“I went skydiving, rocky mountain climbing, and two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu…”
Well, basically. Except the bull was plastic.
I flew from Europe out to California to visit the RedBull HeadQuarters in Los Angeles. While in SoCal I had my athlete orientation and I met the staff working at the HQ. I also got to hang out with RedBull’s Ashley Smeltzer – we went climbing, skydiving, and to the US Surf Open where we happened upon a plastic bull that we both gave a spin. My trip was a thrill. I’ve taken a lot of planes but I’ve never jumped out of one! Sky diving, especially, was an adventure at the top of my bucket list that I found so exhilarating to finally do! The experience was totally unique – basically, you jump out of the plane and free fall for much longer than I thought, then when you release the parachute, you get to soar above the land, guided by the wind. The view is also spectacular from above = the true bird’s eye perspective.
After LA I took a plane (which I didn’t jump out of) to SLC, Utah for the biannual Outdoor Retailer Show. In conjunction with the OR Show this year, Chris Sharma, Mike Beck, and a host of supportive sponsors and setting crew (including Dani Andrada) organized a Deep Water Soloing Competition at the Olympic Park. The 52-foot erected wall towered over the swimming pool where ski jumpers practice-land their jumps.
The invitational “Psicobloc Competition” was scheduled over three days – beginning with a Qualifier/Practice Round Wednesday, then proceeding with a Semifinal and then a Final on Thursday and Friday.
Intended to be a duel-style event, the objective of the competition was primarily to complete the difficult climb as efficiently and in as timely a matter as possible in order to reach the highest point, and for a tie-breaker, the quickest.
I ranked in top seed after the first days, so my bracket order was against 16th place, and then through elimination rounds, I proceeded to the quarterfinal, semifinal, and then final round.
The competition required stamina, technique, power endurance, and strategy. These overall requirements made it exciting and unpredictable. With a sold-out stadium watching and all of my good friends and idols there, I couldn’t help feel incredibly excited, but also, really nervous! My goal was to make it to the final round = the final duel!
After initially sending the route in my first round in order to have confidence in all of the subsequent rounds, I proceeded to compete in the quarterfinal and semifinal, dropping off at the next high point above where my competitors I was dueling fell from in order to conserve energy and to keep the rhythm of the competition fun and exciting to watch.
In the final round I was up against Delaney Miller, a talented sport climbing phenomenon from Texas. I knew that we were both capable of doing the route, so my strategy was to climb fast – in case we were both up at the top, the tie-breaker would be the person at the top first. This decision did come with risk because as the rounds proceeded, the holds got a little wet from the splashes, so my concern was slipping off. I am learning, though, that climbing at a faster pace is beneficial, too, because you are hanging from the wall for less time and expending less energy. When I was at the top rest before the final, hardest sequence, I looked down to see that Delaney had fallen. I guess I could have dropped off then, because I had taken the victory, but I continued up to the top in order to have that ecstatic, numbing feeling of being at the top of the world in front of the awesome crowd and all of my friends! Then, I took the victory plunge down into the water. :D
Watching the men was insanely impressive. Seeing such idolized climbers like Chris Sharma, Daniel Woods, Jimmy Webb, Tommy Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson, Carlo Traversi, Dave Graham, and so many more big names, all battle it out on gymnastic, all-or-nothing moves was so remarkable. In the end, Jimmy Webb dueled Daniel Woods in the final, and JWebb took the victory!
This competition was hands-down the best competition that I have ever competed in and I am so thankful to everyone who contributed to this experience – from the organizers to the crowd, to the other competitors.
Stay tuned for the video!!!
Now I am flying back to Europe for three weeks to climb outside in the Dolomites with Edu Marin!