The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Feb 2011

Kayaker Drops 128-Foot Waterfall

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Rafa Ortiz may have successfully kayaked over Mexico's 128-foot Big Banana Falls in December, but the mainstream media is just catching up. Ortiz, along with photographer Lucas Gilman, appeared on MSNBC yesterday to talk about the drop. At age 23, Ortiz is only the fifth person to successfully navigate a waterfall higher than 100 feet.

"You say it's only three seconds," Ortiz said, "but when you're falling right there, you're just covered in adrenaline. Your body reacts so fast that it actually happens kind of slow. You have time to make little adjustments on the way down."

Ortiz walked away with only a cut on his eyelid that required a few stitches.

"There's a couple very big project coming up," Ortiz said about his future plans. "But I can't really talk about it out loud."

-- Michael Webster

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Teenagers Surfing Jaws

Add surfing to the list of sports where younger and younger teenagers are pushing the limits. Jordan Romero's summit of Everest led to questions about age and mountaineering. A crew of teens besting each other on round-the-world sailing trips led to debates on whether parents should let their kids tackle such long and dangerous trips alone. Now, Matt Higgins of ESPN explores the issue of age on big waves off of Maui.

As the day wore on, the crowds on the cliffs watched a scene with approximately 20 Jet Skis, three helicopters, several boats with film crews in the channel, and a guy attempting to catch 30-foot waves on water skis. A half-dozen skinny teenagers had ditched school to be there, too, ripping on some of the biggest surf of the day. They included 16-year-old Tyler Larronde; Joao Marco Maffini, 15; and the youngest, a 4-foot-10, 100-pound eighth-grader named Chaz Kinoshita.


"They want to push it," says Dave Kalama, 46, Hamilton's longtime tow partner. "They'll position themselves to put it all on the line. So in that sense, they are very aggressive. Their first few waves, their first couple swells, were so much more significant than our first few waves and our first couple swells. Their jumping off point is a lot further up the mountain."

But some wonder whether the youngest, often towed into waves by their fathers, are ready.

Check out Higgins' article for some perspective of big-wave surfing and age.Then tell us what you think. How young is too young for surfing a 30-footer?

--Joe Spring

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New Scanner Could Allow Liquids on Airplanes

Liquids Photo from Daquella manera on Flickr

With a little help from the wine industry, a new scanner is currently under development that could allow passengers to take innocuous liquids on airplanes, according to

Matthew Augustine, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Davis, patented a device in 2002 to determine whether wine had spoiled without needing to open the bottle. Similar to an MRI machine, the device combined a pulse of radio waves and a strong magnetic field to determine the chemical structure of the wine.

Augustine altered the device to tell the difference between potentially hazardous and otherwise innocuous liquids after a failed terror plot in 2006 lead to the ban of large quantities of liquids on airplanes.

The Department of Homeland Security has funded Augustine, and the small, easy-to-use scanners could be tested at airports within a year.

--Michael Webster

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Your Skimo Valentine

Need a last minute gift for your ski mountaineer Valentine? Chris Davenport and his skimo cronies produced a pair of tomes as big, bold and beautiful as the mountains themselves.

Ski the 14ers chronicles Davenport’s year long odyssey to conquer the majestic peaks of Colorado. Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America, coauthored by Penn Newhard and Art Burrows, is reminiscent of Steve Roper and Allen Steck’s 1979 epic Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. Spanning the Messner Couloir on Mount McKinley to Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington, you’ll find a dearth of actual route information. But the point is the stunning jaw-dropping images accompanied by brief anecdotes from Alpine legends like Lou Dawson and Andrew McLean. Notably absent was a ski descent or two in Mexico.

Be advised: neither volume will find a place on your Valentine’s bookshelf, but will become a permanent fixture on the kitchen table. Just have a Kleenex handy to wipe up the drool. Available through

--Christopher Van Tilburg, MD

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Olympic Cycling Route Announced

Race route
Courtesy of London 2012

The London 2012 Organising Committee announced the new route for the Olympic Cycling Road Races. The course starts at The Mall and passes through six west London boroughs before heading out to Surrey and back. The new route is a change from London's original bid and has been approved by the International Cycling Federation (UCI), the International Olympic Committee and relevant city boroughs.

Races are scheduled to take place during the opening weekend of the Games, on July 28-29, 2012. The men's race will be approximately six hours and 250km with 145 riders; the women's race will be three-and-a-half hours and 140km with 67 riders.

"The explosion in cycling in the capital over the past year proves that Londoners have well and truly caught the cycling bug; there's no better way of getting around the city than on two wheels," says London Mayor Boris Johnson. "This great route not only takes in London's iconic landmarks but brings the Games to the doorsteps of even more parts of the capital."

--Whitney Dreier

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