way that you do the dive feel easy, so you can perform it perfectly every time.

The coach I’m with, we’ve been through three or four pre-seasons together. Pre-season is where you do the really simple stuff to get your body moving again, get yourself back into the swing of things. Those basics are the majority of our training, even in season. It’s all of the things that lead to that bigger dive, so for instance, for a forward rotation, you would do a forward dive, a forward 1.5, a forward 2.5, and then a 3.5. So you go through those steps to get to the end goal. Those simple dives are the most important, and in pre-season, they’re about 100 percent of training. In-season, depending on the day, it would be like an 80:20, or a 50:50 split, depending on how your body works and how you’re doing.

The gym is probably more important for me than the pool. Power is my strongest element and along with that, you have to be elegant and you have to have accuracy. Those are things that are a little bit easier to teach, I think. Power is harder to find.

The gym really drives me to be the diver I am. Without that, my diving in the pool wouldn’t be half as good as it is. You’ve got the trampolines where you can practice all your simple skills, and the boards, which are pretty much a direct correlation to the boards in the pool, so you’re literally doing the dives that you do in the pool but in the gym, where you can get more reps in without exerting yourself doing the a full dive. And then we’ve also got a rig,which is like a harness: if you’re learning a new dive, or you’re struggling on a dive, or there’s one thing you want to fix without having to do the dive, your coach will rig you in there, you’ll be in the air and then land on your hands. That’s really valuable.

I listen to music the whole time before I get on the board. I put some massive headphones on and I’m literally just in my little world. I listen to hype music. If I do an amazing dive, I sort of need to keep my cool. So I need to sort of stay relaxed. I also need to stay pumped so it needs to be a little bit of an in-between of hype and relaxed. And if I do a terrible dive, I need to get really pumped, really hyped.

I try not to look at the scoreboard. I just block it out. I see my result at the end of the competition and that’s it. It’s really just you against your potential.

Scarlett Mew Jensen – Team GB Olympic Diver
IG @scarlettmjensen

Photo by Paul Calver
IG @calverphoto
paulcalver.cc

Andy Waterman

Text by Gianmarco Pacione


Fred Perry, the story of a revolutionary tennis player

Table tennis, social achievements, Wimbledon, polo shirts…. Fred Perry is much more than a clothing brand

England, early 1900s. After the tragic death of Queen Victoria, her son Edward ascended to the throne. The society that developed during his reign had a strong hierarchical stamp. People were basically forced to accept their economic and social status. The British élite began to feel an increasing interest in sport, resulting in a small but significant revolution in the world of fashion.

In Stockport, a few miles outside Manchester, far from the London gentry and their new leisure activities, the future rising star of British tennis, Fred Perry, was born. The family he came from had rather modest origins: his father was a cotton spinner, politically active as a trade unionist and socialist. Consequently, getting his son to play a sport like tennis, which was reserved only for English high society, was out of discussion.

As the years went by, his father’s political career took a turn for the better, so much so that the family moved to Brentham, a small suburb not far from London built by the Co-Operative party. It was exactly during his years in the garden city of London that Fred was bewitched by tennis. Seeing the richest and most influential people in England enjoying themselves with a racket in their hands led him to think that tennis could give him the chance to turn his life around.

BARRIERS AND TRUMPS: TABLE TENNIS

As tennis clubs were reserved exclusively for the aristocracy, Fred Perry started with the most humble and popular version of tennis, table tennis. He seems to have an innate talent. He feels the rhythm of the ball like no one else. Moreover, playing an individual sport gives him the opportunity to be in complete control of his own destiny: a considerable nuance for someone born into a social context where personal freedom is often restricted.

Although he did not train regularly and only participated in one local tournament, in 1927 Ivan Montagu – coach of the English national table tennis team – decided to include him in the team for the World Championships.

A powerful and precise forehand. Mind-blowing effects. The young man from Stockport defeated all the best athletes present with disarming ease, reaching the top of the podium at the age of 20. After winning the last world championship in 1929, he announced his retirement from table tennis, promising to win the Davis Cup within the next four years.

HOW TO REVOLUTIONIZE THE ENGLISH TENNIS SOCIETY

In 1929, tennis was still elitist, however, Fred Perry was determined to keep his promise. With the support of his father, who saw his political ideals of meritocracy and social fairness in his son’s potential tennis success, Fred started playing in tournaments all over the UK. He wanted to assert himself as a sportsman and as a man, showing everyone that economic wealth was second to the desire to stand out.

