The rise of climbing: from minority sport to social boom

In 2018 there were about 150 climbing walls In Spain, in 2021 it went to 202 and In January of this year there were already 360…These are the numbers that best summarize the climbing boom in our country, becoming a new healthy option both in natural environments and in urban spaces, where sport climbing takes advantage of large facilities and small corners. Its evolution has allowed it to go from being a complicated and risky activity to practice to being accessible and recommended.

Climbing is now an accessible and recommended activity. / .

“It all starts from a genetic component that we have from birth: climbing and getting on anywhere. Climbing gets you hooked quickly. In addition, it is very complete, it makes you overcome your fears and your level of difficulty. And from a physical point of view you work upper body, lower body, elasticity, balance…”, in a recent conversation with Alberto Ayorapresident of the Spanish Federation of Mountain and Climbing Sports (FEDME), revealed in a few lines the power of attraction of this sport, which has considerably helped the federation to be among the ‘big 5’ of Spanish sport along with football, basketball, hunting and golf. Currently, with 290,000 licenses, FEDME is the fourth federation.

However, beyond these numbers, as Ayora pointed out, “the best indication is the increase in the number of climbing walls and private investment.” And this is not something exclusive to Spain, but This social boom expands throughout the world and for this reason the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to include climbing in the last Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 and will be present – doubling the medals – in Paris 2024. At this summer’s event, there will be a change from two to four Olympic champions with a greater specification of the sporting events (speed is separated from bouldering and difficulty), something that invites us to abandon the label of a minority sport.

Inventions that have made climbing accessible

For this successful current context to have occurred, we must go back almost 100 years, when the French Pierre Allin began training in the forests of Fontainebleau as prior preparation for ascents in the Alps. There, Pierre ‘invented’ bouldering, an activity that would little by little be imitated. And he also used climbing shoes for the first time (he glued a smooth rubber to his espadrille), later the carabiner evolved, the descenders… In short, he began to create gadgets that made the fun and practical activity of climbing a rock easier ( as training for greater challenges).

In the 1960s, the American John Gill brought magnesium to climbing (from gymnastics) and, above all, the mentality that boulder can be considered as a discipline in itself (precursor of sport climbing). Therefore, Gill encouraged people to explore and discover walls and rocks anywhere in the world, not just those on high peaks or prominent mountain ranges.

Many inventions have brought climbing to all audiences / .

In the 80s another great impulse would arrive to make climbing more ‘pop’: the crash-pad. The mat would attract more people to the reduce the risk of injury and bruises when climbing. And in the following decade, in the 90s, the first urban climbing wallssomething that made it possible to no longer have to travel very far to practice climbing.

With this evolution and growth we reach this century, where in a decade in Spain we went from 139,325 federative licenses in 2010 to 248,983 in 2020 and more than 290,000 in 2023. An increase of more than 100% in little more of 10 years that accompanies the figure described at the beginning of the text which indicated how from the 150 climbing walls in Spain in 2018 it has gone up to 360 today (and increasing…).

With all this, currently you can see climbing walls in parks, schools, institutes, sports centers, commercial premises in a building, industrial estates and even hospitals (in Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, the United States, Spain… climbing is also gaining terrain in mental health). An expansion that has been possible thanks to the adaptation of this sport to space. Specific measurements or a precise playing field are not required for its practice, any wall will do.

The last great invention: the self-insurer

To all these facilities another has been added lately in urban climbing walls: the car insurance, which makes it possible to climb alone on one route without the need for someone to belay you. You can now go climbing alone or with someone.

It all starts from a genetic component that we have from birth: climbing and getting on anywhere. / .

Since Allin decided to train on a rock in a forest about 80 kilometers from his home in Paris, many things have changed. Now, you can practice climbing close to home, it is a safe sport, it has been studied that it not only brings physical benefits but also therapeutic ones, its media exposure grows with milestones such as its presence at the Olympic Games or the Oscar that ‘Free Solo’ won in 2018 for best documentary and has become an interesting activity for private companies, as Allin observed almost a century ago, when he started selling the first climbing shoes, descenders, carabiners in his Parisian climbing store… That place was a space full of rarities while today those same utensils have become items of daily use for millions of people around the world.

2024-03-29 07:56:13
#rise #climbing #minority #sport #social #boom


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