• Trail Blazin'

    Trail Blazin' is an outdoor blog edited by Pete Thomas.

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    oliver theess

    oliver theess says:

    "The Surfing Program began at "Aviation High School in Redondo Beach", California, 90278. The surf team at Aviation High School , which took the championship in 1982, against Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, California , 90266. We know Oliver Theess was on the championship Team. The surf was about 4 to 5 foot in Manhattan Beach. This created the program which in the South Bay schools started even way before that time. It just was reinstated. " For the KOOKS that didn't know" No Bozos."

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    chinedu_pete says:

    "Love you FELIX...This guy even landed far too better than the pilot that flew us from Dubai to KL on july 14th 2012"

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    chinedu_pete says:

    "Thank you God,Got juice on me MEHN"

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    msully840 says:

    "The BAUM!"

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  • Surfer's monster ride puts big-wave spotlight on Europe

    When it comes to monstrous surf, Europe doesn't get much respect among surfers who ride big waves for a living. But that could soon change thanks to Benjamin Sanchis' recent taming of a bona fide monster beyond the Basque Country south of Hossegor, France. The ride (see video), at a break called Belharra, has made Sanchis a leading contender in several categories of the prestigious Billabong XXL Global Big-Wave Awards, including biggest wave. (The year-long competition ends on the first day of spring.)

    Europe has repeatedly been shut out of the annual competition because waves at top destinations, although very large, appear soft compared to the crushing giants at more famous spots such as Maverick's off Northern California and Jaws off Maui. Stiff competition also comes from the Southern Hemisphere, with Tahiti and Tasmania dishing out some angry beasts during their winter months.

    Yet with the North Pacific in a relatively quiet pattern this year, Sanchis and his European companions have taken center stage in the big-wave arena thanks to the massive storms pounding the region this winter. Earlier this week they were catching incredible waves off of Ireland as huge swells began marching down the North Atlantic.

    "Meanwhile the North Pacific is still just asleep at the wheel," says XXL contest director Bill Sharp. "While Europe's come alive there's only been one big swell off California, and another off Hawaii." According to Sharp, the swell that slammed Ireland and the Basque Country produced wave faces that measured as high as 60 feet.

    More Billabong XXL Ride of the Year nominees
    Taj Burrow repeats at Burleigh Heads
    The Quiksilver Pro countdown

    Channels: SurfOutdoor
  • Solo-sailors in extreme race fast approaching trecherous Cape Horn

    After four months of extreme solo-sailing in the Velux 5 Oceans race around the world, skippers are anxiously approaching the most extreme location of all: Cape Horn.

    The tumultuous passage between South America and Antarctica is a notorious graveyard of ships and mariners, known for ferocious winds and towering waves that heave upward unexpectedly and collide with each other, forming even larger waves.

    "From now on I'll start planning tactically and mentally for the rounding," said Brad Van Liew, who enjoys a commanding lead in the third of five stages. "I think about rounding Cape Horn every single day. The closer you get to it the more you think about it, but it's been there in my mind all along. There's no way to shut it off."

    Four sailors are competing this year in a race billed as "the ultimate solo challenge," a competition held every four years and one that boasts a history rich with drama, which has involved capsized vessels, high-seas rescues and two incidents in which sailors were lost at sea and presumed drowned.

    As of Thursday morning Van Liew, who won the race in 2003, was 1,700 miles from Cape Horn. He anticipates arriving in the region as early as Sunday.

    Van Liew, 43, who lives in Charleston, S.C., was 100 miles miles ahead of runner-up Zbigniew Gutkowski, a Polish sailor, and 232 miles ahead of Derek Hatfield, a Canadian. Chris Stanmore-Major of England is fourth, 460 miles behind the leader, but this week suffered a rip in his mainsail and is attempting repairs on deck in frigid weather.

    The third stage covers 5,800 miles from Wellington, New Zealand, to the resort city of Punta del Este, Uruguay.

    At Cape Horn, within the 400-mile gap between continents, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans converge and the sea floor rises abruptly, often creating shifting seas even in calm weather.

    When Van Liew arrives, aboard his 60-foot Team Lazarus racing yacht, he can expect 50-mph winds and 30-foot seas. If that prediction holds, conditions will be tranquil compared to what he endured there in the same race in 1999.

    He recalled that experience as a "living hell" that lasted several days. It was marked by "horrific" seas whipped by 100-mph winds. Waves towered above his 80-foot mast. He had taken down all sails to protect his rigging and endured repeated knockdowns -- his mast slamming from side to side onto the water -- that seemed to have no end.

