For a one man show I seem to be forming quite the little team for The Circuit. Over the next few weeks I will write a short piece on all of us introducing them to the world and explaining why I chose to bring them onboard and what they bring to the table.
The first person I asked to join me on the journey was a young British climber I met in the hotel lobby in Slovenia during the World Cup. Natalie Berry is a massively accomplished young sport climbing star in her own right but instead of climbing she was in Slovenia reporting for the French magazine Planet Grimpe and doing some work for the company Entre Prises.
I was coming back from dinner with Sean McColl, Alex Puccio and the Aussie contingent when I first met Natalie in the lobby looking slightly distressed and cradling a somewhat munted Apple laptop. It turns out the lift had malfunctioned, closing on Natalie’s hand and laptop. Destroying the screen on the laptop and injuring her hand slightly.
From this slightly inauspicious meeting we went on to form a fast and firm friendship, both being passionate followers of the circuit and both writing reviews for magazines.
It didn’t take long for Natalie’s qualities to shine through and the more we talked the more I wanted to bring her enthusiasm and passion for the sport to the magazine. We spent a lot of time together over the following days with a trip to Zillertal to do some bouldering (where I got some great photos of her climbing), and we spent plenty of time getting to know each other in both Ljubljana and Innsbruck. During this time I realised that there was more to Natalie than met the eye. She was actually a super talented climber who had been a force to be reckoned with in the junior ranks a few years earlier and she was still ambitious to achieve more. The comp reporter I had met in a hotel lobby was in fact a climbing star in her own right.
So it was we came to discuss her working on the magazine. I can’t remember who initiated the conversation but it was abundantly clear that she had a skill set that would compliment my own and the enthusiasm to match. She quickly volunteered her skills as a fluent speaker of French and German to carry out some of the interviews I had been unable to complete with non-English speakers. I was completely made up and in no time I had a European correspondent.
Natalie’s roll with The Circuit will be on the backburner for a little while now as she is spending the greater part of the summer shooting a movie for Hot Aches Productions and Minerva Design as well as returning to the World stage representing Great Britain in the ISFC Lead World Cup series. If you do see her out and about grab one of the awesome The Circuit business cards from her and wish her all the best on her amazing adventure.
I can’t wait to be incorporating her work into the magazine upon her return.
So what happened in Europe that made me expand my horizons? What was it that made me realise that this idea had room for growth, room to become something bigger and more exciting than a little self-published project?
Well the first thing that struck me on my arrival into Europe was the sheer scale of the climbing culture. Spending Easter weekend in the forest of Fontainebleau opened my eyes to the huge number of people getting out on the rock in Europe. I was lucky enough to meet my friend Nalle at the end of my first day on French soil and tagged along with him and the Black Diamond crew who were in town for a weekend clean up initiative.
To get their message across they were heading to reasonably sized areas and meeting the climbers in the carparks, explaining the environmental issues climbing was facing and promoting conservation of the climbing areas. The guys assured me we weren’t in the busiest areas and that the numbers were down due to the unusually cold Easter but the crowds blew me away regardless. Climbing was big, much bigger than I could imagine coming from the global backwater of New Zealand (via Australia).
Reinforcing this was the second weekend I spent in France. Heading south to the beautiful town of Millau in the French Pyrenees for the first round of the 2013 IFSC Bouldering World Cup circuit to be held on European soil for the year I was blown away by the scale of the event, the level of interest and once again the crowds. Although again I was assured by those in the know that the crowd was small compared to what could be expected once we got to some of the later rounds.
The second thing that struck me was the attention the idea got from climbers and those involved in the sport. Straight off the bat there was interest in the idea and people wanted to know when the magazine would be out, where they could get a copy etc. This made me realise that my original idea of doing a couple of hundred units would be like a drop in the ocean.
People wanted to know the same things I wanted to know and there was the opportunity to use the platform of a magazine to share with that information, the photos and the memories with those people.
So the idea grew. A low run, high quality print run to share with the world. A coffee table quality publication that people could refer back to in the future, to capture that moment in time and keep as a memento of where the climbing world was in 2013 and beyond.
And this brings me to the last question that people have been asking. Why print? Why in this digital age am I wanting to go to print instead of online? Well the answer to that is simple enough but starts with a question. How often do you go to a climbing gym and there’s a pile of old climbing magazines there to keep climbers psyched between burns… How many of you (and I hope there’s a few) remember the legendary Heinz Zak book Rockstars? A book that still sits by the bouldering wall at my local gym. To me magazines can be more than a disposable medium, more than just a collection of pretty photos and good writing.
To me digital magazines are the most disposable of all, and although there will possibly be a digital edition of The Circuit following the print edition this is purely for the convenience of readers. The Circuit will be a print magazine and my dream is that it will sit on the shelves of climbers for many years to come, and that will never come to pass it is simply a file on the internet or a hard drive somewhere. I hope that one day maybe a climber will be picking up a copy of The Circuit to get that extra bit of motivation mid-session and wondering what ever happened to those old climbers from 2013…
Coming next: Who are we? Building a team to realise the dream.
As a photographer I love capturing the moment, freezing an image in time that will forever more remind the subject of that point in history, the colour and the shape, indeed the emotion of the moment.
As a climbing photographer nothing makes me happier than seeing people psyched on my work, capturing them at the peak of their grace and strength and sharing that moment with the world.
So in many ways seeking out the best climbers in the world is a natural and logical extension of my passion. A chance to capture the grace and strength on the world stage, to convey the emotion and the intensity of these world class athletes.
This season, armed with a dream, a camera and nearly boundless enthusiasm I hopped on a plane for the long journey to Europe to shoot the worlds best boulderers at the European rounds of the IFSC Bouldering World Cup circuit. My dream was simple (or so I thought at the time). Take great photos of the athletes, get some interviews, come home and self-publish a magazine through Blurb, Lulu or similar.
Of course nothing is ever that simple. As the idea gained momentum it started to evolve, interest grew and the amount of content grew to match the interest. Before I knew it the idea had grown into an annual or biannual publication to be sold online and the content had expanded beyond just interviews with comp climbers to include interviews with some of the worlds great outdoor climbers and the people behind the sport, coaches, routesetters etc.
Now here we are. The wheels are rolling and I’ve decided to chronicle the birth of the magazine through this blog. Here you will get to ride along through the trials and tribulations, meet the contributors and generally see the magazine come together.
I hope you enjoy.