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Highline Slackline Madness!!!

The Highball Highline comp last night was amazing! The weather here in Boulder lately has been unfriendly for climbing outside (to say the least–snow and 0* temps anyone?) and the result was a huge crowd at this ABS sanctioned comp. All in all over 300 climbers came to test their mettle on the 50 new boulder problems. As usual, the crowd consumed a massive amount of fish tacos in record time, and the Avery kegs were flowing for spectators as DJ Dirt Monkey kept the climbers crushing.

Said Parirokh | photo by Keith North

All pictures courtesy Keith North. More pics from Keith

Gauging Open Finals
Of the setters, Jonny, Carlo, Jon, Alex Puccio (guest setter), Nick Sherman (long time Spot comp setter) and I were in attendance for most of the evening. Because the Spot comps have a single final problem for men’s and women’s open, the setters watch the regular comp to try to see who might make finals and how they’re climbing. From this we decide if we need to tweak the finals problems to make them more or less difficult.

Tyler Youngwerth on Women's O11 | photo by Keith North

Setting up the Highline
At eight pm scorecards for the adult session were called in and the highline was quickly set up. On Friday while we were setting Josh Paton (our facilities and safety manager), Adam Broadbent (climbing school) and the slackliners set up the padding and anchor points and tested the leash length and line tightness so it would be ready to go as soon as climbing ended. They also padded the heating duct and taped an “ariel zone” on the line so slackliners wouldn’t get too close to the boulders or hit the duct while doing in-air tricks. The preparation was worthwhile, and the line was ready to go by 8:30 or so.

Jeremy Louis stretching out | photo by Keith North

Tweaking Open Finals
While they were setting the line up Alex and I tweaked up our women’s problem and Carlo, Jonny, Nick and Jon tweaked up the men’s. There was a great debate amongst the crew about whether the women’s would be hard enough, but because the holds were big slopey pinches and the moves were powerful we decided the problem would be okay if we just turned a couple of holds up (i.e. made them harder to hold) and changed out a big pinch at the top for a more precise crimp. We figured the problem should be about 4 Spot +, as the climbers would be tired and two comps ago the 4 Spot + final was about the right grade. The female finalists were: Chauncenia Cox, Gabi Masse, Tyler Youngwerth, Kristin Felix, Audrey Gawrych, Alexis Miller, and Kara Caputo. The men’s problem was also tweaked up a little, and the male finalists were: Paul Robinson, Adam Markert, Gabor Szekely, Ryan Roden, Andre DiFelice, Sebastian Drissi, and Matt Wilder.

Matt Wilder on Men's O11 | photo by Keith North

Highline History
The highline event at the Spot is still relatively young, and up until last year the event was the first time that many of the competitors had even walked a highline.  Michael Payton won last year’s event, though Greg Kalfa’s dramatic backflip that threw him off the line in a huge cartwheel may have been the most memorable moment. Most of the other competitors were happy to just get across the line, though highline master Scott Rogers finished off the evening by walking the line while the crowd threw dodgeballs at him. On our facebook page there is a link to a video of the highline exhibition a few years ago: http://www.facebook.com/posted.php?id=189362658840

Anthony Menzor | photo by Keith North

Highline Madness!!!
This year the ante was upped considerably, with most of the walkers being semi-professional slackliners who are well versed in tricks. Adam started the evening off by testing the line and taking a few leash whippers. From there, one by one, the slackliners got a few minutes on the line to show their stuff. Some seemed hindered by the leash, but all managed a few cool tricks, including Said Parirokh’s jump to the I beam, Michael Payton’s bounce and balance tricks, and a pressed out handstand from Jeremy Louis. Several of the guys tried to land both front and back flips, with a few pretty amazing whippers resulting. Expect video to start showing up on the internet today and tomorrow.

Andy Lewis dive bombing the crowd. | photo by Keith North

The highlight of the evening was when Andy Lewis, a noted slackliner from Humbolt, California, got on the line to finish things off. Andy came out and immediately did an ariel 360, much to the crowd’s delight. From there he did several other cool tricks, throwing t-shirts and stickers as he went. It seemed he’d already won the comp when he did his final trick, a backflip that he LANDED ON THE LINE!!! The crowd went completely nuts. Completely. Nuts. He finished off the evening by doing a bouncing swan dive straight over the crowd (as seen above), swinging dramatically back around and grazing the gigantic Spot Bouldering Series banner that hangs in the center of the gym before grabbing back onto the line and mantling back up so he could exit the line via the top of the Font boulder. It was pretty incredible to watch, and everyone in the crowd was extremely psyched.
video from Michael Payton and Scott Rogers of the flip:

update: more videos are showing up on facebook, including This one by Zack Smith of Andy’s crowd dive.

update 2: Here is a video of Andy doing his first ever highline backflip a few years ago.  When he did it he was the first known person in the entire world to ever land the trick.  Though he has done backflips on low lines in the interim, he didn’t land the highline backflip again until Saturday, Dec 5, during the highline contest at the Spot.

Click here for more on slacklining.