    "The place is extraordinary and offers some of the best sailing in the world, but it can also try to kill you," said the sailor, who after making extensive repairs at Punta del Este went on to finish third.

    Hatfield may also be experiencing great trepidation. In 2003, the year Van Liew won, the got caught in 40-foot seas and 80-mph winds. His 40-foot sailboat pitch-poled, essentially doing a forward cartwheel, and lost its mast. Hatfield also was able to make repairs and continue racing.

    In 1998, Isabelle Autissier had to be rescued near Cape Horn after her boat was damaged so badly, after being rolled, that it sank. In 1994, Harry Mitchell suffered the ultimate fate, going down with his boat after it had sank. That year, only 12 of 20 boats finished. In 1986, famous French sailor Jacques de Roux was likewise lost at sea.

    This year the field consisted of only five vessels at the start, shrunken from previous years largely because of the global recession, but one competitor pulled out early because of equipment issues.

    In all, the race, which began and will end in La Rochelle, France, will have covered 30,000 miles. All competitors are sailing ECO 60s racing yachts, which are of equal length. From Punta del Este the route swings northerly and covers 5,700 miles to Charleston, S.C., and from there it's across the Atlantic, 3,600 miles to La Rochelle.

    But first, there's an important landmark to skirt safely by. Sharing more thoughts on Cape Horn, Van Liew wrote on his blog: "What some may not realize is that rounding Cape Horn can be quite spectacular and awesome. For one, the accomplishment is like summiting Mt. Everest for sailors. If you are lucky enough to actually see it (usually masked in fog or too stormy to get the visual) it really does look like a rock sticking out of the bottom of the Earth. I am hoping for that beautiful clear shot, and no surprises. We'll see."

    -- Images of Brad Van Liew and his boat, Le Pingouin, are courtesy of Ainhoa Sanchez/ VELUX 5 OCEANS
    Channels: Outdoor
  • Japan suspends whaling, citing 'violent' disruptions from activists

    It appears that relentless harassment from activists and mounting opposition have combined to bring Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean to an early halt.

    But for how long?

    Japan's Fisheries Agency has declared that the annual whaling mission in Antarctic waters has been suspended, several weeks before it typically concludes. The agency cited "violent" disruptions credited to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which is in its seventh season of campaigning against the whalers.

    However, it is not clear how long the suspension will last.

    The factory processing ship, Nisshin Maru, is steaming from the whaling grounds toward Drake's Passage near the tip of South America. It's being tailed by the Sea Shepherd vessel, Bob Barker.

    Sea Shepherd Capt. Paul Watson, who is aboard the Bob Barker, issued a statement Wednesday that began: "I think it is premature to see this as a victory for the whales yet. There has been no mention of how long this suspension will be. It could be permanent, for this season only, or it could be for a matter of weeks or even days.

    "What we do know is that the whalers will not be killing any whales for the next few weeks."

    The whaling fleet also consists of three harpoon vessels. One has left the hunting grounds because of mechanical issues. The others are useless without the ability to offload whales onto a factory ship.

    If this season's hunt is over, Japan has again fallen significantly short of its annual quota of 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales.

    Jubilation has spread among the environmental community. The Age, an Australian newspaper, quoted Patrick Ramage, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, as saying: "Under pressure from all fronts, the Japanese whaling fleet is apparently withdrawing early this season from the internationally recognized sanctuary around Antarctica.

    "We hope this is a first sign of Japanese government decision makers recognizing there is no future for whaling in the 21st century and that responsible whale watching, the only genuinely sustainable use of whales, is now the best way forward for a great nation like Japan."

    Japan, which claims whaling to be an important aspect of Japanese culture, hunts the leviathans annually despite a ban on imposed on commercial whaling in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission. The country has taken advantage of a "lethal research" loophole to skirt the ban, and says its hunts are for science.

    Sea Shepherd activists, who this season have used three boats and smaller inflatable vessels (see photos), had accompanied the whalers since New Year's Eve. Their harassment techniques, which are controversial even among many opposed to whaling, involve throwing flares and stink bombs onto the whalers' decks, and throwing ropes to foul propellers.

    The whalers, in a seemingly endless game of cat-and-mouse, often respond by shooting at the activists with water cannons.

    Tatsuya Nakaoku, a Fisheries Agency official, told the Washington Post: "It's extremely regrettable that our research activity has been obstructed by the acts of sabotage, which could lead to serious injuries or damage. We hope to return to normal operation as soon as possible."

    There have been no deaths or serious injuries attributed to the clashes, but they've become increasingly tense in recent years, and last year resulted in a collision that forced Sea Shepherd to scuttle the damaged boat. An independent investigation determined that the captains of both vessels were at fault.

