February 26, 2015

Kelly Slater was awarded Heat of the Year and Wave of the Year at the 2015 World Surf League Awards.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Slater, Gilmore Dominate World Surfing League Awards

Veteran champions win top honors

Surfers Kelly Slater and Stephanie Gilmore were honored by the World Surfing League on Wednesday at the annual WSL Awards in Coolangatta, Australia, according to Surfer Today.

The award for Best Heat went to Slater and John John Florence in honor of their matchup in the Billabong Pro Tahiti last August. The two surfers each performed at an outstandingly high level and tied with near-perfect scores in the semifinals, necessitating a tiebreaker, which Slater narrowly won.

“The pinnacle of pro surfing for me is to have a heat against this guy in big barrels,” Slater said in an interview with Surfing Magazine following the competition. “It’s easy for me to say, ‘cause I won the heat, but I think in a few years, we’ll probably be like, ‘That’s cool. We tied.’”

Slater, whom Outside profiled in January, went on to take a close second place to Gabriel Medina in the World Championship Tour in December.

The award for Women’s World Champion was handed to Australian Stephanie Gilmore in acknowledgement of her performances at the Cascais Women’s Pro in October, the Swatch Women’s Pro in September, and the Roxy Pro Gold Coast in March. The 27-year-old surfer, whom Outside profiled in February, took first place at all three events and won her sixth world surfing title in November, according to the Guardian.

“The level of talent on tour has never been higher, and the surfing has never been more exciting,” Gilmore said during her acceptance speech on Wednesday, according to the WSL website. “To come away with a win in that kind of environment was incredibly rewarding on a personal level.”

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At least 77 gray wolves now live in Oregon.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Wolf Population Rebounds in Oregon

Endangered species protection to be reviewed

Oregon state officials said Wednesday that the once-eradicated gray wolf is rebounding in the state, according to Reuters.

Having been driven out of the state in the early 20th century, wolves reentered Oregon in 2008. There are now at least 77 of them, according to state wildlife officials. The wolves are mostly clustered in remote sections of the state’s northeast corner, but they are increasing their range. This year, famous lone wolf OR-7 formed the first pack in the western part of the state.

Oregon wolves are still considered endangered, but their population increase will trigger a review of their protections under the Endangered Species Act. Ranchers are advocating for greater leeway to kill the wolves they feel threaten livestock.

Conservationists caution that the wolf population was still fragile. Steve Pedery, conservation director of wildlife advocacy organization Oregon Wild, said in a statement that the wolf population was growing slower than anticipated, and he warned against any change in the law. “You’ll struggle to find a credible scientist willing to say a couple dozen wolves in the northeast corner of the state is a real recovery,” he said.

For more on the debates around wolf reintroduction, see Elliott Wood’s feature from the February issue of Outside.

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Vietnam is home to hundreds of kilometers of underground beauty. Pictured: Sung Sot Cave.     Photo: Meinard Valenzona/Flickr

Vietnam, Australia Partner on Caving Tourism

Unprecedented cooperation to link sister caves

Australia and Vietnam have formalized a partnership, considered the world’s first “sister caves” agreement, to promote tourism in two similar cave regions in each country as a means of promoting cave tourism, reports Vietnam Breaking News.

The caves in question are located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam and in the Margaret River region in Western Australia. Under the deal, the countries will also implement joint projects on environmental management in the delicate ecosystems and raise international awareness of the sites.

Terry Redman, Western Australia minister for regional development and lands, stressed the economic importance of the relationship. Trade between the countries is up 150 percent since 2013, reaching more than $900 million in 2014, he said, according to Vietnam Breaking News.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, 500 kilometers south of Hanoi, covers 85,754 hectares and contains more than 104 kilometers of caves and underground rivers. Its limestone karst ecosystem is considered one of the most important ecological zones in the world. The Margaret River caves are also one of the biggest limestone karst systems in the world, containing some 150 caves.

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Matthew McConaughey at the Nautica Triathlon Malibu in 2008. He finished fourth with a time of 1:41:32.6.     Photo: Denise Cross Photography/Flickr

McConaughey to Star in 'Born to Run' Film

Timeline for movie still unclear

Matthew McConaughey will play the character Caballo Blanco in the upcoming film Born to Run, one of the film’s producers confirmed to Runner’s World on Wednesday. The movie is an adaptation of Outside contributor Christopher McDougall’s book of the same name.

The film has yet to begin shooting. Deb Newmyer, president of Outlaw Productions and a producer on the movie, told Runner’s World that McConaughey will play the character of Caballo Blanco (Spanish for “white horse”), aka Micah True. He was an American ultrarunner who became a central character in McDougall’s book for training with the Tarahumara people in Mexico. The Tarahumara are known for embarking on extraordinary endurance runs in little more than sandals. True died on a run in New Mexico in 2012.

“As I understand, Matthew read the book and fell in love with the character,” Newmyer told RW. True also fits in with the types of eccentric characters McConaughey has brought to the screen in films like Mud, True Detective, and Dallas Buyers Club.

The film is still in the early phases of production; McConaughey is the only actor signed on so far, according to Runner’s World. Peter Sarsgaard was originally slated to write and direct Born to Run, but McDougall told Competitor.com in 2013 that Sarsgaard’s take on the story was a “much different concept of what it should be, and it just wasn’t flying.” McDougall is a writer on the film, but how much creative control he’ll have is unclear. “I anticipate he will be on set,” Newmyer told Runner’s World. “We adore him and want to capture his voice as part of the process.”

Newmyer told Runner’s World that the plan is to use real extras to fill out the fields of runners in the film rather than use computer-rendered creations. The movie will feature sequences of the Leadville Trail 100 and a 50-mile pursuit across Tarahumara country—the book’s climax.

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I-90, also known as "America's Great Road," was named the top highway in the United States.     Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr

Mapquest Ranks Each U.S. Interstate

West has better roadways than East

Online directions database Mapquest has ranked all 66 interstates in the lower 48 states from best to worst. Topping the list is the behemoth I-90, which takes drivers from Boston to Seattle, noting that it is the least busy of the cross-country highways (the others are I-10, I-40, I-70, and I-80). At the bottom of the list is I-95, the often congested and featureless strip of asphalt that connects Miami to Houlton, Maine.

In ranking the interstates, Mapquest created a “traffic rating” based on “vehicle travel miles per mile of interstate.” Then the company considered the more subjective pleasure principal: How fun are these roads to drive? According to Mapquest, this metric favored the longer roads and what they call “thematic regional rides”—the highways that take you past noteworthy attractions—over highways built as connectors between suburbs, cities, and coastal towns.

Looking at the larger trend, highways in the Northeast, South, and Midwest populate most of the lower rankings. (Blacktops that passed through Texas and Pennsylvania fared particularly poorly.) It’s not until number 35 out of 66 that an interstate found entirely in the West appears—and that’s I-82, the 144-mile road between Ellensburg, Washington, and Umatilla, Oregon.

Eight of the top 10 are located either entirely or partially in Western, Southwestern, or Rocky Mountain states. And three of the top 10 are east-west connectors. The second-best interstate is I-70, connecting Baltimore to Cove Fort, Utah; fifth best is I-80, from Teaneck, New Jersey, to San Francisco.

No matter the ranking, if you’re looking for a great road trip, your best bets are still the back roads.

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