Identical twin climbers Guy and Kindar McNamee are the future of climbing in Canada
When identical twins Guy and Kindar McNamee were growing up on the West Coast, after moving from their home in Haiti at a young age, they climbed. A lot. Trees, walls, roofs, statues and, yes, eventually, when they were nine years old, their father stuck them in a climbing gym and, no surprise, they loved it. It wasn’t long before they both signed up for the youth program, more climbing, and eventually competition.
Now, the McNamee twins are climbing sensations and two of the top young prospects in the country.
Guy Mcnamee has competed at his first World Cup in Chamonix, France and won the Canadian Open Boulder and Open Lead nationals. Kindar was second to his brother in Open Boulder. They’ve both competed at multiple Youth World Championships and in addition to being national team athletes also climb for the Swarm team at the Hive Bouldering Gym in Vancouver, BC.
They could soon become the faces of sport climbing in Canada. Oh, and they just finished Grade 11.
Get Out There had a chance to chat with the McNamees about their passion for climbing.
Climbing gyms are just starting to open up, how have you been during the quarantine? Were you able to train at home?
During quarantine, we really missed climbing. We still did some training, though. We built a hangboard stand on our deck. We have two hangboards and a variety of pinches and crimps. We did daily stretching and mobility. We had a weekly schedule of strength training, hangboarding, cardio and core.
We do online school anyways, so we were able to continue with our school work and finish Grade 11. We are starting Grade 12 this summer since we will not be travelling internationally. We are learning to drive. I, Guy, have been doing lots of cooking and trying new foods out. We kept in touch with friends from around North America through social media and video calls.
Do you each have a favourite type of climbing — bouldering, lead, speed, indoor/outdoor?
Guy: Bouldering is definitely my favourite discipline. I would always choose to do bouldering over lead or speed. We haven’t had a chance to do much outdoor climbing but we look forward to doing more this summer.
Kindar: I also like bouldering the best. I like lead climbing also, but I don’t enjoy speed climbing. Almost all my climbing is indoor, but I am looking forward to doing more outdoor climbing this summer.
Kindar, what makes Guy such a good climber?
Guy has lots of experience. He is dedicated and passionate about climbing. He works on weaknesses and turns them into strengths. His mental game is very impressive. He doesn’t let his nerves get the better of him.
Guy, how about Kindar?
I think there are many things that make Kindar a good climber. There are obvious things like finger strength, overall strength, etc. I also think it’s because he loves it so much. He trains hard and he likes the challenge. When Kindar approaches a problem that he knows he can do, he puts his entire attention into topping the climb. He is so determined and focused.
Tell me what the Swarm team is and what it's like to compete as part of this group.
The Swarm team is a youth competitive climbing team at the Hive bouldering gym. There are two groups; an international team and a national team. The two teams train together twice a week and separately twice a week. We are on the international team. We are coached by Christian Core, Leor Laniado, Jeff Thomson, and Allison Vest.
Guy: It is a great group to belong to. Each coach brings something different to the team. We all support each other and have fun together as well as train together.
Kindar: I like being a part of this team. I like the coaching and community. My teammates are my friends. We all support each other. Guy and I also train once a week with the Hive open team. I like the challenge of training with adult climbers.
One of your great skills that sets you apart from others is your mental approach to climbing and solving problems. Tell me about the importance of that side of the sport, and what your approach is.
Guy: I think I’m a rational climber. I believe I can do the climb. I don’t let my emotions decide what I’m going to do. I think problem-solving skills come with practice and experience.
If I don’t do well at a competition, I’m disappointed but I immediately think about what I did wrong and how I can fix it. Even if I don’t do well at a competition it doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t a good one. If I have a bad result and I don’t learn anything then it was a bad competition and kind of pointless. Sometimes I can learn more from not doing well.
I don’t let difficulties on one climb affect how I do on the next one. I don’t let my surroundings influence how I do on a climb. I am able to stay focused on the job at hand.
Kindar: I know that the mental game is very important. It is also the hardest to control. I am lucky that I am a pretty even-tempered person, so I don’t usually get a big rush of emotion when I am competing. I can focus really well on the climb I am doing at that moment.
And is your sporting relationship more one of mutual support of each other, or using each other as motivation to push yourselves, or a bit of both?
It’s both. We definitely support each other. When one of us does well, we are both really happy, which happens in training as well. If one of us gets a climb we’re both happy, but it also motivates the other to try harder to get the climb. Often in training, when one of us gets the climb, the other will get it the next try.
What goals have you set for yourselves for the next year?
At the moment, because competing has been suspended, we are focusing on strength building. We also plan to do a bunch of outdoor climbing. We hope to be on the National Youth and Open teams again.
The next Olympics cycle rolls around in 2024, is that one of your longer-term goals?
That’s a big life goal. I’m not sure about 2024 but there are many possibilities. 2028 or 2032 are other possibilities.
Where are your favourite places to climb?
We’ve climbed in a bunch of gyms around the world. We like Kletterzentrum Innsbruck, Boulderwelt in Munich, Seattle Bouldering Project, Bloc Shop in Montreal, EICA in Edinburgh and the Hive is great as well. We like climbing outside in Squamish, but we haven’t had much experience with outdoor climbing.
What do you like to do when you're not climbing or training to climb?
Guy: Cooking, reading, painting and singing.
Kindar: Reading, painting, singing, movies, chatting with friends.
You were born in Haiti and raised in Vancouver. Do you consider yourselves role models for youth and leaders in terms of ushering in more diversity in the sport?
Guy: I am. I have no control whether I am or not. There aren’t many black climbers in Canada. If other black people who are interested in climbing can see me climb, I guess they can get inspiration.
Kindar: Maybe. If I can inspire more diversity in climbing, then that would be great.
There has been a lot of talk of systematic-racism in Canada the last few weeks, has that caused you to think about how climbing and its organizers could do more to promote the sport to a wider range of Canadians?
The more diverse and inclusive things are, the better it is for everyone. Climbing is quite inclusive but could be more diverse. The current conversations are healthy and could lead to a better world.
Lead photo by Wayne Takashiba