Rock climbing is rapidly becoming a seek out sport all over the United States and the World. It is officially part of the Olympic Games 2020 in Tokyo. Yay!!! The climbing event will include three disciplines: sport, bouldering, and speed. In this article, I will focus primarily on the bouldering season for youth climbing competitions.
The competitions are generally known as “comp” among the local climbers. The beginning of the fall season is the start of the youth boulder competition season. For us in Orlando, our bouldering season for 2017 started at our first comp in September at Aiguille Climbing Center. The bouldering season for 2017 is September 1 through November 26, 2017.
The youth competitor ages can range as young as 8 and up to 18. There are five categories with the youngest at youth D from age 8 to 10, youth C is ages 11 and 12, youth B is ages 13 and 14, youth A is ages 15 and 16, and Junior is ages 17 and 18.
My son started when he was 11 so he qualified in the category youth C. At the current age, he is in the Junior category.
The first handful of comps are usually locally held within the home region. The home regions are decided by geographic location to the home team affiliation or the competitor’s home. The competitor must compete at two local comps before he or she can advance to a regional comp.
The local comps are very relaxed and fun. The competitors are allowed to climb any bouldering routes within a time of 3 or 4 hours. The gym that hosts the comp decides the time frame. When the time is up, the competitors choose their best five completed routes and submit their score sheets.
In the past, the youth competition is sometimes combined with college student and/or adult competition. For adult competitions, there usually some sort of price incentives for the first three places in women and men categories.
Yes, they also include masters with the age of 45 and over. Wahoo! That is where I can compete and totally make a fool out of myself. Believe it or not, I usually come in first because I would be the only female master. Hopefully, as the sport grows in popularity more women my age would want to participate in the near future and make me work harder to gain my first place award.
Competing with young adults is a totally humbling experience. They are amazingly strong, agile, and fearless. The physical and mental challenges come hand in hand as they progress to more difficult routes. My own fear and neurosis are usually the game stopper for me. Just overcoming my own insecurities to participate in a competition was a huge endeavor.
Enough digression about the adult competitions and back to the youth comps. After competing at two local comps, the competitors automatically advance to the home Regional Championship. This year bouldering for our regional comp is in December at Stone Summit, Kennesaw, Georgia.
The competition for Regional Championship is much more formal than the local comp. The competitors are assigned to a competition time. If they are not yet competing, the competitors are required to be in isolation until they are called out to compete. Once complete, they have 4 minutes to complete a route. In general, the competitors have 3 to 5 routes to climb for the whole comp. If there is a tie, there will be tie-breaker routes in the evening to break the tie. It’s a long day from sometimes from 7 am to 7 pm.
To advance to the next comp which is Divisional Championship, the competitor must be in the top ten out of their age and gender category at the Regional Championship. The format of competition for divisional is similar to regional.
After divisional is National. To be invited to National Championship, the competitors must be the top six of their age and gender category in a divisional comp.
After National is the World Championship for competitors 16 or older for the open category. The World Championship takes place in a different country each year such as Italy, Japan, Germany, and many others. To be invited to the Youth World Championship, the competitors need to be in the top four places.
My son has achieved as high as Divisional Championship so far. We have members in our Aiguille team who have been invited to the World Championships in the past years. It is an amazing opportunity and can get expensive.
This is the general information on youth climbing competition for bouldering. If there are any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.
Article Updated (8/26/2019)
Significant Changes 2019-2020 Bouldering Season (September 1, 2019)
There are two significant changes taking place that will have an effect on local competitions to qualify for the Bouldering Youth Regional Championships. Please copy and paste the following link “http://www.usaclimbing.org/Officials/Rulebook/Summary_of_Significant_Changes.htm” for the latest detailed announcement.
1. In the past years, in order to qualify to compete at Regional Championships, the climbers needed to compete in at least two local climbing competitions. This is no longer required. Starting the new climbing season 2019, the climbers must rank in the top sixteen (16) in at least one (1) USAC Youth Local Competition in order to be eligible for Regional.
2. The state of Alaska residents will no longer receive a bye to Divisionals but their bye to Regionals will remain. The bye means “free ride” or transfers the climber to the next round. In this case, Alaskans have a free ride to Regionals but no longer Divisionals.
3. Hawaii residents continue to receive a bye to Divisionals. This is done to continue fostering the growth of participation in Hawaii.