Those of you who have been following this year's competition scene may have noticed one man's name cropping up time and again. Stew Watson. Stew is currently the UK's top competition climber, with a string of fantastic results in the 2010 bouldering world cup which placed him in sixth place overall.
That's sixth in the world.
Having kept a close eye on the comps myself this year, it is fair to say that there are some very strong and talented climbers entering these events, not just 'plastic pullers' as some may think, but the guys and girls topping out in these bouldering competitions are also putting in some of the best performances on the crags themselves. Stew Watson is no exception.
In terms of numbers, Stew has ticked a couple of F8c+ sport routes and has bouldered Font 8B+. The young man from Manchester has been out on the rocks since he was four years old and I can remember him, his younger brother and his dad climbing together at the Leeds Wall around ten years ago, all floating up the main wall, when his younger brother can't have been more than ten years old.
Interestingly, Stew has moved away from the UK and now lives in Austria, close to Innsbruck, an area that is swamped with world class climbing and climbers. I caught up with Stew to see if this move had played a part in his recent competition success.
Stew Watson - InterviewWhere are you from and when and how did you start climbing?
I grew up in Alkrington, Manchester and started climbing through my Dad when I was around 4 years old. My Dad started climbing when he was 12 and has always been very active in the climbing scene. He used to take me to Kilnsey and whilst he was climbing with his mates I used to swing off Comedy on a rope swing.
And what kind of climbing did you focus on at first?
I started to take a big interest in sport climbing pretty early on.
And then you moved to Austria?
I moved out to Austria 2 years ago with my girlfriend Sabby Bacher.
Has that had an effect on your climbing?
A massive effect on my climbing. I have tried to become more of an all-rounder. I noticed that many climbers in Austria climb well in all disciplines from bouldering competitions to big walls and this has really inspired me.
Stew Watson - Statistics
I live in valley just west of Innsbruck called Oetztal. Like Innsbruck it is very central to many different climbing areas such as Arco, Frankenjura, Tessin and the climbing in Tirol is pretty extensive meaning you don't have to travel very far to find a good spot. The skiing is also amazing and it's good combining the two. I regularly visit the UK and also enjoy climbing there.
You've had a great run of form in the recent bouldering world cup, do you feel your climbing has reached a new level?
I am very pleased with this year's competition season. For the past two years I have been following a pretty intensive training plan with the simple goal of climbing better. I finished 6th in the 2010 Bouldering World Cup, a result I could never have predicted, and yes perhaps I have reached a new level in my climbing. I am also receiving more support from the British Bouldering Team and I have certainly benefited from that.
What kind of training have you done for the competitions?
Sabby designs individual training plans and I have been following one of her creations over the past two years. Training in the gym, on the plastic, campus and finger boarding feature heavily.
And what kind of climbing is your favourite outside?
Hard question. Two years ago I would have said sport climbing and bouldering but now I enjoy any kind of climbing, it can be on bolts, above a mat, traditional or in the mountains. Every style is special.
What's your dream climbing ambition?
To be able to continue improving and live new experiences.
Stew Watson coming oh-so close to topping out a semi final problem in the Sheffield round of the World Cup 2010
UKC News, Jul 2010
© Jack Geldard / UKC
Stewart is a member of the British Bouldering Team.