Are Climbing Videos Too Tame?

Daniel Woods, in an interview by Andrew Bisharat for Without Walls:

In climbing films, I feel like there is a pattern that we all follow. The filmmakers ask us the same questions in the interview and they want us to respond in this one way. Climbing films are more serious, less attitude [than skateboarding videos]. I feel like most viewers’ reaction is like, “Do climbers go out and party at night? Do they socialize? Do they go to cool dinners? Do they hang out with friends?”

Interesting point.  In general it does seem like many climbing videos are pretty “safe” in what they depict.  A lot of this is almost certainly due to the fact that many videos featuring prominent athletes like Woods are paid for by sponsors who have an investment in portraying a family-friendly image, especially given the huge youth audience in our sport.  I don’t see this changing really, but there are certainly other outlets like Instagram where professional climbers are still free to portray themselves more freely1.

  1. Within limits of course

Posted In: Asides, Interviews
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15 Responses to Are Climbing Videos Too Tame?

  1. RyanJ September 18, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    “I feel like most viewers’ reaction is like, ‘Do climbers go out and party at night? Do they socialize? Do they go to cool dinners? Do they hang out with friends?’ ”

    It’s probably just me but I have never had this thought after watching a climbing video. While not the only reason, I’d imagine the short, concise interviews and climbing footage are the result of the standard internet video length. When most videos are around five minutes, it leaves little time for character development.

    The feature length climbing films like First Ascent, Core, Pure, Masters of Stone series, Dosage series, etc. had plenty of ‘attitude’ and shenanigans. Maybe Daniel Woods and his film-maker friends could pull together and produce something with more of a story than the bite sized clips of their latest send.

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  2. crimpin' ain't easy...just thinkin out loud here September 18, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    Interesting point. I think most climbing nerds agree that flicks emphasizing lifestyle are really entertaining . So are project/failing videos (say, Dave on Hypnotized minds). Basically, I’m interested in anything that shows a strong climber not climbing (say, Dave’s hangboard traverse in bishop). It might be voyeuristic or something…who knows.

    That said, I feel like we do catch a lot of ‘lifestyle’ in videos, though not the scintillating or rebellious stuff from skate videos. When you see Thesenga’s camper van, the Island crew goofing in HCR, the og LT11 gang entertaining themselves on rainy days in Swizzy, aren’t these all parts of the lifestyle? Wilder stunts would be fun and all (then again I’d watch a reality show about Jimmy’s beard maintenance), but I wouldn’t say we’re devoid of personality/lifestyle…maybe climbers are just tamer than skateboarders?

    One thing I will say is that we should all agree to abandon the drive/hike to the boulders montage from the beginning of every climbing video…

    *Also remember how much flack Daniel caught for the video where he’s smoking at the beginning? (Read this genius comment: http://climbingnarc.com/videos/woods-jorg-do-ticino/#comment-22340 ….yeesh I sounded like a dummy 3 years ago.) Not sure if sponsors took note, but that seems like an apt example to raise.

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  3. Daniel Rich September 18, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    to be honest I really maybe I am out in left field but I disagree with woods. At least about myself. I really don’t care what parties pro climbers go to, whether they have cool friends, how they socialize. I watch climbing videos to see cool locations and climbs that I wish I was strong enough to climb.

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  4. AB September 18, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    when are we gonna get to see dwoods half passed out one arm lock off chugging his 40 on his newest bloc ?

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    • Jeremy September 18, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

      Hopefully soon

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  5. dave September 18, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    There are always cameras around these guys. If there was something remotely interesting going on, it would be filmed and put in a video. Watching guys hanging out… hah!

