Episode 38: Drew Ruana — Just Getting Started

When Drew Ruana (21) was nine years old, already deep into infatuation, he dreamed of becoming the greatest climber on the planet. Heady stuff for a kid who still slept with a night light. And yet, 12 years later, he’s well on his way to making that starry-eyed little tyke proud.

Drew is in the midst of one of the most head-spinning runs in bouldering history. After missing the cut for the US Olympic team by the slimmest of margins, which we discuss at length, Drew stepped away from the frustrations and fickle beat downs of competition climbing for the boulderfields of the American West. With only one V14 on his ledger, he began his rampage in earnest in Utah’s Joe’s Valley, documented in the film “Three Days in Joe’s,” where he crushed 18 of Joe’s hardest in a single long weekend. From there, it was off to the races. At the time of release, Drew has also ticked three V16s and numerous V15s — in well under a year!

Drew ushers us from his early years in Washington to an adolescence spent jetting around the world for national and international competitions. Disillusioned after failing to land an Olympic spot, he explains his motivations for charging forward outdoors and his future plans, which are…bonkers.

As a climber with a growing platform and the will to elevate his voice, Drew also explains why he has engaged with the social issues and racial inequalities ravaging the nation right now. He knows he’s young. He knows he’s ridiculously privileged. He knows he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. But he’s dedicated to informing himself and staring racism in the face, even if only through social media. With a legion of young, engaged, and advocacy-minded climbers breaking onto the scene, Drew hopes their voices can highlight the ways in which climbing can dismantle barriers and become a more inclusive culture.

Got a question, pitch, gripe, or a briefcase of non-sequential bills you want to shoot our way? Get ahold of us at thunderclingpodcast@gmail.com or hunt us down @thethundercling on Instagram.

Thanks as always to the indelible Ryne Doughty for the tight tunes.

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