The sun was shining and my spirits were high as we arrived in Exeter. It was the weekend of the annual Deep Water Solo competition held by the Quay Climbing Centre. The event saw hundreds of climbers from all over the globe battle it out on a wall, floating in the middle of Exeter’s quay. This year was the competition's second anniversary and it had a lot to live up to.
We arrived in Exeter on the Thursday afternoon, giving me enough time to get settled in and to view our routes on Friday morning before I had the chance to climb them later on that day.
The competition was run in a semi-isolation format for the qualifiers/semis and full isolation for the finals. Before climbing, you could watch a demo video of each of the three routes and were allowed to view the routes. When the time came, groups of three to five climbers would go out on a small boat to the climbing wall, where you waited for your turn to climb. If you were on the first boat, like myself, you wouldn't be able to watch any of your fellow competitors compete. You only had one attempt on each route and if you completed the route, you topped out and climbed down the back of the wall. If you fell off, you got wet. The exception to this being if you topped the final route, then you had to jump in.
Friday afternoon came around and my emotions were mixed, a combination of fear and excitement filling my body. I registered and received my competitor pack which consisted of posters, a water bottle, a can of Coke, some wristbands and a few other bits and bobs. After registering, I sat down on the quayside and watched my fellow competitors battle their way up the wall. As the time neared 6pm I went to warm up before being called to my boat, which would take me to the wall.
5:45 pm came around and I was called back to the registration tent. I got off the boat and on to the barge; it was at that moment that the excitement really kicked in! I made my way to the start hold of my first route, a straightforward juggy route which I would grade no harder than V1. The judge's whistle sounded and I started to climb. I managed to send my first route with ease, the only struggle was topping out at the top.
The second route would be a little bit more of a struggle. The first few moves looked fine; you then had to make a move out to a suspended circular volume nicknamed ‘the disco ball of doom’. The volume had two pockets in it, one on either side. I managed to get to the disco ball of doom fine and managed to move off it as well.
I climbed through the next few holds with relative ease before making a stupid mistake and going wrong handed to a small crimp. I wasn't able to swap my hands on the crimp, and fell off. This was my first time falling in and it came as quite a shock. The water was freezing, and due to the height of my fall I ended up falling quite deep. With a bit of help from a paddle board I made my way back onto the barge and dried off, ready for my next route.
Our final route was our hardest, a sustained route consisting of mostly crimps before a move to a sloper near the top. The first person to attempt the route fell off whilst moving to the last hold and the second person fell off lower down. This made me feel quite nervous and unconfident as nobody before me had sent the route. However, I would be the first to top it. The one problem with this was that I had to jump off, the rules stating that you had to jump off your final route.
I wasn't feeling too hopeful after qualification; although I was one of the only ones to top the final route, quite a few people got further than me on our second route. The results were published and to my amazement I had qualified for the semi-finals in 11th place!
Saturday was a rest day for us youths as it was the day of the adults' qualifiers. This made for some good viewing. A great display of strength and lots of splashdowns.
Sunday came around and I was nervous for what our semi-finals had to offer. Unsurprisingly, our routes looked a lot harder than those we had on Friday. Our first route looked OK but the same couldn't be said for our second and third routes. I managed to top the first and easiest route but came off very low down on both of the other routes.
I was disappointed with how I performed in the semi-finals and managed to finish in 14th place. Overall I had a great weekend and would love to be able to compete next year.
- November 20, 2015