The <em>Outside</em> 100


Nov 21, 2007
Outside Magazine

[57] That's not a mosh pit; those are our cheerleaders. Seven Los Angeles high schools have added skateboarding as a sanctioned sport. They're the first members of the nascent NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL SKATEBOARD ASSOCIATION, but plans call for adding 13 schools next year.

[58–59] THE PROSTHETIC LEGS of double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius, of South Africa, forced international track-and-field officials into an unusual debate this year when he began edging close to Olympic qualification times. They're still doing tests to determine whether or not his futuristic prosthetics give him an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. Got that?

[60] Blue-light special on the South Col! Though prices for MOUNT EVEREST CLIMBING PERMITS will remain the same during the big spring climbing season (about $25,000), Nepal is proposing lowering rates for fall and winter by 50 and 75 percent, respectively.

[61–63] American cycling is dead! Long live American cycling! Discovery Channel riders took FIRST and THIRD at the Tour de France, then the team promptly announced that it would fold at the end of the season. At the same time, TEAM SLIPSTREAM/CHIPOTLE began assembling a roster almost entirely of U.S. stars, including Discovery refugee Tom Danielson and CSC stars Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde, in an attempt to create a new American superteam.

TWO YEARS AGO, Gordon "Grubby" Clark, whose Clark Foam made 90 percent of the polyurethane cores, or "blanks," used in surfboards, suddenly shut his doors, creating a panic in the industry and spawning doomsday predictions. Shops and manufacturers hoarded inventory and raised prices dramatically. But after a brief pause, dozens of suppliers began flooding the world with cores and surfboards. Many are now mass-manufactured in Asia and sold at discounters like Costco. Even boutique makers are humming. My own board guru (Dennis Murphy, of Murphy Shapes, one of a diminishing cadre of hand-shapers) says many of his blanks come from U.S. Blanks, run by former Clark Foam employees using a modified Clark Foam formula.

In the days after "Blank Monday," there was talk of using Clark's closing as a chance to address the industry's green-image problem. On the one hand, surfers are constantly haranguing officialdom about clean water, while on the other they rely on board-manufacturing processes that an industry newsletter has described as "somewhat deadly." While there have been signs of interest in safer techniques and materials, so far they're tentative. Some, like a sugarcane-based epoxy over bamboo, are mainly curiosities. Exotic materials like carbon are impractically expensive. A researcher at Sandia National Laboratories, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, announced that a foam he created to protect electronics in nuclear weapons would make excellent, affordable blanks and be easier on the environment. But it has yet to find its way into commercial surfboards. The industry has been using slightly less noxious polystyrene blanks—basically styrofoam—covered with epoxy resin, though the verdict on their staying power is still out.

In the not-so-green meantime, there's still good news for me in the post-Clark fallout: Murphy has slightly lowered his prices.

[65] Our new favorite thing about Paris: VÉLIB' (vélo, for "bike," and liberté, for "freedom"), a program aimed at easing pollution and traffic by making rental bikes available for short trips. By year's end, there will be 20,600 bikes at 1,451 automated rental stations throughout the city, available for as little as $1.40 a day.

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