I originally ran this post very early last year when very few people were visiting this site. I wanted to revisit this topic to give people a chance to weigh in and take the new poll at the bottom of the post. Besides, other than arguing about grades, what is better than arguing about dabbing?
I would like to take a moment to discuss an uncomfortable subject for me. Not injuries, not impulsive behavior, not even climbing obsession. No, I am talking about the dreaded dab. There are a lot of ways that one can incur a dab when bouldering. Some dabs are rather egregious: hitting a pad with your foot, your spotter getting a bit too aggressive with their spotting, kicking your spotter in the face, or hitting a nearby object like a tree or a rock. Some dabs are more subtle than others: topping out using your knee or your shirt brushing against something are a couple of examples. Yet all dabs have the same result: you need to back that ass up and think about “re-sending” the problem in proper style. In other words, you dab you die.
Now in some cases it is incredibly hard to avoid dabbing. I can think of a few examples of these types of problems that remind me more of Fred Flinstone than Fred Nicole. On the Gadget problems at HP40, the crux is to not let your legs swing out and hit the adjacent boulder. At the Enter the Dragon boulder at the Sads in Bishop, the fact that the problem is in a 4 foot tall cave surrounded by boulders on all sides basically makes not dabbing the crux provided you are strong enough to pull the V10 moves. The problem Perfectly Shrimp (or thereabouts) at the Buttermilks in Bishop is the perfect example of an ass-dragging dab-a-thon that makes you question what the hell you are doing bouldering in the first place.
However the more subtle dab of topping out with your knee is something that could happen on any problem with a difficult topout. It is usually entirely avoidable, but you could also make an argument that using your knee is perfectly acceptable in other climbing situations so why not when topping out. This sort of dab is much less clear cut in its consequences.
With this said, I don’t pretend to be a purist when it comes to doing things in perfect style, and I certainly haven’t 100% adhered to the Dab and Die ethic. I myself am a big fan of doing things the easiest way possible, however the dab can really complicate a proper send. If the dab is severe like a tree stopping my momentum I will most definitely drop off. If this happens to you and your spotters don’t immediately make you come down in shame you probably need a new climbing crew. If I dabbed by doing the dreaded knee scum topout this is more of a gray area. While embarrassing and sometimes painful, it is less clear cut what to do in this situation. Usually if my spotters don’t give me a hard time I feel like I probably got over, and I run to the nearest computer so that I can update my 8a spraysheet before they say otherwise…