Welcome to another edition of Extreme Exposure, a weekly column bringing you the best photography and news from the world of action and outdoor sports. This week, Gus Kenworthy comes out, the World Surf League's world title chase goes to Hawaii and much more.
The Truth Will Set You Free
In a cover story last week for ESPN the Magazine, Gus Kenworthy caught the action sports world by surprise when he announced that he was gay. Kenworthy, a Telluride, Colo. native who rose to fame when he won a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in slopestyle freeskiing, was featured on the cover next to the blurb, “Is being the best in the world enough to be accepted? Coming out in the post-Michael Sam world.”
It could easily be argued that Kenworthy is much more successful in his sport than Sam was in football (he’s the only athlete to have landed four double corks in an event and has won the Association of Freeskiing Professionals’ overall championship five years running). Sam, the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year is now out of the NFL and serving time as a Canadian Football League journeyman. So Kenworthy’s announcement was a big deal. And he’s excited for the day it doesn’t matter. “I don’t feel like it should be a newsworthy thing,” he tells SI.com. “A person’s sexuality shouldn’t make a difference. But it is a big deal because there hasn’t been that many people at the top of their game (to come out), or anyone in action sports. I was blown away how supportive people were. And any negative feedback from people who are more close-minded, those are the opinions that make me feel better about (my decision). Those are the opinions I’d like to change.”
In his interview with Alyssa Roenigk, Kenworthy discussed his trepidation and poor results during past X Games competitions and how hard it was to be open and honest (and relaxed) as the camera regularly panned to athletes' female love interests while producers asked him if he had a “girlfriend in attendance.” Coincidentally, interest in ESPN’s signature action sports showcase could be at all-time highs this winter. “I definitely think it’s going to put more pressure on me,” Kenworthy says. “But it’s a huge weight off my shoulders. They’ll be pressure to perform but it’s good pressure. And I think it’s awesome that it brings more attention to our sport. I’ve had a lot of tweets from people who didn’t know what freeskiing was.”
Another one from my @espn shoot! And to think I was nervous about what type of feedback I was gonna get after my story came out this morning. I am truly blown away by the amount of love and support that I've been receiving! Thank you all so much for your kind words, I've never felt happier to be me! Love y'all.
This Way to the Door
The world title race just got weird in Portugal. During the Moche Rip Curl Pro, four of the top seven men in the world all lost in early rounds, including Mick Fanning and Adriano de Sousa. Fanning—who was holding down the ranking’s top spot—lost to Frederico Morais, a native of Portugal and an injury replacement (a slew of surfers were ruled out for both injury and personal reasons).
Vasco Ribeiro also made Portugal proud when the local wildcard took down de Sousa in Round 3. De Sousa is trailing Fanning by 450 points in the overall chase and their losses ensure that the title race will move to Hawaii and be decided at the Pipeline Masters in December.
While the top four seeds faltered, the defending world champion surged. Gabriel Medina won the Quiksilver Pro France, advanced to Round 4 and could put himself in a position to repeat if he wins in Peniche. But he barely squeaked by another Brazilian upstart, Caio Ibelli, in the waning moments of the heat when he landed a huge air reverse for 9.50. "I feel blessed to get that last wave,” he said. “Today was crazy with the losses of Adriano and Mick, but I'm not thinking World Title (yet), I just want to do good as always.”
Before Summer Ends
Alberta climber Sonnie Trotter nabbed a first ascent in the Canadian Rockies last week just ahead of the region’s first snowfall when he and partner Gery Unterasinger finished "Blue Jeans Direct," an eight-pitch climb rated 5.14a on Mount Yamnuska near Calgary. "Blue Jeans Direct" is an alternate route of the less difficult climb, "Blue Jeans."
“I (just barely) managed to complete one of my summer projects in the nick of time,” said Trotter on Facebook. “A warm Rockies weather window combined with a free day at home, combined with a MEGA motivated, and inspiring, climbing partner got me to the summit.”
A huge congratulations to @sonnietrotter who just yesterday sent his project up high on Yamnuska. Taking Blue jeans and adding a direct pitch which goes at 5.14, making it the first 5.14 route on Yams entire south face.... While I wasn't there yesterday to document the proud send, I did spend some time up there earlier this year with Sonnie. Here is a shot from one of the lower pitches, notice the two finger stack on the left hand... Nails!
Titans of the Sea
Ahead of what some scientists are calling the strongest El Niño on record, Titans of Mavericks invitees gathered in Half Moon Bay for the contest’s opening ceremonies (the contest window runs from November 1 to March 31). The invite list includes some of the best big wave riders in the world, including two-time winner Grant Twiggy Baker, Greg Long (2008 winner), Chris Bertish (2010 winner) and others.
Despite a large storm that created big waves in December 2014, the contest failed to run last year. Typically during El Niño years, sizeable surf isn’t a problem. It's clean, sizeable surf that is. Big waves are often accompanied by rain and wind, wreaking havoc on the conditions. So most invitees are taking a wait-and-see approach. “There’s going to be big, unpredictable storms,” Jeff Clark told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Clark is part of the Titans of Maverick’s Committee 5, which greenlights the contest each year during the appropriate weather window. “With the wind and rain, we’re really going to have to watch to determine when to hold the contest.”