USA Climbing is the national governing body of the sport of competition climbing in the United States. As a 501(c)3 non-profit, it promotes three competition disciplines of climbing: Sport Climbing (which uses a wall 40 to 50 feet high, and a belayer to keep the climber safe), Speed Climbing (in which two climbers scale identical walls in side-by-side competition) and Bouldering (in which a climber is scaling a very short distance, without ropes, but with padding underneath in case he or she falls). There is also an Adaptive version of the sport, for individuals with various challenges.
USA Climbing receives sanctioning and is recognized by the International Federation for Sport Climbing (IFSC, formerly known as the International Council for Competition Climbing or the ICCC). In 2020, climbing will make its debut as an Olympic sport at the Summer Games in Tokyo.
Sports Destination Management: With climbing being featured in the Olympics next year, are you seeing a corresponding rise in the amount of exposure the sport is getting?
Zach Brinchi: Yes, we recently signed an agreement with ESPN to livestream and televise three of our National Championship events. Bouldering Open Nationals were livestreamed on ESPN3 on Friday, February 1 and Saturday, February 2. On Sunday, February 3, ESPN2 televised a one-hour showing of Finals from the Combined Invitational, which took place in January.
SDM: How many competitions does USA Climbing put on each year?
Brinchi: USA Climbing hosts around 300 competitions annually. We have four main competition series: Collegiate, Bouldering, Sport and Speed. We also host a one-off Adaptive National Championships for athletes with disabilities. We will host five other National Championships throughout the year. Bouldering Open Nationals and Bouldering Youth Nationals are our two biggest events. The location of these events rotates every two years. We partner with the local CVB or sports commission to secure a venue, help set up certain event-related logistics and help promote the event locally.
SDM: How do the Series events break down?
Brinchi: Our Youth series consists of local events, Regional Championships, Divisional Championship events, and then the respective National Championship. Our Collegiate Series is split into a local season, Regional Championships, and a National Championships. After the Bouldering Season, our Sport & Speed and Collegiate series begin. All of these events are hosted at a climbing gym in the area that is hosting the competitions. We will work with the gym for any event-related items and work with the CVB and sports commission to promote the events.
SDM: What is the season for the sport?
Brinchi: The Bouldering season runs September through February. The Sport & Speed Season will begin late February and will last until July. Our Collegiate Series starts in October and will last until the end of April.
SDM: Are you seeing growth in membership?
Brinchi: We’ve seen approximately 32 percent growth over three years.
SDM: Is there a certain demographic for climbing?
Brinchi: We currently have 9,480 members. Of those, 53 percent are male and 43 percent are female. The majority of our memberships are for Youth competitors. Roughly 80 percent of our memberships are for competitors 19 and younger. The other 20 percent is made up of collegiate athletes, judges, routesetters, and coaches.
SDM: How does USA Climbing decide upon locations for events? Earlier, you noted you work with the local CVB or sports commission to secure a venue, help set up certain event0related logistics and help promote the event locally.
Brinchi: The location for events are considered very carefully. We try to rotate the locations every few years so as not to favor certain parts of the country. Host cities all need to have a major airport, enough hotels to accommodate the competitors, their families, officials, staff, etc. Destinations that want to apply to host can use the RFP form on our website, which is found under Resources. SDM