It’s been almost a year now since Paul Robinson did the FA of Lucid Dreaming in Bishop, CA which, at a proposed grade of V16, is a contender for one of the hardest boulder problems in the world. Since that time Robinson graduated from college and embarked on the life of a full-time climber. The past several months have seen him repeat some of the hardest boulder problems in Rocklands, South Africa, Ticino, Switzerland, Fontainebleau, France and even the Peak District where he made a fast ascent of The Ace (V13) during a one day excursion to the UK back in early January.
We last checked in on Robinson about a month ago shortly after he began his stay in Fontainebleau.
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Since that time he has continued working through classics like Duel (V11), Karma (V11), and Partage (V12) in addition to exploring a few projects located throughout the forest. Most notable among his recent sends is his repeat of Trip Hop, which adds a traverse into Hip Hop Assis (V13) to yield a problem in the V15 range.
I caught up with Robinson to learn more about his new life as a full-time climber, his switch to La Sportiva, his plans for the future and his thoughts on some of the lingering questions about his ascent of Lucid Dreaming:
You’ve been on the road climbing full-time for almost a year now. What’s the biggest positive about living this lifestyle (other than simply being able to climb a lot) and conversely what is maybe the downside to this (if any) that you’ve experienced?
Being on the road full-time has been a dream come true. I would say the biggest positive would be the people I have been able to meet and climb with along the journey, the languages I am picking up, as well as my ability to learn the nuances of each type of rock I have climbed on. Before this trip, I was unable to climb outside as much as I would have liked to and it was hard for me to really learn a rock style before having to return to school or something like that. I think that this increased amount of outdoor climbing has been super beneficial to my technique and overall climbing ability out on the rocks
Paul Robinson on a project in Fontainebleau
Photo: Lucas Ménégatti
Why was it important for you to finish college before turning your attention to climbing full-time?
Climbing has been a very important part of my life, but I have always kept my life in check through my academics. I began school way before I started climbing and for me, school was not over until I had a degree from a university. Fortunately, I was able to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder where my climbing did not have to be smothered by academia too much. Going to school for me was a great balance that I needed in my life. It made me appreciate climbing so much more as well. If I had just quit school, I don’t think I would have that same level of psyche every time I go out to the boulders that I do now. Plus, I really enjoyed getting my degree in art.
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It is a really important part of the way I live my life and way of expressing myself.
The main benefit of being on the road full-time is that you can climb a lot, but there is also a lot of downtime as well. What are some interesting things you’ve done on rest days that people might find interesting?
Besides practicing French, I have also been traveling a lot with my girlfriend. Before this trip I had only been to Switzerland in Europe and now on this trip I have had the pleasure of visiting France, Italy, Netherlands, Great Britain, and Austria! I also went to Morocco, which was great because I was able to escape the cold and snow of Switzerland.
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I have also been really interested in filming and editing movies.
Paul Robinson on Duel (8a) in Fontainebleau
Photo: Stephan Denys
You recently took a day trip to England to do some climbing on the gritstone. The climbing there is known to be pretty unique so how did things go and is there an area in America that you think is similar at all?
I can’t think of anywhere in the United States that really compares to the climbing on grit. It really is a very unique rock type. Climbing on grit was a great experience. I picked out four climbs that I really wanted to do and had heard a lot about in the past and chose those for my target objectives for the day (Deliverance, Not To Be Taken Away, Brad Pitt, and The Ace). I was fortunate enough to get amazing conditions and climb all of them! I also met some amazing people and saw some beautiful English country side.
You’ve been having a lot of success during your stay in Font, an area with a notoriously difficult style of climbing to get used to. Are you surprised at how well things have gone?
At first I was quite surprised about how quickly I was completing some of the test pieces for the area. I attribute this to having climbed outside for the past 6 months before arriving in Font. The climbing in Font is very unique and it seems to fit my style pretty well. The climbs are quite reachy, the feet are bad, and the climbing is not overly powerful. Technique is a must and I have had the luck of being able to climb with some of Font’s best, which has helped me a ton in understanding the fine details of the incredible sandstone here.
Paul Robinson on Tajine (8b) in Fontainebleau
Photo: Stephan Denys
Lately there have been some people on the comments of various websites questioning your FA of Lucid Dreaming. Is that something you are aware of or pay attention to??
I have been aware of this and have seen a few of these comments floating around on the internet. I know that there is not much I can say or do in terms of making people believe me. I don’t want to be a part of the bashing either. I know how well I am climbing and I also know what I have climbed. If some anonymous people on the internet want to start some hearsay about me, so be it. I am not going to get all hurt over it. I am just psyched to climb and psyched to continue to push the sport of bouldering for the years to come.
Paul Robinson on The Island (8c) in Fontainebleau
Photo: Alex Kahn
A few weeks ago you announced the switch to La Sportiva. Is there anything you can say about that as far as what goes into making that kind of decision from the pro climber’s standpoint?
