‘Aren’t You Going to Get Scars? And Won’t That Ruin Your Looks?’

Alin's friends and relatives voiced concern when she told them of her plans to give mountain biking a try as a student in Arizona.

“Isn’t it scary?”  

“Why do you have to do that?” 

Pick mountain biking as a sport, and you’re likely to hear some of these questions. But here’s a question you hear only if you’re a girl who picks an extreme sport: “Aren’t you going to get scars? And won’t that ruin your looks?”

Society tends to discourage extreme sports for women, either directly or indirectly. But there is risk everywhere in life. And fear should not limit our desire to explore. We are all explorers longing for the moment when we feel most alive. I took up mountain biking during my time at Verde Valley School, an international boarding school in Sedona, Arizona, where the rugged outdoors are both teacher and classroom. If it has taught me one thing, it’s about taking a chance and confronting risk in order to really feel the moment. 

You cannot fly if you are afraid to fall. 

I grew up in Nepal where I was never encouraged to explore extreme sports. I was advised to be careful and cautious, to not explore danger.  In the soccer field and basketball court you will notice boys playing. Girls are traditionally taught to help out in the house with cleaning, cooking and taking care of the younger ones. I was always trying to play sports with the boys. 

When I came to Verde Valley School in Arizona as a junior, I became curious to see what it would feel like to do what most of the boys were doing. 

I know friends and relatives meant well when they warned me the sport would leave marks on my body. But I discovered that the joy of mountain biking is about how it makes you feel on the inside. Not what it does to your outside. 

And yes, there are times when you fall.

There was one time, when I practiced some tricks on gravel and ended up in the emergency room. I came home with ten stitches and a determination to get back on the bike as soon as I could.

Mountain biking brings me closer to nature and helps me find peace with myself at the end of the day. It’s a moment when you are fully alive without knowing what can happen the other second. For me it turned out to be a drug-free anti-depressant.

Sports play a vital role in the physical, emotional, and mental development of a teenager. Especially for young women, they boost self-esteem. I grew up in a culture where being quiet, shy, and not making eye contact was considered respectful. On the red-dusted trails of Arizona, I found I could be what I wished to be, which turned out to be: an adrenaline junkie.