Chris Sharma: the man behind the Bloc

It’s not very often that major changes are made in the sports world —  basketball has remained generally the same since James Naismith invented it for his gym class with two baskets and a ball in the late 1800s — so when it does happen, even someone like me (Molly) who has never been a sports fan, notices and may even find it pretty exciting.

The second annual Psicobloc Masters Series took place Friday, Aug. 8, at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah.  The competition involves climbing a 52-foot tall wall, a large section of it overhanging, with no ropes. The climber’s only protection is the pool underneath them to catch them as they fall.

Sean McColl, left, and Chris Sharma climb head to head in the quarterfinals of the Psico Bloc Masters Series.  McColl ended up defeating Sharma, and taking first in the competition.
Sean McColl, left, and Chris Sharma climb head-to-head in the quarterfinals of the Psicobloc Masters Series. McColl ended up defeating Sharma and taking first in the competition. (Molly Maxwell/Special to The Daily Times)

Psicocomp, as it is affectionately called by its fans and Instagram followers, has been a dream of pro climber Chris Sharma’s for the last 10 years, he said during his short intro speech Friday evening.  He didn’t have too much time to talk though, because along with having the idea of psicocomp, he was also the main organizer and a climber himself in the competition. That was allowed because he had no say in the route-setting process.  He even held out towels for the other climbers as they emerged from the pool, which last year’s female winner Sasha Digiulian had said was very cold.

Watching the competition, I was, of course, in awe of the strength and endurance of every climber on the wall.  But afterward, when the winners — Claire Buhrfeind for women and Sean McColl for men — had received their trophies, the Talking Heads cover band had taken the stage for the afterparty and Sharma was still working as he gave a TV interview,  I truly began to appreciate his dedication to the sport and his fans.

Sharma signing posters before the competition.
Chris Sharma signs posters because the competition. (Molly Maxwell/Special to The Daily Times)

In photos taken before the competition — when most event planners would likely bite anyone’s head off who asked something of them —  Sharma looked each fan in the eye as he signed his or her poster.   And when the bright camera lights turned off and Sharma turned to walk back to the athletes’ tent, likely thinking he could finally relax, there I stood, hoping to congratulate him on a competition well executed. And he smiled and listened without batting an eye.

Psico Bloc Masters Series organizer and pro climber Chris Sharma interviewing after a hard night's work, Friday, August 8th at the Utah Olympic Park.
Psicobloc Masters Series organizer and pro climber Chris Sharma gives an interview after a hard night’s work on Aug. 8 at the Utah Olympic Park. (Molly Maxwell/Special to The Daily Times)

For more information on the good Sharma does,check out his website.

 

Hanging out — or hanging on — at Outdoor Retailer 2014

Walking around an enormous ballroom, getting lost in a sea of plaid shirts surrounded by brightly colored backpacks, is, surprisingly, my idea of fun, and, after a while, pretty overwhelming.

The Outdoor Retailer Show that takes place once in the summer and once in the winter each year in Salt Lake City,  is “one of the biggest B to Bs (buyer to buyer) in the world,” said Kate Lowery, a spokeswoman for the show.

I wanted to get a bird’s eye view to show the sheer hugeness of this ballroom filled with hundreds of retailer booths.  The mountable video camera brand GoPro allowed me to do this, by putting a GoPro on my head and letting me climb their climbing wall.  (I’m not that special, the activity was free to anyone).