Men’s Open Finals–front of the Hueco
The slackline was quickly dropped and lights were put into place for the Open finals. The men’s proceeded well, with the first few competitors falling all over the place. On his turn Andre Difelice established a new high point, then fell off on a dramatic attempt to dyno to the top. Ryan Roden met the same fate, but Gabor Szekely dispatched the problem handily. Adam Markert cruised as well, going so far as to stop and dance on the last hold before casually mantling over the top. Paul qualified in first, so he climbed last, and he flashed the problem easily–winning the comp.
1. Paul Robinson
2. Adam Markert
3. Gabor Szekely
full results at www.thespotgym.com

Adam Markert flashing Men's O11 | photo by Keith North

Women’s Open Finals–front of the Font
The first woman out, Kara Caputo, hiked her final and Alex and I were thrown into a panic. Kara is a very strong climber, but she made the pinches look like such jugs that we were sure everyone else would hike it as well. We were mostly right, though the two shortest competitors (Kristen Felix and Tyler Youngwerth) met some difficulty with a hop move on the top of the arete. We were assured by all the competitors that the problem was very enjoyable to climb, which was nice, but overall the problem was still a failure, as it was too easy for the competitors and not exciting for the crowd. We learned from the experience, mostly that the girls are much stronger than they used to be, and they’re still capable of pulling hard after 3 hours of climbing, and we need to challenge them much better next time. Unfortunately we had to count back to qualifiers for the finals results.
1. Chauncenia Cox
2. Gabi Masse
3. Audrey Gawrych

Alexis Miller flashing Women's O11 | photo by Keith North

Final thoughts on the Setting
Despite the finals problems not being ideal, overall I think the comp went well. Several of the women finalists were able to complete several Open category problems in the main comp–an improvement from their normal performance. Also, because Alex set instead of competing, the women’s finals was anybody’s game and therefore should have been more exciting. For the men, we made the hardest Open category climbs all around the same grade to encourage the climbers to battle it out instead of deciding O10 was impossible and knowing they made finals so not bothering to climb it. This time everyone had to try to send the top O problems to earn a spot in finals.

A note on setting for kids:
Part of the reason setters come to comps, despite their exhaustion from the long nights of setting, is to watch their problems get climbed and try to learn from them. I particularly enjoy watching the kids climb because it’s always interesting to see what move you think will be easy for kids that they just cannot reach through, and which moves you think will be impossible for kids that they will figure out a way to get through. Our goal is to make the problems doable for all sizes, but you can’t set every problem, especially in the advanced and open categories, for people of extremely diminutive stature. I heard from some that the kids in the youth session found the problems reachy. I’m not sure about this, as I spent part of the evening with Brooke Raboutou, who climbed in the adult session as she had a gymnastics meet earlier in the day. Brooke is 8, and small for her age, but she is an extremely talented climber, and though some of the problems were too reachy for her she managed to climb more in the advanced category then she ever has before. Sasha, a Spot youth team member who is bigger than Brooke but still much smaller than the adults, managed to climb extremely well, sending most of the problems up to A8. Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou, who is also relatively small, climbed during the adult session and said that she did not find the problems to be particularly reachy. I suppose the jump starts on two of the A problems probably gave some folks trouble, but besides that it should have been fairly equal opportunity. If you came to the comp and felt that a problem or a part of a problem was reachy, or cruxy in some other specific way, and you want to tell us about it please email us (setting@thespotgym.com) or add a comment telling us specifically what and where so we will be able to look at the problems and have an idea how we could make them better next time. We always strive for excellence, after all. Excellence and fun.

Thanks for coming everyone!!!

  1. Said
    December 6, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Jeremy Louis is the name that escapes you.

    Fun comp last night.

  2. ET
    December 6, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    The comp was a blast.

    One issue I had with previous comps was that previous problems didn’t seem to move in a continuous gradient in terms of difficulty. There would be one problem that would come out of nowhere difficulty-wise, be it needing brute strength or body movement that was well beyond what was lined up previously in the comp. I felt that this particular time around, the problems flowed very nicely and all were very enjoyable. It was very nice to be able to go from A1 and move smoothly through A6 and see how things were changing to be more difficult – as opposed to walking up to A1 and being put down hard, but flashing A5 (during psychedelia).

    Highball was probably the best setting so far this year (as far as the regular problems go) in my opinion.

  3. Jackie
    December 7, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Thanks for the name Said, I fixed it. Do you know that other kid’s name as well (white t-shirt, unlabeled photo)?

    ET, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the problems. Every comp we try to outdo the last, and every time there are some successes and some failures. Continuity is a big thing for us, so it’s nice to get specific feedback like you gave so we know how we’re doing and where we made mistakes in the past. Thanks for taking the time!

  4. Scott
    December 7, 2009 at 10:06 am

    A few corrections:

    Last year’s event winner was Michael Payton, not Greg Kalfa.

    Andy Lewis is from Humboldt, California.

    The backflip video was actually from Mike Payton’s camera.

    Highliner in the white shirt is Anthony.

    Nice job with the comp! It was a blast 🙂

  5. Jackie
    December 7, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Thanks Scott – fixed. : )

  6. Scott
    December 7, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Hey Jackie, sorry one last thing, it’s Anthony Menzor in that photo. Thanks for the awesome writeup! The blog is looking great.

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