Four women in the world have sent 8B+/V14. Two British women competed in the 2014 IFSC Bouldering World Cup Finals. Only one woman has sent New Base Line (8B+/V14). The common denominator is none other than 21-year-old Shauna Coxsey whose climbing resume is as admirable as her reflective, humble, and mature character. We picked Shauna’s brain about her recent successes, experiences, and what motivates her to climb hard.
CXC: When we heard about you becoming the 3rd woman in the world to send V14/8B+, we had just reported on Ashima becoming the 2nd woman to do so. We liked picturing in our heads, you seeing Ashima’s Instagram, putting the phone down, and being like, “If she was the 2nd, I’m going to be the 3rd!” Did this happen at all? Do female sends like Ashima’s or Hazel’s influence your climbing more than seeing someone like Adam Ondra or Alex Honnold?
SC: I read about Ashima’s ascent the day after falling at the end of New Base Line (V14/8B+). I thought it would be really cool for two women to climb V14 in the same week! However, I was really worried about the weather in Magic Wood so that took up most of my attention. I love hearing about hard ascents and I think it’s really exciting to hear about the boundaries of the sport being pushed. The sends that inspire me most are the ones that people work hard for. I think it is inspiring to see anyone at any level pushing their own personal limits and boundaries!
CXC: Agreed! You spent much of the last season indoors and training for the World Cup, in which you did quite well – congrats! How would you describe the transition outside? How is your approach or perspective on climbing different outside than climbing inside?
SC: I have always seen climbing indoors and climbing on rock as different sports. There are massive differences in my relationship with both. Although recently, I am discovering that there are also many similarities. I want to push myself and try hard regardless of where I am climbing. I still see going climbing outside as a treat but I can now apply many of the lessons that I learn in training and competition to projecting.
CXC: Speaking of competitions, as a comp and pro climber, you’ve gotten to travel the world, not only climbing in a variety of different places, but also climbing with a variety of different nationalities of climbers. Do you find climbers and the climbing attitude to be quite universal across the world, or does the climbing culture vary greatly from one place to the next?
SC: It is amazing to not only have the opportunity to travel and see amazing places but also be accepted into different climbing communities and spend time experiencing the different cultures. For example, we went out to China a few days before the first World Cup of the season to spend some time adjusting. The climbers were so kind and welcoming. We had a session at the local gym and they showed us some of their boulder problems and we left them some new ones. We did the same in Austria, Canada, America and Switzerland. Every where I travel, the love for the sport is always so strong and everyone so far has been incredibly welcoming.
CXC: You also are an organizer of the very successful Women’s Climbing Symposium. What motivated you to organize and be involved in the Symposium?
SC: After spending some time coaching a women’s class at The Climbing Hangar in Liverpool, I noticed that there were some common weaknesses and barriers that the women faced. These barriers were not only physical but psychological too. I have always wanted to give something back and do my best to have a positive impact on the development of the sport. The Women’s Climbing Symposium is a celebration of our sport, an opportunity to learn from, chat and listen to some of the most inspirational women out there. We work hard to create a day that offers something for everyone. I really love having the opportunity to work with WCS organisers Steph Meysner and Claire-Jane Carter on creating a full, diverse and informative day. (More information and tickets can be found on our website www.womensclimbingsymposium.
CXC: Speaking of inspiring fellow women climbers, you sent your first V13 (Nuthin’ But Sunshine in RMNP) while climbing with Alex Puccio and Angie Payne, two extremely strong and dedicated boulderers, who were also working the problem. You sent it first. Was there any jealousy involved? How do you balance emotions with supporting one another in pushing your limits?
SC: It seems like so long ago now but I remember it well. Standing on top of that boulder was so surreal and overwhelming. It was great to try the boulder with my good friends Angie and Pooch. They are both truly inspirational athletes and it’s amazing to see that they have been absolutely crushing recently! I don’t really get emotional about anyone’s climbing but my own. It is impossible to control what other people do. It’s cliche, but I climb for myself.
CXC: According to your blog, you took that trip to Colorado as a break, “for fun,” yet you climbed the hardest boulder you had climbed in your life, on that trip! Do you view comps as “work” and climbing outside as your rest and relaxation?
SC: Yeah, I guess my idea of fun is getting out on rock and trying something that tests me. I find it quite refreshing to push my boundaries and try hard. The competitions are my main focus so yeah I guess they could classify as work. I think I have the best job in the world. I love competing and sometimes I have to stop and remember how lucky I am that my passion can be my job. Bouldering comps are fun, not always, but is work ever always fun? The pressure that comes with competition climbing is what makes it so difficult, but it is also what fuels my passion. I love it! Climbing on real rock takes away many of the pressures that come with comp climbing but it presents a whole new set of challenges and I find that really exciting.
CXC: You wrote on your blog that when you reflected on what you learned over the last year, “I’m a little embarrassed to admit it but the first things that spring into my mind seem pretty arrogant. I learnt that I am strong and I learnt to believe that I am certain I can achieve my goals.” Why do you think it took you until this year to really feel this way about yourself? Were there challenges or obstacles in your life that were holding you back from finding this confidence? Or were there events or moments that led you to find it?
SC: I guess some things seem possible, but it is hard to know and believe that they are until you have actually done them. There are always challenges and obstacles in life that hold us back. It’s inevitable that we all have to face these at some point to achieve our goals. I have faced many barriers and I expect to face many more because I have more goals that I want to accomplish. But that’s just part of the journey. They make you stronger and more determined.
CXC: Thanks for talking with us Shauna!
Climb on! ~Cate