Here’s why you should make a New Year’s resolution to try more of the for-fun competitions your local gym hosts. Besides friends, kickin’ comp playlists and probably beer, there’s actually a lot your climbing can get out of competing for fun.
I remember my very first competition. It was the tail end of 2002, and I was 11 years old. It was a bouldering competition at a gym in Austin, TX called the “Samurai Showdown—” I was too scared to top out problems on their tallest wall (curse you Big Pig, and also RIP to the scariest bouldering wall ever constructed) and I walked away with a t-shirt of two samurais about to maul each other in a sword duel. I don’t remember much else about that competition, because I was 11 and probably had ponies or something on the brain, but I can say for sure that that comp sealed my fate as a competitive climber for perhaps the rest of my life.
I would definitely not recommend dedicating your life to competing unless you’re a pro climber and can make an extremely modest living (aka living out of your car) off of winning competitions. But I would totally recommend trying out some of your local gym’s for-fun competitions, just for sh*%’s and giggles. As for me, my days of heavy competing were over when I aged out of the USA Climbing youth circuit. Now I spend my days competing in and vaguely training for local comps. And it’s awesome.
Reality Check —
Been training hard, tough guy? Think you have what it takes to size yourself up against a bunch of different people? Then DO IT. We all have that one gym rival. You know, that one guy or gal whose limit is brutally close to yours, who you secretly celebrate when they fall on a problem you flashed, or make up various excuses when they send something you just can’t seem to piece together. If a shred of the competitive spirit lives within you, then competitions are a fun and laid-back way to see how you stack up. How you perform can serve as inspiration for future training. Even if you do better than expected … you can always do better next time!
Mike Flores, climber, competitor, and all-around great guy says he always sends harder at local comps. “I’m competitive, that makes a difference. You have that little extra motivation.” Plus, he admitted to being more stoked when he has his friends cheering him on, which leads us to my next point.
The Adoration of Your Friends —
With the smaller size of local competitions, there’s a greater chance that you could do well if you’ve been training. It’s too bad that Alex Puccio couldn’t make it to the comp but … better for you because you actually may now have a shot of making finals! Sure it’s not the Olympics, but there’s nothing quite like having your friends cheer you on as you dominate your competitors. When you do well, they’re actually very stoked for you, and making it to finals makes you basically a mini-celebrity for one night, with people you’ve never met before running up to you to tell you how bad ass you looked thrutching your way through finals.
Seriously though dude, your biceps looked pretty bitchin when you snagged that sloper on the finals prob. I know we don’t know each other but … I just thought you should know.
Sweet Setting —
Your local routesetters put many, many hours into setting problems for local comps, show them you give a sh*% by actually getting on them! Usually most of a gym will be stripped for a comp reset, so the routesetters are given a fresh canvas on which to set a huge variety of routes and problems. Competitions are a chance for setters to strut their stuff for a large amount of people, so they’ll set some top-notch stuff. Some routes and problems are modified or take down as soon as the comp is over, so attending the comp might be your only chance to get on some seriously cool setting.
Meet Some Rad People, But Don’t Feel Bad if You Kick Their Ass (Or Get Your Ass Kicked By Someone You Just Met) —
Your small local gym, usually peppered with a couple climbers on any given day, will suddenly be overrrun with a crap-ton of people on the day of a comp. At the comps I attend in Dallas, people come from all over (aka Oklahoma and Arkansas) to get in on the action. Local comps are a very, very social thing. If you’re not attempting a problem, then you’re chatting it up with the guy working the problem next to you. Comps are a great place to scope out potential partners (of the climbing variety … although they’re probably also a good place to get your flirt on).
The Energy, Man —
Nothing beats the energy on comp night! The music’s pumping, the gym’s crammed full, and people are putting some serious try-hard into attempting routes and problems. I don’t know about you, but watching someone else send energizes me, and I’ve definitely surprised myself in the past with how hard I’m able to send just because the stoke is so high.
“It’s off the charts,” Flores says of the energy on comp day. “For me on comp day I am psyched in the morning, and then you get there and everyone has this mentality that “I’m gonna win!” “Even though they’re not,” he adds with a laugh.
Whether You Win Or Lose, There’s Usually Beer —
A huge perk, obvi. I would never advocate drinking and climbing, ya psycho, but as soon as you’re done climbing, hit up that keg! It’s probably not gonna be that local craft brew Quadruple you’ve had your eye on, but beer’s beer and you put it in your mouth and drink it.
Lastly, It’s Just Freakin’ Fun —
Real talk, I love comp nights! The energy, the people, and the climbing come together to make for a seriously awesome time. Flores says he’s recommend local comps especially to those just getting into climbing, because a comp “can illustrate all the things that are great about climbing and the climbing community.” So in summation, you definitely won’t regret your time at a local comp, unless you’re some sort of sore loser or something. Losing is part of the process, and have fun whether you get first, or last place. Because hey, at least you made it out that night, when everyone else was at home eating donuts and watching reruns of Naked and Afraid.