Rip ‘n gripping on a Friday night

October 6, 2011

The season’s first Rip ‘n Grip is fast approaching. And this year, my son is able to attend all sessions. We had been involved in the Rip ‘n Grip competitions in previous years. However, I don’t think we were able to get to even one last year. Now that we are living in the city, we are able to take advantage of these events. I quickly signed my son up for the next three Rip ‘n Grips.

Rip ‘n Grip is the Vertically Inclined Rock Gym’s bouldering competition. VIRG, as the gym is locally known by, offers six of these competitions in the year. In a bouldering competition, the competitors follow specific routes as they climb the walls. Because there are no safety ropes and harnesses used, the routes are kept within five metres above the floor.

A route is designated by numbered rocks. Competitors must follow the path of rocks whose numbers match the route they are choosing to complete. If they touch their feet to the ground before finishing the route, they must start over. Points are awarded based on the number of tries for each route attempted.

The competition is entirely based on the honour system. Competitors actually help each other, offering suggestions if the person scaling the wall appears to be having difficulties. Some competitors will often discuss with each other how to complete the route before even making an attempt. There is a winner in each category and the prizes for winning are quite impressive. Overall, the competition is quite intense. But it’s more of a competition within each individual rather than a competition between individuals.

When I watched my son compete in previous years, I would often see him struggling to reach the next rock. Some of the routes were created for an adult, someone of average adult height. My son, being too old to compete in the “children’s” category, struggled to stretch across the expanse between rocks. I was reassured, again and again, that it isn’t the height, or the power, or the strength. Instead, bouldering is all about the technique: knowing how to actually climb the wall itself.

My youngest two kept participating in the Rip ‘n Grips whenever we could make it into the city. Over time, they improved their techniques dramatically. And were able to place fairly close to the top spots in their categories. Now my youngest is the only one participating in this year’s competition. And he has improved enough to be able to tackle the more difficult routes. He has definitely “grown” into the sport, both literally and figuratively.

What impresses me most about these Rip ‘n Grip competitions is not the camaraderie felt in the room, although that is definitely a bonus. Rather, I’m impressed by the sheer fact that the rock gym is full of young adults on Friday nights, when the Rip ‘n Grip competitions are scheduled. The event is family friendly, and there are many parents competing alongside their children. There are quite a few teens, and even middle-aged adults. The bulk of the competitors fall between the ages of twenty to thirty something. Young adults who are more interested in spending their evening improving their bouldering skills than in partying at a local drinking establishment.

This is the type of activity I want my children to experience. I want them to realize that there are other choices besides the party scene. That it is quite “normal” to spend weekends in athletic pursuits and friendly competitions. Certainly a different lifestyle than what is portrayed in the movies, sitcoms, and commercials they see on television. Perhaps “reality TV” should actually be about “reality.” And, Rip ‘n Grip on a Friday night is our reality. See you there!

For information about bouldering, see Wikipedia at:

For information about the Rip ‘n Grip competitions, click on the link:

For information about the Vertically Inclined Rock Gym (VIRG), click on the link:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s