Welcome to Extreme Exposure, a weekly column bringing you the best photography and news from the world of action and outdoor sports. With the start of summer, water takes center stage this week as the Fiji Pro enjoyed incredible conditions and Idaho hosted a high-end whitewater competition.
Perfection, Times Two
The World Surf League couldn’t have asked for a better event to showcase the middle of its season this week in Fiji. The conditions at Cloudbreak, a left-hand pointbreak near the island of Tavarua, were nearly flawless at 7-10 feet with big open barrels and smooth open walls, allowing the best surfers in the world to display an array of skills. Not to mention a serious string of upsets that amped up the tension.
Dane Reynolds hasn’t surfed a complete year on the tour since finishing fourth in 2010, but for the past decade he has been one of the sport’s cultural influencers, with his imprint on media, board design and especially surfing style. He received a wildcard bid into the event and promptly upset the world’s No. 1 surfer in Round 3, Adriano De Souza, sending him home early. Then, Brazilian rookie Italo Ferreira sent Kelly Slater packing in Round 5, the second time the young surfer has beaten Slater in one-on-one heats this year. And that was all before Kai Otten knocked off No. 3-ranked Mick Fanning.
Then, in one of the highlights of the year so far, Australian Owen Wright surfed a perfect heat against Adam Melling, hooking in to two perfect 10’s, only the seventh time that’s happened in the history of the sport. He rolled into the first wave and tucked under the lip, with all 6-foot 5-inches of his wiry frame standing tall in the barrel before coming out to stab the lip, getting another barrel section at the end. The second wave was another bomb that he was able to stand up in as it traveled down the reef. The event should finish early this week at worldsurfleague.com. Have a look at Owen’s 20-point round.
And this gem, just because it’s so good for the sport to have Reynolds back, surfing competitively in a premiere event where fans can watch:
In what some are calling the greatest downhill mountain bike run of all time, Aaron Gwin, a two-time World Cup champion from Morongo Valley, Calif., snapped his chain on the first pedal stroke of his final run at the World Cup Downhill event in Leogang, Austria. Despite the setback, Gwin controlled his momentum perfectly in the flatter—relatively speaking—middle section of the course, setting the pace for the field and snatching victory from jaws of a faulty derailleur. “I just kept my head down and luckily there’s not much pedaling except for that middle section so I just charged as hard as I could,” he said after. “I just tried to tuck (up) and make the most of it.”
In its fourth iteration, the North Fork Championships on the Payette River in Idaho has become the preeminent whitewater kayaking event in the world as the sport’s best athletes compete in a series of races on this hallowed stretch of river. The North Fork is to kayaking what the Banzai Pipeline is to surfing: big, dangerous and completely visible to the general public (the river runs along US Highway 55, a main north/south thoroughfare dissecting the state).
The biggest event of the weekend is the Giant Slalom, held on Jacob’s Ladder, the river’s crucible Class V rapid. Competitor’s slide off a giant ramp into the river (pictured) to begin their run and then navigate a series of gates placed above the streambed. All while thousands of spectators line the banks to get a glimpse of the action. “It’s like motocross or a football game, where a lot of people can be really entertained,” says the NFC’s creator and organizer, James Byrd, who would know. He’s a Class V kayaker who played college football at Montana’s Carroll College. “Doctors, lawyers, even older people 65-to-70 years old really respect what we’re doing. The level of kayaking has gotten so high and this rapid is so visually impressive that it showcases the sport in an amazing way.”
Lots of winter athletes use their offseasons to train, heading to far-flung locales like Chile, Argentina and New Zealand to take advantage of the Southern Hemisphere season. But last week, members of the US Freesking and Snowboarding team joined with Hope Sports, a nonprofit that organizes athletes in different charity drives. Freeskiers Gus Kenworthy, Ashley Battersby and snowboarder Eric Beauchemin traveled to poverty-stricken Tijuana, Mexico to build a house for a struggling family. And they weren’t the only ones. In three days, some 50 athletes (which also included members of the US Speedskating and Hockey teams) banded together to build three single-family homes. The three families were living under tarps or in small shacks. For more information visit hopesports.org.