    Increased pressure from anti-whaling nations, including Australia and the United States, might also have factored into Japan's decision to quit early.

    Japanese officials had, earlier this year, been in diplomatic talks with U.S. officials regarding the future of whaling. According to cables released by WikiLeaks, Japan had attempted to persuade the U.S. to punish Sea Shepherd by removing the nonprofit group's tax-exempt status as part of a compromise deal in which Japan would agree to reduce its quota.

    The viability of the hunts have come into question in Japan. They're incredibly costly and demand for whale meat is shrinking, as fewer young people are inclined to eat whale flesh. Japan has remained steadfast, though, and has accused whaling opponents in the West of being hypocritical, claiming that minke whales are not endangered and that Western civilizations do their share of killing and eating animals.

    The clashes between Sea Shepherd and the whalers have gained widespread exposure in recent years because of Animal Planet's "Whale Wars" series. A network film crew has again accompanied Sea Shepherd for a fourth season, and the series will air in early summer.

    -- Images showing clashes between Japanese whaling ships and activists are courtesy of Sea Shepherd
    Channels: Outdoor
  • Ski jumper sets world record with astonishing flight of 808 feet

    Ordinary humans have long imagined being able to fly without motorized assistance, but Norway's Johan Remen Evensen has made a habit recently of soaring for astonishingly long distances as a ski jumper. He was in top form over the weekend, setting a world record with an amazing flight of 246.5 meters -- or 808 feet, 8 inches -- during World Cup qualifying at Vikersund, Norway (see video).

    For the sake of perspective, a regulation soccer pitch and an American football field are 100 yards, or 300 feet long. So picture Evensen soaring more than 2 1/2 times the length of either of these fields.

    Conditions were ideal leading to the main ski-jumping competition rounds, with light, dry air and virtually no resistance. But the Vikersund jump, which reopened this week after an extensive enlargement project, deserves some credit. It's the world's largest ski-flying hill, measuring 738 feet and standing 440 feet off the ground. Someone was bound to set a record.
    Channels: SnowOutdoor
  • Incredible wildlife haul lands would-be smuggler in jail

    A man was arrested Thursday in Bangkok, Thailand, for attempting smuggle an astonishing array of wildlife out of the country in three large suitcases.

    Airport officials became suspicious when luggage scanners revealed moving critters. Inside the bags were so many exotic animals that the scene surprised even people accustomed to dealing with illegal wildlife trafficking.

    The 34-year-old suspect, an Indonesian whose name was not released, admitted to buying the animals at a market notorious for illegally peddling rare or protected species. The animals were packed within customized suitcase compartments. Of the hard-shell variety were 88 Indian star tortoises, 33 elongated tortoises, seven radiated tortoises, six Mata Mata turtles, four Southeast Asian narrow-headed soft-shell turtles, three Aldabra giant tortoises, one pig-nosed turtle and a ploughshare tortoise -- the world's rarest tortoise.

    There were 34 ball pythons, two boa constrictors, several milk snakes, corn snakes and king snakes, and one hog-nosed snake.

    Also in the suitcases were 19 bearded dragons, four spiny-tailed lizards, two plata lizards, six Argentine horned frogs, 18 baboon spiders (each in its own plastic container), 22 common squirrels and an African gray parrot. Some of the squirrels were already dead and it remains unclear how many of the animals might have survived the flight.

    Illegal trafficking of wildlife obtained in Thailand is a serious problem. In most cases animals that are successfully smuggled become pets sold for a huge profit. The suspect, who had been attempting to board a flight to Indonesia, faces several charges under sections of Thailand's Wild Animals Preservation and Protection Act and Animal Epidemics Act.

    According to a news release issued by the wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC, the goods were purchased at Bangkok's Chatuchak Market. Traffic describes the market is a major hub for illegal trade in some of the world's rarest species.

    William Schaedla, the group's regional director, was quick to praise airport officials for catching the suspect. But he also expressed outrage about the open availability of so many rare or protected animals.

    "It speaks well of a few alert enforcement authorities when such seizures happen," Schaedla said. "However, one really has to question how Chatuchak Market, which is located just down the street from both wildlife protection and nature crime police offices, can continue these illegal mass sales.

    "Frankly, the situation is totally unacceptable in a country that claims to be effectively addressing illegal wildlife trade."

    Of course, the rarest animals net smugglers the highest prices. This week's bust comes less than a week after authorities in England seized eight Indian star tortoises in a parcel flown from Thailand.

    -- Images of animals confiscated during the smuggling attempt are courtesy of TRAFFIC
    Channels: Outdoor
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