Friday, April 17, 2020

Spray in the Time of COVID19

I wish I didn't have to write this article, genuinely.

I have had a drafted article about "Spray" sitting on this blog, for years.  I've never posted it because everytime I read it, the negativity and hypocrisy turns me off of publishing it here, where I am trying to be a positive force. Maybe in a few more months I'll find the words to finish it, but something more important has forced my hand today.

I'm asking some of you to shut up.

I hate spray, not just beta spray, but the self-aggrandizing, look-at-me behavior that comes with someone who just needs you to know how great they they are. If you're a sponsored athlete, its partially your job - to be a highly visible, positive, ambassador for the brands that pay you. And that's why I am so disappointed in what I'm seeing on my feeds the last few weeks.

COVID-19 is crippling cities, states, countries. Its erasing people's jobs, retirement accounts, and lives. Right now, we don't have all the answers, we don't have all the solutions, and the future is uncertain. Local and national climbing coalitions and parks have issued advice that varies from "social distance and keep it down" to "you're not welcome here, we're closed". Many places have taken the attitude of "stay local" - if you have to ask yourself "am I a local?", you're probably not.

This isn't just a call out of Pirmin Bertle, who released publicity shots of a hard send with a facemask on, and who asserted "It was NOT my goal to hamper the fight against Covid-19 with this, but not to let pass great sending conditions is part of my job as a climber – when many other things like slide shows, workshops, and training fall apart."

Bulls*** - A job is 'essential' because it serves the public good - an activity is not essential because it's your job.

While he's an easy scapegoat, the fact is that my Instagram feed is popping with some locals, still out there sending the gnar.  I know some people foam at the mouth if they can't climb for a whole week, but people with rough jobs, or who've had kids, or who have had slow-healing injuries will tell you, some time off isn't the end of the world. Times are hard and the stakes are high, but my grandparents lived through nearly a decade of 15% unemployment - while we've been at this a few months at best.

But if you can't help yourself, and choose to go out, do me a solid:

Shut up.

Even if your crag isn't "technically" closed, even if your state's stay-at-home order allows exercise, even if you're out there with only your housemates, even if you think you're local - if where you live is shaded on this map,

Shut up.

I take a dim view of those who spray about how great they think they are at climbing. Some of you might hide spray behind the shield of "I'm not bragging, I'm inspiring" - now is not the time to inspire others to go out.

I stopped climbing at my local crag. It's not closed, I'm not sick, I'm somewhat skeptical about surface transmission via holds, and I am hella close to sending a long-term project. I'm staying home because my local access organization asked me to.  I'm staying home because while I think I'm special (that's what my mommy told me), if everyone takes that attitude, the place is going to be packed. A rule that fails when applied universally is a bad rule.

When I was younger I'd drive around in blizzard conditions, wondering where the other people were, until I matured enough to realize the roads were empty because I was the idiot, ignoring my safety and others. If you look around and the crags are empty, its for the same reason.

So, if you're somewhere under siege by this disease, and make the personal decision to go out, I don't want to hear about it. I don't want to see it on Reddit or Instagram, Facebook or MySpace, 8a.nu or Snapchat. When you think "this will make a great post", and your finger hovers over that post button, don't.

What I have seen that has been continuously  inspiring is how incredibly innovative and resolute the majority of the community has been. One of my favorite groups to follow is Home Climbing Wall Forum on Facebook where people can ask their questions, share ideas, and have a a place to show off their amazing accomplishments. During their forced isolation, folks have really stepped up their game to scratch that climbing itch. Whether it is as simple as mounting a sheet of plywood to the back of the stairs or assigning entire rooms in their homes to be works of art, the amount of help that first time builders have received in nothing short of uplifting. It is the reason I love this community and this sport because at the end of the day, we all want to see each other succeed.  The massive rise in demand for building material, holds, bolts, padding, etc has helped to keep many of the companies that we love alive at a time when their larger gym contracts are closed.  There has been such an explosion that Climbing Business Journal took note and published their own observations.

This is acceptable spray.

If you do not have a place for a home wall, as many of us don't, then the next best thing is a hangboard (or seven if you are so inclined). We started our own article series discussing the benefits of hangboarding. And you don't even need one of those! So many gyms have been posting daily climbing and yoga workouts to keep people active and motivated - many you don't even have to be a member to get access to these FREE workouts. Just follow them on IG or Facebook.

This is supportive posting.

And finally, the professional and semi-professional athletes that are supporting our land access managers and organizations, thank you.  The list is too long to give everyone a shout out, but thankfully it dwarfs to few bad apples as noted above.  They are sharing some of their favorite memories of trips and routes and problems, some of them with unseen photos and videos and others holding additional Q&A's via social media and keeping the psych alive for when we are cleared to go back outside. A huge collection of classic and modern climbing films have been made available for FREE on YouTube.  We have been posting reviews about these twice a week and there are plenty more to go.

This is motivational and professional.

So, before clicking 'post,' ask yourself, am I helping the local organizations or land owners or the community at large, or is this just for me?

Stay safe out there, take care of yourselves, take care of each other.

Sincerely,
The Crank Climbing Crew

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