Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Right Way Up

Fact: For the past 4 or 5 months, I’ve been faking it.  
Since the moment I began a relationship with Five Ten, I have been putting on this show of what I think a sponsored climber is supposed to be.  I have been pushing aside the things I hold dear in order to look like something I’m not. A few nights ago I sat down to figure out how on earth this could be happening, and here’s what I came up with:
Fact: I did not get sponsored by Five Ten because of the climbs I have done.  

There are 10 year old girls climbing a lot harder than I am.  Consequently, I have been struggling with the question, Why did I get sponsored by Five Ten?  When I sat down with Kelsey Reddoch, the Five Ten rep in Salt Lake City, I doubt she saw an up-and-coming Daniel Woods, and she definitely did not see someone who makes better media than LT11.  
But what I hope she did see is my sheer capacity for psyche. I hope she saw my ability to give a majority of myself to a certain thing, completely and without hesitation, and how helplessly and utterly excited and proud I am to be a part of the climbing community. And if that is in fact what got me this sponsorship, I guess in a way I’m relieved and very grateful, because even though my climbing abilities have suffered lately, I’ve realized that those other parts of me are still firing harder than ever. After years of being caught up in the glitz of climbing media, sometimes it’s hard for me to stay in touch with my center, especially now that I feel like I have some minuscule part in it. I’m still learning, but luckily for me, I can’t help but wear my heart on my sleeve.  That’s where my core is, and my abilities, my successes, and my failures are all simply offshoots of that core.
For instance, what is it that hurts so badly about watching our friends do the things we want most to do in the world? 
A few weeks ago, my good friend Joe Maier and I went to Bishop, CA over spring break to check out a problem called Luminance. Luminance has an ominous reputation for being one of the most aesthetic and dangerous climbs in Bishop (if not the world), zigzagging up a sharply overhanging wall above one of the most mind-bendingly bad landings I’ve ever seen.
But do I have to be physically/mentally stronger to climb Luminance, or to acknowledge the roots of resentment and envy in myself? Honestly, sitting here writing this, I’m not sure which is more difficult. Watching Joe stick the last hold and top out that boulder hurt, bad.  And because it hurt, I then felt like a shitty friend and bad person. After the initial relief of Joe being safely on top of the massive granite block, I felt sick. And not because of the adrenaline rushing through me as I stood there, spotting one of my closest friends on a dangerous climb, focusing on his safety with every fiber of my being.  I felt sick because now, it was my turn.  If you have ever seen Joe climb, you might understand this next question I asked myself, How the fuck am I supposed to follow that? 
At that moment, I was trapped outside myself, like some sort of third party spectator.  I was watching myself fall on moves I should be doing every try, and I couldn’t do a thing about it.  I was so caught up in thinking about all the people back home who were expecting to hear about me sending Luminance.  I was thinking about the fact that Joe just sent it first try that day.  I was thinking about how pathetic I felt trying to climb with him.
But I realize now that even then, at my most pathetic, the rest of me felt elated, surprised, impressed, and just beyond fucking psyched for Joe to have made it safely to the top. The rest of me felt inspired and full of an ocean of respect for my friend, because I understand exactly how scary it is to be up there. And it occurs to me as I write this that maybe what I was out there to send was not Luminance at all, but instead to find a way to work through my own weaknesses, to confront the parts of me that I’m not proud of, so that when I do go back to Luminance next time, I can find the right way up. 

Here is the video that Joe and I put together of his send.

And here is the video of me bailing off the last move after taking a bad fall the try before:

If you're still watching, here is a video I filmed and put together documenting my Spring Break to Bishop.  I hope you like it:

Big thanks to Joe, Ian, and Drew.

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