Peter Dixon: Confessions of a Competitive Climber

Peter Dixon just won 2nd in the Portland Boulder Rally. Here’s his confessions.

peter dixon

As this year’s competition bouldering season begins, I find myself contemplating and questioning why it is we compete as athletes. As I turn this question over in my mind I’m forced to look at competition climbing in a new light.

At first glance one could argue that we compete to win. Let us take a minute to examine this argument as it may have some genuine merit. If we strip away the social conditioning of what is considered appropriately polite and ethical in our current competitive climbing scene today and drop the well intentioned good behavior and mind sets of what were suppose to feel when competing, we’ll get to what were really there for. I mean lets face it, if we weren’t there to win than why even turn in a score card? If we weren’t there to out compete our peers than why show up? If we don’t really want that prize money, then why accept the check? There is definitely a part of our human nature that exists no matter how well covered up by our social niceties that genuinely feels good when standing on that podium. However, although there is some truth to this argument, it falls a little shallow of the true depths of why we compete. It’s a bit one-dimensional. Lets take it a step further.

It’s definitely not about the money! Even as the competition scene grows, and more comps offer prize money, it is still not financially possible to compete for a living. After we tally the amount of training hours it takes to prepare for a competition, travel expenses, and living expenses, even if you won every competition in the U.S. that offered cash prizes you would still fall very short of breaking even. So if there doesn’t exist a monitory incentive besides a little extra pocket change than why do we compete?

From a business perspective the stage of high profile climbing competitions offer a unique way to gain notoriety, promote one’s image or brand, promote one’s sponsors, and all the while have a hell of a good time while doing it. To find oneself in the so-called “office”, climbing never-before-done problems, custom tailored to your ability level, and designed to challenge every aspect of your skill, is awesome. Throw in spotlights, cheesy MC’s, a roaring crowd, and you’re in for a mandatory good time.

Is this why we compete then? For the sheer fun of the finals round, for the roar of the crowd? Is it for the chance to take ones climbing career the next step forward? Or the feeling one gets from standing on the podium? Perhaps, but lets take it even one step further.

From a spiritual perspective climbing has drawn many in its embrace. There exists in the heart of climbing an openness to new possibilities, new experiences, new relationships, and, in the end, new ways to find oneself through it all. To me, this is what seems the most honest answer of them all. In competitions we climb because it is fun, we climb for the experience, we climb with friends and strive together to be better. And yes, we compete for the challenge and to make money and stand on that podium. In the end though, perhaps we compete because through it all it becomes one more way that climbing can teach us who we really are. And that my friends is priceless.