American climber Sierra Blair-Coyle on why she just can't quit bouldering
Sierra Blair-Coyle is one of the most recognizable climbers on the planet. Through her social media channels, and exposure through fashion and branding, she has become a marketing force helping to drive the sport to new, ahem, heights. But, she really just loves to climb.
Blair-Coyle has been a World Cup Competitor (2010-2018) and was a two-time American national champion as a junior competitor.
“The first time I tried climbing was in a local mall,” she says, over the phone from her Arizona home. “I loved it, and my parents were really supportive of me, but didn’t know climbing was a sport at the time.”
She was eight.
An article in the local newspaper about a climbing team from the area that went to nationals was enough to convince her parents and she was on her way.
What was different for the sporty youngster was that climbing was something she didn’t want to quit, even when it got challenging. And, those who boulder know that’s pretty much all the time.
“I was definitely sporty, into gymnastics, dance, karate, but I was a big quitter,” she says. “Climbing was the first sport I tried when it got harder I didn’t want to quit. But I wanted to become the best and kept trying.”
She set a modest goal of world domination and got to work. Her first meet, as it turned out, was two weeks after she joined the gym.
She finished third!
“Ya, although there were only three people in the competition,” she says. “I say third, but I mean last.”
Trouble was, Blair-Coyle needed to build her strength. It was a couple years before she even started doing pull-ups. But, the kid was eight. Cut her some slack.
From eight until 11 she competed on the same junior team, then switched from 12-14 when she started tearing up the junior circuit. After she turned 14, she started training on her own.
Along the way she started attracting sponsors and took her first forays onto the internet and social media to build her brand.
Now, having climbed for more than 15 years and competed internationally for years, Blair-Coyle is living the dream as a professional climber.
“It was something I’ve always wanted,” she says. “It’s something I worked really hard to achieve, but you have to manage expectations. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened. Now looking back it’s easy to see in hindsight.”
Blair-Coyle is sponsored by some top brands, such as Mammut, and competes in both professional competitions and World Cup. But, a wrench was thrown into her World Cup schedule after the Olympic Games added climbing as a sport, but only in a combined category. Meaning, those competing would need to do bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing.
Blair-Coyle might be an accomplished boulderer, but she isn’t big on the other formats.
“I mean I usually do the World Cup circuit every year,” she says. “Earlier in the year, I won a bye to all the World Cups. Then, a month later they rescinded all the byes, not just for me but for everyone who won a bye.”
Although she has done the other disciplines, she loves the bouldering gym first and foremost and trains exclusively for this sport.
“Number one, bouldering is the most fun,” she says. “Also what’s nice is that with sport climbing, top-roping or leading, you need a belayer. Bouldering I can do by myself. But it’s not the loner aspect, but just that I’m not relying on anyone else. And I always find friends to climb with.”
What she enjoys most is that there is always something to figure out, different wants to do moves. And that’s one of the first things she emphasizes with beginners.
“Yes, don’t be afraid to try something that seems silly. I’ve seen a lot of silly things work in climbing. However you get to the top, it doesn’t matter,” Blair-Coyle explains. “With Bouldering, just go in and try it. If you feel like you need guidance, sign up for an intro to bouldering or take a private lesson.”
Currently, Blair-Coyle is gearing up for Open Bouldering Nationals in Bend, Oregon at the end of January. She’s finished 10th the last two years. In 2018, she was bouldering champion at the IFSC PanAmerican Championship.
Her favourite competition remains Deep Water Solo Exeter, a unique climbing event in the UK that places a climbing wall on a floating barge in the middle of a canal basin. Climbers end up dropping off into the water if they can’t finish their climbs.
“I missed it the past couple of years, but I’m hoping soon I can go back and do it again,” she says.
Now, as an established figure in climbing, Blair-Coyle trains relentlessly and uses her platform to encourage others to take up the sport she loves.
For more information or to follow along with Sierra Blair-Coyle’s competition results go to www.sierrabc.com.