There are a lot of really great shoes on the market today. I was really impressed by the shoes that La Sportiva had on the table for 2011, the people at the company, and the way that they approach business. It is an incredible company and I look forward to the years to come climbing in their shoes!
How do you see your climbing progressing over the next 2-3 years? Will you continue to focus mainly on repeating problems or do you see yourself focusing more time on developing new areas?
I have consciously decided that I am no longer interested in repeating as much now that I am finding boulders of my own. At the age of 23, after having repeated many amazing boulders all over the world, I feel it is my time to set a standard in bouldering and push this sport like others have before me and are doing at the moment. My ascent of Lucid Dreaming and Ill Trill were two monumental climbs for me that have really pushed me in the direction of development.
Lately, I have found and cleaned some really great lines in the forest of Fontainebleau and hope to get the first ascent of them soon. This is not to say that I am not at all interested in repeating, I still have high hopes for obtaining the second ascent of DW’s The Game, as well as some other iconic climbs around the world that need to be repeated. I would say the future for me is going to be about going out and finding new amazing lines to put up!
Thanks, as always, to Paul for taking the time to do this interview
Nice little interview, narc. Glad to hear that he’s not letting us anonymous people on the internet get to him. This kid’s gonna be in the news for a while, and I can’t wait to see what he does in terms of development. Between him and D. Woods, we’re going to see a lot of great stuff over the next couple of years!
another good interview from robinson. glad to see he’s checking out some of the other things that europe and north africa have to offer. any word on his plans for the future after font / a return to switzerland?
I believe he is heading back to the States in a couple of months
great interview Narc – good questions.
I think PR has some amazing potential – i can’t wait to see what he opens up in the next few years!
I couldn’t help think about Robinson when I read the Sharma interview and he talked of abandoning one potential 15c/d because the holds are so small. Combine with Woods’ statements that Robinson is a small-hold master, confirmed by many of Robinson’s ascents, and what fun to imagine what might come if Robinson tied into a rope in Spain. Sweet!
For once, it would be refreshing to hear Paul be real and say “Sportiva offered me $2,500 more in salary, I took that offer to Five Ten, and they told me thanks but not thanks.” (Fact) Sure its not the PC thing to say, but whats the point of asking that question to begin with if you expect to get the same response every time.
And though its unfair to speculate about whether LD was climbed or not, since only he will ever know, it IS fair to place the onus of responsibility on him for not turning on the camera that Big Up gave him to document the send. Numerous other pro climbers have voiced their dissapointment with the fact that a claim this monumental will forever be unsubstantiated.
When you’re making as much money as Paul, part of your job description is get your ground-breaking FA’s on film.
Hope that wasn’t too much hate for everyone, just playing devil’s advocate.
If what you say is true regarding 5.10/La Sportiva that is certainly interesting and is the sort of thing I was driving at. However, much like in just about every other sport, people either aren’t at liberty or aren’t comfortable discussing sponsor/athlete relations in such specifics.
As an aside, you make valid points but it would be nice if you could play devil’s advocate using the name your normally post under. I know it’s still anonymous either way but there is at least some consistency there.
“However, much like in just about every other sport, people either aren’t at liberty or aren’t comfortable discussing sponsor/athlete relations in such specifics.”
At the top level in most sports, which Paul is at in terms of climbing, contract amounts from teams, sponsors, and prize money are often public knowledge. I have written about this elsewhere, but I wonder if the real numbers are too low for climbing companies or athletes to be very enthusiastic about publicizing them, especially compared with other sports.
I would agree with regards to teams and prize money but are sponsorship details that often known?? I’m sure there are some examples in pro sports but in general it seems to me like that sort of things is usually more private. Regardless, you probably have a point when it comes to the size of the deals.
@anon – Paul in general, or climbers in general, when they switch companies?
does it really matter? assuming you’re not getting paid to climb, haven’t you switched jobs for the money, being behind the company’s product more so than that your previous employer’s, etc.? i most definitely have!
didn’t graduate from the univ. of colorado, out-of-state? i don’t know whether or not paul got any academic scholarships, but i’m sure, like any other college graduate, homeboy has some student loans to pay back.
i’m glad that the $ points are coming out into the open. many climbing companies do not invest the $ in the individuals who are the FACES of their image and the icons of the sport. silly how 5.10 balked at handing over what amounts to 1 labor- job’s month in wages to keep one of the best in the world on board.
as far as the camera goes… that shit is a mind pollutant sometimes. can’t blame.
Has anyone considered that maybe he just likes the shoes better – rather than the fact that it has to do with money? I just just switched from 5.10 to La Sportiva and I love ’em (but I must admit the rubber is a bit to get used to from my old stealths) It’s not like La Sportiva is suffering from representation in the climbing world.
The only time I’ll question sponsorship is when a pediatrician tell me to give my kids some ridiculous pharmaceutic and shes using a Pfizer pen to write the prescription – no thanks. Other than that to each his own.
Did paul send “The island”?
I don’t believe so
Could anybody tell me which is the acronym for repeating a problem due to a sloppy exit or move? (feet touching crash-pad or something like that)