The UBC Pro Tour kicked off their Eastern Mountain Sports Pro comp in New York City yesterday with 51 competitors turning out. While many of the big names are missing there is still a solid field left to compete in today’s semi-final round for one of the spots in Saturday’s finals in Central Park. Finals will be streamed live from Central Park beginning at 2 PM EST and will be live blogged on this website beginning around the same time. Don’t miss it.
With the comp in mind UBC managing partner Pete Ward was kind enough to pen this guest post about the process of bringing a climbing comp to a place like Central Park:
The Road to Competition Climbing in The Big Apple
By Pete Ward
Climbing is about process. Endless trips to the crag to work your project, endless sessions in the gym trying to get stronger and endless time spent trying to believe that you can get better. All of the best memories I have from my almost 20 years in the sport are of the process. I remember the sends that mattered, but not more than the process that got me there. And so if life is a journey and not a destination, then I wonder where exactly competition climbing is headed next?
Our crew has landed in NYC and the crucial first days of load-in are complete at the Eastern Mountain Sports Pro in New York City. The day before we left, by random chance I finally took the top recommendation for me in my Netflix queue, the award winning documentary “Man on Wire” (which I recommend if you’ve not seen it). The film tells the story of a group of friends lead by the Frenchman Philippe Petit who have an impossible goofy dream to walk high wires in the most preposterous places around the world and come to New York City to make their dream into a reality at the World Trade Center. After years of wondering over beers if we could ever do an event in Central Park, it’s hard to finally be on the verge of getting it done and not feel parallels between Philippe Petit’s quest to walk a wire and our desire to put a climbing wall and the best athletes in the middle of the city. Theirs was art and ours is…well it’s less art than theirs was, but it’s not without its dreamer qualities…
We started putting on competitions way back in 2004 and on Saturday of this week, we’ll put our sport on in a place that it’s never been before. No tradeshow backup for a guaranteed crowd like in SLC, no home court advantage like in Boulder, CO where the sport is already popular, no existing event like the Gravity Brawl. This is competition climbing in the most important city in America, and it will stand on its own two feet.
The thing I liked the most about Man on Wire is the impossible optimism required, “It is impossible, that’s sure. So let’s start working,” said Philippe Petit upon his first visit to the World Trade Center. And it got me to thinking…While this is revolutionary thinking outside of climbing, it’s actually kind of de rigueur for anyone who has ever worked a serious redpoint. In fact, it’s the only reasonable way to approach any long-term project; sure I can’t do any of the moves right now, but what if I work on it for 2 years, what then? And this is how we have approached designing an event where even driving a tractor trailer onto Manhattan Island requires a permit to say nothing of actually doing the work required to run the show. (and for the record, we have required 4 tractor trailers so far…).
Corny as it may sound this lesson that we have learned in climbing is, I think, the best advantage we have as we work to grow our sport. We’re used to having projects, we’re used having to raise our game to meet a challenge and we’re not afraid to, uh, try things we’re afraid of…
And on that deep thought, here’s a video look at where we’ve come in the last five years. I’m still just as inspired by the thrill of amazing competition as I was the day Vasya rallied for the win crammed in between a capacity crowd of a few hundred in Metrorock in Boston, and fascinated to see where we’ll be five years from now.
Best of luck to everyone competing at the Eastern Mountain Sports Pro. Event schedule, broadcast times and a clearinghouse of UBC photos and video are all available at www.ubcprotour.com.
The first big climbing competitions in New Jersey began in 2001 with the opening of the boulder at New Jersey Rock Gym. The event drew over 135 competitors the second year and nearly 200 the third, Don’t forget your history Pete. You guys took competitions to a new level and continue to push the limits, but you didn’t begin from nothing. Give credit to those who built the boulder and worked hard to make East Coast comps come to life.
Yeah, that’s what I meant by “No existing event like the GB”. That comp was raging well before we got there and provided us with a boost that probably could never have come from anywhere else. Many of my favorite comp moments of all time are from the GB and it was a unique experience to be a part of. One part climbing comp, one part fight club, there may never be another comp like it.
Going one step further… the list of people who have contributed and have never been properly credited is a mile long and I probably don’t even know the half of it. This has been a family effort and we are lucky dudes to be a part of it.
Here’s to family.
You mean it wasn’t the PRG Midnight Burns that hosted over 100 people in the late 90’s?
Philly, Boston, Earth Treks, all had great comps. NJRG was the first big one in NJ.