Extreme Exposure: Kayaking the Holy Grail, big wave surfing swells, more

Monday May 4th, 2015

Welcome back to Extreme Exposure, a weekly column bringing you the best photography and news from the world of action and outdoor sports. This week the good life is in full affect as we look at kayakers harnessing what’s left of the spring runoff, skiers riding what’s left of winter’s bounty, surfers welcoming Southern Hemisphere swells and more. 

One More Day Up in the Canyon

Whitewater kayaking, in itself, is an enigma, its practitioners’ skilled athletes and rugged individualists who embrace the art of disappearing into the world’s deepest canyons. And because of that remote playing field, even its biggest competitions are often held far from the public eye. Like the annual Little White Salmon Race near Hood River, Oregon. The racecourse is on an extremely steep section of river that drops almost 1,000 feet in a little over 4 miles, consisting of waterfalls and slides and considered by many as one of the sport’s Holy Grails.

Last weekend, 40 competitors floated into the canyon to compete. The start and finish are within the canyon walls, making spectating nearly impossible.  “That’s the trippy thing about it,” says Rush Sturges, one of the sport’s best paddlers and filmmakers. “To race it, you’re basically running a solo lap. There’s safety set in a few places but you’re alone, which is super scary on Class V because you’re winded from racing and if you f*** up you’re going to swim because you’re so tired.”  

Here, Dane Jackson lines up Spirit Falls with all eyes upon him:

Going South

For many in the surfing world, (and Hollywood producers) summer is the quintessential time of year to be a surfer. The water and air temps warm and the season for swells originating in the Southern Hemisphere is ripe, making California and Mexico prime destinations.

The large swell currently slamming into North America’s western shores couldn’t have come at a better time. Last week, the Oakley Lowers Pro finished up with young Brazilian upstart Filipe Toledo taking down the field, the Billabong XXL Awards went off in Los Angeles, and then this, Puerto Escondido, the Mexican Pipeline, lit up with the world’s top big wave surfers making their way down to mainland Mexico to meet the energy in the water. Mark Healey was ready, sitting out in the lineup right as the swell arrived, he hooked into what some in the surfing media are calling the biggest wave ever caught here. And that’s saying something considering this ferocious giant has maimed, humbled, and even killed, many who’ve chosen to challenge her.

One of the Boys

It was a big weekend in Las Vegas for the final indoor Monster Supercross event of the year. And a lot of the buzz had to do with Vicki Golden, who became the first female ever to qualify for the “Fast 40,” basically the race series’ main event in the evening following qualifying races during the day. While she didn’t make the final, Golden fought through a tough season to end the indoor circuit as well as she did, including a bout of mononucleosis.  

We did it. 🙌🙌 Qualified 35th for my first @supercrosslive night show! What an amazing weekend!

A post shared by Vicki Golden (@vgolden423) on

Sending It

Austrian climber Angy Eiter, a four-time lead climbing world champion, recently sent Era Vella, a 9a (5.14d) in Margalef, Spain. While this climb has been repeated multiple times since it was first done in 2010, it’s definitely no jungle gym in the park, featuring sustained climbing with at least 100 moves involved in its ascent.  Eiter, 29, is a decorated competitive climber with 25 World Cup victories. She officially retired from the competitive circuit in 2013.

Never Summer

Isn’t winter over? For some, especially those passionate about backcountry glissé, the season can last year-around. Here, Swedish photographer Mattias Fredriksson captures Henrik Westling, Johan Ranbrandt, Fred Arne Wergeland and Alex Hamlin during their approach to ski Sweden’s Sylarna Mountains close to the Norwegian border.

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