Deep Water Solo at The Quay//Our kind of event…
Words; Rich Pearson
Pictures; Tom Bunn
Through a host of weather conditions our friends at The Quay Climbing Center managed to pull off the second official deep water solo climbing competition in Exeter on the 28th-31st of August this year, and what an event it was.
Deep water soloing is a style of climbing that involves attempting bouldering problems that overhang water, so the safety and protection of the climber is - in theory - provided by deep water, should the climber fall. Competitions like psicobloc in the U.S. have been around for a few years, but it took the dedicated folks at The Quay to pick up the torch and take on the challenge of hosting a fun, exciting and above all safe competition in 2014, and riding on the success of that, they’ve brought the stoke back for another year.
Standing at an impressive seven metres tall and twelve metres wide, the custom built, floating barge-wall was designed and erected by genius designers Entre-Prises, and could be moved in and out of position on the quay at will. Featuring overhanging sections, numerous volumes, holds and of course sections of just blank space, the most notable challenge for competitors this year was the hanging balls ‘of doom’ as they were so often referred to, that hung from suspended cables and could move in totally unpredictable and eccentric ways, testing every climber's agility both mentally as well as physically.
Competitions were broken down by age and gender, with male and female in both under 16 and open categories, giving spectators four different podium victors to cheer on. Competitors were judged on both time and the amount of each problem they completed, with a clean send earning 100 points, and less for partially completed routes.
Alongside the climbing, the quay was host to a number of traders and activities, from kayaking and stand up paddleboarding, slacklining (both on land and over water!) trade stands from clothing companies to climbing hold manufacturers, and of course food and drink provided by the numerous businesses already on the quay, putting DWS Exeter firmly in the higher category of events; one that gives back to the community that hosts it.
The main attraction was of course the climbing though, and through wind and rain, sun and heat, over a hundred competitors of all ages put on a spectacular demonstration of skill, focus, strength and agility over the two days of qualifiers and finals, being watched and egged on by hundreds of spectators and thousands via social and local media coverage.
In the under 16 categories, young climbers Tom Frost and Emily Phillips took home the wins in the male and female categories, fending off tough competition from the likes of Rebecca Stephens, Joe Czubkowski, Imi Bagnall-Smith and Aidan Dunne, and in the open female categories it was Emma Twyford who was to be victorious, completing her final climb ahead of Rhoslyn Frugtniet and Jennifer Wood in a time of 1 minute and 2.06 seconds.
But it was the mens super finals that was to prove the highlight of the Sunday afternoon, with qualifiers Max Ayrton, Wiz Fineron, Nathan Phillips, Matt Cousins, Vincent Bouchet and Matt Varela-Christie all setting blistering times on their first climb. But it was to be Matt C, Matt VC and Vincent Bouchet who took to the wall for the last time, with the three climbers literally sprinting across the final problem, and with less than seven seconds and three points (out of 100) between them, Matt Varela-Christie snatched the win from Vincent and Matt, with a final time of 0.28.56 from start to finish, less than 30 seconds in total.
Despite the competitive nature, almost everyone remarked on the camaraderie between climbers, as everyone cheered on everyone else right up to the end of the super finals, and the victorious shared their win with dignity and good grace.
All in all, yet another resounding success. We love events where we can support people getting out there and doing something adventurous, and we love being able to say that they happen pretty much in our back yard. The DWS event is hopefully the first of many that the quay run, and we can only hope that other climbing centers and councils around the country can take on the challenge; who knows, one day there might even be a whole series of DWS events.
The guys at The Quay along with Entre-Prise and the rest of the sponsors are all taking a well earned rest now (that is to say, we’ve all gone back to working as we normally do on our day jobs…) but plans are already being whispered of a return to the water for 2016, so watch this space. We can’t wait for it to come back around!
For more information on climbing and how you can get started, check out www.quayclimbingcentre.co.uk