At the end of this month a group of young New Zealanders will be putting their best foot forward at the IFSC World Youth Climbing Championships.
Amongst them is Hutt Valley High School year 12 student Ben Hubmann, and he can’t wait. “We’re leaving next Tuesday for the worlds in Innsbruck in Austria, so I’m pretty excited to head over and mix it with the best climbers in the world,” he extolled. The New Zealand team will be competing with 779 climbers representing some 40 countries.
This coming weekend, Ben and the rest of the team that is heading to Austria descend on the Extreme Edge West Gym in Glen Eden Auckland for the 2017 Lead Climbing Nationals.
There are three disciplines in competitive climbing, speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering.
Ben is competing in the second two in Austria, lead climbing and bouldering.
“Speed climbing is pretty straightforward, it is all about getting to the top fastest,” Ben explained. “Ever since they developed this there has only ever been one speed route that is internationally recognised.”
“Lead climbing is with ropes and that is based on how high you get and the route gets harder the further you go.”
Bouldering is performed without the use of ropes and harnesses and involves climbing a four and a half mete wall with just a mat on the ground as a crash pad.
“Bouldering is very problem solving, you need to think of creative solutions. Bouldering differs from lead climbing also in that you can only have one attempt for your climb, once you have fallen off that’s your attempt.”
Before the event, none of the competitors will have seen the wall they are climbing, and none get to see others compete to avoid copying what others do.
With a number of climbing walls in most New Zealand urban centres, the sport has been growing over the past several years. Given its nature, it’s a young person’s sport, with 90 percent of climbers aged 20 or younger.
Ben trains regularly at the Hangdog Climbing Centre in Alicetown in Lower Hutt.
He carries some of his own equipment. “I have my own harness, my own climbing shoes and my own chalk bag – those are the main things."
How did he get into his sport? “I went with my parents a couple of times and enjoyed it. One of my friends did it as part of his birthday party and the instructor told me that I should come and join and from there I got to where I am now.”
He’s also keen on outdoor climbing. “But it’s windy and cold in Wellington and you’ve got to get a ride out to where the rock is, so it’s tricky.” The rock in Wellington is on the southeast and southwest coasts and up around the Titahi Bay/Pukerua Bay coast, while there’s lots of places around New Zealand like Paynes Ford in Golden Bay, and in Canterbury and up in Waikato.”
An outdoor climbing road trip appeals. “Especially in summer, a main goal is to go on a good long trip, that is the best part of it - that is what indoor climbing is about, trying to replicate that.”
Climbing is now an Olympic Sport – with the chance of representing New Zealand at the Olympics now a clear goal for Ben and his teammates.
“The Youth Olympics next year in Buenous Aires will be the first time at Olympic Level and then will be a sport at Tokyo in 2020.”
Initially, just 20 males and 20 females will earn selection for the Olympics, but the sport can only grow from there.
The New Zealand team attending the IFSC Youth World Championships:
Junior Female (U20): Lucy Whitehead (former Napier Girls’ High School)
Youth A Male (U18): Ben Hubmann (Hutt Valley High School), Joe Dravitski (St Thomas of Canterbury College), Josh Cornah (St Andrew’s College)
Youth B Male (U16): Luke Gardner (Rotorua Lakes High School), Matthew Jones (New Plymouth Boys’ High School)
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