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Extreme Exposure: Kennelly becomes first woman to win main XXL award

Surfer Keala Kennelly makes big wave history, avalanche fatalities continue to rise and more news from the world of action and outdoor sports.

In this week's edition of Extreme Exposure—a weekly column featuring news and photography from the world of action and outdoor sports—Keala Kennelly makes big wave history while avalanche fatalities continue to rise.

Historic XXL Awards

This year’s XXL Big Wave awards, held over the weekend in Anaheim, Calif., had a different air about them. First, many of surfing’s best big wave athletes were literally thankful to have made it through the El Niño winter, which saw some of the biggest swells in years “I almost had t-shirts made that said, ‘I survived El Nino,’” said Albee Layer. But it was also the groundbreaking nature of the event. When Keala Kennelly stepped on stage to accept the award for best barrel for her ride at Teahupoʻo, she became the first women to win a category other than female performance. Her acceptance speech was nothing short of inspiring:  “Who I really want to thank is everyone who told me, ‘you can’t do that because you’re a woman,’” she said. “That drove me to dedicate my life to proving you wrong and it’s been so damn fun.”  

Shane Dorian also had a huge night, winning both ride of the year and the male performance award. Afterwards, the 43-year-old acknowledged being closer to calling it quits than ever. “Brock Little was the ultimate fearless big wave rider and he told me, ‘(At some point), you’re going to paddle out (when it’s big), and you’re not going to want to have anything to do with the waves—and you’re going to be done.’”

• MORE EDGE:Clemson safety Kearse takes workouts to the beach

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Avalanche Fatalities Continue to Rise

In the snow world, it’s been an extremely tough year for avalanche fatalities. Last week we reported the death of two-time world champion snowboarder Estelle Balet, 21, after she was caught in an avalanche in Switzerland. Then big mountain skiing was hit when Quebec native Maxim Arsenault was killed in Haines, Alaska. Arsenault reportedly triggered a slide as he dropped a cliff, which then buried him upon landing. The 36-year-old had a gregarious personality and an interesting back story: Prior to becoming a professional freeskier, he served seven years in the Canadian army as a paratrooper and was deployed in Bosnia and East Timor. He moved to Whistler soon after leaving the army. According to, his is the 29th avalanche-related death in the U.S. this season. 

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Something Big in the Lineup

Well, that’s one way to thin out the lineup. This week, a large whale washed ashore at Lower Trestles in San Clemente, California, home to several important surf contests, including the World Surf League’s Lowers Pro in September. Whales can take months, even years, to break down and decay and the dead animals attract all sorts of sea scavengers looking for a freebie, including Great White Sharks. It’s the second dead whale seen in the area in as many weeks—deaths local fisherman are attributing to natural causes. There remains no official word on what type of whale it is or how local authorities plan to deal with the carcass.  

​• MORE EDGE:Q&A with snowboarder Mark McMorris

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Ken Roczen Stalls Ryan Dungey in Supercross Series

Not so fast Ryan Dungey. Ken Roczen has something to say about your title hunt. Dungey, who’s been on a tear all year and was seeking to wrap up his second consecutive Supercross title, had his quest halted by Roczen and his fourth win of the season. Roczen dominated after the opening lap and desperately needed the win to try and tie down a title of his own. Dungey still managed third and Roczen’s hold on the reigning champ may only be temporary: Dungey simply needs to finish next weekend’s race in New Jersey with a 25-point lead to claim the title.