Episode 27: Kynan Waggoner — The Branches of the Tree

Certain people exist in our little world, people who push the buttons and massage the infrastructure and leave fingerprints in every nook. These revolutionaries will never receive recognition from the wider climbing galaxy, let alone the average climber clipping bolts at the local crag. They are the people behind the scenes; providing jobs, building the gyms in which we train, constructing the ballast upon which the sport relies. So, let’s talk about Kynan Waggoner.

In one of my favorite climbing conversations, podcast or otherwise, Kynan takes us through his history in the sport, dropping our jaws as we begin to understand the reach of the branches he has extended into climbing history. Kynan hung his first shingle in ’98, opening X-Treme, a “version 1.0” gym in Florida (out of which sprung such crushers as Matt Segal, Megan Martin, and former guest Cesar Valencia). Who should walk through the doors shortly after opening but a representative from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Fresh off opening a gym he didn’t know how to open, Kynan launched a company building climbing walls for cruise lines that he didn’t yet know how to build.

He eventually made his way to Boulder, yearning for proximity to outdoor climbing. He became a Level 5 routesetter, imagining routes for 10 World Cups. He slid into a USA Climbing coaching position. Eventually, 15 years of industry experience percolating, he took over as CEO of USA Climbing. After righting the ship, he left the organization to take over as COO of Movement Climbing and Fitness. Finally, eager to get back on the front lines, Kynan departed Movement to open his own climbing gym, Gripstone Climbing & Fitness in Colorado Springs.

Kynan has built an unparalleled resume in climbing. In this freewheeling and wide-ranging conversation, we touch upon Tony Yaniro’s mentorship as a setter, opening an early gym in an aviation hanger in Florida, and the behind the scenes machinations of USA Climbing, from the deal with ESPN to the sport’s eventual entrance into the Olympic Games.

Sit back and enjoy, my friends. And especially you climbing nerds…this one is for you (us)!

Have a question, feedback, suggestion, or pitch? Launch a missive at thunderclingpodcast@gmail.com or DM us at @thethundercling on Instagram. We read and respond to every note.

And cheers to Ryne Doughty for the groovy noodles.

Happy Holidays, gang!

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