Skyler Weeks Interview
16th Jun 2011
King of the Dyno" Skyler Weekes will be competing at Cliffhanger for the 5th year in a row - having broken the world dyno record for 4 years running. Lissa Cook asked Skyler what draws him back to Cliffhanger every year...
Listen to it here, or read it below:
Q This is will be your 5th year at Cliffhanger - what draws you back every year?
It’s a lot that just has to do with CH comp Matt [Festival organiser Matt Heason] does a great job of putting it on. People are so into the sport of climbing and so laid back and I just love the countryside over there. This year I’ve booked specific tickets because I’m trying 2 big projects - 2 problems which have never been done - one called the Winberry Dyno - noone’s ever been able to do it and I was literally cms - about a cm or 2 away from doing it - I actually extended my trip last year. to see if I could finish it off and ended up splitting open my finger pretty bad so I couldn’t climb on it. And the other is at Stanage which is actually a boulder problem that I found and cleaned off - I’m sure people have kind of tried it before but never this big a dyno so I’m v close on that as well so can’t wait to get out there - got a little film crew coming along - can’t wait just to get over there and have fun at the competition and hopefully break a record and hopefully be able to fund at least one of those two projects...but that’s what I love about this sport - it just keeps pushing you and pushing you and pushing you.
Q Can I take you back to that accident in 2005 - you fractured your vertebra and multiple fractures to your left eye socket...
Yeah - I was doing a big dyno in a comp - fell onto pole vaulting crash mat so pads don’t necessarily mean you’re going to walk away from an accident... I flipped upside down off a hold. I was basically going to do a superman off a climbing hold and I went past it when I came off I nose dived right into the ground head first - and that’s what fractured my spine and then my right knee came in into the left side of my face and split open my jeans I hit my face so hard. And it just pulverised - the doctor said it looked like sawdust - my facial bones from nose all the way up to my temple
Q how do you come back mentally and physically?
He’d given me a 4 to 5 year recovery time to be able to do physical activity - I wasn’t moving at all there from the neck down for quite a while. My body was in chock, my back was black - it was horrible. And 2 years almost to the day from my accident I broke the 1st world record at Cliffhanger. A lot of it just came down to just motivation and willpower - I had some great surgeons and friends and family who were inspirational too. But you know I just love that feeling of flying through the air... I love being outside in nature, I love being off the ground. I love heights and I think that has a lot to do with it. I can definitely say that dynoing is about 10% physical and 90% mental. Especially when you start doing world record distances like 9 foot 5 which is what I’m going for this year - because you walk up to a wall that doesn’t look at all possible - you have entire sheets of plywood on he wall between you and the end hold and you have to psyche yourself up and believe personally that it’s possible even if in the back of your mind you don’t think it is, for those 3 attempts you really have to trick yourself into believing its possible. One of the biggest things for me that always keeps me going is that people always say what you’re about to do is impossible - you hear that from the crowd, from friends, from all over the place and the best thing in the world is accomplishing something that everyone else in the world says is impossible.
Q How far do you think it can go? You set 2.85m last year - will it hit 3?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately - I’m a sommelier here in Denver and I buy wine barrels and sell them to home wineries so I have this big warehouse and I finally put in a my first dyno wall - actually North America’s first official dyno wall - 2 weeks ago I finished construction on it and I was finishing out the bolt line I got to 2.9 and I was thinking can this ever go further? And I was like of course it can do I drilled it all the way out. I definitely think it can. I mean when the sport first started I believe Matt’s first jump was like 2.6...or 2.65 and you know we developed swinging strategies and now there’s people going with left hand and right hand and kicking off the wall and ..there are so many different variables and at the end of the day it’s basically a high jump contest. I’ve modified my training over the past year - it’s now 80% just in the weights gym doing drills for Olympic runners, Olympic high jumpers, volleyball players & basketball players. I haven’t even been on a climbing wall for 4 months because I tore a tendon in my finger...you know I think 3m is definitely possible - it’s going to take a lot of work and I think you know whoever does it will have to swallow their fear and just go after it.
Q is it equivalent to the sub 2 hour marathon?
Yeah, I think it’s the same for all sports. They said noone could run under 4 minute mile - same with the high jump - every single year people are progressing. There’s little wonder kids like Adam Ondra and stuff going crazy now so there’s not a finite end game for the dyno.
Q Are there athletes from other sports who if you gave some climbing tuition could perhaps blow you out the water? You know if you took a champion slam dunk basketballer and taught them the holds and trained them with grip strength.
Now I’m basically doing the same thing as the basketball players - my vertical jump is in the mid 30 inches. Which is about where the low end NBA players are. I have no problem walking up to a basketball hoop and slam-dunking so yeah I definitely think if you gave Michael Jordan or someone like that some proper climbing training they could do it. The more and more I dyno, the more and more I learn it’s not just about power and strength - it has a lot to do with technique - the hold, how you position your body in mid air. It’s actually off at a 45 degree angle and the walls a 20 degree overhang so you have 2 different variables going on there - you don’t even think about worrying about the distances as well.
Q the $64,000 q - you’re back at Cliffhanger for a 5th year - you’ve broken the world record for the past 4 years - can you do it again?
I think so yeah - I’ve been training and I have my wall set at 9 foot 5 and I’m getting pretty close and that’s just by myself without a crowd. So you know, I definitely think so, I think that hopefully by the end of this year I’ll be able to get past 9 foot 5 or 2.75m.
Q Even more importantly - what would be your personal choice of wine as a sommelier to celebrate with?
A bottle of French vintage champagne and a bottle of Barrolo afterwards!
Q I’ll get Matt Heason to organise that - he’ll be having a heart attack with the credit card.
Yeah! But what I’m really excited about Cliffhanger is that this’ll be the first year, in the history of the comp - in the history of dynoing where you have everyone who’s ever held the world record will be there competing for the title - so in the last 3 or 4 years the 3 major players have always been Peter Würth from Germany Nicky de Leeuw from the Netherlands and it’s pretty funny - it switches between the 3 of us - I’ll break it in July, Nicky’ll beat it a month later, Pete will beat it a month later, I’ll break it again in July and we have this repeating cycle. I know Nicky’s held it twice, I think Peter’s held it twice, I’ve held it 4 times. All of them are extremely strong climbers. Nicky’s just got 17th in the world so I’m really excited for that because each time I’ve been over there, there’s never anyone actually attempting the world record distance with me. That’s one of the nice thing about the climbing scene - we’re all so supportive of each other - we’ve been message backwards and forwards sometimes - it’s not about who’s going to win - it’s about how far can we push the sport. I’ll be as happy if I break it as if someone else breaks it - you know get the sport a little more into the media light. But I think this year at Cliffhanger it’s definitely not going to be an event to miss because there’s going to be three of us fighting it out - three of us equally capable of breaking the world record right now - so we’re going to have 3 guys really going after it, trade for trade, blow for blow and we’ll see who ends up on top.