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  6. Jacob September 18, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    I’m not sure if the problem with climbing videos is their lack of cursing and beer, but there is a problem. Climbing is about so much more than pulling hard moves and yet in 90% of videos that all you see, plus there are very few people making videos who know how to film a climb, let alone film a climb in an innovative way. The sponsorship thing is likely a very real obstacle, climbing companies these days market their equipment to yuppies and so the last thing they want to see is a drug using, heavy drinking, anti-establishment punk leading the sport. They therefore filter out those people and go interview Alex Honnold about risk again. Why do climbing videos suck so much? – I sort of think it’s the same reason climbing kind of sucks right now, it’s all technique and no spirit. we’ve gotten domesticated, subsumed into “adventure sports.” What were the headlines this year? a speed climbing record, another couple 5.12 free solos, some hard sport onsights… Anyways, I agree with Woods, sort of.

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    • Brian September 19, 2014 at 5:04 am #

      Who’s out there boozing it up while sending alpine V15s, or soloing Half Dome hung over? Sounds like compelling stuff to me, I’d watch… but maybe being a top athlete excludes some lifestyle choices.

      If there’s an audience out there for colorful personalities climbing less hard stuff, these videos will start popping up. Does Jason Kehl count?

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      • PBC September 23, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

        When has Ammon climbed Half Dome not hung over? The real crazy personalities are out there: Ammon McNeely, Hank Caylor, etc. The problem is a lot of the personality types have become caricatures of themselves: The Optimist Sharma, The Good Guy Caldwell, The Stoneface Honnold, The ADHD Timmie Oniell, The Non-competitive but publicizing Potter, the Abrasive insightful Hubers….. Only rarely do films show us these people in more than one dimension (example: Sharma having a mini-meltdown on Jumbo Love in Progression)

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  7. Jeremy September 18, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

    My favorite climbing videos are the ones where the video focuses on rowdy climbers who just love to go climbing and do crazy stuff. The rowdier the better in my opinion.

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  8. Tomi September 19, 2014 at 3:10 am #

    If somebody thinks there’s a market or need for something, he could do the thing, right?

    Personally I’m quite satisfied with present genre a web shorties which appear very regularly and I can consume almost daily. That’s like series vs movies in more traditional Hollywood stuff. Simpsons have been running 20+ years and I’m sure that short films about hard ascents and risk interviews will be crowd pleasers for a long time.

    On the other hand, I fully understand DWoods point. I don’t perhaps agree the actual statements, but there’s very obvious pattern in most film. E.g. when the music starts after a projecting, you know it’s a beginning of the send. It’s about a time to do something original! But it’s damn hard to do something totally new in very cool way. Any takers?

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  9. j September 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    @Brian. Jason Kehl certainly does count! I actually never even really liked him much (thought his image was a bit forced and his haircuts, ugh!t) and then I saw one of those “here’s my crib/van” videos he did. Totally changed my view of him because he was engaging, witty, and truly funny as f*ck. I recognize now there’s substance behind all the decapitated baby dolls and white-boy pony dreads.

    I think this whole topic is a bit of a non-issue (or maybe I don’t find it as compelling as things that perhaps matter, even just a little) and certainly the fact that Daniel Woods mentioned it in passing in an interview doesn’t really make it one.

    Woods seems like a nice enough guy, as I’m sure many of the other top climbers are. That said, compelling personalities make for compelling “lifestyle” bits in sports videos so at least part of the “problem” may involve a situation where the top performers (typically, the most common focus of climbing videos) may not be as interesting to watch in non-climbing contexts as those lurking slightly (or even significantly) below. Fun has a price ya know!

    -J

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  10. Matt September 20, 2014 at 7:01 am #

    Anyone remember “hoods n’ the woods”? My guess is 1997. if I’m not mistaken, there is a clip of a young climbing god puking his brains out. Milk chug or alcohol, I can’t remember, but entertaining nonetheless.

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    • PBC September 23, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

      One of the Inertia films (the one with John Long reading the copyright notice?) had a fella losing the milk challenge…. Also had a killer punk rock soundtrack, when is that coming back?

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  11. thealpine October 1, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    Perfect example of unique climbing lifestyle yet non-climbing footage is anything with Sean Vilanueva and the brothers Favrese. Jamming on the wall, having a good time and NOT trying to wax poetic about the meaning of life.

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