The sport of climbing is shifting right now. From the mountains and rocks, where it originated, into the cities and gyms, towards a fitness audience. Do you agree, Chris Sharma?
Chris Sharma: I definitely see the same thing happening. I did open a climbing gym in Barcelona myself, it’s the first commercial climbing gym in Spain. And I see these gyms popping up all over the world, in the US and Germany especially. That of course affects, where new generations of climbers are coming from: They’ll probably never be real mountain climbers – they’re happy staying in the gym.
What do you think about that? There are voices in the climbing community that very much criticize this kind of development.
It’s totally okay! In fact, I myself started climbing in a gym. So maybe I’m the first one of that generation. I grew up by the Sea in Santa Cruz, there just is no rock climbing. And now I’m happy to get more and more people involved with our sport, whatever shape that takes. Climbing as a sport has a lot to offer to people, inside and outside.
What is that?
It’s a great way of exercising and a great social experience. It’s very easy to find friends. I really enjoy seeing our sport grow, these are exciting times for us. We are getting much more recognition – the whole industry behind it is becoming more and more mature. We’re even dreaming of becoming an Olympic Sport at 2020. For me, as a guy that has dedicated his life to climbing, it’s just great to see that evolution taking place.
Does the climbing industry have to focus more and more on the indoor and fitness-type climbers?
Climbing has its core values, which are quite similar indoor and outdoor. On the one side, it’s a group sport and competitive too, on the other side it’s very personal, pushing one’s limits. You can even go bouldering alone. So companies are addressing the indoor climbers, yes, maybe we’ll see some specialized products in the future. But I don’t think they have to be addressed in a totally different way. We are one big community and should embrace that!
What are the product trends in climbing?
Everything is becoming more and more high quality. The harnesses, the shoes, the clothes. And the climbing walls, the gyms themselves. Before, they were dark and dirty places, that people used to go to, that were already climbers. Now you take your whole family there and stay for a whole day.
Which leads to really crowded places, especially in hot spots like Munich for example.
That’s true. But I keep seeing it from this point of view: Climbing has changed my life. And I really enjoy seeing how it affects other people too, even out of the gym. Climbing is transporting the urban outdoor trend, with clothes, that are in fact technical climbing clothes – but you can wear wherever you like. I have been working with PrAna for 20 years now, they are really hitting this trend.
What about climbing ropes? Will it go lighter and lighter forever?
It can’t get light enough. There are 9.1 mm ropes that are so light and thin, but sturdy at the same time. But I don’t think the trend will forever be becoming thinner and thinner also. For some years, telephones become smaller and smaller, now they’re becoming larger again. In the end it’s all about creating products, that constrict and limit your movements as little as possible.
What are you looking forward to most in 2016?
I’ll become father for the first time. That’s of course a big deal!