1933, Paris, Stade Roland Garros. The United Kingdom challenges France in the challenge round. More than 20 years after the last British success, Fred Perry kept his promise and won his first Davis Cup. In the same year, another tennis player made headlines under the Eiffel Tower with an entrepreneurial idea that have been successful for centuries. After the first prototypes worn in 1927 in Forest Hills, René Lacoste officially launched his iconic clothing brand.

The oldest tennis event in the world. The only one to be played on grass. The green and purple. The snow-white uniforms. Wimbledon is just unique. The pressure you feel in that green rectangle cannot be compared to any other stadium in the world. Add to that the fact that you are an English athlete trying to win a trophy that has been absent from Her Majesty’s country since 1909. Ironically, the same year Fred was born. The Wimbledon final that year pitted the defending champion Jack Crawford, an Australian who was much admired by British people, against Fred Perry, a British athlete who was often criticised by his own public due to his social background and an unrefined style.

6-3, 6-0, 7-5. Perry silenced his detractors and was crowned the winner. The triumph of the working class in one of the events that most represents English nobility.

Despite an impressive record of victories, even in the international circuit, the British Federation struggled to recognise him as a professional athlete. In those years, the distinction between professionals and amateurs was clear. Since tennis was considered an art form and not a job that could be financially rewarded, the only reward was sporting glory. Perry, who sees not only success, but also independence in money, decides to move to the United States. The American culture, where meritocracy and fame go hand in hand, is much more akin to Perry’s ideals.

FROM GRAND SLAM TO CORPORATE SUCCESS: THE BIRTH OF THE FRED PERRY BRAND

He bought the Beverly Hills Tennis Club and a few years later was approached by Tibby Wegner, an Austrian ex-footballer with a similar business idea to Lacoste. They modified the transalpine model, resulting in the first Fred Perry polo shirt in 1952. The logo, a laurel wreath embroidered on the chest, is the emblem of victory. The effigy of someone who, starting from one of the lowest levels of the English social pyramid, achieved a double success: sporting and economic.

At least sixty years ahead of its time, Fred Perry is a forerunner of modern marketing campaigns. He presented his polo shirts at Wimbledon and gave them away to everyone. The public responds positively, so much so that even celebrities such as John Fitzgerald Kennedy are seen wearing the laurel wreath on their chests.

By now I am aware that they know me more for my polo shirts than for my tennis career”. In just a few years, the success of his brand is there for all to see, Perry himself sensing its worldwide fame. Although he has become a fashion icon, the tennis world has not forgotten his achievements. He was invited to crown Bjorn Borg for his victory at Wimbledon in 1978. Few years later, a life-size statue of Fred Perry was unveiled at the All England Club for all to remember.

On the day of the unveiling, he declared, “Wimbledon was the most important love story of my life.”

In 1995, Fred Perry went to the hospital in Melbourne after a bad fall during the Australian Open, a tournament he had won in 1934. He died a few days later at the age of 85.

He inspired and continues to inspire every generation. His polo shirts, as iconic as Lacoste polo shirts or Stan Smith shoes, are the last, eternal gift of a man who reminds us the importance of being the architect of our own destiny.

Text by: Filippo Vianello


YUSEF y RAMIRO, running is narration

For Cuban Paralympic athlete Yusef Fernandez Perez, speed means much more than 100 and 200 meters

The baroque facades of Havana, its streets of stripped asphalt and perpetual motion, the stands of a bare sports center, the unchanged and unchanging expression of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, a quietly noisy beach. The whirling steps of Paralympic athlete Yusef Fernandez Perez alternate in this decadent and evocative scenario.

Photographer and director Bas Van Est decided to portray the quiet personal challenge of this introverted sprinter, a man who, despite a tragic youthful accident, has decided to dedicate his life to the 100 and 200 meters. His coach Ramiro is at his side: a fatherly figure, a wise man from another era, tenderly devoted to Yusef and his Paralympic dream.

Intimate and full of meaning, the images of this documentary leave indelible marks. They lead the viewer to think about the concept of sporting dedication and offer a fascinating, almost mystical, glimpse of secret athletic magnificence.

Photography by Bas Van Est
IG @basvanest
basvanest.com

Dir. Bas van Est
Cinematography Jasper de Kloet
Creative Direction & Production Teresa Montenegro
Creative Direction & Story Christopher Cryer
Edit Hiro ikematsu
Grading Joseph Bicknell @Company3
Music Paul Reeves
Sound Design & Mix Randall W. Macdonald
Sound Design & Foley Archie Presley
Camera Stabilisation Hugo Rodríguez & Leonardo Grassi
Film & Title Design Mikashi Yakamato
Motion Graphics Lewis Beedham

Text by Gianmarco Pacione