To the parents of climbing,
I think of every mid-Friday mile of road we’ve driven, anticipating the next morning’s competition at a run-down climbing gym somewhere across Canada. Overall, every single patch of asphalt our tires touched was so completely central to the joy of my childhood. So, as I’m sure you already know, it was well worth it.
When I think back on all the competitions I’ve had the pleasure to attend, I remember the brutally hard climbs, the projects sent 1 minute before end time, the Tour de Bloc emcees, the draw prizes, the people, and the hard falls. But I also remember you sitting on the hard metal bleachers shoved in the corner of the gym with a Subway sandwich for me, chatting happily away to the other parents.
When I showed up at my first Tour de Bloc, a little girl frustrated she could only climb problem #1, you talked with the gym staff, regulars, and other parents to see what advice you could get for me. I already knew most of it, mom. Now somehow 7 years have seen me go to Nationals, where I see you sitting in a black fold-out chair, giving advice to all the parents of new climbers.
Not only that, because now you’re volunteering as a head judge, standing on squishy blue mats for hours on end making the comp the absolute best for all of us. You get another parent to cover for you when it’s my turn to climb.
I just can’t thank you all enough for the amazing world you’ve helped create for us. See, that’s the thing: none of the entire Canadian competition season would happen without you. 90% of the judges, scorekeepers, iso-runners, emcees, and hold-brushers are parent volunteers. And what a heck of a job you’ve done, working with all the gyms and route-setters to organize fantastic nights of climbing.
I knew you were watching my eyes glow when I watched the local bouldering Open Finals, music pumping in a room full of the most beautiful, pumped, and psyched people. Now you’ve seen me up there myself, barely having qualified in 8th place but unquestionably the most pumped of them all.
That was my moment but it was yours, too. Remember how I came to you earlier that day during qualifiers, crying with frustration? And how I came back out of the washroom a changed girl, having experienced a spiritual inspiration through a dusty poster of Chris Sharma posted above the sink? And how we were stuffing our faces with Opa souvlaki when we got the call I’d made Finals. And our shock, and I think you may have teared up a bit, and I face-planted in the snow running into the gym. I sat in the isolation room before the start of the round with my idols, all the women I’d watched throughout my childhood, trying to hide how badly I was shaking.
You always loved it when I won draw prizes. Have fun, get swag! — that was my first coach’s motto. I friggin loved getting draw prizes. I was always fantastically lucky, getting drawn just about every time.
I remember my first rope competition. I got on my first top rope route and fell off the second hold. I went to the bathroom and cried and cried. The second route went better but wasn’t enough to qualify. You took a bunch of photos of the older climbers for the rest of the afternoon, and even though you didn’t know much about climbing you tried to review them with me that evening.
I started just the pair of us driving across the country, staying in little B&Bs or Holiday Inns. Now you let me drive down with friends, and I meet you there. I enjoy both but you’re pretty fun to roadtrip with, too. Either way, you make sure I eat pasta the night before the comp, and a good breakfast before (not eggs!) Thanks for all the lunch money you’ve handed me, and all the meals and team outings it’s financed between rounds. You actually get pretty psyched too when it’s time to head back to the gym for Open Finals.
I can’t help smiling when I see you debating heatedly whether that last climber really did get the bonus hold, refusing to back down. And when you’re driving me back to the hotel, going on about that crazy fall on Route 3 even though I was there, and saw it.
Thank you for the best childhood I could’ve asked for, and all the places we’ve explored, together. You took all these photos, by the way.