Every May, thousands of Richmond locals, Godwin students included, flock to Brown’s Island in downtown Richmond for a weekend of live music and adventure sports at the annual Riverrock festival. 

Spectators have the opportunity to watch professional kayakers, mountain bikers, and rock climbers amongst other sports face off in various competitions. 

While the average attendee gets to watch such competitions from the ground, junior Paul Yang competed in the climbing competition. 

photo Skylar Stockman

Yang has been competitively climbing for three years at Peak Experiences, a local rock climbing gym. 

“I enjoy competitive rock climbing because I can hear the crowd cheering behind me,” said Yang.

Yang first got involved with rock climbing at a summer camp, and shortly after got involved on Peak Experience’s junior team.

“I first tried rock climbing at a summer camp and thought it was really fun. I later did a climbing sample and the coaches at Peak said I was decent for a beginner,” said Yang. 

Yang focuses on a type of climbing known as bouldering, and he primarily trains and competes indoors.

photo credits Paul Yang

Bouldering is a type of rock climbing with a much shorter wall, so if you fall you fall onto a mat and don’t get hurt, but the moves are also much harder than typical walls.

One of his favorite competitions was Dominion RiverRock, an outdoor bouldering competition with artificial holds.

“[Riverrock] was an amazing experience since the crowd was a lot bigger than the crowds at USA Climbing (USAC) competitions,” said Yang. 

Yang was able to enter the competition because of his advanced skill level. 

“The only requirement for signup [for RiverRock] was that you had to climb around V10,” said Yang.

In the sport of bouldering, the V-scale is a scale used to measure a climb’s level of difficulty. The scale has values ranging from V0 to V17. 

Since a majority of the competitors were adults, Yang did not make it to the second round of competition.

 However, to be able to participate in the competitions at such a young age is a rare opportunity. 

“The competition was extremely tough. Isaac Caldiero, a winner of American Ninja Warrior, attended,” said Yang.

photo credits Paul Yang

Because he climbs around nine hours a week, Yang has learned to balance climbing and schoolwork. 

“I take note of my schedule for the week and I leave practice early if I have a lot of school work,” said Yang. 

After all his accomplishments, Yang’s journey won’t end yet.

“My main goal for this year was to qualify for Nationals, which I did,” said Yang. 

The “USA Climbing: Bouldering Open & National Championships” is an annual competition in Redmond, or where the most advanced youth climbers in the country compete for national titles. 

“If I place in the top four at Nationals, I qualify for the USA National Climbing Team,” said Yang. 

The USA National Climbing Team represents the United States at international competitions.

Before competing, Yang ensures that he is in the right headspace to do his best. 

“I usually try to warm up more efficiently before a competition and stretch. The main motivation is just to win, but I try to clear all my thoughts so I can think clearly and minimize the number of mistakes I make,” said Yang. 

Yang has learned many valuable lessons from the sport.

“I have learned how to try hard even when it is difficult. After a certain point, lactic acid builds up in your forearms, making it harder to grab holds,” said Yang, “but grabbing that finish hold is the most rewarding part.”

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