I’ve never been a big competition climber myself, but the chance to watch the 2011 IFSC World Cup finals at the 2011 Teva Mountain Games (TMG) was too good to pass up. As a new intern at Backbone, I arrived at Carbondale just as the build-up and excitement for the Games was coming to a head. Saturday the 4th dawned cloudless and dry, and I tossed a longing gaze at the pile of climbing shoes in the back of my van. Being from New England, I’ve been conditioned never to say no to a day of good climbing temps. Still, it’s not every day that I get to watch a dozen of my climbing heros flash up to V11 in front of a screaming crowd of thousands. Some things are worth missing a day on the rock.
The World Cup finals were slated to start at 5. Arriving an hour or so early, I had a chance to wander through Vail Village. On the cobbled streets, vendors from every niche of the outdoor industry had constructed a veritable tent city. Hipsters on fixies, bro-dudes on skateboards and families pushing strollers milled around, looking at the 2012 product they were soon to buy–this was Vail after all. Making my way through thousands of people carrying bags of free schwag, raffle prizes and awesome giveaways, I saw more than one dream come true. A skinny bro-dude-in-training, who couldn’t have been a day over 12, walked up to a bikini-blad twenty-something.
“Can I have a hug,” he asked, pushing his oversized white sunglasses into a mop of sun-lightened hair.
“I guess,” replied the girl, craning into an awkward embrace.
Releasing begrudgingly, the boy immediately pounded the fists of his three friends, waiting a yardstick’s length behind him.
“Nice one bro,” I heard them say. “You totally got it.” I envied the boy’s initiative.
On my way to the climbing wall I called my friend Dave Wetmore. Dave is a friend from my native Boston, and after an impressive 14th-place finish at the 2011 American Bouldering national championship, he qualified to participate in the World Cup. Dave climbed very well in qualifiers, but was in the audience to watch finals with me. At around 5, the top six men and women strolled out from isolation to begin work on the four problems that lay in front of them.
Rei Sugimoto is worth driving for.
So is Anna Stohr.
I won’t bother to recap the results as numerous result listings and highlight reels are plastered all over the interweb. Of note is Louder than Eleven’s short video, which is–as usual–very nicely done.
It is difficult to provide an objective evaluation of the competition. I’m a climbing nerd, and would probably have fun watching the comp if I were blindfolded. Furthermore, saying that the crowd seemed “super-psyched,” or “high-energy,” is essentially meaningless; it seems that action sports devotees have limited modes of expression. However, the size of the crowd did surprise me. I realized, at some point, that not everyone in the crowd was a climber–not by a long shot. This means two things: first, it indicates that climbing competitions stand some chance of providing audience appeal in a large sense. Second, it means that the TMG’s efforts to combine a whole range of outdoor lifestyle activities were successful. TMG’s attendees must have been excited to watch events that fell outside of their own usual interests.
The world cup crowd. Awesome.
After the comp ended, I met up with a few more members of the Backbone crew and headed up to the Teva House, where, on a rooftop overlooking a the Budlight Mountains of Music Festival Stage, athletes and industry folks enjoyed the setting sun with a poolside barbeque. Before long, the evening’s music, Xavier Rudd started an amazing set, simultaneously playing guitar and didjeridoo. Anyone who has ever to tried to produce a sound from a six-foot-long tube of eucalyptus will recognize this as no small feat.
Having been a bit of a sneaker freaker in a past life (read: high school), I took notice of the many pairs of flashy shoes stomping around the party. It seems that Teva had been giving away quite a bit of free schwag (according to Ian this is called “seeding”), and everyone and their brother was rocking bright kicks.
These things were designed for wake skating, and have a sticky rubber bottom with hundreds of drainage holes. This would have come in handy that night, as the mountain biking pro’s got endless entertainment out of cannonballing into the pool, dousing the periphery and the people in it.
From speaking to a number of people who had a part in planning and executing TMG 2011, I could tell that everyone was pleased with the turnout, the buzz, and of course the uncontrollable arbitrator of any outdoor event’s success: the weather. Though I’ve just started, it was great to be on the inside of an event like this, which up until know I’ve only viewed as a spectator. A frightening number of hours go into these events, and it has to feel good to see it grow after year.
Congrats to all the athletes and the TMG crew for putting on a great show.
Onward and upward!