The Italian climber about being a World Champion, Gioia the World first 8C+ (V16) boulder problem and life as a professional climbing coach living in Canada.
In 1999 you switched from Lead to Bouldering and won the first Bouldering World Cup. Now it seems the Bouldering World Cup is as popular as the Lead World Cup, how was the feeling for the first series in 1999?
Physically I have always been more inclined towards for short and intense efforts. When bouldering was born I felt that it would be the most suitable discipline for me, where I could make a difference. In addition, I have always trained in my personal climbing wall because at the moment there were no gyms in my city, so because the small size of my panel, my workouts were definitely more focused on strength.
The first year of the World Cup was a nice surprise, in bouldering competition, everything was new and therefore a stimulating discovery, I felt that it was my discipline but I didn't think I had the chance to even win the World Cup. After I won again the Bouldering World Cup in 2002 and same year European Championship and won the World Championship in 2003.
How do you see the changes in problem styles in the Boulder World Cup over the years?
The style has changed a lot in the past 10 years. In the beginning, the pure finger’s strength and one arm pull-ups were very important and making difference, now technique, tactics, balance, motor coordination are more important.
In the gyms now it’s very important to have structures with setting the same competition style: few holds, many volumes, and adapt the style for finding balance in precarious situations and coordinating long dynos. The strength has moved more on the big muscles of the body and less on the fingers.
Gioia is one of the most famous problems in the world today, especially being the world’s first 8C+ (V16). Did you always think this problem would set a new standard?
When I climbed "Gioia" (Joy), I felt I had exceeded my standard, it represented a qualitative leap for me definitely, I had never put so much physical and mental effort into other boulders around the world. Before "Gioia" I had many years available to study my athletic skills to test myself on many boulders made by other professionals climbers and this helped me to understand that this specific boulder was requiring a higher preparation. It was a great "joy" to have had the opportunity to test myself on a boulder that brought me to my limit and being able to climb it was an immense satisfaction, (that’s why its name).
At first, I had graded 8c, (V15), aware that it could be harder, I wanted to wait for others' opinion first, then after years of attempts by many climbers, it has been repeated by Adam Ondra and Nalle Hukkataival, settling the grade at 8c +.
You have added an incredible amount of new problems around many areas. Do you still search for new boulders today?
The passion for climbing has followed me throughout my life journey and will always do so, it is part of me as a person. Over the years with friends I have developed more than 2,000 boulders, of all grades, from very easy to hard, I have also made guides. Discovering new lines completes the "magic" of climbing, because from a simple "piece of rock" you can bring out something beautiful.
Now after years, other priorities obviously have intervened, such as children, family, work, which take a lot but when I pass in front of a possible line that deserves, like a magnet it immediately attracts my attention and the whole cleaning and attempts phase starts again, it’s a fun game.
Modern climbers seem to be obsessed with training, and getting stronger. What are your thoughts on this obsession?
It all depends on how you live this obsession. To get important results you have to be really motivated, to hold intense workouts for long periods you have to believe a lot.
The athlete's life is wonderful, very stimulating but also very tiring, it requires continuous and constant mental and physical training that lasts for years. And in the long run, it is difficult to keep motivation high, so "obsession", if it’s positive, allows you to better support all this. If you really believe in what you do, the obsession becomes natural, at any age and period.
You have been at the cutting edge of climbing and training for over two decades, what are the 3 best tips would you give to climbers starting to train?
When you decide to start a life dedicated to training, you have to be mentally ready to sacrifice yourself. The satisfactions that are received are often very great, but proportionate to the effort to achieve them. And no improvement is guaranteed, at this point, you realize that the "evolutionary journey" to get it is more important than the performance itself. It also depends on the goals you set, everything is proportionate.
If I can give advice to others, these are:
- Use climbing as a reason to travel, go around the world to discover beautiful places and people.
- Set goals, because these will push you to improve, in body and mind.
- Train as much as you can, push yourself to the limit, only by fighting with yourself will you discover who you really are and you will also have the opportunity to get big satisfaction.
True passion and pure energy, use it.
Do you have a particular style of climbing or problem you search for? Or are happy to play in all modes of climbing?
My favourite style certainly remains big overhangs, small holds, and no feet... Summing up the climb in one arm pull-ups with big swinging. I like to study technical moves as well, always new and different, often with my wife Stella, who has always been much more technical than me.
But the beauty of this "infinite" game is that each movement is different from the others, there is always something "new" to learn, so I enjoy trying many different styles.
How is life now in Canada as a climbing coach?
Canada is an incredibly beautiful place, (I’m talking about British Columbia because is here where I live), people, nature, culture and the desire to learn and evolve are still very high, and this mix makes this place extraordinarily interesting. Indoor climbing is changing very quickly as well, in the last 5 years there has been a very rapid evolution, in increasingly more beautiful big and complete gyms, the vision is changing a lot too, perhaps partly given by the opportunity of the Olympics, and also because climbing in people's vision is finally transforming itself as an extraordinary sport, full of different possibilities, because it can be followed in many different ways, it depends on us, we can train to "feel better", or to try performances that they push us to our limit, or to travel, or to compete, or rather to do everything together. There are countless possibilities that it offers us.
I work in Vancouver at TheHive gym and teaching what I have learned throughout my career as an athlete gives me a lot of satisfaction because I can help those who are motivated. I train many people, of all levels, sometimes I manage to make them winning important comps, or to climb hard routes or boulders, and this gives me immense satisfaction, it makes me feeling part of an “evolutionary big gear".
I also created a specific website for training: coreclimber.com that helps to follow important training phases becoming stronger in a better easier way.