Indoor climbing, which debuted as an Olympic sport in Tokyo, has not yet managed to take the Brazilian team into contention, but it is gradually gaining more fans every year, attracting athletes looking to train for more daring walls outside of four walls or simple curious people who They are looking for a different and fun exercise alternative. The blog will show, in a series of reports, how the activity has evolved in recent decades and who makes the difference in this world of stones, colors and challenges.
The first official gym focused on indoor climbing was 90 Graus, in São Paulo. Created by former yoga and karate practitioner and economist Paulo Gil, 58, the school was born from his interest in speleology, which is the exploration of caves. As it is essential to have climbing skills for this activity, he began to have greater contact “with this bunch of colorful, friendly people, the opposite of this group of misfit people who like to go into caves”, he says, picking a safe fight with your former tribe.
“I hated it, but I ended up meeting a climber who introduced me to the philosophical side of things and I decided to give it a second chance”, he explains. “And I’m still here today.”
Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gil worked with events that included small walls for human resources motivational activities and organized training for firefighters, until he realized that the activity could be a business opportunity. That’s how he was born at 90 Degrees, in 1994.
“I was focused on working with the excluded, with that guy who didn’t succeed in any sport, and climbing can absorb that person”, he explains, “because you enjoy the activity right away, there’s a list of demands small, it doesn’t need to be tall or extremely strong, it’s accessible to everyone”.
Even though he is open to all profiles, including those excluded from other modalities, Gil is proud to have worked with practically all the big names in Brazilian climbing. But he is even more proud of having introduced the sport to “people for whom the sport would have been unlikely and that, when climbing came into their lives, it made a monstrous difference.”
For pioneer Gil, despite the visibility that the category’s elevation to an Olympic sport has gained, this does not mean that it will take crowds to nature’s walls. “The climbing gym had the function of being a gateway to rock climbing, and 90 Graus proposed to be that gateway in the most realistic way, because there was prejudice against artificial walls”, he recalls.
“In fact, I never understood this prejudice because, coming from yoga, I thought that if I am in the Himalayas or in the bathroom, the important thing is to be in contact with myself, the search has to be internal in any activity”, he philosophizes. To promote greater similarity with real-life obstacles, Gil decided to create his own claws, “those little pieces where you rest your feet and hands, as similar as possible to those you will have on stone, with texture, hardness and temperature close to the of a real rock”.
Gil, who guarantees that he does not grudgingly welcome anyone who arrives at 90 Graus just looking for a moment of fun, explains that his space is, mainly, “a climbing school”.
“What we have to teach there is climbing from a mechanical, physiological, biomechanical and emotional point of view”, he defines. This, according to him, includes “how to deal with the elements, with that rain of questions that the wall asks you and how to be able to flow with that and organize yourself and stay calm, remain assertive and make the business flow, and that is done through the roads”.
Gil says that his method is based on the principle of katás, the sequences of karate movements. “I adapted that to climbing, creating paths, one easier, one more difficult, and interspersing, making it a little more sophisticated each time, creating routes that ask ‘do you know how to do this?’ and ‘if I pull your foot further here and raise the other, can you balance?’, and then, from question to question, the process is gradual, very smooth”, he defines. Those who listen even believe that everything is very simple.
With the evolution of the sport worldwide and its spread as an Instagrammable activity, Gil sees a big difference in indoor climbing. “Today, things have evolved into a show, a competition, and have adapted to what the public was seeing and what they wanted to see”, he says. “Then these walls appeared with huge, colorful claws, which appear well on TV, for the lay public to look at and say, okay, I get it, look how difficult it is.”
“If you climb in most gyms, today, in this model, you don’t transfer that knowledge to the rock, but it’s a business model that works, it attracts kids who will climb shirtless, look for a partner to hang out with and drink craft beer “, he defines with a touch of irony.
He makes the reservation that “it’s cool that indoor climbing is an Olympic sport, gives visibility and has produced great climbers”, but insists that true climbing, that of outdoor climbing, “evolved independently of this, but it evolved arithmetically and not exponentially as it may seem in the media.”