World Affairs Part III

Words Seb Kemp
Photos Seb Kemp
Date Mar 6, 2011

Have you ever stopped riding your bike and taken in the view, the surroundings, the atmosphere of where you are and been brought to such an overwhelming love for the place that you find it can be mistaken for pain: deep, crushing, suffocating pain.

The reason I ride is for experience, journey, and peregrination, and most of all those divinely heartbreaking moments along those routes where the view and my place within squeezes my heart and chokes my breath.

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Mountain bikes must have taken you to places that you would never have reached otherwise. Places hidden and secreted away just out of view of the obvious route. Settings and situations that have made your heart numb and tender just from being there.

Places deep into the nowhere or just around the corner from your habitual somewhere. Vistas and landscape that push pause upon your everyday view or point of view. Places that have struck you to a stop, and made you clamour for breath. They can be tiny concealed secrets that perhaps only you have seen – infinitesimal pieces of the grandeur, more complex whole – or perhaps they are the tremendous panoramas, landscapes and views that open up beyond our comprehension and fool ourselves into thinking we have an overview of the bigger picture.

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For me it is the mountains that hold the most incredible allure. I am terrorized by the scope and dignity of big spaces filled by the granite archives of geological mayhem. They are silent, roaring reminders of stolid, tumultuous pasts. Their aloofness draws me to them, in the same way that the sucking availability of their relative space  pushes at me.

I have put acid in my thighs and needles in my lungs to reach the crown view in mountainous places like the Atlas mountains, Alps, Aspiring mountain range, Black Cullins, Blue Mountains, Cascades, Coastal Mountains, and the Chilcotins. None of them the highest, none of them the most technical to summit, in fact pretty accessible to anyone willing to step a little further than their front door. These aren’t the overlords of the thin air like the Himalayas or Eiger – places where the threat of death is the currency with which an ascent is paid for – but still they are places that offer an audience with something divine.  

seb kemp, world affairs part 3, mountain biking, extreme, nsmb, whistler bike park

These places, above the surface of the earth, upon the spiraling crust of a thrust floor, inebriate me. I find myself captivated by them yet pushed not to look into the face of their beauty for too long in case I become blinded. There is a greater knowledge in those places, the truth of which is so overwhelming that it thumps at the cage of my chest. My heart feels bruised and swollen with the bombardment of beauty that I can only take the torment for so long. I know if I was stronger I could maybe endure the throbbing pangs long enough to understand the message pulsing from the grandeur of the vista, but something deeper within the folds of my own mind’s cavern makes me weak. I try to take in the view, my eyes clumsily feeling around in the expanse of substance and the space and my mind gallops to rationally process the forces of creation and destruction that have forged and shattered these masses into being. But it is the heartbreaking joy that swells up inside me and makes me so humbled that I feel more than gravity pull me away from the incorporeal existence of truth and light I am faced with. The acute emotional state I find myself in stays within as echos long after the descent from these rarified zones but like the ripples made by a stone thrown into a still pond, eventually they ebb away to imperceptible oscillations. So before the effect numbs and disappears I keep returning, hoping that one day I will be able to let the beauty wash me away forever.

seb kemp, world affairs part 3, mountain biking, extreme, nsmb, whistler bike park

So often I have been beaten with meaty fists of love that I seek and resist the experience of such places in equal measures. Like the self-flagellation in our endless search for  the horrors and rapture of love for one another,  I use my mountain bike as a hypodermic instrument to get those fleeting feelings of immense squashing exultation, despair, euphoria, and desolation.

Time spent in their bear hug is a stabbing, caressing, painful beauty. The majesty swells my heart, flattens my chest, and runs a warm palm up my spine. So many times in such places I would have cried but every look vaporizes those tears as quickly as they well up. So I escape from them before I am granted exactly what I know I have come searching for – an elevated understanding. I swing my leg over my escape pod, tighten the straps on my back and drop into the trail. In the frantic meditation of navigating through this mind-field of obstacles I find some respite from the questions and all I have is focus and the moment, but the inaudible thundering of the mountain’s effect resonates in me a little more every time. Challenging me to return, muster the clarity and take in the vehement peace of that place above me.


Seb is full of surprises. Do his poetic ramblings speak to you? Have you had an experience as intense as the ones he describes? Wax for yourself here…

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