Image borrowed from Akiyo Noguchi’s Facebook page.
There are a few different World Cups, which include lead, speed, and bouldering. We mainly watch the bouldering world cups, but tune in for the others now and then. This makes sense since we mostly boulder. You may be interested in a different type. Regardless of which you are interested in, the World Cups are exciting, fun, and well worth watching. You can find links to them here: http://www.ifsc-climbing.org.
It is important to watch professional climbing competitions for a few reasons.
- It shows support for the sport. I’ve heard many climbers say they want to keep the sport more of a secret, and some do keep locations they’ve found a secret. Climbing can be a selfish sport and we want plenty of space for our growth. I’ve had many experiences with getting frustrated by how busy certain climbing areas are. I enjoy the solitude of being outside without too many people around, and in the gym a lot of people can make it hard to get on the wall. Many people also love the social aspect. However, either way having the sport broaden and gain popularity is ultimately in your favor. Yes, you may have to share your space more, but having more popularity means more support. If there weren’t many people climbing, having gear companies that provide us top notch stuff, wouldn’t be a wise investment. A business needs to be able to turn a profit. So we probably wouldn’t continue having some of these incredible developments with climbing shoes, chalk, etc. People wouldn’t have a chance to make climbing a career, whether it be as a professional, writer, photographer, route setter, etc., because no one would be offering up money for it. Also, it really takes a certain kind of person to invest the time, money, and effort into things like developing routes. I know a lot of people who love climbing, but aren’t super psyched at the prospect of setting up a route. It sounds fun until you are in the thick of it with bushwhacking trails, drilling bolts, and scrubbing away at moss. When it comes down to it, having support towards the sport works in our favor. If that support is through indoor means, your outdoor crag might still stay your little private oasis. We do need support. Having spectators at sporting events is a great way to gain this support. It’s easy for advertisers and investors in the sport to get involved and visualize the significance of the sport. Think about any other sport like baseball. If people were just throwing together little baseball games all around the world in their own little fields, the sport could be widely popular, but it would be hard to keep track of and hard to put anything into. When we have major leagues we can see how popular it is, we have ways of gauging who is the best of the best, and it’s easy to get behind. When I was in college, a lot of students wanted a football team and hockey team, because we had neither. The director of athletics loved these sports and would have been more than happy to include them, but people didn’t attend games so what was the point? It was too much money to put into something that didn’t get enough appreciation. This is just how things work on the business side. By watching, you can increase the numbers and show these events are worth having. Which in turn suggests that our sport is worth having, and gets us support.
- It’s inspiring for your own climbing. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I cannot watch a climbing competition without feeling a strong urge to go climbing. My psych is so high when I’m watching, that I want to climb anything in sight. Seeing other people climb and seeing new techniques you’ve never tried, is very motivating.
- It’s a good way to learn. In the competitions, you see several different climbers trying the same route. A lot of times, the ways they approach it are very different. You could watch someone like Jan Hojer who can just campus and muscle through hard moves, then someone like Akiyo Noguchi who is always careful, delicate, and static in her movements. Someone like Sean McColl who has mastered crazy ninja warrior skills, or someone like Shauna Coxsey who just may be the most creative climber I’ve seen. Everyone has a different style, different strengths, different weaknesses, and just different heights. Seeing how all these different things accomplish the same route, can really help you think about all the different ways you can try out your own project. It opens your mind to unique possibilities. It also helps you to know what things just have to be a certain way. I’ve learned a lot about body positioning from watching the world cups. People try different angles on some routes, and you start to see why a certain one is the way to go. You can also make a game of sorts out of this. I’ve heard the announcers discussing what they think the best way to do the climb is, even though they haven’t tried the route, and then they watch to see if they are right or wrong. This is fun to do as someone watching too. It helps test your route reading skills in a practical way. Often we try to read a route before ever getting on it, and then see if it works. Watching the competitions is a good way to practice on a rest day.
- You are exposed to who the top climbers are. Some climbers are predominantly competition climbers, but some of the climbers in the competitions do a lot of outdoor climbing too. They are often ones contributing a lot to the sport, whether it’s developing new hardest routes, setting the bar with first ascents, pushing open boundaries, etc. Sometimes when you see something you like in a climber, and follow them, you get some cool things out of it. For instance, I’ve been watching the World Cups for a decent bit of time now. I remember when I first started, I learned who Shauna Coxsey was through the competitions. Now that she has won three world cups in a row, and is showing amazing strength outdoor climbing, it’s hard to imagine not knowing her. However, when I first started watching her compete, the World Cups were the only place I was exposed to her climbing. She quickly became one of my favorites. Over these years, her strength has increased in a really inspirational way. A large part of that is training hard. If you follow her on social media, you can learn about some of that training and get some ideas of what might work at increasing your strength. Some of the climbers do training videos, interviews, and blogs that are very helpful when applied to your own climbing.
- It’s fun. I’ll be honest, watching qualifiers can be a little rough. It’s long and sometimes the commentators are not English speaking, so listening to them doesn’t add any entertainment for me because I can’t understand it. It might for you. However, watching finals and semi-finals is always a great time. The commentators add fun information, and sometimes pure randomness. Usually one of the commentators is a professional climber, so that can be cool because they speak to the whole process and know it well. It is exciting trying to figure out who will win, and watching such sick movement. These climbers are the best, so their skills are out of this world. I get so into watching these and rooting for my favorites. I think if you give it a try, you will too. It helps also to watch with others, so you can talk about it. You can get some snacks together and make it a big thing. Photo of Jan Hojer, borrowed from his Facebook page.
This is all my not an expert opinion, but I really do think the World Cups are worth watching. If you’ve seen them, you can leave your thoughts in the comments below. If you haven’t, give it a try. They should all be at this Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ifscchannel