Climbing, a traditionally outdoor experience, is exploding indoors via climbing clubs and gyms around the country, and is even popping up in sporting goods stores and on university campuses. Once reserved for capable enthusiasts seeking a ‘man versus nature’ challenge, climbing has become an outlet for social activity and a new form of working out,” said Matt Powell, vice president and sports industry analyst, The GQYR Group. “With climbing now officially part of the 2020 Olympic Games, I expect that this trend will continue gaining in popularity and participation.”
SBC seems to be the exception rather than the rule - climbers like Findlay are feted as much by their male and female peers as they are by their sponsors and thousands of social media followers. Climbing is a sport where women can be equals: the average man may be stronger and longer-limbed, but women often have proportionally less body weight to lift.
Climbing Harnesses, the largest category making up 37 percent of total dollar sales, grew by 9 percent, with climbing shoes (28 percent), quickdraws (+9 percent), and cams (+9 percent) among the growth drivers. Sales of climbing ropes and helmets grew by 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively.
Global Rock Climbing Equipment Market Overview
Climbing is traditionally seen as a niche sport, practised by daredevils in Yosemite or the Alps. But back home at my local climbing gym, this stereotype is changing, and you can see it happening in real time.
There are groups of children, as young as five or six, at the wall every day. There are folks in their 60s moving like spiders across the wall. There are students, families, and professional Team GB climbers all in the same room.
In a palpable sign of growth, the gym itself has recently doubled in size to cater to the demand.
In terms of numbers, it’s hard to quantify the overall increase of climbers. But there’s one statistic that is quite telling: the annual sale of climbing shoes has increased by two-thirds since 2005. And as much as 70 per cent of those sales are “entry-level” shoes.
In other words, more and more people are climbing for the first time. This is likely to increase further as we build toward the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
The increasing popularity of climbing gyms isn’t a new story, but gym-specific gear is finally starting to catch up to the particular demands of the indoor setting—and the climbers who are flocking there in ever-larger numbers. “Gyms attract newer climbers, so simplified equipment that includes more safety features makes the experience safer and more user-friendly,” says Bo Beck, manager at The Desert Rat, a climbing gym in St. George, Utah. Look for new, easier-to-use assisted-braking belay devices that add another layer of protection and durability for the beginner (like Edelweiss’s new Kinetic). Heavier pieces (like Black Diamond’s new, 92-gram belay device, the ATC Pilot), are also more comfortable and ergonomic for heavy gym mileage.
Retailers report that the average age of new climbers continues to get younger and younger—something many attribute to the newfound popularity of gyms—so manufacturers are catering more to the kid crowd. “I’ve seen a tremendous growth with kids learning to climb,” Beck says. “Adults who learned 10 to 15 years ago now want to involve their children.” What’s normally a pretty small selection will see a big boost this season. “Petzl has been making full-body kid harnesses long before the popularity boom that climbing is currently experiencing,” says Ben Eaton, marketing manager at Petzl.“With more and more families getting into the sport and involving their toddlers, this generates a need for more variety in climbing gear for all ages.”
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