Setting the Sport Board

October 29, 2021
Dedicated Bouldering Centre in Tunbridge Wells

Boulderers have a hilarious reputation amongst fellow climbers for their poor endurance. It comes of years of sending routes that consist of three or four – admittedly hard as nails – moves. The individual moves tend to be at the extremes – requiring more strength, more technique, more power. But there just aren’t that many of them, and with a lengthy rest in between project attempts, endurance just doesn’t come into the equation in the way it does when sending a thirty-metre sport route.

So what happens when said boulderers have to set endurance blocs?

Enter the sport board. This 15 degree gently angled wall in the training room is brilliant for working your cardio system, and the clue is in the name. If you want to build endurance for sport routes, laps and laps of this will help no end. But that does require the routes to be very different to those found downstairs.

Chimera’s in-house setting team are some of the best in the business, and excel at setting different style blocs for the slabs, comp wall and overhanging sections. They are masters at exposing a technical weakness, forcing you into an explosive dyno, or making you link a super hard short sequence. But how do they tackle the beast that is the sport board?

To start with, assessing what is actually required might sound simplistic and obvious, but it is important. And it changes with the seasons. Winter is more likely to herald the return of training blocs, with people looking to build that endurance base ready to go back outside come spring. So super hard individual moves aren’t that helpful – you can find enough of those downstairs – but instead, what is required is a sustained effort, on the limit of what is acceptable for each graded circuit.

The cruxes are formed in the selection of holds, rather than moves. The easier 6a circuits require jugs, the 7a gets open-handed crimps the whole way.

Flow is important – there should be a sense of continuous movement, with a much less obvious show of strength through a particular sequence. Traversing does limit the range of moves created, but height can be used to good effect, forcing the climbing to dip low and reach up taller at various points in the sequence.

The sport board is actually what bouldering walls used to be like. The strong lines you see downstairs at the moment are part of a newer style of bouldering that has come with the explosion in popularity across the last decade or so. Style with added substance is the order of the day downstairs, leaving upstairs for the old school climbers.

Adam Ondra – when he’s not sending insanely hard climbs outside – likes to use circuit boards for thirty minutes straight to maintain his endurance between sport projects, making sure he never goes above 70% effort or pump. And that is the whole point of the board, no move should be individually at the limit but the difficulty created by the flow, move after move after move, all building that all-important aerobic capacity.

Some of the in-house setters love the sport board and creating flowing climbs. Others find the relative constraints harder to accept. But in general, agreement is that the sport board is a brilliant place to build endurance, and gives climbers a chance to try some different styles to the more burly boulders downstairs.

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