Episode 24: Boone Speed — Climbing’s DIY Maestro

Boone Speed. I was tempted to stop the intro right there…

Boone Speed stands as one of the towering pillars in the climbing pantheon, a small town Utah kid who grew into an athletic and creative powerhouse, contributing more to the sport in half a life than most could in a couple. Let’s spend just a moment dissecting his continuing legacy and then get down to business.

Obviously, there’s the climbing. Boone rocketed out of obscurity in the mid-80’s, smack in the middle of the sport climbing revolution, to become the strongest American climber of his generation. He, along with a cadre of counter-culture contemporaries, put places like American Fork, Logan Canyon, Joe’s Valley, Ibex, and a host of other areas on the map. He became the first American to climb 5.14b, one of the first ten people on the planet to clip the chains on a 5.14c. He bolted and developed like a madman. He sent like a machine.

Let’s stroll to a different wing of Boone’s legacy. Boone, along with Mike Call and others, basically set the cultural tone for the bouldering wave that swept the nation in the late-90s/early-2000s with the establishment of Pusher, a climbing hold and soft-goods company. Relying on DIY ethics (think Fugazi and Dischord Records) and the imagery of Glen Friedman’s and Craig Stecyk’s work with the So-Cal skateboarding scene, Pusher’s products and especially images came to define the era. Wearing a Pusher shirt was a signifier that you got it, you were in the know, that you were at least tangentially a part of an artistic, passionate, wild movement, whether you lived in the boroughs of New York City or the rolling hills of Wisconsin.

Shall we visit the photography wing? As a former Black Diamond photo editor and after massaging Pusher’s vibe into existence, Boone went on to travel the world as one of the most sought-after adventure photographers on the planet. He’s won a lot of awards. He’s captured images emblazoned on the sport’s soul. I don’t space to list the accolades. Check out the website.

Now in his mid-50s, it seems like he’s charging forward as hard as ever. The entrepreneurial flame still churning, Boone has set out to re-envision the way we attack training and movement on artificial surfaces by founding his new company, Grasshopper Industries. Involved in every aspect of the company, Grasshopper is shipping the finest adjustable wall systems in the world, allowing climbers to swap the angle of their Moon/Tension/Kilter/system/spray wall to suit their desires. 40 degrees was so yesterday…

Listen, it’s tough not to look up to Boone as a mentor, as a climber who has blazed his own trail on and off the rock. He’s taken chances at every turn, constantly reinventing himself until the idea of Boone Speed is far more complicated than the man himself. In reality, he’s just a guy with a furious drive and a deeply earned adoration for our sport. I mean…he’s a legend.

Have a question, comment, feedback, suggestion? Drop us a line at thunderclingpodcast@gmail.com.

Thanks, in perpetuity, to Ryne Doughty for the tunes!

Have a great fall season, gang. It’s Rocktober, baby!

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