In the Media
Beyond the Bay Oval Lights 7
Edition Seven - December 2019
Cricket fans and casual visitors to the Bay Oval this season, often gasp with wonderment when they cast their gaze for the first time on the structure casting its shadow over the adjacent nets.
The Bay of Plenty Sport Climbing Association climbing wall towers six story's high into the sky and provides spectacular sights, when athletes scurry up the heights in a race against time to the top.
In this edition of Beyond the Bay Oval Lights, we chat with BOP Sport Climbing Association spokesperson Rob Moore to find out a little more about his sport and the climbing wall.
Tell us a little about sport climbing.
Sport climbing is the competition side of the sport of Rock Climbing. Rock climbing is a fantastic pastime in New Zealand and we have some amazing climbing spots all around the country. The competition side of the sport is done on artificial walls, where the climbing routes are brand new for each competition and a qualified ‘route setter’ will install the climbs specifically to test the skill levels of the climbers in each grade.
Modern sport climbing now incorporates three different disciplines, Lead climbing, Bouldering and Speed climbing.
Lead climbing is the more traditional style of climbing using a rope and as you climb higher along the route, you have to clip the rope into quickdraws along the way. The scoring is done by each hold moving higher having a higher score, so the person who climbs the highest in a 6 minute period is the winner.
Bouldering is done on 4.5m high walls and has no ropes but crash pads below the climbs. The climbs, know as problems or blocs, are typically very powerful and require the climbers to jump and swing and launch themselves at the holds. You have 5 minutes to have as many attempts as you need to get to the top of the bloc (if you can). The climber who has the least attempts to the top is the winner.
Speed climbing is on a route and wall that is exactly the same everywhere in the world. The route is quite tricky to climb, but the speed climbers make it look incredibly easy. The fastest to the top is the winner. The current Men’s world record up the 15m high wall is by Iranian Climber Reza Alipur and is 5.48 seconds!
What has becoming an Olympic sport meant to sport climbing in New Zealand
I have been involved in the sport for a long time, these last two years have been incredible for our sport. Sport climbing in New Zealand has always been such a minority sport with no more than 100 competitors at a National Championship event. Now with the inclusion at the Olympics it has opened so many doors for us. One of the major ones has being included into AIMS Games here in Tauranga. This has been a huge boost for us and really exciting to see all the younger kids getting involved. The format we use for the AIMS Games is based on the new Olympic format, so all climbers need to do all three disciplines. This Olympic format I believe is really what makes it a great Olympic sport, all the athletes must be able to compete in all three disciplines. This is a real challenge and produces a real all-round athlete.
Why did you get involved in sport climbing and what are you current roles?
I grew up in the outdoors with a really ‘outdoorsy’ family. I was attracted to climbing on the rock from quite early on, but being in a very competitive sporting family, I immediately found that I loved the competitive side of the sport. I have been competing and coaching Sport Climbing for around 25 years. I am currently the Head Coach for Climbing New Zealand and one of the selectors. I am also the coach for the Bay of Plenty Sport Climbing Association. I am also an Acupuncturist here in Mount Maunganui.
When was BOP Sport Climbing formed and how many members do you have?
The Bay of Plenty Sport Climbing Association (BOPSCA) was formed in 1999/2000 when I built the climbing gym in Triton Ave (now Rocktopia). We have produced more than 20 National Champions from that facility and at one point held the NZ team’s trophy for 9 years.
Currently we sit at around 40 active competing members, but this coming year is looking like we will be having a big boost in numbers, thanks to our new Olympic speed wall!
Tell us about the various levels of competition
In the Bay of Plenty we have a lot of different competitions. AIMS Games, Secondary Schools competitions, Regional and National competitions. Fun comps throughout the year. Once you get a little better then you may get the chance to compete for New Zealand in Youth World Championship events or later World Cups or World Champs. The dedication required depends on how much you want to get out. In the Bay of Plenty we have quite a lot of really dedicated climbers who put in a ton of work. A few of them also train at the Adams Centre for High Performance Sport. The Adams’ centre’s proximity to the speed wall is really handy too.
How did the location of the speed climbing wall at the Bay Oval come about?
Initially the wall was supposed to be built at Rocktopia on Triton Ave. After going through the resource consent process, we found that it was going to be too tricky to build a structure of that height in the space we had. I approached the Tauranga City Council who were amazingly helpful and suggested we look at the site options at Blake Park. They were super excited about having the only Olympic Speed Climbing wall in New Zealand, so wanted to try to help make our dream come alive.
While we were down at the Park looking at options, I met Kelvin Jones, who as anyone in the cricket circles knows, really knows how to get things done! He suggested that we look at an option closer to the Oval so that we could feed off each other during sporting events. The groundsmen were putting in a new shed and Kelvin thought going in next to that would work well. We are really happy with where it is sitting and think it fits into the environment under the big lights really well.
What advantages does the Bay Oval climbing wall bring your sport
The exposure to the general public has been amazing. Sport climbing in the past has been primarily on indoor walls in obscure locations. It’s generally not easy to find high buildings in high profile locations, so sport climbing has been hidden a bit. That with its very minority status has meant that not many people know, or have heard about sport climbing. Now days with the inclusion in the Olympics, sport climbing has become bright and colourful and dynamic.
A lot of the World Cup venues are outside and the climbing is really set up for TV and spectators. The Speed wall at the Bay Oval is no exception. It’s tall and bright and watching the competitors racing and training on it is really inspiring. We couldn’t have asked for a better spot to introduce the public to this exciting sport.
The TV coverage at the Test Match was really amazing and such a boost for us. The Sky TV crew were really happy to be adding sections of climbing to the coverage and this was wonderful for us.
Tell us about the recent Olympic qualifying event at the Bay Oval
New Zealand recently had it first ever Olympic qualifying event which was hosted by the BOPSCA club. Now we have the only speed wall in New Zealand, it’s hard to be able to run an Olympic format competition anywhere else. 40 of the country’s top climbers competed for the 20 available spots (10 male and 10 female) to represent New Zealand in the Oceania competition in Sydney at the end of March. At the Oceania competition there is one male and one female spot available to go to Tokyo 2020. The competition ran so well.
As a club we all worked incredibly hard to get the new wall ready in time and 10 minutes before the event started, we were still making final adjustments. Climbers from Australia and New Caledonia also competed in the event. The fastest time on the speed wall was under 8 seconds by a climber from Noumea. Local Bay climbers did really well with Bay of Plenty getting first in Males and second in Females.
What sort of sporting backgrounds are useful to make a successful climbing athlete
Climbers are typically very good at problem solving on the go, so people who are good at puzzles make good climbers. Flexibility and good core strength are also great attributes. Most people think that climbers need to be strong in the upper body and be able to do loads of pull ups. Although this is somewhat true, you also need to be able to get your feet up and drive from your legs. Athletes that come from Gymnastics and Parkour make fantastic climbers.
How do Western Bay of Plenty locals get involved in sport climbing and what are the costs associated with the sport.
You can join our local climbing club by getting in touch with our New Members person, Alice Taylor, on our Facebook page ‘Bay of Plenty Sport Climbing Association’ . The local climbing gym, Rocktopia also runs regular coaching and classes and is great for all ages. To start off you just need a pair of shoes and a harness. It’s a pretty simple sport to get involved in.