UCSB may soon be home to one of the few collegiate climbing teams in the U.S., thanks to three ambitious students.
The team – tentatively dubbed the Sandstone Superheroes – was born as a club and a Facebook group at the end of last quarter. Now, the group is waiting on approval from Chancellor Henry T. Yang to become an official team and compete with the likes of Boston University, the University of Vermont and Towson University in Maryland, three of the handful of colleges with climbing teams.
The Sandstone Superheroes boast a good group of climbers for when they do start official competition, but the club is open to anyone who wants to join. Their first amateur competitive climb will be May 5, at Vertical Heaven in Ventura.
“We actually have some of the strongest climbers in California at UCSB, so we’re blessed,” said Coach Brian Spiering, a psychology graduate student.
Spiering started the club along with Glenn Sharp, a fourth-year chemical engineering major, and Johna Varty, a third-year political science major, who serve as president and vice president of the club, respectively. The group practices five days per week at Vertical Heaven, the Goleta Valley Athletic Club, and at other local private walls.
“Santa Barbara lacks a proper training facility,” Spiering said. “So we’re looking to set up an adequate facility for high-level climbers.”
The sport of indoor climbing is more popular in Europe, where a more developed organizational system for competitive climbing exists. In the U.S., the focus is more on outdoor climbing and is less competitive, because there are more natural resources available for climbing.
“There’s only a handful of teams at the collegiate level in the U.S.,” Spiering said. “So we’re looking at European models.”
There are many competitive forms of climbing, which include speed climbing and sport climbing, but the Superheroes’ main focus is bouldering – climbing without ropes on a rock or structure of limited height so as to avoid large and potentially dangerous falls. In a bouldering competition, there are a number of different boulder problems that team members attempt to solve. Whoever completes the hardest three problems wins the competition.
The competition setup is similar to that of track and field, where participants compete in their own individual events, but come together under the same team name.
The Sandstone Superheroes are positive and excited about the prospect of becoming an official team.
“I think it’s got a lot of potential,” Varty said. “It’s still really new. We have a lot of good climbers, but it’s also a lot of people that are really stoked to climb.”