Skyler Weekes, King of the Dyno and a Wine Sommelierby Sarah Stirling May/2009
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The dyno, an integral part of modern climbing, was first practiced seriously by the American climber John Gill. Gill, a mathematician and considered to be one of the first climbers to take bouldering seriously, is also a trained gymnast and was one of the originators of controlled dynamics. Controlled dynamics or a dyno is a climbing move where the climber jumps from one hold to another, and in some cases loses all contact with the rock.
Whilst long practiced outside, can you call dynoing a competitive climbing discipline? Apparently so: the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) is soon to include dynoing as an official competitive discipline on its circuit, and the 'unofficial' world record holder takes his dynoing very seriously. Each year, Skyler Weekes trains for three solid months and flies over from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, under his own steam, to defend his title and beat his last Cliffhanger dyno record. Last year he jumped 2.65m (just under 9 feet).
Matt Heason is a former dyno world champion. I asked him and Skyler some questions about the bizarre high jump of the climbing world.
Is dynoing ... well ... relevant as a competitive climbing discipline?
Most bouldering world cups include at least one dynamic move on one of their problems and dynoing is simply a distillation of that practice. Some people would argue that any competition within climbing is irrelevant. However, dynoing lends itself particularly well to competition and is without doubt the most crowd-friendly competitive climbing discipline there is.
What are the origins of competition dynoing?
The Russians and the French were the first to run dyno competitions. Dynamic climbing dates back to the origins of climbing itself and especially John Gill starting in the 50s: it's natural to jump for a hand hold if you can't reach it. Johnny Dawes took dynoing to new levels during the 80s and 90s - not for his massive jumps, but for the unusual nature of them! He would jump from the floor into a shallow, holdless groove on a wall or cliff, simply to see if he could stick the holds.
Why are the world dyno records 'unofficial'?
The official Guinness World Records are still held by Katherine Schirrmacher and myself, from when I jumped 2.6m and Katherine jumped 1.9m in 2002. These records have been superseded on a number of occasions in different countries and at each Cliffhanger festival. However, getting a Guinness world record ratified is an extremely long winded process, and we are still in the process of getting past dyno results acknowledged by Guinness.
Dyno records will soon be ratified by the IFSC, not Guinness. However, winners of IFSC competitions have to be dope-tested at a cost of some £290 per person, so I expect we'll be back to square one, with unofficial dyno records all over the shop!”
What kind of climbing do you do outdoors and what grades do you climb at?
I mainly boulder outdoors because I am better at less, more powerful moves than sustained routes. In the last few years I've concentrated on developing new problems. I think this is where the future of climbing lies. Most of my problems include dynos or very long reaches. I can't think of a better day out than finding and trying new boulder problems in a wilderness with my friends - beer is usually involved as well! I boulder about 8a on problems that suit my style.
Does your immense reach and dyno power help on routes/boulder problems?
My reach and height for the most part help me, as I can skip holds. My climbing style is VERY dynamic. On most problems and routes I jump in between holds to skip the hard ones! In situations where I can't do that, I get screwed, though! Sit starts are usually horrible for me. Tight problems where your feet have to be close to your hands are very difficult for me, too.
Have you ever had a major accident while dynoing?
Funny you should say that! June 5th, 2005 will stay in my mind forever. I was in the Teva Mountain Games freestyle dyno competition. I jumped a massive distance out from a 30-40 degree overhang, caught the hold and my body flew past horizontal to the ground. This momentum kicked me off the hold and I landed perfectly upside down on my head in the pads. I fractured my spine and my knee came crashing into my face. I was in a complete brace from the waist up for over 6 months, I didn't walk for some time and I have had over 1 1/2 years of facial reconstruction surgery. The total dollar cost was in the millions. The whole left side of my face had to be re-done including my whole eye socket. It was really a turning point in my life, as many doctors said I shouldn't have survived.
Did that not put you off dynoing?
What got me through my recovery was missing the feeling of flying through the air and latching an end hold. Feeling your body swing out and come back in to the wall. When I recovered, I dedicated my life to breaking the world record. I did in 2007 at Cliffhanger, last year I broke it again, and hopefully I will again this year! My life goal is to teach people and sport enthusiasts that even the worst accidents can't stop you reaching your dreams.
Do you train for the dyno comp at Cliffhanger?
I started training very hard for the Cliffhanger dyno comp about three months ago. I have two of the best trainers around: Kick-Fit Athletics (www.kick-fit.com) trainers Ray Khan and Keith Bailey. It's crazy how they can take the dyno and manipulate exercises with weights (or my body weight) and adapt it to a weight room. They have infused Muay Thai martial arts into my training, too. I train two days a week with them, two days a week on my own.
What else do you do besides dynoing a lot?
I am a certified Chef of the Wine Arts and an Executive Wine Sommelier. I work at a local wine shop, have a wine barrel brokering business, and also have a personal chef company. Besides dynoing I like camping, drumming, wakeboarding, skiing, wine, food and travelling.
You are coming over to the UK from Colorado for the dyno competiton under your own steam. That's pretty impressive!
Finding sponsors for a sport nobody in the USA knows about is almost impossible and I love to dyno so much that I will keep coming back to Cliffhanger as long as my body will let me. I am on the cutting edge of this sport and want to push the limits of dynoing until it starts to push back! There are other dyno comps around the world but I love Cliffhanger. I love the UK, all the climbers are very friendly and the Cliffhanger festival is a great event.
The bouldering competition is always incredible. European climbers have such a different style than Americans. Much more graceful in my mind. The snowboarding and skiing was great last year, along with the scuba diving and lectures. Sheffield City Council and Matt Heason has really done a great job of taking an idea and making it into an amazing weekend festival! Mad Props to them!
Do you plan to do some climbing outdoors in the UK?
Whenever I visit the UK I spend a day or two bouldering in the Peak District. It has some of the most amazing bouldering in the world. Beautiful rock and scenery. I hope to find some problems this year that fit my style and am looking for any undone dyno projects in the area. Anyone want to show me around? firstname.lastname@example.org....
If you think you can jump higher than Skyler, turn up and take part in the friendly open competition, which will take place on each morning at Cliffhanger. There is £1,000 of prize money up for grabs and £250 to the best female and best male jump each day.
Event sponsored by Bendcrete and supported by PlanetFear.
10.30 to 11.45 - Warm Up
12.00 to 14.00 - Open Competition
14.30 to 18.30 - Come-And-Ty-It
The open PlanetFear Dyno Competition - £1000 prize money
Cliffhanger, the UK's biggest open air outdoor pursuits festival, will take place in Sheffield's Millhouses Park on July 11th and 12th. Last year, 15,000 people enjoyed the sunshine and atmosphere, tried sports from snowboarding to kayaking for free, watched sports pros compete, browsed the stalls and bargain-hunted in the outdoor gear area. The main climbing events are the British Bouldering Championships and the open Dyno Competition.
You can find out more about Cliffhanger at www.cliff-hanger.co.uk. Most events are free once you've paid the £5 to get in (kids under 16 get in free).
You can find out more about Sarah at www.sarahstirling.com
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