Chris Sharma Urban Climbing
The Evolution Of A Sport Borne Of Wild Wide Open Spaces
“It’s been 23 years since I first walked into a climbing gym in my hometown of Santa Cruz, CA . Fast forward to today and we see that climbing has gone from a very niche sport to becoming a mainstream activity practiced by the masses, most of the time in the comfort of their cities’ local climbing gyms.”
These gyms have evolved from being dingy training dungeons for the die-hard climbers to high end, clean, well-lit facilities attracting newcomers to the sport from all walks of life. They have also become social centers where the culture of our sport is not only shared but is continually evolving. Of course there are always going to be critics from the old school, unhappy with the urban direction our sport is going.
I can understand this. Rock climbing for me has always been about adventure in wild places, connecting with nature and stepping out of societies mold and discovering who we really are. But whether we like it or not, our sport is evolving in front of our eyes and the urban environment and climbing gyms are playing an important role in this development.
Over the last two decades my life has been predominately about travelling and climbing in the most spectacular, remote locations around the globe. But in recent years I’ve spent a lot of time reconnecting with the world of indoor climbing and developing an appreciation of the urban environment and community. It’s been really interesting.
In the past I have felt very out of place in a city but recently I’ve embraced it as a way of expanding my own horizons. Navigating through the concrete jungle can be as much of an adventure as exploring a remote desert or mountain range. Climbing has impacted my life in such a profound way, so I’m happy to see others come in contact with this sport and have the same chance to experience this amazing activity.
“The indoor climbing movement has also been a really cool way to share and develop new human connections. Rather than to hide out far away from society, it’s been really neat to embrace this new popularity in climbing and take an active role in guiding our sport in a healthy direction.”
For all of us who have dedicated our lives to climbing, it’s very cool to see it maturing and coming into its own in the mainstream. I’m intrigued to see these two worlds coming together. It will be really cool to see what comes out of this melting pot of urban and outdoor cultures and I think it’s an amazing opportunity for us (city dwellers, and mountain hermits alike) to step out of our comfort zone and discover new ideas and possibilities.
From an environmental standpoint, as our sport continues to grow there is a risk of major impact on our outdoor climbing areas. I believe these urban climbing centers have a responsibility to educate the newcomers to our sport on proper conduct and etiquette so we can continue to enjoy these places for many generations to come.
Learn more about Chris Sharma – prAna Ambassador