April 1, 2014

Simone Origone of Italy in the 2007 FIS Speed Skiing World Championships. He set the new world speed skiing record on Monday.     Photo: Oliver Maire/Associated Press

Italian Breaks Speed Skiing Record

Hits 156.8 mph

Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller don't have anything on this man. 

Italian Simone Origone broke his own world speed skiing record on Monday, reaching 156.8 miles per hour on the slope at Chabrieres in the French Alps.

He narrowly beat his previous record of 156.2 mph, which he'd set in 2006.

For those of you unfamiliar with speed skiing, it essentially entails tucking off a cliff. The Chabrieres slope drops more than 1,600 feet in three-quarters of a mile and has a maximum grade of 98 percent. Most black runs in the United States have a maximum grade of about 35 percent, so, yeah, that's pretty steep.         

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Despite some April Fools confusion, Slater's publicists have confirmed that the surfer has left Quiksilver.     Photo: allannn/Flickr

Kelly Slater Leaves Quiksilver

Plans to start own apparel line

In a long, impassioned letter on his Facebook page, Kelly Slater announced yesterday that he's leaving Quiksilver, his sponsor for the past 23 years. Although there has been much Internet skepticism over the timing of the letter—why make such a big announcement so close to April 1?—his publicists at Fresh and Clean Media have confirmed the move. 

The 42-year-old Slater will be starting his own apparel brand, one that focuses on "clean living, responsibility, and style." To do that, he'll partner with the Kering Group, a luxury goods company that owns Gucci and Saint Laurent, among others, and recently began acquiring sports brands such as Puma, Volcom, and Electric.

"The partnership will be a multilayered relationship," said a Kering spokesperson, "with Kering supporting Kelly Slater in the launch and the development of his own apparel brand ... [and] Slater being an ambassador for Kering and involved with certain initiatives at the Group, notably related to sustainability, and some of its brands."

Slater's move can be looked at as another step in professional surfing's march toward the mainstream. In the past few years, other nonendemic brands such as Target and Nike have sponsored elite surfers (though Nike recently shrugged its surf team onto its subsidiary Hurley); ZoSea Media, a company headed by a former NFL exec, bought the Association of Surfing Professionals; and a media rights deal allowed for contest highlights to be broadcast on ESPN. No matter what happens to professional surfing in the next few years, it's likely safe to say that Slater will be leading the way, in and out of the water.

Here's the full text of Slater's announcement:

There is little I can say that would give the credit due or cover the debt of gratitude I feel on a personal and professional level to Quiksilver. As a brand and on a human level, they have been a part of my life, career, and personal relationships for more than 23 years now, well over half my life. Theyve supported me through good times and bad, personal hardships and competitive triumphs, and never wavered in backing my choices and desires in all that time. 

Under the tutelage of Bob McKnight, Bruce Raymond, Alan Green, Pierre Agnes, and Danny Kwock (and many others), Quiksilver signed me to a 100% sponsorship deal in 1990, finishing up my amateur career and guiding me into my professional life and adulthood. Having their support group around the world allowed me to create a life I only dreamt of as a child … making a documentary (Kelly Slater in Black and White) about the start of my professional career, going on boat trips and small charter planes to remote locations Id likely never see, taking long car rides and promo tours to places Id otherwise never visit, doing film trips to tropical islands few people have ever seen, etc. There could have been no better partner for me to have than Quiksilver. 

The memories I have of joining the team and becoming like brothers with my heroes and team riders Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones and making lifelong friendships with Stephen Bell and others has fulfilled my life exponentially. There arent enough pages or words to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for the experiences that have come from this relationship weve shared together. So it is with a heavy heart and a lifetime of positive memories that I move in a new chapter of my life. 

As I contemplate the amazing opportunities Ive had in life and the amount of good fortune Ive encountered along the way, Im excited to announce today that I’m embarking on a new journey. For years Ive dreamt of developing a brand that combines my love of clean living, responsibility, and style. The inspiration for this brand comes from the people and cultures I encounter in my constant global travels and this is my opportunity to build something the way I have always wanted to. 

So I am excited to tell you that I’ve chosen the Kering Group as a partner. They share my values and have the ability to support me in all of my endeavors. I look forward to exploring all of the new opportunities this partnership will provide, but this hasnt happened by chance, nor has it happened without an incredible amount of work by a few key individuals. As I embark on this new journey, I am sticking to my gut instincts and the belief that your dreams can become reality with the right intentions. I look forward to sharing more about it soon …

Update; April 2, 2014:

In a post-heat interview yesterday at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, the second stop on the ASP World Tour, Slater explained the timing of the announcement:

"My contract was signed April 1 five years ago, and that's why it ran out on that day, so that was why there was funny timing. I wasn't trying to mess with anybody. It just was the way it was. And I was going to surf this contest without logos, that's why we had to talk about it on that day." 

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Suci (not pictured here) was 10 years old and one of 10 Sumatran rhinos left in captivity.     Photo: Jupiterimages/Thinkstock

Captive Rhino Death a Major Loss

9 Sumatran rhinos left in captivity

The Cincinnati Zoo suffered an enormous loss on Sunday when Suci, a Sumatran rhino, died of a genetic disease. With only nine Sumatran rhinos left in captivity, Suci's death is major blow to what many believe is the most endangered large mammal species on Earth.

The downfall of the Sumatran rhino can be pinned in part on the logging and palm oil industry, which destroyed much of the species' habitat. Poachers are also to blame because the rhinos' horns are used in traditional Asian medicine. There are fewer than 100 of the species left in the wild, nearly all of them on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra.

The Cincinnati Zoo has been instrumental in saving the species and was the first facility to successfully breed the rhinos in captivity.

"The international community has a great challenge on its hands," said Terri Roth, director of the Cincinnati Zoo's Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife. "If we don't act quickly, and boldly, the loss of this magnificent animal will be among the great tragedies of our time."

Suci was 10 years old and being treated for hemochromatosis, a disease causing too much iron to amass in the blood, when she died. The same disease killed her mother 2009.

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    Photo: Getty Images

Atlanta: The World's Busiest Airport

94 million passengers in 2013

Last week, we learned that Singapore's Changi Airport won Best Airport in Skytrax's World Airport Awards—but that doesn't mean it boasts the most travelers. That honor goes to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

More than 94 million travelers went through Atlanta's airport in 2013, making it the busiest airport of the year. Believe it or not, that's a decrease of 1.1 percent from the previous year, according to the ACI's preliminary passenger traffic results for 2013. Beijing came in a close second with 84 million passengers, CNN reports. Nearly 5.4 billion passengers traveled through the world's airports last year, up 4 percent from 2012, according to the Airports Council International

"Aviation's nucleus appears to be moving eastward," ACI World economics director Rafael Echevarne said in a statement. "Other emerging markets, such as Turkey, China, and South East Asia, that have a critical mass of traffic also remain major contributors to the upward surge in air transport demand. This trend will continue into 2014."

The report was based on data from more than 1,105 airports worldwide; a final version will be released later this year. A complete list of airport rankings can be found at the Airports Council International website.

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