SENDER ONE / by Angela Payne

Less than a week after returning from the Vail World Cup, it was time to head to LA for the grand opening of a gym called Sender One.   The gym is located in Santa Ana and features 25,000 square feet of climbing.  In the months leading up to its opening, Sender One gained much attention through Chris Sharma’s involvement in its design and ownership.  I have been anticipating the opportunity to climb in this facility as I have watched my boyfriend, Chris Danielson, work as a consultant for the gym over the past two years.  After attending a preview tour a month or two ago, I got even more excited for the opening weekend.  Plus, Chris organized a unique team competition for the weekend that I knew would be a blast. Sender One is amazing.  The colors, the wall design, the management and staff are all of a very high quality.  The bouldering area is very large and the terrain is varied, with a good amount of lower angle walls that will lend themselves to a more technical style.  The padding is awesome (something I’m rather picky about) and the layout of the whole gym works very well.  The competition route wall, designed by Chris Sharma, is spectacular  (see photo below).  Plus, there is a ton of additional route climbing terrain, including a very neat arch with an exceptionally tall opening that prevents it from interfering with the spacious feel of the gym.

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The whole crew with John Long

The whole crew with John Long

The opening drew in a unique cast of characters including (but not limited to) Joe Kinder, Tommy Caldwell, Alex Johnson, Carlo Traversi, Ashima Shiraishi, Paul Robinson, and of course, Chris Sharma.  The 15 athletes were put up in a comfortable house, complete with a pool and hot tub.  We were divided into 3 teams for the competition: orange, blue and black.  I had participated in a trial run of this format at a training camp a while back, and it was one of the best climbing experiences of my life.  This time around, my team consisted of Paul Robinson, Courtney Sanders, Tommy Caldwell and Michael Bautista.

The turnout for the grand opening was impressive.  It looked like there were a few hundred people in the gym at all times and there was a line to get in the entire day.  After some opening day festivities and a good deal of climbing, the team exhibition competition began.  The format worked like this: 3 teams of 5, 30-ish boulders with point values between 1 and 5, each team member gets 5 total attempts, once a boulder is sent, no one else from that climber’s team can repeat the boulder, team with the highest score in the end wins.  It is an awesome format, for both the climbers and the crowd.  There is always something going on, and the crowd can choose which piece of the action to focus on at a particular time.  The pressure that I feel when competing in this format is perhaps even higher than in a normal competition.  I think this was a common sentiment among the competitors, since you are no longer just climbing for yourself, but for the entire team.

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The competition was incredibly fun and the crowd seemed very enthusiastic about it.  It was the perfect mix of competition and camaraderie.  My team, armed with a strategy and psych, climbed well during the hour-long round and ended up winning.  The beauty of this format, however, is that game-changing things can happen throughout the majority of the competition, which builds suspense and keeps the crowd and climbers engaged.  In the end, the boulders were great, the climbers were enthusiastic, and the crowd was awesome.  Plus, tons of people in the community came out to be a part of it and I got to spend time with old and new friends the whole time!  A huge success in my eyes.

Photo by Kenji Tsukamoto

Photo by Kenji Tsukamoto

Chris Sharma testing out the comp wall

Chris Sharma testing out the comp wall

Thanks to Wes, Wes and Alice (the owners of Sender One) for the incredible hospitality and to EVERYONE who worked hard to make this event possible!